Will the General Assembly enter the 21st century?
As the 150th General Assembly prepares to resume action in January, a state representative is looking to bring legislative meetings into the 21st century.
According to a press release, Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek Valley, is introducing legislation that calls for streaming live audio and video of all General Assembly proceedings, including House and Senate floor action and committee meetings.
The proposal calls for all the content to be archived and accessible via the internet.
Currently, only audio of the House and Senate floor deliberations is streamed online, and none of the content is available on the internet.
The overwhelming majority of committee meetings are not streamed or digitally recorded in any fashion.
Several states, including Maryland, Minnesota and Louisiana have streamed and archived their legislative proceedings for many years.
Smith says having Delaware join their ranks will improve accountability and help build public trust in the General Assembly.
In the release, Smith said the legislature conducts most of its business Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, when most working Delawareans cannot easily travel to Legislative Hall or listen to what amount to live broadcasts.
Smith says most Delawareans turn to online sources when seeking news and information.
“Most people are looking at content on their cell phones, their tablets, and their laptops. They expect their legislature to be easily accessible online, too,” Smith said. “It's astounding to me we haven't done this already. It's something the people of Delaware want and it’s something that we, as legislators, should have given them a long time ago.”
A House concurrent resolution sponsored by Smith directs the Division of Research, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Delaware Department of Technology and Information to cooperate in creating a detailed plan to implement General Assembly streaming and archiving, the release states.
The plan would include the required equipment, software, infrastructure, and training needed for the project, and its total cost.
The study would be due no later than January 2021, so the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee could include the initiative in the FY 2022 budget.
Smith began circulating his resolution for sponsorship the week of Jan. 6, with the intent to introduce it after the legislature returns Jan. 14.
Smith said he hopes it gains broad, bipartisan support.
Transparency for the General Assembly
“This is a transparency and accountability issue, and that’s something that regardless of what party you’re with, you should be able to get behind,” Smith said. “The technology to do this is more affordable and accessible than it has ever been; there is no reason why we shouldn’t be doing this.”