Committee reconsiders session webcasts

By Kate Nash: The New Mexican

A key Senate committee has decided to take a step toward webcasting from the chamber, in an about-face from a previous decision.

The group on Thursday agreed that three cameras that had been taken down from the chamber should be reinstalled with the aim of webcasting — audio and video — of chamber proceedings this session.

While that is being done, the committee will craft rules governing webcasts, which will go to the Senate Rules Committee for consideration.

The cameras were taken down shortly before the session after the same committee voted last year to not webcast, citing financial concerns.

The Legislature in 2006 appropriated $75,000 in capital outlay for webcasting. About $22,000 of that is left after more than $36,000 was spent on cameras. Another $17,000 was spent on related equipment.

“I think we ought to utilize the equipment that’s already in place,” Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said during the meeting.

The cameras may be operated by someone already on Senate staff, or the state may need to hire an additional person, depending on how intensive the work is. The plan is to show who is speaking, their name, hometown and the bill that’s being discussed — similar to what is broadcast on C-SPAN.

The House earlier this session decided it will work toward video webcasting of its meetings and has since started streaming audio of some meetings on the Legislature’s web site. Public support for webcasting mounted after Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Albuquerque, webcast from a House committee early this session without permission.

Meanwhile, the online news publication New Mexico Independent says it plans to do its own webcast from a meeting this morning of the Senate Rules Committee. A list of ethics bills is pending before that panel, which meets at 8 a.m.

You can see that webcast at http://newmexicoindependent.com/

Contact Kate Nash at 986-3036 or knash@sfnewmexican.com.