MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — When Alabama lawmakers return to Montgomery in March, Alabamians will have more online access to legislative proceedings than ever before thanks to a project by the Alabama League of Women Voters.
The League launched “The Alabama Channel,” a website to record and archive committee hearings that the state livestreams but does not save. Alabama is one of four states that does not save committee hearing videos, according to the President of the League of Women Voters of Alabama Kathy Jones.
“All the states around us in the South record and archive their meetings. Every one of them,” Jones said.
Jones hopes this project opens the door to more civic engagement, as anyone can look at the hearings if they couldn’t catch it live.
“This is an opportunity for people to see what’s happening with the people that they’ve elected who are serving in Montgomery,” Jones said.
The Alabama Channel will use a transcription tool for the videos so you can search terms and see what was discussed.
“It’ll be a positive step for transparency in Alabama,” Jones said.
So how does the state record its government proceedings? Inside the Department of Archives and History, thickly bound books showcase bills that passed and the day-to-day business of each chamber. That information is also on their website.
“What we have is the finished product of the legislative action but not actually a recording of the discussions that happen at the statehouse,” Archives Director Steve Murray said.
Murray says the League’s project might nudge the state toward recording hearings themselves, as the decision to add cameras to committee rooms and livestream hearings has only been made in the last few years.
“Alabama has not been one of those to move in that direction so far, but we’ll see if this League project opens up some possibility for that in the future,” Murray said.
Depending on how this project goes, Murray says conversations are underway with the League of Women Voters about possibly storing the digital recordings there.
Murray says they would have to ensure they have the capacity and resources to maintain the videos for years to come, but it’s a possibility.