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Editorial: Shining light on committees

The Maryland House of Delegates should follow legislators in the Senate and adopt rules providing for the broadcasting of committee voting sessions.

Only three senators voted against the rules change, which is imperfect because rather than automatically streaming all committee votes, it leaves the decision of whether to broadcast proceedings up to the committee chair.

Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard, is right when he maintains that live streaming of committee votes provides more transparency to the public in how government operates. Opponents who say they fear broadcasting the votes would stifle debate have only their own fears holding them back. All they have to do is look at C-SPAN to see that broadcasting the work of elected officials hasn't done anything to hamper debate at the national level.

Even most local governments routinely live-stream meetings, or broadcast them on local cable access channels as a way to increase awareness and prompt community involvement.

The caveat that allows a committee president to decide whether to broadcast the vote, however, could prove troubling. The change from broadcasting all votes to giving committee chairs the authority to decide what is and what isn't broadcast came from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who says that a lot of the work the committees do wouldn't be of major interest to a lot of people. But it should not be up to Miller, or a committee chair, to determine what might or might not be of interest to voters.

The technology and capabilities exist to broadcast all committee hearings and votes, and that is what should happen. Miller should have let voters decide for themselves what they do and don't want to tune in to.

Still, the rules change is a step in the right direction. And it is a step that members of the House of Delegates have yet to take.

Ultimately, state lawmakers should favor and push for any changes that would allow a greater portion of the population to see what is happening during the short legislative session each year. That includes all the committee hearings and all the votes.

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