Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Secrecy in Annapolis

The Washington Post has a good editorial this morning urging Maryland legislators to post online how members voted in committee. Because this is not done now, it is often difficult to find out how your representative votes in committee. As the Post points out, while floor votes are available online, it is often in committee where the important, and legislatively determinative, work is done. While the Post reports House Speaker Michael E. Busch as saying he's not convinced a change is necessary, this should be a no-brainer. Putting public committee votes online can be done at very little incremental cost, and there is no reason not to implement this move towards greater transparency and accountability early in the next legislative session.

And for greater transparency and accountability, there is much more that could be done, especially in areas in which more fiscal discipline is likely to result from increased transparency. For example, see the Free State Foundation Perspectives paper, "Structural Solutions for Maryland's Structural Deficits," authored by former Maryland Secretary of the Office of Budget and Management, concerning the state's byzantine "spending affordability process." The paper contains several specific recommendations for making the spending affordability process, which, in theory, is intended to limit the growth in state spending, more transparent. Included among them are measures to put information concerning the annual spending affordably process on the Internet on a timely basis and to give sufficient advance public notice of the meetings of the spending affordability committee.

There is no excuse for not putting legislators' committee votes quickly online. And, in today's digital age, there is no reason not to take many more steps that would increase transparency – and, therefore, accountability – in Annapolis.