editorial, Daily Local News, 7/17/14
Talk about decisions being made in smoke-filled back rooms.
A report by PAIndependent states that in this year’s state budget process, the Pennsylvania Legislature “routinely hosted key committee meetings in hot, cramped rooms that couldn’t accommodate all those interested in watching.”
“While crowds of observers and lobbyists were left in the hallway, craning to hear the action inside, those lucky enough to find a spot sweated it out or battled claustrophobia,” reported Andrew Staub.
Leave it to Pennsylvania lawmakers to find a way to keep taxpayers out of an “open meeting.”
According to the report, the Republican leadership, especially in appropriations, routinely uses for meetings conference rooms that are both too small for observers and also lack the camera feeds found in larger meeting rooms.
Without the camera feeds, folks at home, i.e. taxpayers, miss out on budget proceedings that could be broadcast on the Pennsylvania Cable Network.
In some cases, the rooms become so hot and crowded with lobbyists and legislators that some have complained of possible fire code violations and the danger of people passing out — “or worse” — in the words of Bill Patton, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, PAIndependent reported.
Melissa Melewsky, an attorney with the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, told Staub that while the Sunshine Act does not address the size of the meeting rooms, it might be something for the General Assembly to consider.
“As much public access as possible is ideal, whether that’s through a bigger room or televised access or both,” Melewsky said. “The important thing is that anyone who’s interested needs to have a method of access to that decision because once it’s over, it’s over, and the public has lost the opportunity to see what’s going on.”…
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