Senate TV Has Hurdles Before Reality

Just possibly coming soon to a TV near you is The Colorado Senate, a Monday through Friday show that will highlight the work of lawmakers during the legislative session.

But more than a week after Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff announced his plan to televise the proceedings of the House of Representatives beginning when they convene in January, Senate leaders have made no final decision about whether they will follow suit, said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Groff.

“We’ve been talking about this for several years, and I’m intrigued with the idea,” said Groff. “I would love for us to do it.”Last week, Romanoff announced plans to televise the proceedings of the House of Representatives, making Colorado the 35th state to broadcast at least a portion of its work in action. The proceedings are currently available through audio feeds.

Ken Gordon, Colorado’s Senate Majority Leader, also supports the idea.

“I think that people who don’t understand what we do tend to believe in wild conspiracies, and [televising proceedings] makes it more understandable to people who have no contact with the legislature,” Gordon said. Being able to watch the House and Senate in action, he said, would enable them to see what tax dollars are being spent on – like education, health care and transportation – rather on themselves, as some might believe.

“I hope the people don’t get too bored,” he said.

However, Gordon noted, during a meeting of the executive committee last week, a concern was raised by Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald over the potential for a conflict if the Senate were to enter into an agreement with Comcast similar to that of the House. The cable company has agreed to donate more then $1 million in in-kind contributions to televise the proceedings of the House of Representatives. The City of Denver has also pledged to invest in the project.

On Wednesday, Fitz-Gerald was unavailable for comment, but Gordon explained the rationale.

“Joan [Fitz-Gerald] was concerned it might not be appropriate for us to take contributions from Comcast because Comcast has issues before the legislature,” Gordon said. “She asked legal services to look into it, and see if there are any other potential conflicts.”

Another issue is the logistics of the coverage, Groff said. For example, would the televised coverage only include the full Senate when is session, or also the various committee hearings, which often meet simultaneously?

Others have expressed trepidation that some lawmakers would take the opportunity to preen and grandstand before the camera. But Gordon, and Groff expressed hope the Senate follows the path laid by Speaker Romanoff.

“I think everybody wants as much transparency as possible, and there is no more transparency than TV,” Groff said.

Cara DeGette is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com

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