Eric’s comment in the first post about the budget hearings re-raises a good point. Sadly, a citizen – even an engaged and tech-savvy citizen – can do little to keep track of how our General Assembly deliberates. Most of the real legislative work is done in committees. That’s where the body takes what testimony it will in support or opposition to a bill, it’s where most of the amendments are attached and it’s where the majority of bills whither and die.
Yet, for all their importance, committee hearings in Ohio generate little in the way of a permanent record. On the Federal level, every hearing of every committee is transcribed and, except for the few that get classified, the transcripts are available at your nearest Government Documents Repository. Not so in Ohio. Our committees record what witnesses they heard from and the results of any votes taken. That’s it. And if the hearing minutes are posted on line, I can’t find them.
So we have to rely on our friends in the media. That, needless to say, has limited utility. Committee hearings require a reporter to sit for a day, hoping something interesting happens. Last week’s hearings went well into the evening most nights. From what I heard, most of the best pro-public ed. speakers didn’t get to the stand until reporters had left to file stories.
If all this sounds fuzzily familiar, it’s because I posted a few weeks ago about a bill freshman proposed by Rep. Steve Dyer (D-Green). The bill is now posted – it’s H.B. 147. It would require, that “[t]he minutes shall, at a minimum, consist of a paraphrased summary of all testimony and exhibits presented, all discussion had, and each question asked and answer given during the meeting.” The bill also gives the committee the discretion to prepare a transcript of the hearing. Best of all, Rep. Dyer hasn’t forgotten his blogger friends:
- When the minutes are available for public inspection, the secretary shall file them with the clerk. The clerk shall post the minutes on the general assembly's web site in a manner that links each portion of the minutes that is relevant to a particular bill or resolution to the legislative history of that bill or resolution.
CORRECTED to add the last link, but see the discussion in comments -- the vote function appears to be buggy. And since it's a Java error, I tried it in both Firefox and IE -- still no dice.