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Hogan administration backs legislative video streaming bill
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, center, presides over the state Board of Public Works. With him are board members, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, left, and Comptroller Peter Franchot, right. (File Joe Andrucyk / MdGovPics, Flickr)

Hogan administration backs legislative video streaming bill

Gov. Larry Hogan wants the legislature to be more transparent and is supporting a bipartisan House bill that would require the House and Senate to broadcast video of it’s proceedings in real time over the Internet.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford made the announcement Wednesday as he chaired the Board of Public Works meeting for Hogan.

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford. (File)

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford. (File)

“We think its important and the public deserves to see how their elected officials conduct business,” Rutherford said.

The public statement of support of a bill sponsored by Dels. Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford Counties, and David Moon, D-Montgomery County, is a rarity. Hogan typically doesn’t take positions on legislation until it is passed by the General Assembly.

The Szeliga-Moon bill requires the House and Senate to live stream video of each chamber’s respective floor sessions. Currently the House and Senate stream and archive only audio of the proceedings. The policy makes it following debates some what of a challenge for members of the public because legislators are not addressed by name as they speak, making it difficult to identify during debates.

“Currently, what is considered transparency is these types of boxes that sit in a couple of our offices,” Rutherford said as he held up a wooden “squawk box” that features a red and green button allowing the user two switch between the House and Senate proceedings.

Maryland is one of a seven states that does not broadcast live video of legislative floor proceedings, Rutherford said.

The ten standing committees in the House and Senate currently live stream video of bill hearings. The Senate rules also permit live streaming of voting sessions on bills at the discretion of the committee chair — a situation that has only happened twice in the last four years.

Rutherford pointed out that the Board of Public Works broadcasts its meetings online for a cost of about $4,000 for its fairly modest setup that includes one omni-directional camera that can be moved in and out of the Governor’s reception room.

“That should apply to the legislature as well,” Rutherford said.

A legislative analysis of the Szeliga-Moon bill estimates that the bill will cost nearly $3 million over five years. The costs could go higher if additional modifications of the House and Senate chambers are required by the State House Historic Trust.

This is not the first time such a bill has been introduced. Efforts have typically been rebuffed for reasons including cost, concern about legislators showboating for the cameras, concerns about the installation in the historic building and the cameras being comparatively low priority.

State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot said the bill was a good idea — they proposed similar legislation when they both served in the House of Delegates.

“Of course the response was: Franchot would never shut up,” said Franchot

“Right, there was that,” said Kopp.

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