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For Idaho’s Legislative Record, Should Audio And Video Be Archived?

Emilie Ritter Saunders / StateImpact

A view from the 3rd floor of the Montana State Capitol. Montana's Legislature archives all committee meetings and floor sessions.

Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey today wrote this blog post that raises this question: should the video or audio record of legislative proceedings be archived?

Since the Capitol’s recent upgrade, nearly every legislative committee hearing, and House and Senate floor session has been broadcast through Idaho Public Television. Those broadcasts are recorded, and according to Popkey, destroyed after five days.

But the question of whether to preserve the digital record has been a largely behind-the-scenes conversation among top legislative leaders. The technology exists, says Idaho Public TV General Manager, but current policy calls for destruction of the Legislature’s digital audio and video after five days.

Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, is a leading skeptic. “I have a variety of serious concerns about it,” Davis told me Friday.

Davis co-wrote a law 2007 Idaho Law Review article about the import of legislative history, titled, “Use of Legislative History: Willow Witching for Legislative Intent.” His co-authors were then Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, and the Legislature’s librarian, Kristin Ford. All three authors are lawyers.

Davis agrees with many traditionalists that the journals of the House and Senate and committee minutes should comprise the legislative history, which Davis, Kelly and Ford define as “any and all public documents relating to the law when it was still a bill in the legislature.” – Idaho Statesman

For now, Popkey writes, Idaho’s policy to destroy audio and video recordings of legislative proceedings will remain.

In at least one state, however, the audio and video recordings of legislative hearings are considered part of the public record. Montana’s Legislature hangs on to all its recorded committee meetings and floor sessions.

Audio/Video Coordinator for the Montana Legislature, K’Lynn Sloan Harris says all recordings are kept in the Capitol basement for two years after their original air date. Then, those DVDs are cataloged and sent to the Montana Historical Society to sit in perpetuity.


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