Kansas behind most states in not streaming Statehouse events
Topeka ? Kansas is among a relatively few states in which legislators don’t provide live video or audio of at least some of their meetings to the public, even though two Republican lawmakers have pushed the idea in recent years.
Lawmakers have cited the potential cost of starting video or audio streaming as a reason that the Legislature doesn’t provide it, The Topeka Capital-Journal reports. But in legislative hearings, the idea has drawn no formal opposition, and supporters argue that it would make the Republican-dominated Legislature more transparent.
“No one has a lot of time to come and ask us our views,” said Republican Rep. Stephanie Clayton, of Overland Park. “I think they like government made easy — they like government made accessible.”
Clayton and GOP Sen. Kay Wolf, of Prairie Village, have introduced several proposals over the past two years for live streaming of legislative meetings. Measures for limited pilot projects have twice passed the Senate without any dissenting votes, only to stall in the House.
House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, a Louisburg Republican, said GOP leaders there aren’t intentionally pushing back against the idea. He said bills can stall in the House because of the volume of legislation it considers.
“We’re very conscious of being a public forum,” he said. “Everything we do is for the purpose of serving our constituents and the public, and anything that enhances that we’ll sure take a look at.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures said 41 states allow the public to watch or listen live to some or all committee meetings remotely, and most opt for video. The NCSL also said 35 also archive recordings so that people can access them later.
In Kansas, a 13-year, nearly $330 million renovation of the Statehouse left the committee rooms with the infrastructure necessary for live streaming.
The most ambitious proposal, from Clayton in 2014, was for live video and audio streaming from all committee rooms. But the cost was projected at more than $1 million over two years, and the measure died in a House committee.
Clayton and Wolf then offered scaled-back proposals for pilot projects with video or audio streaming from four committee rooms. The least expensive alternative would have cost $111,000 over two years.