Marylanders deserve a transparent, accountable and accessible government. Progress has been made in improving transparency in the General Assembly over the past four years, with greater access to online tools for the public, the online posting of committee votes, and increased audio and video coverage of legislative deliberations. The $800 fee to access real-time information about bill status was revoked, and the state Board of Public Works' meetings are webcast. A new Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government, led by Senator Ferguson and Delegate Barve, was created in 2011, which institutionalizes the work of the state legislature to transform itself into a more open and transparent body through rules and bills. I’m very proud, as a leader with Progressive Neighbors and the Progressive Working Group, along with the House leadership of Delegate Mizeur, to have helped make those desperately needed changes a reality in 2010.
Here’s how real accountability and transparency will eventually look:
- All committee and subcommittee votes will be online, including those on amendments and the budget.
- Hearings, including voting sessions with legislators identified when speaking, will be webcast.
- Procedural rules in Annapolis will be reformed so that grassroots groups, as well as individual citizens, are on an equal footing with corporate lobbyists, who will be subject to stronger disclosure rules.
- Public meetings and hearings will be scheduled to maximize citizen input, publicizing the schedules online, allowing online sign-up for testimony, and sticking to that schedule so people can get home to their families and accommodate their own personal needs, which may include medical care.
- The Maryland Public Information Act and Open Meetings Act will be given teeth to penalize public bodies that violate the laws, and rules will be developed to ensure the public can easily access the information they desire.
- A Public Accountability Inspector General will be appointed, to be charged with ensuring that the public has access to clear and understandable information collected from all agencies.