GOP caucus in the lege finds a way to suppress public input by calling it an “improvement”

By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings

 

For the record, I *really* hope I'm wrong about the motivation behind this, but given the character and track records of the people behind this move, I'm not holding out much hope for that

From an AZ House GOP press release

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX (Jan. 2, 2014) – The system allowing members, lobbyists and the general public to request to speak at a House or Senate committee meeting will be much improved in 2014. The improvements will make it possible for committee chairs to re-arrange agendas on the fly, and will make it easier for users to speak on bills being heard in separate committees with overlapping meeting times.

The three main improvements to the Request To Speak (In Committee) System are:
• Committee chairs will be able to easily re-arrange the order of agendas
• Users will be able to access re-ordered agendas via smartphones and other devices
• Agenda items voted on during committee will be updated in real-time

Committee chairs can easily rearrange an agenda to suit a meeting’s immediate circumstances with the new RTS system. And as agenda items are heard that information will be updated in real-time allowing users to follow the committee as it works through each item on the agenda. Consequently, users who have bills being considered in two or more committees that are meeting at the same time can better gauge which committee to be at first and when to leave it for the next one.

Mike Braun and his team at the Arizona Legislative Council will hold two meeting

Thursday, Jan. 9, at the House on how to use the new system. Committee chairs are strongly encouraged to attend one of the sessions.

Who: All House members, especially committee chairs, lobbyists and the general public
What: Instructions on how to use the new RTS system
Where: The House Chamber and the Gallery, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ
When: Thursday, Jan. 9, at 10 a.m. and a second session at 2 p.m.
Why: Improve overall efficiency and involvement

Important to note:
• All users will have to create a new account to access the new system; old accounts will not be carried over to the new system
• Setting up a new account requires a visit to the Legislature, once setup the account will work for committee meetings scheduled in both the House and the Senate
• After the account is setup, users will be able to access it remotely in order to make a request to speak at a committee meeting

The section most important to concerned citizens and other lege watchers is at the bottom of the press release (emphasis added) –

Important to note:
• All users will have to create a new account to access the new system; old accounts will not be carried over to the new system
• Setting up a new account requires a visit to the Legislature, once setup the account will work for committee meetings scheduled in both the House and the Senate
• After the account is setup, users will be able to access it remotely in order to make a request to speak at a committee meeting

To make a long story short:

The Arizona Legislature has a "Request To Speak" system for people to sign in to if they wish to weigh in on a measure that's up for committee consideration, whether in person at the Capitol or remotely via the internet.

Users, even remote users, must set up their account while physically at the Capitol.  Inconvenient, but the current system has been in place long enough that most people who are interested in doing so have been able to set up an account.

That includes people people who tend to criticize the lege, but who, because of a conflicting work schedule or simple sheer distance, cannot travel to the Capitol on a regular basis.

Now, in the name of "efficiency", those people have all had their ability to have direct input on measures before the lege removed.

Much like the higher campaign contribution limits in last session's HB2593, it grants greater influence to the lobbyists.  HB2593 enhances the effect of lobbyists' deep pockets; this move enhances the effect of lobbyists' constant presence at the Capitol.

It's also kind of like the voter suppression moves in HB2305, but done in a way that the voters cannot block or overturn.

One response to “GOP caucus in the lege finds a way to suppress public input by calling it an “improvement”

  1. State Sen. Katie Hobbs (D-LD24) just went through training for the new RTS system and sent this evaluation –

    “The new system really will be better in terms of transparency. Right now, you can only see your account, but on the new system, all members of the public with an account will be able to see what is going on in the committee in real time. If the chair changes the order of bills from the posted agenda, you can see that. If the chair puts the speakers in order of when they plan to call on them, you can see that. when the chair marks the status of the bill (passed, failed, held), you can see that. You will also be able to see everyone who has signed in for every bill and who they are representing.

    In terms of having to create new accounts, what they said at the training today is that anyone who is an active user with a valid email address will have their account transferred over (in the neighborhood of 3,500 people vs. over 40,000 registered accounts – many people who have registered accounts have never used them). Those who fit that category will receive an email notification with a link to create a new password. They said this would be completed by next Monday (opening day). ”

    Sen. Hobbs attempted to enter her observations directly on this post (at Random Musings), but for some reason, her comment didn’t post.

    I thank her both for her report, which allays some of my concerns regarding the new RTS system, and her persistence in forwarding the report.