The Joint Republican Caucus of the Maryland General Assembly sent a letter to Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch today urging the presiding officers to implement administrative measures to make the legislative process in Annapolis more open to the general public.
The transparency issue was presented on the Senate floor today when Minority Leader Allen Kittleman and Minority Whip Nancy Jacobs proposed rule changes that would require the expeditious posting of committee votes on the legislative website and specific language in the rules to ensure that citizens are allowed in committee voting sessions under the state “open meeting” provisions. In response, Democrat leaders expressed reluctance to adopt these transparency rule (listen for yourself at click here – select Listen to Senate Proceedings “Tuesday, January 19 – Session 1″ and go to “7:40″ on the clip).
The proposed Senate rules will be considered at a Rules Committee meeting yet-to-be-scheduled. In the House, proposed rule changes will be taken up later this week.
The full text of the letter is pasted below:
January 19, 2010
Dear President Miller and Speaker Busch:
We believe that there is a new-found public awareness of the lack of transparency in government and we ask that the presiding officers take administrative steps to open the closed doors of state government and let the light shine in.
The actions of the U.S. Congress in making major decisions in the backrooms on the final details of national health care reform has spurred a public clamoring for greater transparency and accountability at all levels of government.
We have voiced our opinion in prior sessions to make state government more accessible to the public. In cooperation with the other side of the aisle, our members have sponsored legislation in prior sessions to reveal the inner workings of state government and leadership has responded favorably to greater access to the general public.
We look forward to a positive reception from the General Assembly leadership on these issues. While we recognize that members are preparing legislation to address issues of transparency in the General Assembly, we urge the presiding officers to undertake measures this session that can be accomplished administratively without the need of legislation, including the following:
1. Adopt a rule change that provides for committee votes to be posted on the internet (Rule 38).
2. Adopt a rule change that guarantees citizens the right to bring audio and video equipment into committee hearings and voting sessions for webcasts of the legislative process. (Rule 36).
3. Adopt a rule change that provides citizens with “streaming video” coverage of committee hearings if the technology is available in the hearing rooms (Rule 35).
4. Disband the paid “up-to-the-minute” subscriber services and make instant access to the General Assembly’s legislative information available to all citizens of the state of Maryland.`
The public deserves the highest standards of openness and accountability from their state legislators and we believe that immediately implementing these measures for the 2010 session will go a long way towards fulfilling commitment for transparency to our constituents.
Allan H. Kittleman Anthony J. O’Donnell
Senate Minority Leader House Minority Leader
Nancy Jacobs Christopher B. Shank
Senate Minority Whip House Minority Whip