The Idaho Senate 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, as well as the audio web streaming of legislative committee hearings.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, originally proposed Senate Concurrent Resolution 130. Entailed in this resolution 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.
However, facing concerns that the ability to close off access to legislative recordings could be abused, Davis presented a revision of his proposal to the full Senate on Tuesday. Senate Concurrent Resolution 131 still would allow for the recordings of floor proceedings to be withheld from the public. However, rather than granting the 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.
“Our organization is one that believes in transparency in government,” Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho responded when contacted by IdahoReporter.com. “It is imperative that citizens have access to information about their government.”
Noting that IPTV and the Idaho Legislature have collaborated since 1999 to expand and enhance coverage of the proceedings from the Legislative, Judicial, and when applicable, the Executive branches of Idaho state government, Hopkins said that “it is commendable that public servants in our government have taken these steps.”
Yet Hopkins offered a word of caution: “We would suggest that members of the Legislature keep the ideal of transparency in mind, and not utilize the provisions of this bill to restrict streaming, broadcasting or access to recordings of government proceedings. Perhaps in the future they should consider removing this provision altogether.”
Under current operational policy, Idaho Public Television (IPTV) records the proceedings on the floors of the House and the Senate, but only retains them for a period of a few days. Davis has proposed that those recordings be retained long term.
“As I understand the proposal, the idea is really about preservation of those recordings,” said Peter Morrill, general manager of IPTV. “Merely archiving the recordings has more of a temporal nature to it, but the proposal is to preserve this content permanently, and I applaud the leaders who are interested in enhancing our access to the Legislature in this way.”