If state lawmakers feel misunderstood this session and want to shore up the confidence of their constituents, there’s a bill for that – to set up a two-year trial for streaming video of House and Senate committee meetings.
Sen. Kay Wolf, R-Prairie Village, and Rep. Stephanie Clayton, R-Overland Park, are promoting Senate Bill 413, which is scaled down from an earlier proposal priced at a daunting $850,000.
SB 413 would apply to four hearing rooms and cost $130,000 initially and $50,000 annually after that, to cover the cameras and a part-time technician.
As it is, Kansas badly lags other states on high-tech transparency, with many already offering TV broadcasts or webcasts of floor and committee proceedings. Kansans can only watch the governor’s State of the State address and only listen in online to live House and Senate floor debates, with no archiving and no committee coverage.
Interest was high, for example, in Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on whether current law sufficiently protects religious freedom. Though the meeting was held in a room already equipped to stream proceedings, would-be remote viewers were out of luck.
Fears that streaming video would be misused or encourage political theater are no match for the openness and access it would foster.
The Legislature shouldn’t let this session end without making sure Kansans can watch at least some of its committees meet in 2015.