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Maryland lawmakers say bill requiring livestreamed sessions is unnecessary after promises from leaders

With the leaders of the General Assembly promising to begin livestreaming sessions of the House of Delegates and state Senate over the next two years, lawmakers are withdrawing a bill that would have forced them to do so.

“In an era where citizens can engage with their government in a variety of ways, I am thrilled to see this effort finally make progress,” Del. David Moon, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement Tuesday. “Video streaming is another way to make government more accessible to people.”

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Moon, a Montgomery County Democrat, co-sponsored the bill with Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga, who represents parts of Baltimore and Harford counties.

“Transparency is not a partisan issue,” Szeliga said in a statement. “I have been proud to cosponsor this legislation with Delegate Moon and I am excited to see this live streaming finally coming to fruition. This has truly been a bipartisan effort and is a bipartisan victory.”

Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch has announced his chamber would begin livestreaming its sessions next year on the General Assembly’s website, and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller says the Senate will follow suit in 2021.

Szeliga and Moon said they would withdraw their bill in light of the promises made by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller to start livestreaming House sessions in 2020 and the Senate in 2021. A hearing on their bill has been canceled.

A companion bill in the Senate, from Sen. Michael Hough, a Frederick County Republican, is likely not to move forward now that the House bill is being withdrawn.

Gov. Larry Hogan, meanwhile, is moving forward with his own bill to require livestreaming. He has said he still thought it was appropriate to put the requirement in law, so that future House and Senate leaders couldn’t undo the work of the current leaders.

At a hearing on Hogan’s version of the bill Monday, Matthew Palmer, the governor’s deputy legislative officer, tried to convince lawmakers that the bill was still necessary.

Hogan said Maryland residents "deserve accountability and transparency" from elected leaders.

“The next set of leadership could decide to turn it off if they want to. We don’t think that’s correct,” Palmer told members of the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee. “We believe the citizens of the state of Maryland need to see what their legislature is doing, as they do see what their governor is doing.”

Some committee members expressed concern about the governor trying to tell lawmakers how to run their branch of government.

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“We make rules how we govern ourselves as a legislature,” said Del. Anne Healey, a Prince George’s County Democrat who is the committee’s chairwoman. “The administration doesn’t really have something to say about how the legislature operates.”

Palmer responded that if lawmakers passed one of the other livestreaming bills, the Hogan administration would be supportive.

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