Road Trippin’ With the Rhode Island Statehouse
Here’s an interesting idea proposed by Rhode Island House Speaker William Murphy in his opening address to the 2007 legislative session…
Transparent process, open inquiry, public debate. That is what marked this body’s earliest beginnings, and let me close by sharing a plan for restoring that reputation to the House of Representatives as it exists today.Though Project Open House is mostly symbolic in nature, it does represent a step in the right direction. A more far reaching step, however, would be to have House committees post their minutes, especially amendments to bills and vote tallies, in a publicly available electronic format.
The fact is, for many Rhode Islanders, the State House can be perceived as an intimidating or inaccessible place and its workings can seem confusing.
To ensure that we are bringing as many voices as possible into government, and creating a legacy of openness, transparency, and responsiveness, I am announcing today an initiative to break down the barriers for every-day Rhode Islanders to make their voices heard, participate in government debate, and better understand what we do.
We call it “Project Open House.”
Through “Project Open House,” every standing committee of the House of Representatives will hold a hearing at a site around the state during their normal course of legislative business.
The bills before the committee will be posted in advance, as they are now, and citizens with interest or concerns will be encouraged to come testify, or simply listen and learn.
“Project Open House” will turn community centers, libraries and public schools into mini State Houses for the day. I look forward to officially opening the first hearing next month, and to making these field hearings an important part of the House of Representatives’ next chapter.
The staff people at the Rhode Island General Assembly already do an excellent job of providing timely, online information about floor actions. It shouldn’t be difficult to extend the systems and processes they’ve already developed to include committee activity too.