Ohio House to Start Livestreaming Committee Hearings

A number of groups have pushed for years for more transparency in the state capitol, but only the House Finance Committee hearing room was ever equipped with cameras. Tuesday, House leadership announced that would change.

by Jeremy Pelzer, Advance Ohio Media / March 20, 2019
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(TNS) — Political nerds and fans of transparent government rejoice: soon live broadcasts of every single Ohio House committee will be just a few clicks away.

Speaker Larry Householder and Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, during a Tuesday news conference deep in the bowels of the Ohio Statehouse, unveiled four cameras in Room 017 -- the second of nine Ohio House committee rooms to be equipped for public live broadcasts of hearings on the Ohio Channel’s website and TV channel.

The goal, Householder said, is to have cameras up and running in three more House committee rooms by this summer and all nine committee rooms by this fall.

A number of state representatives, as well as good-government groups, have pushed for years to publicly broadcast every House committee hearing. But until Tuesday, only the House Finance Committee’s hearing room has been equipped with cameras.

That changed following the election of Householder, a Perry County Republican, as speaker in January, thanks to support from the majority of House Democrats. One of the promises Householder made to attract Democratic votes was to live-stream the hearings of House committees, which is as far as most Democratic bills get in the GOP-dominated chamber.

Householder said Tuesday that it’s “exciting” that Ohio will soon be one of only 12 states to offer live and on-demand video of its House committee meetings. Not only will the cameras allow Ohioans to have “unfiltered, unedited access” to Statehouse proceedings, the speaker said, but it will give lawmakers a platform “to reach a maximum audience.”

The exact cost of installing cameras in all House committee rooms won’t be known until the project is finished, said Laura Battocletti, executive director of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

Each camera costs about $2,300, though as pro-camera lawmakers have pointed out, the House had already purchased the needed wiring and equipment years ago. Workers also have to, in most cases, drill through thick 19th Century masonry to run cables to each committee room.

On the other side of the Statehouse, five of the Ohio Senate’s 14 standing committees have been broadcast live since 2017. Senate GOP spokesman John Fortney said in a text message that the Senate is happy to work with the Ohio Government Telecommunications, the Ohio Channel’s parent channel, on future plans.

However, Fortney added, “Much of this comes down to installing the technology and staffing.” For example, he stated, there needs to be a control-room worker to monitor the video feed.

The Ohio Channel did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday seeking to verify whether it would need additional employees or funding to broadcast all Ohio Senate hearings.

©2019 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.