Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On accessibility and transparency

Today should be a very special day for good government in Rhode Island, but it’s not. With the announcement that the General Assembly will immediately start live streaming floor sessions and (some) committee hearings we as a state are making a giant leap forward. We will vault from last place among the 50 states to a leader. A lot of people that no one ever hears about made this possible, including Tom Falcone who runs the Joint Committee on Legislative Services, Philip Carlucci who runs Legislative Data Systems, Derek Hayes who runs Capitol TV, as well as their employees who made this happen. It’s a good day for them, and they should be proud of the work they do.

Why isn’t it a great day? Because while we have added a layer of accessibility to our General Assembly, there is still a lack of transparency. Allowing people to see what happens inside cramped committee rooms late into the evening is good. But if what is occurring in those rooms is being orchestrated elsewhere, behind the scenes, so that committee actions are only a facade, then all the accessibility in the world still won’t bring us closer to transparency. We believe that for democracy to really flourish in Rhode Island the actions of a democratic body need to be honored, even if it didn’t fit a certain script. That’s why we continue to ask the House leadership to reverse their decision to nullify the vote last week on H 5498 and bring the resolution to a vote on the House floor. If the resolution needs more time, recommit it to committee, but do so with a vote of the elected representatives of the people.