ANNAPOLIS — Maryland residents may watch their state legislators at work in the State House from the comfort of their own living room under a new program that began Thursday.
“We are in a world of television,” said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, in announcing that Maryland Public Television would start televising select Maryland House floor sessions and committee hearings.
However, watching the government’s work might require a couple cups of coffee — sessions are scheduled for broadcast from midnight to 2 a.m.
Despite the time slot, assembly administration felt the airings were an important duty to the public.
The broadcasts are an expansion of last year’s MPT programming, which only featured select Senate sessions.
The project began at the request of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, after he studied the use of television in other state legislatures. The tapings last year added Maryland to a group of about two dozen other states that offer televised legislature coverage.
“Not everyone in the state has the opportunity to come to Annapolis to participate in the legislative process so we wanted to bring the process to them,” said Vicki Fretwell, Miller’s spokeswoman.
Barbara Oakes, House program coordinator, said the broadcast “allows the public more information than we’ve been able to (provide in the past).”
An Environmental Matters Committee hearing provided the pilot program for this legislative year. The hearing was taped Thursday and scheduled for broadcast the same night.
Harry Vaughn, an MPT production manager, said there was an ad hoc schedule of House broadcasts until Jan. 29. At that point, House and Senate session tapings would air Tuesday through Friday at midnight.
“During the course of any year, the General Assembly considers hundreds of issues that have a direct impact on the citizens of Maryland. Most do not have the opportunity to travel to Annapolis and witness in person the evolution of public policy. By televising our proceedings we will make it possible for constituents from every corner of the state to learn first hand what their elected officials are advocating on their behalf,” Miller said last year regarding the program.
Cameras were installed in several rooms of the newly built Miller Senate building to make taping easier.
The fixed cameras help decrease the cost the Assembly pays for the broadcasts. The House this year paid about $60,000 for the broadcasts, said Oakes, while the Senate paid about $78,000, according to Fretwell.
– 30 – CNS-1-10-02