EDITORIAL: Legislature should provide more access by live-streaming their meetings


It’s possible that you’ll have to pay more property taxes until the energy industry recovers in Wyoming. You might be required to pay more sales tax on beer, wine and spirits — and you also could soon be paying an extra tax on purchases at Wyoming hotels, restaurants and bars.

Some of these possible tax increases may eventually be debated by the full Wyoming Legislature in Cheyenne, but the proposals were discussed earlier this month at a legislative committee meeting — also in Cheyenne.

While some interim committees meet in the capital city, others gather in Casper, Sundance, Thermopolis, Lander and other communities across the state.

We appreciate how state lawmakers venture outside Cheyenne and hold interim meetings around Wyoming throughout the year. But the fact is, it’s still difficult to travel to those locations. While it may be possible for local residents to attend a meeting in Powell, Cody or Lovell, very few of us are able to take the time to drive all the way to Cheyenne, Casper, Wheatland or elsewhere. Hundreds of miles of highway often prevent citizens from hearing about possible legislation or listening to important conversations between lawmakers.

That’s why it makes sense for the Wyoming Legislature to live-stream its meetings online.

Interim committees’ discussions already are recorded by the Legislative Service Office, but they are not made available to the public online.

At a time when it’s easy to upload a video to YouTube and Instagram or stream on Facebook Live, it doesn’t seem like technology should be a barrier. But state officials say the committees sometimes meet in rural towns where internet connectivity can be unreliable.

“Right now, with the policy and culture we have in place, we could not live-stream effectively all legislative committee meetings. It just wouldn’t be possible,” Matt Obrecht, director of the Legislative Service Office, said in a recent WyoFile article.

Despite those challenges, we believe there are solutions to be had.

For example, in the cases where an internet connection is unreliable or nonexistent, the audio from the meeting could be uploaded online later. While residents wouldn’t be able to listen live, they could still hear the discussion later — and that’s better than never at all.

While we realize there may be a cost involved with live-streaming or archiving audio, we also continue to believe transparency and accountability are essential parts of government. The state — and other local governments — should take steps to allow more public access.

WyoFile reported that the Select Committee on Legislative Facilities, Technology and Process approved a motion this month asking for a trial live-streaming system for the interim period between the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions. It’s now up to lawmakers on the Legislature’s Management Council, and we encourage them to move forward with live-streaming public meetings around the state.

All Wyoming residents deserve the opportunity to hear about possible tax increases, cuts to education or other legislation that’s in the works — no matter where they live.