Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Editorial: Support live video of State House happenings

Technology can be a beautiful thing, especially when that technology promotes open government.

It seems Gov. Larry Hogan feels the same way, throwing his support behind bipartisan legislation that would outfit the historic Maryland State House with video cameras in order to livestream debates of both the House of Delegates and Senate on the Internet. Video of the debates would also be archived online.


House Bill 316 is sponsored by Del. Kathy Szeliga, a Harford County Republican, and Del. David Moon, a Montgomery County Democrat.

Hogan also said he supports livestreaming voting sessions of all committees. Bill hearings are currently livestreamed, but not all debate and voting sessions are.


While the General Assembly provides audio from floor sessions on its website and archive recordings, Maryland is one of just seven states that don't offer video streaming of legislative floor sessions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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"Maryland citizens deserve accountability and transparency from their elected leaders, especially when modern technology should make access easy and inexpensive," Hogan said in a statement. "This is a common-sense piece of legislation."

Doing so wouldn't come without a price. A fiscal analysis of the bill puts the cost at $1.2 million to outfit the chambers with cameras and another $400,000 annually to operate the system. A Hogan spokesman, however, said the governor's office believes it could be made more cost-effective but did not offer specifics.

According to a Baltimore Sun article on the issue, reluctance to expand video streaming of voting sessions, at least in the Senate, stems from tradition. Lobbyists generally do not sit in on voting hearings in order to avoid the appearance of influencing debate. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Calvert County Democrat, has argued that preventing permanent records of discussions during the voting sessions also helps encourage a more free-flowing debate.

That sort of makes you wonder what exactly is being said during those voting sessions and by whom, doesn't it? Which is exactly why government accessibility and openness is so important.

In Carroll County, the Board of Commissioners has had streaming and archived video of meetings for years. This has greatly improved accessibility to the goings-on at the county government building, especially when meetings take place during the day when most people are at work.

In Annapolis, the need for such access is even greater, as attending floor sessions would require most Marylanders living outside the area to take a day off work to travel and observe.

Quite honestly, it's sad that Maryland is in the overwhelming minority of states that don't offer this service to its residents. It's time to fix that and for legislators from both sides to make all aspects of state government more accessible to the public.