Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ohio House to go digital with legislative documents, broadcast budget hearings

Congrats to the Ohio House of Representatives for their plan to increase transparency and allow greater public access to drafts of bills and other legislative documents. They also plan to broadcast budget hearings, both online and on television.

This will make it easier for citizens and watchdogs to know what is going on in Columbus - and respond accordingly before votes are cast.

Gongwer Ohio reports:

House Speaker Bill Batchelder on Monday said the House plans to broadcast online and on television hearings on the budget bill and make more legislative documents available on the Internet.

The move towards increased transparency was announced in the leader's speech during opening day ceremonies in the House. The chamber also elected its majority and minority leaders.

The speaker said the ability to make legislative information and hearings more accessible comes through rules approved by the chamber about eight years ago.

"We will be unveiling a system that will make legislative information significantly more accessible to our public and to our constituency," he told the chamber. "This new platform will revolutionize the legislative drafting process and will make documents like bill drafts and other legislative materials easily available to the public online."

The speaker said this should improve on the past process of laying out amendments on a table in his office - a process that drew little interest.

The House will also broadcast the hearings of the House Finance & Appropriations Committee over the Internet and on television throughout the budget process, "allowing people to delve into the budget process from their own homes or from their mobile device. This alone is an unprecedented step forward in terms of legislative transparency."

Some of the Finance subcommittees would likely also be broadcast during the budget cycle, he said. Other committee hearings could be broadcast depending on what legislation is being heard. He referenced the House Agriculture Committee's hearings on exotic animals last session that drew expansive public interest.

He said he plans to work with members of the Statehouse press corps to determine what its needs are.

"These initiatives are being implemented to collaborate with our partners in the Senate, in order to accomplish saving taxpayers significant amounts of money; we also, I think, will find that there are a great number of people who will be able to benefit from access to these processes of electronics," he said.

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