ICYMI: Virginia Editorial Boards praising House Leadership for successful organization, new transparency efforts

January 15, 2018

Virginia’s editorial boards are widely praising House leaders for successfully organizing the Virginia House of Delegates in a bipartisan and cooperative fashion and for implementing new transparency efforts. Speaker Kirk Cox and House leaders started live streaming all House Committee meetings and implemented recorded votes in subcommittee this year.

Credit is Due to Assembly Republicans
Lynchburg News-Advance (01/13/18)

Subcommittees of the various House panels aren’t included in this broadcast initiative, something we wished for as subcommittees are where the vast majority of bills are killed. The subcommittees meet at odd hours that often are inconvenient for the general public to attend. And to make matters even worse, House subcommittee votes were unrecorded, with no way for an average person to find out how each legislator voted.

You’ll notice the use of the past tense in the previous sentence — “were unrecorded.” That’s no longer the case, because late Wednesday, Republican leaders of the House of Delegates announced that, beginning with the current Assembly session, all subcommittee votes will be recorded, revealing to the public how each member voted.

Honestly, it is impossible to overstate the importance of this decision by House Republicans. Coupled with the filming and archiving initiative, the Assembly suddenly enters the ranks of legislatures around the country known as leaders in transparency.

Another topic we have relentlessly pushed since the November elections when Democrats obliterated a nearly two-to-one GOP advantage in the House of Delegates has been the need of something resembling powersharing in the almost-evenly divided House.

The GOP retained control with 51 Republicans to 49 Democrats, down from a 66-34 advantage before elections. Not unexpectedly, Republican Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights assumed the post of Speaker of the House.

As speaker, Cox has the absolute power to appoint whomever he wants to the 14 House committees. He chose to consult with Democratic caucus leaders in selecting committee members, something he didn’t have to do. In addition, there will be proportional representation on all committees and subcommittees; a Democrat will chair the most powerful subcommittee of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee.

Addressing the House on Wednesday, Speaker Cox had this to say: “We are not two parties. We are one House. Tasked with the responsibility of governing one commonwealth.” To which we have only this to say: “Amen, and thank you.”

Perhaps the future of elected service isn’t so bleak after all.

EDITORIAL: General Assembly now broadcasting committee hearings
Free Lance Star (01/11/18)

KUDOS TO Virginia’s General Assembly for making the public’s business a little more transparent. Starting this past Wednesday, committee hearings will now be streamed live and archived, something that open-government proponents have been seeking for years.

Although the House of Delegates is awash with new members this session following last November’s Democratic tsunami, the desire for more openness apparently came from the old guard.

A majority of the state’s legislators last year asked that the committee hearings be broadcast from the Pocahontas Building in Richmond, where the lawmakers will meet for the next four sessions while a new General Assembly building is being built.

The new policy will be a godsend for those who live many hours from Richmond and want to keep an eye of what their legislators are doing. Anyone with internet access, from Chincoteague to the Cumberland Gap, can view the hearings live or watch them later after they have been archived.

According to Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar and House Clerk G. Paul Nardo, the cost for making the Senate and House of Delegates hearings available to all of us will be about $736,000. That comes out to about 9 cents per Virginian—not a bad price for a little sunlight.

Editorial: Cheers for more General Assembly live!
Richmond Times-Dispatch (01/12/18)

There’s good news from Capitol Square. In a bipartisan move that enhances transparency and makes it easier for citizens to watch their government at work, the General Assembly will livestream House and Senate committee hearings. And it will archive the videos so they’ll be available for Virginians who aren’t able (or willing) to take time off from work to watch, say, the proceedings of the Senate Finance committee. …

We’re pleased that Republicans and Democrats came together to make government better. We hope that this advance will lead, perhaps as soon as next year, to the same treatment for subcommittees, where equally important work takes place — and, perhaps just as significantly, sometimes doesn’t take place.

Legislators Pull Back the Curtain
Lynchburg News-Advance (01/09/18)

Well, beginning with the 2018 Assembly session that kicks off Wednesday, it will become a little bit easier for citizens to keep an eye on what their government and their elected officials are doing: The commonwealth finally will begin live streaming of all floor sessions of the state Senate and the House of Delegates and all committee meetings, in addition to archiving the video for posterity.

Finally, a person living in far Southwest Virginia can go online to keep tabs on his or her legislator, checking to see if he’s really being as fierce an advocate for a bill as he promised constituents he’d be.

Editorial: The House of Delegates turns a page
Richmond Times-Dispatch (01/14/18)

The House of Delegates also has made important reforms this year.

Although Republicans managed to retain an absolute majority of seats, this year committee assignments are being made with proportional representation. That means key panels, such as the committees on Appropriations and Courts of Justice, will not be stacked in either party’s favor. In an era of hyperpartisan division, that’s an excellent example of bipartisan outreach.

What’s more, the rules adopted by the House on opening day include a crucial victory for open government: no more unrecorded votes. All votes will be recorded, and the records will include the names of those who voted yea or nay (or abstained).

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