Let me see it: Committee votes lacking transparency

Government Reform Brief – July 17, 2012
The problem
Illinois legislators are wrestling with many serious
issues, including pension, Medicaid and tax reform.
Much of the in-depth work surrounding legislation
occurs long before a bill is voted on by the full
chamber. Committees are where bills are initially
discussed, debated and amended. This is where
experts, concerned residents and special interest
groups testify and offer their input. This is where
legislators vote to advance a bill for consideration by
the full chamber or to hold it in committee. Unfor-
tunately, Illinois residents face signihcant hurdles in
accessing records of committees’ activities.
Short of actually showing up for the hearing or
listening to it live, the public lacks easy online access
- Meeting minutes. Although both the Illinois Sen-
ate and House of Representatives make live au-
dio available for committee hearings, it is not
archived for online listeners to review at a later
time. Many Illinoisans work during the day and
cannot listen to live broadcasts. Most do not
know they can request an audio recording from
the relevant committee clerk or how to do this.
Further, written transcripts and meeting minutes
are not posted online.
- Testimony and outside interests. Interested
parties, government ofhcials, lobbyists and
citizen activists regularly “slip” on legislation in
committee to indicate their position on a bill or
amendment. The records of these slips are not
posted online. To access them, a committee clerk
must be tracked down and a request submitted.
- Votes. The General Assembly’s website, ILGA.
gov, hosts a “status page” for each bill. Currently
these landing pages only provide the hnal tally
for successful committee votes (e.g., 9-2). The
status page does not provide an accounting of
how individual legislators voted, or even which
legislators voted (committee members regularly
change). House votes on bills advancing out of
committee have a detailed roll call vote published
in the chamber journal, but this information isn’t
linked to the bill status page and is buried in a
long PDF document. To access the roll call vote
on a failed bill, residents must locate and ask a
committee clerk to mail a copy of the transcript.
Using the legislature’s website, residents cannot
easily discover what was discussed in committee,
who testihed for or against the bill or how specihc
legislators voted. Without this information, residents
are left in the dark and can struggle to fully hold their
elected representatives accountable.
Our solution
More information from committee proceedings
should be put online at ILGA.gov. At the very least,
the roll call from a committee vote should be posted
on the bill status page. Committee minutes and an
accounting of individuals and groups who “slipped”
or testihed on the bill should also be posted online.
Additionally, legislative audio and video recordings,
which are already broadcast live, should be archived
for future viewing. A mobile phone “app” for ILGA.
gov could also make information more accessible to
residents, particularly younger Illinoisans.
Graphic 1: Example of missing breakdown of individual committee votes
on bills (SB400: Earned income tax credit expansion)
Source: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=400&GAID=11&GA=97&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=55194&SessionID=84
Kristina Rasmussen is Executive Vice President with the Illinois Policy Institute.
Why this works
The General Assembly´s website already hosts foor
vote roll calls and top-line committee vote results,
as well as live video from the chamber foors and
live audio from committees. Adding committee tran-
scripts, testimony records and detailed committee
votes while archiving audio-visual recordings will
bring more transparency to the legislating process,
thereby inviting greater civic participation and help-
ing residents hold their elected ofhcials accountable.
In states across the country, committee information
is being made available to the public on legislative
websites. Maryland, for example, recently began
putting the committee votes of individual members
online because, as state Del. Heather Mizeur noted,
“The most important votes we take are the ones at
In Wisconsin, committee votes and testimony
records are published online in a “Record of Commit-
tee Proceedings” that is linked to directly from the
bill status page.
ILGA.gov does many things well. But it can be better.
Illinois should follow Wisconsin and Maryland’s lead
and bring greater online transparency to legislative
committee proceedings.
Source: http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/votes_comm/hb0006_ehe.pdf
Graphic 2. Example of Maryland committee vote record posted online
(HB6: Use of campaign funds for meeting and conference expenses)
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Graphic 3. Example of Wisconsin “Record of Committee Hearing” posted online
(AB18: Collection and use of motor vehicle trafhc stop information)
Record of Committee Proceedings

Committee on Criminal Justice and Corrections

Assembly Bill 18
Relating to: collection and analysis of motor vehicle traffic stop information and
law enforcement training standards.
By Representatives Bernier, Jacque, Mursau, Thiesfeldt, Nass, Farrow, Brooks,
LeMahieu, Vos, Ziegelbauer, Petersen, Kerkman, Ripp, Kooyenga, Bies, Strachota,
Kleefisch, Kestell, Marklein and Spanbauer; cosponsored by Senators Lazich,
Wanggaard, Grothman, Schultz, Leibham and Jauch.

February 04, 2011 Referred to Committee on Criminal Justice and Corrections.


Present: (7) Representatives Bies, Jacque, Kestell, Brooks,
Krug, Kessler and Turner.
Absent: (0) None.
Excused: (0) None.

Appearances For
x Kathy Bernier — Rep., 68th Assembly District
x Ben Volkel — Office of Senator Lazich
x Van Wanggaard — Sen., 21st Senate District
x Jeff Wiswell — WI Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association

Appearances Against
x None.

Appearances for Information Only
x None.

Registrations For
x Alice O'Connor — WI Chiefs of Police

Registrations Against
x Adam Korbitz — State Bar of Wisconsin

Registrations for Information Only
x None.


Present: (8) Representatives Bies, Jacque, Kestell, Brooks,
Krug, Kessler, Turner and Hebl.
Absent: (0) None.
Excused: (0) None.

Moved by Representative Jacque, seconded by Representative
Brooks that Assembly Bill 18 be recommended for passage.

Ayes: (5) Representatives Bies, Jacque, Kestell, Brooks
and Krug.
Noes: (3) Representatives Kessler, Turner and Hebl.


Andrew Nowlan
Committee Clerk
Source: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/records/ab18/acri_05122011.pdf
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