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Lawmakers Push For Greater Transparency In Next Year’s Legislative Season

Senator Amanda Chase is pushing for subcommittee meetings to be recorded in next year's General Assembly session. Craig Carper/WCVE News

Lawmakers are pushing to have subcommittee meetings recorded in next year’s General Assembly session.

All House and Senate floor sessions and committee meetings are currently videotaped and posted online daily for anyone who wants to catch up on discussions about why any particular piece of legislation might have failed or advanced.

“We do that for committees. We don't do that for subcommittees, and we should,” said Democratic Delegate Mark Levine. He’s partnered with Republican Senator Amanda Chase to round up a list of lawmaker signatures – over two-thirds from both the House and Senate – who support the effort.

“We think there needs to be more sunshine, if you will, shed in both houses, especially in the House side,” Chase said. And, Chase says, she’s heard from constituents who want more transparency, too.

“I've heard comments from them that they feel like they're better able to participate in our process [with the recordings], that they're able to comment and write in on different bills that are important to them and if for some reason they miss something, they're able to go online because it's archived, they can go back historically, take a look at why a particular vote was the way it was,” Chase said.

Levine says over half of bills introduced by delegates die in House subcommittee meetings, the first stop for bills to be heard. In December, House Speaker Kirk Cox announced plans to record these meetings, but not until lawmakers move into a new office building. That building hasn’t been built yet and lawmakers aren’t expected to move in for at least another two or three years.

“You’ve got the opportunity to make it part of the design,” said Megan Rhyne with the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. “I don’t have any reason to think they won’t include it in the design.”

But she still hopes the General Assembly can figure out how to record subcommittee meetings before they move into the new building. She says cost has always been part of the conversation that’s held up these recordings in the past.

“Yes, it would cost a lot to try to retrofit this building to record all of these subcommittee meetings,” Rhyne said. “But it doesn’t have to be that. It doesn’t have to be fancy. The public is going to consume it whether it’s the highest quality or simple.”

Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia