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Government & Politics

Miller: Senate to Add Cameras in 2021

During Wednesday’s floor session, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) indicated that the Senate will follow the House’s lead and start live-streaming sessions by 2021. Photo by Bruce DePuyt

One day after the House of Delegates announced plans to install cameras in the House chamber, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) appeared to endorse a similar move for his chamber.

Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) announced on Tuesday that House floor sessions will be live streamed starting in 2020.

The move followed the introduction of bipartisan legislation, from Dels. David Moon (D-Montgomery) and Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County), requiring that floor sessions of the House be shown live online and made available afterward through archived video.

During Wednesday’s floor session, Miller indicated that the Senate will follow the House’s lead.

“The House is equipped to do some things that we’re not able to do right away in terms of transparency,” said Miller, who has presided over the chamber since 1987. “And so we’re going to move forward, the House first and then the Senate’s going to follow a year later.”

The House of Delegates chamber has a broadcast booth in the balcony overlooking the speaker’s rostrum for local TV reporters to do live shots without disturbing the proceedings below. The House also has wiring that Maryland Public Television uses to broadcast the governor’s annual State of the State address. The Senate does not have a broadcast booth.

While committee sessions in the House and Senate are livestreamed and archived, floor sessions are not. Good government advocates have long advocated that the chambers televise their proceedings, as has Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan (R).

“Governor Hogan has been calling on the General Assembly to livestream their sessions since taking office, and it is inexplicable and unacceptable that Maryland still lags behind over 40 other states when it comes to enacting this vital transparency measure,” Amelia Chasse, the governor’s communications director, said. “While this is a positive step it is imperative that legislation is passed this session to ensure that Maryland’s commitment to openness and transparency is the law of the land and not left to the whims of individual legislators.”

C-SPAN began televising sessions of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979 and the U.S. Senate in 1986.

Busch said Maryland residents will gain “a better understanding of the work in the People’s House.”

“Transparency is key to an open and free government, and I have no doubt that embracing this technology in the House chamber will improve the public’s accessibility to the legislature and allow our communities to be more engaged in the process,” he said.

Said Szeliga: “Maryland has had the notorious distinction of being one of only seven states barring video from either chamber for far too long. We will finally modernize the House. This is a common-sense and bipartisan effort – something legislators of both parties strongly support.”

Moon said he is “thrilled” to have the speaker’s support for livestreaming floor sessions.

“In an era when it’s easier for voters to watch funny cat videos than to watch Maryland’s legislature in action, I’m thrilled to see Speaker Busch bring the House of Delegates into the modern era. My constituents expect transparency in government, and literally hiding from public view, sets the wrong tone.”

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Miller: Senate to Add Cameras in 2021