Blast 'em

This Blast 'em blog is going to shine a much needed bright light on legislative shanigans. We will provide details of the wrong doing, give names of the doer, and describe the ramifications to the public. Initially we will focus primarily on consumer issues.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

House Ldrshp Says "Keep 'Em Dumb"

For the third year, the legislature came very close to funding a program to provide internet webcasts of legislative proceedings held in state capitol conference rooms and legislative chambers. But late last night (April 28) SB 906 died in a conference committee. Conference committees in 1999 and 2005 also fell short of providing the most funding amounts needed. This session, conference committee lead chairs met on SB 906 and proposed $45,000 funding for the webcast program, but the money committee chairs declined. SB 906 passed both the house and senate in 2005, but did not get funding due to a tight budget. However, because there is a large budget surplus this year, it appears the legislature does not want to provide the public access to its hearings through the legislative sound system installed in all conference rooms. Currently, legislators can monitor hearings in conference rooms, and the legislation considered every year since 1999 would provide funds to extend access through the internet. This session there were five broadcasts of house committee hearings, compared to 36 by senate committees. In 2005, there were 23, compared to 65 hearings in the house and senate, respectively. While senate broadcasts are selected by the Public Access Room based on public interest, house leadership makes the house broadcast selections. Over the past three years, hearings on legislation conducted by the three major committees (consumer protection, judiciary, and finance) in the house were broadcast a total of two times (none this year), while the senate broadcast 72 hearings conducted by their corresponding senate committees.In 2004, the house spent only 76% of their $87,500 annual broadcast budget, returning $20,933 to the general fund. Based on the average broadcast-hour cost, this $20,933 would have funded 20 more hearings in the house (based on 2005 figures, it cost an average of $360 per broadcast-hour).The public should be told about the legislature's repeated refusal to provide minimal funding to connect its conference room sound systems to the internet, and the house's refusal to use taxpayer funds to broadcast hearings of interest to the public.Data Sources: legislature's website, including http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/info/bcast/bcast.asp?press1=info&press2=bcast; Legislative Broadcast Project annual reports of 2004 and 2005; House Clerk's March 28, 2006 memo to George Fox. The 1999 bill is SB1099.

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