Interim meetings antiquated

September 10, 2008
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Now is the time of the year when the General Assembly’s interim study committees meet to discuss various issues that could become bills in the 2009 session. What strikes me about these meetings is how old-fashioned and time-consuming they are. If you haven’t sat in on an interim study committee meeting or happened to watch it streamed live online, these meetings can be long.

Try about four hours long. That’s how long yesterday’s interim study committee on immigration issues lasted.

These study committees are designed to get information from experts or people who may have knowledge or be affected by a particular topic, such as immigration, education, or transportation. But in today’s digital world, is it necessary to have four law professors testify about immigration? Much of the information the law professors provided yesterday could have been found by doing some research by making phone calls or turning to the Internet. The lawmakers repeatedly asked for data about immigration from everyone who testified. Couldn’t this data been obtained prior to the meeting, and then the lawmakers could ask questions regarding specific data?

I’m not sure why these meetings have to last so long – perhaps it’s because this is the way it has always been done in the General Assembly. Perhaps it’s so everything from these meetings is “on the record,” even redundant information. These types of long meetings with multiple sources for the same information or viewpoints made sense 100, 50, or even 25 years ago, before the advent of the Internet, telephone, telecommuting, and easier access to information was available to lawmakers.

Nowadays, the length of these meetings could be cut drastically if lawmakers would just do a little research beforehand and utilize technology more. To me, that is a way to make government more efficient. Give lawmakers more time to discuss the issues among themselves instead of asking the same question of four people who will give similar answers.
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