The Idaho State Legislature has passed an amended set of rules changes regarding procedures for the recording of House and Senate sessions. Included in the rules are provisions for the broadcasting and Internet streaming of House and Senate proceedings, the recording and archiving of those proceedings, and new provisions for audio web streaming of legislative committee hearings.
The Senate approved the measure on March 27, and the House Monday approved it by a vote of 65 to 1. Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, was the lone “no” vote.
During debate on the measure, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, noted that Senate Concurrent Resolution 131 represented the next step in a process to better manage the audio and video records of floor proceedings, noting that “if they (the recordings) are handled wrong people can use what we say against us in elections, and they can also be used against us in courts.”
Moyle added that it would be a rare and difficult thing to get two-thirds of the House or the Senate to agree to exercise this authority, but that it may be necessary at some point.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, agreed with Moyle, noting that “this is a good compromise and we worked hard to achieve it, and we’re proud of it.”
The passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution 131 drew quick praise from one of Idaho’s most outspoken advocates for the recording of state government proceedings.
"The Idaho Freedom Foundation's successful effort to get lawmakers to archive recordings from committee and floor proceedings is a monumental positive development for government transparency in our state,” noted Wayne Hoffman, executive director of that organization, in a press release. Hoffman has long been a proponent of such recording and archiving, and upon passage of the bill in the House said that “we are honored to have played a critical role in getting lawmakers to reach the right conclusion about the need to retain digital records of legislative debate and testimony for use by today's voters as well as future generations of Idahoans.”
However last week, Hoffman, along with Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho, expressed concern about some of the rules changes being proposed in the Senate at that time, regarding both the recordings of House and Senate floor proceedings, as well as the web streaming of committee hearings.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, originally proposed Senate Concurrent Resolution 130 during the fourth week of March. Entailed in that proposal were provisions for video recordings of Idaho Senate and House sessions to be archived long term, while also allowing members of the House and Senate leadership to restrict Idahoans’ access to the broadcasting and webcasting of the proceedings, and the recordings of the proceedings themselves.
Facing concerns that the ability to close off access to legislative recordings could be abused, Davis revised the plan, and presented a newly created Senate Concurrent Resolution 131. The new measure will still allow for the recordings of floor proceedings to be withheld from the public.
However, rather than granting that decision-making authority on the matter to the House and the Senate leadership, withholding the recordings would, under the new proposal, require a two-thirds majority consent from whichever body (the House or the Senate) that is in question.
"We are grateful to Sen. Bart Davis for rewriting the joint rule to address our concerns," Hoffman said.
The new recording and archiving procedures will be handled by Idaho Public Television.
Note: IdahoReporter.com is published by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.