- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Senate committee opted to live-stream one of its voting sessions last week, but Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said this week he doesn’t want it to happen again.
Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian E. Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Chevy Chase decided to stream the committee’s Feb. 21 voting session due to the intense public interest in the two measures being considered — Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposals to repeal Maryland’s death penalty and strengthen its gun laws.
Both committee hearings and voting sessions are open to the public, but only the hearings are webcast.
“I don’t think they all ought to be [streamed],” Frosh said the morning after the committee vote. Most voting discussions would be extremely hard to follow, and committee members might be less candid in their discussions if they knew many people could be listening, he said.
But those two issues were of “such great interest to the public that the voting session ought to be recorded and streamed live,” Frosh said, adding that he thought committee members had a good and productive discussion. “It was an interesting experiment.”
On Monday, Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R-Dist. 9) of West Friendship gave kudos to Frosh and the committee, praising the decision to stream the nearly seven-hour voting session as a “great thing.”
“I got a lot of emails from people who were listening,” Kittleman said. “I want to commend him for doing that.”
But Miller (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach was far less approving of Frosh's decision Monday evening.
“The policy is, right now, we’re not going to stream them,” Miller said. “If the body decides we’re going to stream them in the future, we’ll do it. But we need a uniform policy.”
Kittleman proposed an official change to the Senate rules earlier this month that would have mandated streaming the voting sessions, but the Senate rejected it, 41-6. No Democrats voted in favor.
“You can’t say you’re opposed to streaming, and then stream them if you like the issue,” Miller said Monday.
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, which advocates for transparency and open government, said Frosh’s decision to stream the vote was commendable, particularly on such controversial topics. The group was supportive of Kittleman’s proposed rule change and disappointed by its rejection, she said.
“We understand the concern that it might stifle debate or make it harder to have a frank and honest discussion, but [lawmakers’] constituents care about these things, and they should be able to know what their representatives are saying,” Bevan-Dangel said.
Staff writer Holly Nunn contributed to this report.