Assembly moves toward more 'transparency'
An effort to open Maryland state government to greater scrutiny, while making the General Assembly more "transparent," got off the ground Wednesday as a panel set up for that purpose convened for the first time.
The Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government, created by the legislature during its session last year, got off to a late start because of delays in naming its members. But during yesterday's organizational meeting, the committee discussed some wide-ranging initiatives to make it easier for citizens to keep up with what state government is doing.
Del. Kumar Barve, the House co-chair, said the panel is unlikely to propose legislation for the 2012 session but could come in with a package of bills in 2013. He said that for now the committee would focus on improvements that can be achieved through administrative changes.
Barve, a Montgomery County Democrat who is his party's floor leader, asked members to bring their ideas for five or six priorities to the next meeting -- expected early in the session that starts Jan. 11.
The legislation that created the panel was sponsored by Del. Heather Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat, and Sen. William Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat. Ferguson is the Senate co-chair of the joint committee while Mizeur is a member.
Mizeur briefed members on a menu of possible initiatives including elimination of charges for access to public records, improvements to the General Assembly web site, better use of technology and increased use of social media to communicate with citizens.
Known as the House's "Ms. Transparency" since she had adopted the cause as one of her key issues, Mizeur told members the Assembly web site is less user-friendly than those of many other states -- "an eight track tape player in an IPhone universe," she called it. She urged the panel to set a goal of upgrading it before the 2013 session.
Among the ideas discussed at the meeting: allowing witnesses to sign up to testify at legislative hearings online and providing email updates on the progress of individual bills.