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To One N.H. Fiscal Hawk, Cameras in Committee Rooms Would Be Money Well Spent

Sam Evans-Brown
The bulk of the labor in any legislative session usually happens in the committee chambers. But most of these meetings aren't well attended, or well understood. One lawmaker hopes to change that.

We’re still months away from the start of the next legislative session. But already, the legislative agenda is starting to take shape. Among the hundreds of bills already in the works for next session is one that aims to give the public a clearer window into the legislative process itself.

Rep. James McConnell, from North Swanzey, considers himself a fiscal conservative. Last year, he was part of the “Freedom Caucus” that sparred with fellow Republicans over potential budget increases.

But the way McConnell sees it, outfitting all House committee rooms with cameras to record all of the legislative sausage-making that often goes unseen would be money well spent.

“The fact is, when you have more transparency like this, the more egregious examples of spending would be brought under control,” McConnell told NHPR. “And when the public is fully aware of some of the expenditures that we’re making, I think this would bring pressure on our legislators to recognize that it’s the taxpayers’ money.”

Ideally, McConnell wants to make it so that the public can watch committee meetings live in real-time, or online after they’ve occurred.

The House and Senate chambers are already equipped with cameras to do just that. Expanding the technology to the rest of the Statehouse grounds, he estimates, would cost about $100,000.

Part of McConnell’s desire to open up the committee process to greater scrutiny stems from his frustration over seeing lots of work and thought go into a number of bills during the committee phase, only to see fellow lawmakers disregard all of that when those bills reach the floor.

“I want the rest of the state to see the things that I see and be as unhappy with a lot of aspects of it as I am,” McConnell said. “And I think they will be once they get a good look at it.”

McConnell says the idea’s already received support from fellow lawmakers from both parties, and a proposal to film Senate committee hearings (most of which are available in audio format) could also be in the works.

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