Week one of the 2024 Legislative Session is in the books. One quick takeaway, Idaho should learn from some of the legislative transparency best practices from neighboring states to help improve citizen involvement in their governance. For example, I attempted last week to signup for email notification of committee hearings and agendas. It was more difficult to do than in other states.
Without a master listserv signup, I was directed to signup in Idaho committee by committee. There was also a required “waiting” period between each signup. It took me a full 3 days to complete the process due to the waiting requirement for all the committees and I’ve yet to receive a single email update. Here is the information that is posted on the legislative website:
“Have notifications e-mailed to me for all agendas and minutes when they are published for every meeting held by this committee.
*The notification e-mail will contain the committee name, date and time of the meeting held, and a link to the agenda or minutes .pdf document.
Please note that you are subscribing to committee agendas and minutes for the 2024 legislative session year.
And please note, subscriptions do not renew, you must re-subscribe every new legislative session. You will know when a new legislative session begins by the year listed in front of the committee name.”
I track several state legislatures across the country. Idaho is the only one that doesn’t use a master email listserv while also requiring you to resubscribe after every session. Here is an example of how easy it is to use the master signup process for the Washington legislature. Montana uses the same simple process.
Wyoming also uses a master email listserv. Here are examples of the emails I received this week from the Wyoming and Montana legislatures.
When committee action is scheduled on a bill, this type of email notification is provided in Washington.
Along with an easy way to signup for committee agendas, those following legislative action in Washington can see copies of what amendments are being considered by committees.
Washington’s legislature also posts all floor amendments in advance of votes so that citizens can see what is being considered.
Our recommendation is for Idaho to adopt the following legislative transparency best practices:
Utilize a master email listserv subscription for all committees
Subscription notifications do not expire after session
Provide a 3-day notice for all public hearings and agendas (automatically emailed to those subscribed)
Post all bill amendments in advance for committees and floor action
Post the room number on the legislative website where lawmaker offices are located at the capitol building
While these are opportunities for improvement, it is important to note that Idaho does provide options for remote testimony and streaming of committee meetings and floor action. As reported by the Idaho Capital Sun:
“Streaming coverage of the Idaho Legislature is available on the Idaho in Session website. Committee agendas and reading calendars for the Idaho House of Representatives and Idaho Senate are posted daily on the Idaho Legislature’s website. Most committee agendas now include a link to watch the correct streaming coverage of that meeting.”
I’ve inquired with Idaho’s Legislative Service Office (LSO) to learn if the state’s unique way of signing up for committee agendas and notification is a policy decision or a technology issue. I haven’t heard back yet but I understand LSO is very busy with the session. Either way, efforts should be made to help make it easier for citizens to track and be involved in the legislative process.