House Removes Funding For Online Video Access To Legislative Committee Hearings

Update: To be clear, Rep. Blair Thoreson was the bill carrier for the budget on the floor, but he’s made it clear below in the comments that he supports video cameras in committee. Rep. Thoreson has sponsored several transparency measures in this session and in previous sessions.

A big change for this legislative session has been online access to to live video of floor sessions in both the House and the Senate. Live streaming was available in previous sessions, but it used an archaic format and was so poorly done as to be difficult to watch. What’s more, there was no archiving.

In the current legislative session there is a wonderful online video tool that provides both good quality streaming of live floor sessions, but also an archive of video indexed to bills and floor speakers.

There were plans to expand this intuitive, easy-to-use new system to cover not just floor sessions but committee hearings as well. Unfortunately, in approving the budget for the legislature today, the House stripped out authorization and funding for that expansion.

Here’s bill carrier Rep. Blair Thoreson describing the bill on the floor.

Having online video access to live floor sessions is a great thing, but a lot of what gets done in the legislature happens in committee hearings. Often, by the time a bill reaches the floor, it will get little debate as many of the contentious issues have been hashed out in committee. There is also a lot of testimony from the public and from lobbyists which the public should have easier access too.

You can request audio recordings of committee hearings now, but they often take days to receive. And they’re not the same as having an online archive available on demand. Plus, providing online video means another avenue through which the average citizen can view what’s going on in the legislature without it being filtered through reporters and pundits and even, ahem, bloggers.

Transparency is one of the few place where you’ll hear this limited-government conservative carp for more money. The House should have left this funding alone.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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