Legislative Testimony: LB777, Require the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications Commission to develop and maintain a digital archive of Nebraska Legislature video coverage
Chairman Hughes and Members of the Executive Board, my name is Nicole Fox, and I am here today in SUPPORT of Sen. Brewer’s LB777 on behalf of the Platte Institute.
Even though Nebraska media seems to be enjoying the launch of several news outlets in the past year, there are still gaps to fill in providing coverage about policy issues that impact Nebraskans.
In the last decade, technology and the internet have opened access to the legislative process and created new ways for citizens to interact with their elected officials. Legislative documents are created, tracked and transmitted electronically, and an unprecedented amount of information is being made available to the public online. This transition has made legislative work more efficient and has enhanced transparency, accountability, and access.
Live webcasts of legislative floor proceedings are available in all 50 state legislatures, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.[i]
Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia also broadcast legislative proceedings on television, and Nebraska is one of those 24 states.[ii]
Forty-six states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands archive legislative proceedings in audio and/or video format. The four states that do not archive legislative proceedings include Alabama, Illinois, Montana, and Nebraska.[iii] Legislative archives can be found primarily on states’ corresponding legislative websites or YouTube.
As you may know, the Platte Institute has a longstanding interest in government transparency. In 2021, we were selected to partner in implementing the recommendations of Blueprint Nebraska, which seeks to reimagine and streamline government services by improving the citizen experience through digitization.
During the 2021 interim, the Platte Institute sent a letter to Nebraska Public Media and the Office of the Clerk of the Legislature offering to begin a formal conversation between each of our teams to explore ways to resolve this problem and any barriers that may need to be removed.
The Platte Institute appreciates the great work done by Nebraska Public Media to provide access to real-time live coverage of Nebraska’s legislative proceedings, but why not take things a step further and find a way for hardworking Nebraska taxpayers to be able to have access to recordings of those same proceedings after the fact?
In reflecting on last Thursday’s afternoon committee hearings, I’m sure several citizens were interested in some of the agency budget requests before the Appropriations Committee while at the very same time, they were interested in some of the proposals to potentially address Nebraska’s rising property taxes that were being heard by the Revenue Committee.
While transcripts of floor debate and legislative hearings are made available to the public, it can be some time before official transcripts become available, and when they do become available, they are not necessarily always easy to find.
Also, a recorded yea or nay vote is not always taken on major legislative proposals, and the ability to view a video recording might be the only means of ascertaining how or why policy decisions were made.
Some opponents claim that the archiving of legislative proceedings will lead to the stockpiling of political ammunition. But let’s be realistic, there already exist ways to obtain information to be used as political ammunition, and both various media outlets, special interest groups and campaigns are doing it.
Having an informed and engaged public is important. In an election year such as this, it’s important to have the necessary information for the public to be able to hold their elected officials accountable.
Nebraskans deserve the ability to observe and scrutinize what’s being said and done in the State Capitol at a time that is convenient for them and in a timely manner.
The Platte Institute thanks Sen. Brewer for introducing LB777, and we hope the Executive Board will see the value this proposal allows the constituents they represent and advance it to the floor.