Let the Sunshine In

In one of those rare instances in which the left and right of the Maryland blogosphere can wholeheartedly agree, Adam Pagnucco points out that Del. Saqib Ali is introducing the Legislative Sunshine Act, which will require that the business of committees of the Maryland General Assembly, particularly voting records on both legislation and amendments to the aforementioned legsilation, would be posted online. This is an idea whose time came a LONG time ago.

If one wanted to research committee voting histories of a member of the General Assembly, you would have to:

  1. Go to Annapolis (easy for me, but not for a lot of Marylanders);
  2. Visit the Committee Staffers for that particular committee;
  3. Ask them for their Committee Records
  4. Hope the Committee Chairman allows them to be made public (this is NOT at all a certainty);
  5. Pour through countless copies of paper records to determine a member’s voting record.

Why is this such a big deal? Because a pretty significant amount of legislators, on both the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle, vote a lot differently on bills in committee than they would on the floor. Why is that? It’s precisely because the committee records are not publicly available. It lets, for example, Republicans to support tax increases in committee (note: this happens more than you think it would), but still vote to “hold the line on taxes” when the bill comes to the House or Senate floors.

The fact of the matter is that open government is better government, partiuclarly in a state such as Marylan where such a large amount of business is conducted in committee, and particularly in a state in which the elected officials are a little less on the ethically straight and narrow than one would hope. Particularly important when you consider that it was members of the Senate Finance Committee, to name one such group, who were incredibly nervous when former Senator Tommy Bromwell took a deal in 2007. Committees in Annaolis are incredibly influential; their level of influence demands accountability and accessibility to records in this modern time.

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I encourage all Republicans, including ALL members of Republican House and Senate Caucuses, to support such this legislation during the upcoming General Assembly session. Maybe if Marylanders truly knew what was happening in Annapolis, they’d be more inclined to seek the change our state so desperately needs…


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