Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pilot Project Demonstrates Remote Testimony Potential

An ongoing remote testimony pilot project at the State Capitol offers a peek into how neighbor island residents might more directly participate in their state government in the future. Today, using new videoconferencing equipment, Rep. Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa) was able to successfully communicate with Kailua-Kona resident David Case.

“This is great. It seems to do everything you want and need the process to do,” said Case in his live streamed video conference with Lowen. “It’s certainly preferable to spending $200-$300 and taking up a whole day to testify for two or three minutes before a committee at the Legislature.”

The demonstration gave House staff and legislators a first-hand look at how residents on the neighbor island could provide live testimony during future legislative hearings. The demonstration follows years of attempted legislation introduced by Lowen to facilitate outer island residents' active participation in the legislative process.

"I've introduced a bill on this initiative every year since I was first elected,” Lowen said. “Today, even without the passage of a bill, we took some big steps toward creating a remote testimony system. It's a huge burden when our constituents on the neighbor islands have to pay for a plane ticket, hotel room, and rental car just to get a few minutes of time to speak in front of a committee. Other states do this—Alaska, Washington, Colorado; we can and should do it too."

As part of the pilot project, selected measures before the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources & Hawaiian affairs (OMH) will utilize the high tech equipment to provide limited live testimony remotely from the neighbor islands during the current session.

Testifiers seeking to participate in the pilot program will require a computer with a functional webcam and microphone, along with a broadband connection for optimal results. Participants are required to register to testify prior to the hearing, and will be sent a hyperlink to join the committee meeting by teleconference at the time of the hearing.

In addition, House Bill 1595, introduced by Lowen, would establish a Remote Testimony Task Force to bring together a group of legislators, staff and technical experts to develop procedures and expand opportunities for the public to testify remotely during legislative proceedings. The bill passed the House Committee on Finance and now moves to the House floor and then to the Senate.

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