March 4, 2015

House archiving of webcasts gets second life, but no action

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A House Committee saw a rare resurrection of a bill from the table, proving that legislation isn’t dead until the legislative session ends.

Camera WallWhile it is rare, legislation can be pulled off of the table, as happened in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The committee decided to reconsider the open government bill.

Previously, the committee voted on party lines to table the bill. Republicans opposed the House rule change, while Democrats supported it.

There was no vote on the bill itself on Wednesday, however, as committee vice chair Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, instead put together a small working group to craft an amendment on the length of the archiving to determine the costs of such archiving.

Bandy, in particular, voiced his concerns about the potential cost of changing technologies and the need to update the archives to keep up.

“This kind of software will be obsolete in ten years,” Bandy said, and said it would have to be updated continually.

“If we want to keep this a long time, it’s going to be very expensive,” Bandy said.

Steinborn said he was told by Legislative Council Service that they were able to absorb the costs of the archiving, though did not want to name a certain number because it would impact the competitive bidding process for vendors.

“The cost of server space continues to go down,” Steinborn said.

Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, wondered what the intent of the archiving was, which he said would play into the amount of time the archives should be kept. He said if the intent was merely to let constituents watch webcasts when is more convenient, it wouldn’t require as long a time archived.

Steinborn responded that in addition to allowing constituents to watch when was more convenient, he also thought it should serve as a “historical record” and that he wanted “to create a public record that will be around for awhile.”

Representatives have been wary of creating an official legislative record, and Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque, voiced those concerns during the hearing.

Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard wanted to amend the bill to keep the records for a total of ten years. But her motion to amend the bill was forestalled by Bandy, who instead assigned Reps. Christine Trujillo. D-Albuquerque, and Roch to work with Steinborn on an amendment. He said that legal council would help.

Rep. John Zimmerman, R-Las Cruces, said that ten years twas too long, and said that four years is “more than sufficient.”

“We have no idea how much it’s going to cost, unless we say, ‘four years,'” Bandy said. “No one wants to look at us after four years.”

The sponsor, Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, disagreed.

“Someone will, Mr. Chairman, someone will,” Steinborn responded. he later said he thought the archives should remain available for five-to-ten years at least.

This reporter watched the hearing on the bill through the legislative webcast.

Roch noted that they had more time to get this right. Since it is a House rule that would be changed, it would not need to go to the Senate for approval.