This week the Rhode Island General Assembly made a small bit of history; for the first time it began putting copies of committee votes online. OK, maybe that’s not worthy of being called a historical achievement, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Common Cause Rhode Island, along with other government reform groups, worked with the legislative leadership to bring about this change. Along with the earlier addition of floor votes online, this brings a needed level of transparency to our lawmaking branch of government.
By any measure, the website of the General Assembly trails its peers, and the public is poorer because of it. If Justice Lewis Brandeis, who said, “sunshine is the best disinfectant,” is correct, then Rhode Island has been living in the dark ages. This change starts to peel back on the opaque legislative process to reveal how our committees work, and provide a tool for the citizens of Rhode Island to hold their elected representatives responsible.
Of course there are more changes we would like to see. For one, we would like it if the General Assembly would join the ranks of the 49 other states plus the District of Columbia who have live streaming of their legislatures online. And Common Cause Rhode Island will continue to work toward that. But it’s worth taking a timeout to appreciate what we have accomplished so far. So three cheers for some transparency in Rhode Island.
Office: Common Cause Rhode Island