Let me see it: Committee votes lacking transparency
Government Reform Brief – July 17, 2012
Illinois legislators are wrestling with many seriousissues, including pension, Medicaid and tax reform.Much of the in-depth work surrounding legislationoccurs long before a bill is voted on by the fullchamber. Committees are where bills are initiallydiscussed, debated and amended. This is whereexperts, concerned residents and special interestgroups testify and offer their input. This is wherelegislators vote to advance a bill for consideration bythe full chamber or to hold it in committee. Unfor-
accessing records of committees’ activities.Short of actually showing up for the hearing orlistening to it live, the public lacks easy online accessto:
Although both the Illinois Sen-ate and House of Representatives make live au-dio available for committee hearings, it is notarchived for online listeners to review at a latertime. Many Illinoisans work during the day andcannot listen to live broadcasts. Most do notknow they can request an audio recording fromthe relevant committee clerk or how to do this.Further, written transcripts and meeting minutesare not posted online.
citizen activists regularly “slip” on legislation incommittee to indicate their position on a bill oramendment. The records of these slips are notposted online. To access them, a committee clerkmust be tracked down and a request submitted.
The General Assembly’s website, ILGA.gov, hosts a “status page” for each bill. Currently
for successful committee votes (e.g., 9-2). Thestatus page does not provide an accounting of how individual legislators voted, or even whichlegislators voted (committee members regularlychange). House votes on bills advancing out of committee have a detailed roll call vote publishedin the chamber journal, but this information isn’tlinked to the bill status page and is buried in along PDF document. To access the roll call voteon a failed bill, residents must locate and ask acommittee clerk to mail a copy of the transcript.Using the legislature’s website, residents cannoteasily discover what was discussed in committee,
legislators voted. Without this information, residentsare left in the dark and can struggle to fully hold theirelected representatives accountable.
More information from committee proceedingsshould be put online at ILGA.gov. At the very least,the roll call from a committee vote should be postedon the bill status page. Committee minutes and anaccounting of individuals and groups who “slipped”
Additionally, legislative audio and video recordings,which are already broadcast live, should be archivedfor future viewing. A mobile phone “app” for ILGA.gov could also make information more accessible toresidents, particularly younger Illinoisans.
Graphic 1: Example of missing breakdown of individual committee voteson bills (SB400: Earned income tax credit expansion)