Executive Board

Greater access to legislative video amended, advanced

Nebraskans would have expanded access to video of legislative proceedings under a bill advanced from general file April 17.

Sen. Tom Brewer
Sen. Tom Brewer

Nebraska Public Media currently broadcasts and live-streams video coverage of legislative public committee hearings and floor debate. Written transcripts of those proceedings are made available on the Legislature’s website when completed.

LB254, as introduced by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, would require the Executive Board to develop and maintain a publicly accessible, digital internet archive of closed-captioned video of that coverage, indexed by bill number or date, beginning with coverage of the 2025 legislative session.

Brewer said almost every other state has publicly accessible, online archived video recordings of legislative debate and committee hearings and Nebraska should join them. An archive would give Nebraskans access to legislative proceedings in a way that U.S. Sen. George Norris — who championed the idea of a one-house, unicameral system — advocated for, he said.

“I don’t think waiting four to six months for a copy of a written transcript from this body is what Norris had in mind,” Brewer said, adding that members of the public cannot act as the “second house” if the Legislature’s proceedings aren’t transparent.

An amendment offered by the Executive Board, adopted 30-0, replaced the bill and, among other changes, would:
• require the Executive Board to develop policies and procedures surrounding the creation and ongoing use of the archive;
• provide that audio and video recordings of legislative proceedings are not official records and are not admissible in any proceeding as evidence of legislative history, action or intent; and
• provide that audio and video recordings of legislative proceedings cannot be used, reproduced or redistributed without express permission of the Legislative Council and in accordance with policies developed by the Executive Board.

Albion Sen. Tom Briese, chairperson of the Executive Board, supported the bill and the amendment. While details remain to be worked out, he said, the goal is to have the video archive in place for the next legislative session beginning in January 2024.

Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln also supported the measure, calling it a “good government” bill that has strong support both from the public and members of the Legislature.

“This is really important updating and modernizing of our tools that aligns with our values of open government and … transparency in Nebraska,” she said.

Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt offered an amendment during the second day of general file debate April 17 that would require the closed-captioning to be provided in both English and Spanish. Approximately 7 percent of Nebraskans are Spanish speakers, she said.

“This is a great thing for transparency and increasing public participation in the legislative process,” Hunt said.

Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas supported the amendment, saying more needs to be done to make the Legislature a welcoming place for Nebraskans with limited English proficiency. Many non-English speakers are impacted by public policy but have difficulty participating in the legislative process, he said.

“This is something that we should be doing more [of] to make sure the Legislature is accessible to all types of languages and cultures and this is one step in the right direction,” Vargas said.

Brewer said he supported the idea, but suggested that lawmakers take up the issue on the next round of debate in order to give him time to discuss the change with stakeholders and determine how it might impact the proposal’s feasibility and cost.

The Hunt amendment failed on a vote of 8-21.

Sen. Myron Dorn of Adams then offered an amendment to add provisions of his LB90, which would make technical changes to performance audits conducted by the Legislature.

The Legislative Audit Office, a division of the Legislature, conducts performance audits to review state agency programs and evaluate agency success in effectively implementing legislative intent.

Dorn, chairperson of the Legislative Performance Audit Committee, said the amendment would eliminate audit requirements for the Nebraska Advantage Act, which was replaced with the ImagiNE Nebraska Act in 2020, and remove outdated codes.

The amendment was adopted on a 34-0 vote.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha stated support for LB254, but offered a series of motions to extend debate on the measure, none of which were adopted.

After several hours of debate over two days, lawmakers voted 33-0 to advance the bill to select file.

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