Public Television blamed for lack of General Assembly live streaming

Bryan P. Sears//February 25, 2016

Public Television blamed for lack of General Assembly live streaming

By Bryan P. Sears

//February 25, 2016

If you’re in favor of the idea of live streaming voting sessions from the floor of the Maryland House and Senate there’s a reason why you can’t have nice things — Maryland Public Television.

That’s the message from House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. who both independently invoked the name of the state-funded broadcasting network when asked about the issue.

“I think we’ve always been supportive of (live streaming video),” Busch said during an appearance on the C4 show on WBAL radio. “As you know, we used to have Maryland Public TV do the sessions during the week and the problem we ran into is the funding after a while. When we had budget cuts, they were the one that got cut out of the budget.”

Miller, in a separate interview with reporters following a Senate session similarly mentioned the station when asked about support for live streaming.

“We had a problem with the TV stuff, with MPT TV because they wanted to do it when they wanted to do it,” Miller said. “Then we’d have crunch time in the last few days of the session when all the bills were coming up and it was a problem because people would want to speak forever.”

Maryland House of Delegates (File AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Maryland House of Delegates (File AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The responses from Busch and Miller come a day after Lt. Gov Boyd Rutherford announced at a Board of Public Works meeting that he and Gov. Larry Hogan were supporting a House bill that would require the legislature to live stream video of its floor proceedings over the internet. Currently, both the House and Senate live stream those sessions with audio only but use video in the 10 standing committees.

The bill, sponsored by Dels. Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford Counties, and David Moon, D-Montgomery, is the latest effort to push the General Assembly into the modern age of video on demand.

Busch, speaking on WBAL, implied that additional funding for the television station could move the effort along.

“If the governor wants to put money back into the Maryland Public Television right now, today, we’re happy to have all those sessions video taped,” Busch said.

The bill doesn’t require the participation of Maryland Public Television but instead envisions the use of a system similar to the cameras used to carry bill hearings in committee.

Supporters of the effort say it will bring greater transparency to legislative proceedings and make it easier to identify lawmakers who speak during debates. Legislative rules prevent legislators from being identified by name during floor sessions.

Miller said Wednesday that the legislature has been a leader on the issue and he touted his own efforts to bring laptops to the Senate and live streamed sessions dating back to 1996.

“We’ve been on top of this policy for years,” Miller. We are streaming right now and have been and are going to continue to stream . If you want to listen to us be my guest. All my constituents can listen to me all day long.”

Hogan’s support of the bill didn’t seem to sway Miller’s opinion.

“Let the governor worry about the second floor ok and we’ll worry about the first floor, ok?” Miller said. “The President of the (U.S.) Senate doesn’t tell the Senate how to run the Senate and the President of the United States doesn’t tell the Speaker of the House how to run the House. We’re on top of everything technologically and we want everyone to know everything and we want to continue to be transparent. We’ll look at all bills and consider all ideas and consider costs.

The Senate President had similar words for Busch when a reporter informed him that the Speaker of the House had said he supported the concept of live streaming video even if he hadn’t said he supported the bill.

“Again, the Speaker doesn’t control the Senate of Maryland.,” Miller said. “I put streaming here in the Senate and we’ll see if we need to continue it further.”

Miller also had a counter proposal for Hogan.

“I’ll put one of those cameras up in his office and he can talk to it all day long,” Miller said and started to leave the Senate. Then he stopped and added: “I’m not big on showboating. That’s not my middle name. I’m not a show horse, I’m a work horse. I get the goddamn job done.”



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