The Speaker also wrote the House is exploring ways “to provide the public with real time access to roll calls via the internet,” and/or “emailing roll call votes directly to interested parties. Your input into such a system is welcome and appreciated.”
Maybe they are listening after all …
It looks like House leaders took our advice to make roll call votes immediately available online and … did the opposite.
From Capitolwire.com (subscription):
HARRISBURG (Oct. 20) – The state House of Representatives will no longer make roll call votes available during session to lobbyists, reporters and others just outside the House chamber. Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, said media will receive faxes of roll call votes shortly after they occur, and others can obtain the information from the Office of the Chief Clerk.
Reporters and citizens groups said the change in policy could limit the public’s immediate access to roll calls in the House. “Unfortunately, it sounds as though they are making government less transparent and open to the people and the media, and this is unfortunate,” said Matt Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative Harrisburg think tank.
John Micek, president of the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association, said in his seven years working in the Capitol newsroom, reporters were always able to obtain roll calls while the House was in session.
A reporter who requested a roll call vote this week was shown a memo, dated Oct. 5 and attributed to House Chief Clerk Roger Nick. The memo states: “Please be advised that while we are in session, roll calls are only to [be] copied and provided to [House] members and their staff entitled to the privileges of the floor. Members of the public requesting copies of roll calls can get them after session at the Chief Clerk’s Office.”
The problem, some reporters said, is that the Chief Clerk’s Office closes shortly after the House recesses when sessions extend into the evening. That means reporters and citizens have a limited window in which to obtain roll calls.
Tim Potts is founder of Democracy Rising PA, a citizens group that advocates for government reform and has been critical of the state Legislature in the wake of the 2005 pay raise. Potts said of the policy change: “It means the Legislature is once again going in the wrong direction. Instead of providing easier access, they’re making it harder to find out what’s going on.”
Potts and Brouillette said roll calls should be made available electronically, either online or by e-mail.