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Delegate seeks to put Md. committee votes online

The Maryland General Assembly is pretty good about letting the public know how legislators vote on bills that reach the House or Senate floors. Citizens can go on the legislature's Web site and pull up a tally sheet, as long as they know what bill they're looking for.

Committeee votes are another story. Vote sheets are available for public inspection, but reviewing them requires going to the relevant committee office in Annapolis during business hours.

Legislation that a Montgomery County delegate is planning to introduce in the coming session would make the process more transparent from afar.

SaqibAli.jpgThe Legislative Voting Sunshine Act, drafted by Del. Saqib Ali (D-Montgomery), would require committee votes to be posted on the General Assembly site, as well as any other recorded votes on amendments and motions related to bills that are taken during committee meetings.

"I'm a technofile, and I'm also someone who's very interested in open government," said Ali, adding that his bill would cost the state little or nothing.

He characterized the current system as "a high barrier if you're not in Annapolis or if it's outside business hours."

Ali said he had yet to seek the support of House leadership for his bill, and a spokeswoman for Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said he was not yet convinced of its merits.

Busch "backs open and transparent government, and that's why committee votes are open to any member of the public and any member of the media," said spokeswoman Alexandra Hughes said.

She said that committee staff are often willing to relay votes on specific bills over the phone.

By John Wagner  |  November 18, 2009; 4:29 PM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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It's terrific to see the movement toward greater transparency of our government; it is far better to know that the process is gaining speed so close to home. It is proven that democracy is more competitive (and thus more effective) when information about the issues is open and freely accessible to all.

Empowerment through education on local issues is critical for creating tangible change at home.

Posted by: AjayI | November 19, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

Three cheers for Ali. Let's hope Michael Busch gets religion on this issue. That a politician would actually question the need for more openness is stunning. Votes are decisions. Decisions are disclosable, why make it harder than necessary to learn?

Posted by: countbobulescu | November 19, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

Here's some of what we're hearing on our Facebook site:

Jim Adams: Excellent idea.

Michael Swartz: Good for him...and proof that once in awhile Democrats come up with (or at least get credit for) good ideas. It will be interesting to see this proposal's fate, which probably won't take effect until after next year's election (alas.)

Don Hinds: Will never happen. Darkness rules the Maryland legislature. Light would turn them into dust.

Posted by: marylandpolitics1 | November 19, 2009 6:45 AM | Report abuse

Awesome. Good for Delegate Ali.

If you support big government, you have to support good government, too. What does Speaker Busch have to hide?

Posted by: member8 | November 19, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

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