Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Keep Tabs on Capitol from Your Desk Chair; Check Status, Debate of Pending Bills without Traveling to Atlanta

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Keep Tabs on Capitol from Your Desk Chair; Check Status, Debate of Pending Bills without Traveling to Atlanta

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA -- If you believe, as Justice Louis Brandeis did, that "sunshine is the best disinfectant," then you'll expect the new legislative Webcasts to fill the Gold Dome with the scent of Lysol.

If you find C-SPAN fascinating and enjoy watching school board meetings on the local cable-access channel, then you're in for a treat from the Georgia House of Representatives.

When the General Assembly convenes Jan. 9, you'll be able to watch the sausage being made without leaving your lounge chair. Nearly every committee meeting will be recorded and broadcast live on the Internet.

You don't even need TiVo to record it while you're at work. Each Webcast will be archived and just a mouse click away whenever you want to relive the gritty cinematography of a committee "markup" session or the human drama of a public hearing.

Before you snicker too loudly, consider that it wasn't long ago that some of the most critical legislative meetings took place behind closed doors, specifically the fabled "Green Door Committee," which wrote the state budget.

House Speaker Glenn Richardson showed off the new technology to reporters Wednesday and crowed, "I like to say we've thrown open the doors of government."

In many ways, he and the Republicans have.

The Webcasts are only part of the new openness. Each committee has its own Web site that will list its members, the legislation pending before it along with copies of reports and research generated on each bill. Most importantly, the sites also have a schedule of committee meetings and agendas for each meeting.

More open meetings are no guarantee the public will be completely informed. In Kansas, lawmakers have begun holding two meetings at once: One for show, and one at a private level conducted through e-mail and instant messages across the committee room during testimony and debates.

Nevertheless, companies pay thousands of dollars yearly for lobbyists to track legislation, which can now be done from Augusta, Savannah or Louisville at no cost.

For private citizens, a trip to Atlanta, a search for a parking place and a hassle through confusing legislative terminology used to be required to monitor the detailed progress of individual bills. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.