It's time to give N.C. citizens a clearer look at their legislature

By Brent Laurenz | Mar 17, 2014

 

RALEIGH - This is Sunshine Week across the country. No, that doesn't mean we're going to have sunny weather all week. Instead, it's a week designed to highlight open government initiatives and spur conversation about citizen access to our government.

Here in North Carolina, the N.C. Open Government Coalition is hosting a Sunshine Day event at Elon University to raise awareness of how we can better use technology to bring transparency to state and local governments. An open, transparent government benefits everyone by allowing citizens to better follow and connect with what happens in their government, leading to greater accountability at all levels.

One glaring gap in North Carolina state government's transparency efforts is the lack of video coverage of the General Assembly. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), 30 states currently provide some manner of televised coverage of state legislative proceedings. North Carolina remains the largest state in the country to not do so.

North Carolina wouldn't have to provide televised coverage though to make strides in this area. With today's technology it would be an even easier solution to provide live and archived video of the General Assembly online. Unfortunately, North Carolina is one of only eight states to not provide any form of video coverage whatsoever.

While the state doesn't provide any video coverage of the legislature, it does provide audio of House and Senate floor sessions along with two committee meeting rooms. In addition, VoterRadio.com, a service of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, provides live streaming of committee meetings, floor sessions and other important events around the capital. To date, VoterRadio.com is also the only source of archived audio of both the House and Senate floor sessions and committee meetings.

Of course, audio coverage is better than nothing, but it's very difficult for your average listener to follow along and understand what legislator is speaking and what bill is being discussed. Not to mention that with only two committee rooms providing audio, dozens of important committees meet with no way for citizens to listen in at all, aside from physically being there in Raleigh.

Nobody is suggesting that if the General Assembly began providing video of its proceedings that it would rival the Super Bowl for ratings, but it would still provide an important service to the citizens of the state. Much like a library is a valuable resource that isn't used every day by everyone in the state, video coverage would be available when needed and serve as a way for citizens to connect with state government.

After all, it is the people's government and we elect those who serve in Raleigh, so we have a right to know what happens and how bills navigate through the process to become laws.

Providing video coverage of the General Assembly, whether online or televised, would pull the curtain back on state government and shine a light on the proceedings. An open and transparent government is vital to our democracy, and when citizens have the means to stay informed and engaged we all prosper.

 

(Brent Laurenz is executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education and a contributor to TheVoterUpdate.com. He can be contacted at laurenz@ncvotered.com.)

 

Comments (5)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 17, 2014 16:02

Even our beloved Haywood County Board of Commissioner meetings are videoed:

 

http://www.haywoodnc.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=996:bocc-meetingvideo&catid=126:boccvideo

 

(Granted, the postings are 6 months out of date.  Would love to see this kept current -- for those of us without cable.)



Posted by: David Teague | Mar 18, 2014 20:03

Mr. Lilly,

The commissioner meeting videos are first posted in the Recent Updates section of the county website. You can find them there for the last six months if you click on the full listing.

David Teague
Public Information Officer



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 18, 2014 23:37

Thank you, Mr. Teague!  I'll appreciate that at least monthly from now on.

 

Now can you fix the General Assembly per the above article????  :-)

 



Posted by: Penny R Wallace | Mar 19, 2014 08:31

I was appalled the first time I attended a legislative session in person.  This was years ago in Maryland but I suspect that the hesitancy to implement video coverage is fear of public opinion. What I saw in Maryland didn't reach the level of educated discourse at PTA meeting discussing a bake sale.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Mar 19, 2014 09:48

Politicians ought to be sure they are adequately conducting their business before adding "politics" into their repertoire.  Those that do not have the capacity to adequately perform their business, but add politics anyway are either trying to cover up their incompetence or are just not worthy of public office.  Let's call out those types in a public forum.  So far it seems Maggie Valley would be a good place to start.



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