In July 2012, the Illinois Policy Institute revealed research detailing the great lengths Illinoisans would have to take to find out how an elected official voted during committee. To find this information, they would either have: stream the committee online, attend the committee hearing or access committee transcripts, which are often published months after a committee was held.
The Institute’s study concluded that the committee phase of the political process is an essential step for citizens to have access to information. In committee, experts give testimony, proponents and opponents debate the bill in question, legislators discuss the bill’s merits and a formal vote is taken.
Despite the importance of the committee process, records of individual legislator votes are not listed online. To remedy this lack of online transparency, the Institute called for a detailed roll call of committee votes to be listed online.
The Institute combined forward-thinking objectives with several important meetings with legislators. Today, this hard work paid off as the Illinois General Assembly has announced the upcoming release of www.ilga.gov, which will provide committee votes.
The importance of this change:
The General Assembly’s move to increase the availability of online committee information demonstrates the influence that the Institute is having on the legislative process. The House Clerk’s office should also be commended for being receptive to beneficial policy changes.
Most importantly, the ability to access detailed committee roll call votes will allow every citizen to access records of legislators’ votes on every bill, in every committee, at any time. Information like this allows citizens to make more educated votes because it allows them access to a legislator’s entire voting record, not just the votes that are taken on the chamber floors.
The Institute will continue to drive such legislative changes, such as this, in the following months during the upcoming veto session at the end of this month, special session in January and the regular session early next year.