A plan to increase visibility of the Kansas Senate is a good start, and needs to go just one or two steps farther.
The Kansas Republican Senatorial Committee has released a plan to make Kansas better. One plank concerns transparency, specifically this: “Under our plan, legislative meetings and Senate proceedings will be public and streamed live online for public viewing.”1
This is a good idea, and one that should have, and could have, been implemented long ago. But it doesn’t go quite far enough. The problem is that many people who might want to watch the proceedings can’t do so at the time the Kansas Senate meets. We need to have archived video.
This would require the Senate to capture the video rather than simply streaming it. Then, the video must be made available somewhere. YouTube is an obvious choice, and it is free.
Then, to make the experience complete, the Senate needs to make documents available to the public as they are made available to legislators. An example is an amendment to a bill that the chamber is debating.
A related matter is the availability of testimony in the Kansas Legislature. Specifically, the written testimony and informational presentations provided to committees would be of interest and value to citizens. Most committees — perhaps all — require conferees to supply a pdf or Microsoft Word version of their testimony in advance of the hearing. These electronic documents could be placed online before the committee hearing. Then, anyone with a computer, tablet, or smartphone could have these documents available to them.
On the Kansas Legislature website, each committee has its own page. On these committee pages there are links for “Committee Agenda,” “Committee Minutes,” and “Testimony.” But in most cases there is no data behind these links. In February 2015 I investigated and found that only about one-third of standing committees in the Kansas Legislature were providing written testimony online.2
Since then, several committees have used the commercial file-sharing service Dropbox to make testimony and documents available to everyone. This is a reasonable way to accomplish an important goal.
- betterkansasplan.com. Transparency in Government. Available at betterkansasplan.com/better/#1475545628382-66e77cef-bde5. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. Availability of testimony in the Kansas Legislature. Available at wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/availability-testimony-kansas-legislature/. ↩