In 2014, Kansans should not have to be under the dome in Topeka to watch their Legislature work. So they should champion passage of a new bill that would require Internet-accessible audio and video broadcasts of legislative committee meetings and full House and Senate sessions.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, is promoting House Bill 2438, whose co-sponsors include Rep. Jim Howell, R-Derby, and Rep. Brandon Whipple, D-Wichita. It calls for each chamber and committee room to be equipped with at least one camera “sufficient to provide the public with an accurate depiction of the proceedings.” The price tag is to be determined, but Clayton has estimated the cameras could cost $10,000. The committee rooms in the renovated Statehouse already are wired for streaming media.
As it is, the governor’s State of the State address each January is the only time legislative proceedings can be seen as well as heard. Beyond that, the Legislature only offers live audio feeds from the House and Senate chambers, although streaming video already is possible from one hearing room.
Meanwhile, many other states offer TV broadcasts and webcasts of legislative floor proceedings and committee hearings. Some go the next step and archive webcasts of either full sessions or committee hearings for later listening or viewing – something Clayton’s legislation wouldn’t do.
The example in Kansas is being set by the state Supreme Court. It has offered live streaming video of oral arguments since 2012. During Wednesday’s State of the Judiciary address – which had 394 online viewers, including 200 from Kansas and 59 in Dallas – Chief Justice Lawton Nuss noted that one person watched the court’s proceedings last year from Katmandu, Nepal.
Monitoring the Kansas Legislature should be similarly possible from anywhere in the state or, for that matter, on the planet.