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Iowa Senate to be shown live online starting in January

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 12:26 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 12:27 p.m. CDT

CEDAR RAPIDS (AP) — Iowa lawmakers have added some transparency to the Senate floor with the help of a few video cameras.

The state Senate will be shown live online when the Legislature goes back into session in January, the Gazette reported Sunday.

Five cameras have been installed with a price tag of more than $200,000, but officials said an IowAccess grant covered $135,000 of that.

The move brings the Senate in line with the House, whose members invested $130,000 to install six cameras for live video streaming last year.

“Whenever you can make government more transparent and have the public more engaged in their government, it’s better for everyone,” said Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, who will be sworn in soon as Senate president.

“Now they can see the visuals and the audio. It’s just one more step in the right direction to be accountable,” she said.

The Legislature already offered online audio streaming of floor sessions but technical issues such as poor lighting and sound quality had delayed the move to video.

Mark Willemssen, legislative facilities manager, said renovations at the Capitol in 2001 helped alleviate those problems.

“Logistically, it wasn’t too bad,” he said. “That chamber always has been a little dark. We’ve been waiting for technology to catch up with the structure we had to work with.”

House officials said their online audience was small during the first year. There were just a few instances when viewership reached triple-digit numbers.

But some Senate lawmakers said they expect a jump once more people become aware of the service, which has become a standard service in other statehouses.

Mike Marshall, secretary of the Iowa Senate, said he does not expect the switch to video to have a significant impact on the Senate’s internal workings.

“It certainly will provide a way for the citizens of the state who don’t have the ability to get down here to see what’s going on, to see how a debate in the Senate really works,” he said.

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