Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jim Nolan: Watchdog group's report hits Virginia's General Assembly on Transparency. “When lawmakers are pressed for time, they often take shortcuts that prevent the public from monitoring and participating in the proceedings.”

Transparency Virginia - Website
The Virginia General Assembly: The case for improved transparency - Report

Original Post:
Watchdog group's report hits Va.'s General Assembly on transparency, April 15, 2015
By Jim Nolan

The House of Delegates and Virginia Senate routinely called public meetings of legislative committees with little or no notice and denied scores of bills a hearing, according to a report released Tuesday. 

The House either did not take a recorded vote, or any vote at all, on 76 percent of the bills that were killed in subcommittee or committee, according to the report by Transparency Virginia. 

A volunteer coalition of 29 nonprofit groups and associations that advocate and lobby in the General Assembly, it compiled the report after spending hundreds of hours monitoring the recently concluded 45-day General Assembly session. 

Lawmakers return to Richmond today to consider the governor’s vetoes and his proposed amendments to bills, including omnibus ethics legislation, and bills dealing with technology and government surveillance. 

The group said its goal is to promote discussion about how to improve transparency in government, keep residents better informed and make participation easier. 

The report plums the depths of the murky process for proposing, considering and disposing of legislation that keeps the average citizen in the dark and can leave even some seasoned observers scratching their heads. 

“Bills were introduced but then left in committees without ever being added to an agenda, much less given a hearing,” said Transparency Virginia participant Megan Rhyne, of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.
“Bills were defeated by unrecorded voice votes, allowing some lawmakers to avoid responsibility and disallowing others from making their position known. Meetings were called with notice so short as to make it virtually impossible for anyone other than the committee members to attend,” Rhyne continued.