From State Sen. Bob Cassilly:
Dear Harford County Neighbor,
The great Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” As Justice Brandeis realized, public officials are less likely to misbehave if they know they are being watched by the people they serve.
Of course, politicians do not always appreciate being watched by the public. A few weeks ago, some members of the Maryland General Assembly faced a barrage of criticism from their constituents after Governor Hogan highlighted their vote in favor of a bill that gave felons the right to vote while still on parole or probation. In response to all of the criticism, some members of the General Assembly faulted the Governor for publicizing their votes. I disagree with my colleagues’ criticism. The people have a right to know what their elected officials are doing, and a responsibility to hold their politicians accountable when the politicians ignore them.
I believe that the Maryland General Assembly needs more transparency, not less. I support HB 316, the bipartisan bill by sponsored by Delegates Kathy Szeliga and David Moon to record on video all House and Senate floor sessions and committee voting sessions. We currently post audio from floor sessions on the General Assembly website, but without any video it is hard for a listener to tell who is talking or what is happening. Committee voting sessions are not currently recorded in any way.
The Szeliga-Moon bill would give the people much greater access to their elected representatives’ actions in Annapolis. The most important aspect of the bill is the requirement that committee voting sessions be recorded on video. Committee voting sessions are an important step in the legislative process. If a committee votes to support a bill, it will likely become law. If a committee votes to kill a bill, it cannot become law. While committee voting sessions are technically open to the public, there is almost no advance notice given of these meetings. Practically speaking, the public and media have no opportunity to observe the pre-voting discussion and debate. Committee voting sessions are too important to be held behind closed doors. The public deserves to know what their representatives are saying in these meetings.
Again, thank you for reading my newsletter. I appreciate hearing your thoughts about what our state government is doing. You can reach me at 410-841-3158, or at Bob.Cassilly@senate.state.md.us. My legislative office is located on 11 Bladen Street; Room 321, James Office Building; Annapolis, MD 21401. Please stop by next time you’re in the area–if I’m not on the Senate floor, I’d like to catch up.
Sen. Bob Cassilly
Maryland Senate District 34