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Outdated? Flash drives and government transparency



Brianna Kraemer

Carolina Journal


The General Assembly took a step forward in embracing the 21st century’s technological advances at the beginning of 2024 by doing away with copying committee hearings onto CDs.


According to staff members in the legislative library, the new change is a step forward. However, the step forward is to a flash drive. Members of the public who wish to view a committee hearing are required to contact the legislative library in order to retrieve almost any past footage.


The General Assembly holds committee hearings throughout the year that are available for the public to livestream in real-time on YouTube. Many livestreams automatically become available for replay on streaming services following the live airings, but not for General Assembly committee footage. When hearings conclude, the footage is no longer accessible after the airing concludes. Rather, citizens or journalists interested in revisiting prior hearings must retrieve a hard copy of the footage. 


Typically, this means the only way to access it is to contact the legislative library staff. At the request of the public, the legislative library will copy a committee hearing onto a flash drive that must be picked up in Raleigh or mailed out to the requester.  


It’s at the discretion of the committee chair and clerk to publish hearings after they take place. It is rare for most to be publicly available. The best way to get around this is to record the livestream on your personal device, staff suggest


Policies and procedures indicate that livestreams of House sessions are a courtesy and are not required by rules in the North Carolina House of Representatives or by General Statute. However, a much simpler procedure exists for members of the General Assembly and their staff. At their request, legislative library staff can email them a direct link to the footage. 



During a hearing on Thursday held by the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety surrounding cyber security, guest speaker Mike Lauer, National Director of Public Sector at Fortinet, noted that about 70% of state governments are in the midst of a digital transformation. He mentioned that easy access to public records is essential to the citizen experience. 


“Most governments right now in the United States are going through digital transformation,” Lauer said. “Where they’re moving services to the cloud. Better citizen experience, whether it’s access to the records all in one place, where they can register, where they can provide as best of a single user experience always onto those citizens.”


Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, recently announced the hiring of Clark Chapin as the new director of the Senate majority staff of the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations. GovOps bolsters government accountability by ensuring that governmental institutions operate efficiently, effectively, and in compliance with the law. 

“The oversight GovOps provides is key in ensuring taxpayer funds are being spent wisely and that state government is running efficiently,” Chapin said. “It’s an honor to join this well-established team and I’m excited to get to work on behalf of the people of North Carolina.”

Leading the charge for public transparency, Andy Jackson, Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, contended that this is something the General Assembly should address. 


“I am not aware of any technical problem that would prevent the General Assembly from archiving committee meetings online,” he said. “Letting citizens access committee hearings at their convenience would boost transparency at the legislature, especially for folks who work during the day or who live far from Raleigh.”


Last fall, a coalition of media outlets led by the Carolina Journal sent a letter to all North Carolina lawmakers urging them to open public access to records by enshrining the public’s “right to know” through a state constitutional amendment.

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