Citizen Access and Legislative Transparency: Wins and Losses

A citizen testifies during a public hearing on HB 4268 on February 9, 2018. Photo by Perry Bennett, Legislative Photography.

 BY: TAYLOR BENNETT, POLICY COORDINATOR, THE HUB

Right now, perhaps more than at any moment before in this session, I find myself with serious questions about citizen access to and the transparency of our legislative process.

Together, we’ve explored and demystified some of the intricate processes of engaging with legislators and the legislative system and I’m excited to continue to work together in the weeks to come. In a lot of cases, I’ve found that participation is just a matter of understanding how and when to get involved. But, what happens when we run into processes that are prohibitively difficult to understand, or avenues of engagement that aren’t set up such that the majority of West Virginians can make use of them?

I think the short answer is, we’ve got to continue asking these questions until we have a process that we all can participate in.

Having a system in which citizens have fair access means having a system that is designed to facilitate participation from citizens.

Some suggestions might be:

  1. Redesigning the legislative website so that information that would make citizen participation, such as meeting schedules, agendas, and the status of bills is more intuitive. At the very least, making sure that video and audio feeds are functional, meeting agendas are posted and bill statuses updated as soon as possible.
  2. Making sure that opportunities for public engagement are scheduled at times and locations when working families can participate.
  3. Creating methods for participation in addition to public hearings and lobby visits, which help West Virginians from around the state participate. One example might be enabling folks to provide testimony at public hearings through video conference or telephone if they are not able to make it in person.

 

Have more suggestions? Let us know.

Having a transparent system means having a system in which all processes are conducted clearly and without secrecy. This week saw a huge leap forward in the form of the State Auditor, J. B. McCuskey’s WVCheckbook website. Through this website, you can see everything that the WV state government is spending money on.

It’s not the only move that we can make toward a more transparent government, but it’s a huge step in the right direction.

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