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December 14, 2011

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.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:34 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Comments

Well, this was their first open meeting. Who knows how many informal one happened up to now?

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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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