Delegate Mark Keam - Virginia's 35th House District

LeMunyon-Keam bill killed by Senate Rules Committee

Today was a sad day for open government and transparency. The Senate Rules Committee killed House Bill 778, a bipartisan bill that would require the General Assembly to revise its website so that every recorded Committee and Floor vote can be accessed by a member's name.

This is a bill that I wrote about in a previous entry on this website. Currently, information about how we vote in Richmond can be found online only if a member of the public knows the bill number or some other information about that legislation, and then goes to the website to search by that piece of information. HB 778, which was introduced by Delegate Jim LeMunyon, would make this process easier for the public by having our votes listed by our names. We believe this is a logical way that constituents might want to know how their elected officials vote.

Since the first day of this General Assembly session, I have worked closely with Delegate LeMunyon as his Chief Co-Patron of the bill. We wrote a letter to the editor urging the Senate to follow the House in passing this bill so that the public will have easier access to how their representatives vote.

That is why I was so disappointed to see the Senate Rules Committee vote to "continue" the bill, which is a technical way that they killed it. Two Senators, Democrat Ed Houck and Republican Fred Quayle voted to support our effort, but unfortunately they were outvoted by 15 of their bipartisan colleagues. Democratic Senator John Edwards, who chairs the Subcommittee that initially considered this bill, explained his opposition by stating that this bill would cost an unknown sum of money, would require the Senate Clerk to take on more work, and that there's no need for this bill because the Senate simply doesn't do things this way.

At the Committee hearing, Delegate LeMunyon explained clearly that this bill would not require any additional funds or resources because the General Assembly's existing internal IT staff would be able to handle the software changes as part of their routine work schedule. In fact, Delegate LeMunyon has already placed his own voting record online on his website using the information that the House Clerk's staff already collect: So we believe it would not be much work at all for the relevant technical staff to display this same information for all 100 Delegates and 40 Senators.

Unfortunately, enough members of the Senate have blocked this measure from going forward, so the public will have to continue to seek our voting records through the old-fashioned way. Delegate LeMunyon and I plan to try again next year to push for more sunshine in Richmond. And as soon as this regular session is over on March 13, I will upload my voting record online so that my constituents can see all of my recorded votes that I took this year on one convenient location.

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