Lawmakers Urged To Web Stream Hearings

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Legislators joined political groups and media members in urging their colleagues to make committee hearings available online.

The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee heard testimony Thursday on the Transparency and Accountability Act. It would create a two-year pilot program to live stream hearings from four committee rooms.

Sen. Kay Wolf, R-Prairie Village, told the committee the idea is not new. She says a committee on technology tested the the concept for one year back in 2004. She says the legislature is in a much better position ten years later to expand web streaming, since Statehouse renovations put the infrastructure in place.

The program would cost nearly $180,000 to equipment purchase, implementation and yearly maintenance. Wolf says it would be money well spent.

"We are all public officials and it is our responsibility to ensure that we have transparency in the legislative process," she said. "I believe that we should welcome the opportunity to allow our constituents to better understand the process."

Representatives of several groups agreed. Mary Sinclair of the Kansas Parent Teacher Associations said it would allow members for whom it is not feasible to travel to Topeka the ability to participate on the process and be informed on the issues. WIBW-TV General Manager Jim Ogle, who spoke on behalf of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, said it would not only provide an additional resource for media entities covering the issues, but also open the door for more people to understand what happens in the legislative process.

No one spoke against the measure, but lawmakers did have several questions about how it would work. For example, the concept currently calls for cutting between three cameras for each hearing. Some members asked if one camera would suffice. Other issues included whether the web stream would be closed captioned - under the current plan, it would not. The current plan also does not call for proceedings to be archived for future viewing.

The committee did not take action on the bill Thursday.