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Senate greenlights rule allowing live-streaming of voting sessions

Maryland residents will now have greater opportunity to see how the legislative sausage is made in Annapolis.

Rule Change Vote

The Senate late Monday voted 41-3 to change the rules and allow committees to live stream voting sessions at the discretion of the respective chairmen.

The Senate approved 41-3 a change in rules that gives committee chairmen discretion in broadcasting voting sessions in the four standing Senate committees.

The rule change is two years in the making.

Sen. Allan H. Kittleman, R-Howard,  sought the change for the last two sessions, saying it would provide greater transparency into the legislative process and provide a public record for the courts when judges seek to understand legislative intent.

The rule as passed does watered down Kittleman’s proposal which mandated that all voting sessions be live-streamed over the General Assembly’s website.

Instead, the Senate Rules Committee adopted amendments offered by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.

Miller’s amendments give committee chairs discretion to broadcast voting sessions though not everything would be appropriate for live-streaming.

“Most of the stuff we do is mundane,” Miller, D-Calvert and Prince George’s, said a week ago.

Miller said at the time that voting sessions on more controversial bills such as same-sex marriage or the repeal of capital punishment should probably be made available to the public.

“I’d hope a committee chairman would say, ‘Let’s record that,’” Miller said. “It’s the other bills, like a local liquor bill for Talbot County — who cares?”

Miller’s second amendment simply codified the current practice of live-streaming all committee hearings. That rule requires the internet broadcasting of those hearings.

The House of Delegates also broadcasts all committee hearings over the General Assembly website but does not do the same for voting sessions.

Some senators have said they oppose the changes because of concerns that broadcasting the voting sessions would stifle the free flow of debate.

In the end, only three senators voted against the changes: Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr., R-Upper Eastern Shore, Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, and Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore.

Kittleman late Monday night applauded the adoption of the changes even though he acknowledged they didn’t go as far as he would have liked.

The adopted rules go into effect immediately.

2 comments

  1. I hope they keep moving forward with these changes, including streaming video, not just audio, so the distant observer can tell who is speaking. Things that seem mundane in Annapolis can be important to many people who cannot come to observe in person.