PAR Says Senate Should Expand Transparency
Video recordings and Internet video broadcasts of all Senate meetings should be made available to the public online at no charge. An attempt to require this basic open government policy, already in place for the House, failed to pass during the December special session. If the Senate begins now, it could make progress toward improved transparency by the start of the next regular legislative session beginning April 30.
Louisiana’s Legislature consistently gets high marks from national organizations that monitor openness in government. Yet, more remains to be done. The Senate currently cannot broadcast meetings in two of its committee rooms and does not maintain video copies of the meetings that are broadcast live. Thus, citizen access to the debates and expert testimony is stifled.
In contrast, the House provides online access to archived broadcasts of all floor proceedings and committee meetings. This free public access was implemented administratively in 1998 and required no action by the full body to make it happen.
A House concurrent resolution (HCR3) was filed in the past special session to require the Senate to take similar measures to increase the transparency of its business. It unanimously passed the House, but it was never heard in Senate committee. The Senate does not need a resolution or bill to get these improvements underway. The technology upgrades and process improvements could be undertaken now. Some new equipment would have to be purchased, and two committee rooms would have to be wired to capture video. The Senate estimates upgrades would cost around $1 million. Without wiring the additional rooms, establishing a system for archiving the video being recorded now would cost much less. The House spent approximately $20,000 for equipment and upgrades when it modernized its online operations – but that does not include the cost of cameras.
Whatever the reason for the Senate’s resistance to implementing these reforms, the public benefit of free and open access to the business of government should prevail.