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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Md. Senate Executive Nominations Committee will stop streaming voting

The Senate Committee that reviews appointments made by the governor will stop streaming its sessions once interviews with nominees are completed.

State Sen. William "Bill" Ferguson, D-Baltimore City.(The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

State Sen. William “Bill” Ferguson, D-Baltimore City.(The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

The Senate Executive Nominations Committee, which meets most Mondays during the 90-day session, is responsible for interviewing and vetting hundreds of appointments made by the governor each year. Those interviews, which most times are innocuous and without incident, are streamed live on the General Assembly’s website.

Last Monday, the committee continued to broadcast its meeting as it discussed the nominees and an issue raised by Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, D-Baltimore, regarding members of the Commission on African American History and Culture. McFadden asked for the two appointments to be withheld from a vote until he could ask some questions about the commission.

Such discussions and debates and votes have been streamed on an irregular basis over the last couple of years.

Sen. William C. “Bill” Ferguson IV, D-Baltimore and chair of the Senate Executive Nominations Committee, called the streaming of the discussion and vote “a mistake” and said he plans to make sure live streaming is cut off after the last nominee is interviewed.

Ferguson equated the debate to a personnel issue and said the goal was to have frank discussions about nominees without embarrassing them publicly.

“Some of these discussions involve publicly identifiable information,” Ferguson said.

Voting sessions in other committees are also typically not streamed live even though that is where the majority of legislation is hammered out before being sent on for votes before the full House and Senate. Senate rules, however, do allow for those sessions to be streamed live at the discretion of the committee chairs.

“I believe strongly in the value of transparency balanced with an individual’s right to privacy,” Ferguson said. “If we can, we should try to avoid embarrassing somebody publicly. I think it (discussions of nominees) should be done discreetly rather than have it live forever on the internet for everyone to search and view.”

Ferguson said the rules allow for the Executive Nominations Committee to go into executive session and close the meetings for such discussions. Such a move would bar the press and public from being in the room when debates and votes on individual nominees take place.

The chairman said he has no intention at this time of closing the meetings to the public or reporters.

The issue of live streaming of some functions of the House and Senate has become political over the last few years with a number of bills being introduced — including bills in 2017 and 2018 by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan — that would require live video streaming of House and Senate floor sessions. Currently, both chambers only provide audio of those sessions although bill hearings in the 10 standing committees are live on video.

 


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