Delegate Keam quoted in Vienna Patch about transparency bill
Voting records for each member would be listed by name
Dels. Jim LeMunyon and Mark Keam teamed up to reintroduce legislation Jan. 5 that would require General Assembly votes be retrievable online under members' names.
Under the current system, those interested in monitoring the voting records of state politicians must look up individual bills to see how their own politician voted. LeMunyon and Keam's proposal would allow people to retrieve voting records by searching under members' names.
"Our bill is aimed at increasing government transparency and accountability. The public deserves to know where we stand on any issue that comes before the House, and we have an obligation to make that informative readily available to our constituents," LeMunyon said in a statement. "The bill passed the House last year with an 86-13 vote, but died in the Senate.
The 2011 legislative session begins today.
Keam (D-35th District) and LeMunyon (R-67th District) both said Assembly members who voted against the bill cited concerns about cost, though both delegates suspect some of the elected officials don't want their votes to be so accessible.
"The cost is negligible," said LeMunyon, whose district represents parts of Oakton. "If we've got more facts for the senators this year, we'll be able to allay their fears. Hopefully they'll want to support it. ... We want to take that excuse off the table, though."
After speaking with those who would have to make this change on the General Assembly website, the delegates learned the change could be made during one of the several annual upgrades to the system at no additional cost, Keam said.
The Department of Planning and Budget looked at the plan, and determined no significant cost would result, LeMunyon said in a statement.
"The reality is we're not asking for a dramatic change in the way things are," said Keam, whose district represents Vienna and the remaining areas of Oakton. "The information is already online and electronically available. It's really not a policy difference. It's a pure administrative difference."
Stephen Farnsworth, a Virginia politics expert and assistant professor in the Department of Communication at George Mason University, said the issue of transparency in government has become a focus in politics within the last year, particularly for Republicans because of the tea party movement.
"One of the big problems the tea party movement has had with the Democratic majority over the last two years has been the extent to which bills are being voted on before people have a chance to read them," Farnsworth said.
But Farnsworth doesn't see the issue of transparency a necessarily partisan position, making Keam's appearance on the bill unsurprising.
"Even if it doesn't pass, it pays dividends in the district to be an advocate for greater transparency in government," he said. "Richmond could use greater openness. The recording of votes in subcommittees and committees, the idea of having bills made public in advance of voting, these are things that are important to both Democrats and Republicans. And the internet has made everything very, very cheap to do."
Vienna Patch Editor Erica R. Hendry contributed to this report.