Del. Legislative Committee Hearings To Be Livestreamed
Delaware General Assembly committee meetings will be livestreamed when lawmakers resume the session in January, according to leaders of the majority Democratic caucuses.
While regular sessions have been available virtually since May 2020 – early in the COVID-19 pandemic – committee hearings have continued via Zoom.
Citizens will be able to attend in-person or virtually. Committee hearings will also be archived on the General Assembly website.
Six hearing rooms have been equipped with monitors and cameras to allow committee meetings to take place in a hybrid format.
“Virtual committee meetings were a necessary function during the pandemic to allow the Legislature to continue operating while giving residents the ability to still participate in the government process. What we found was that people liked the convenience of being able to attend committee meetings and provide comment online. We saw the proof in record committee attendance and participation during the past year,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach said.
A decision about returning in person to Legislative Hall and use of a hybrid virtual / in-person committee hearing process will depend on public health guidance as of early January. The General Assembly returns to session January 11th.
“We all long for normalcy, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t retain some of the things we learned during the pandemic. When we made virtual participation possible for Delawareans, we increased interest in the legislative process, got more robust feedback on critical legislation, and made it possible for stakeholders to seamlessly move from one virtual committee hearing to another,” Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, D-Newark said. “For those who miss being back in the building, we can’t wait to welcome you back as public health protocols permit. But for those who appreciated having the flexibility to participate in the legislative process on your lunch break or as you were picking up the kids at school, that accessibility will remain in place.”
“Using technology to increase citizen accessibility is a welcome development and one that our members supported for many years before the arrival of the pandemic. Having said that, virtual communications should complement, not replace, in-person participation in crafting public policy,” House Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford said. “The ability of stakeholders to passionately advocate for the issues they support through face to face interactions with their elected officials is a core attribute of our Democratic process and something that cannot be replicated with a Zoom call.”
According to legislative leaders, the Delaware General Assembly was one of the last legislatures in the nation to livestream video of sessions when the COVID-19 pandemic first arrived. Sessions were livestreamed to YouTube starting in May 2020. Livestreams were made available directly on the General Assembly website in May 2020. Sessions were open to limited numbers of in-person citizens in May 2021.