HB 1169 eliminates roll call votes when member participates via telephone

David Taylor of Durham NH, a member of RTKNH, provided the following testimony to the House Judiciary Committee in support of HB 1169.

I am David K. Taylor of Durham, NH.  I served 12 years on the Oyster River School Board and have been a member of Right to Know NH for 5 years.

I am opposed to HB 1169.

This bill would strike a provision of RSA 91-A:2, III(e). The current provision requires all votes to be by roll call when a member of a public body is participating in a meeting electronically.

The current provision is common sense to anyone who has participated in a conference call.  In a conference call, it is sometimes hard to identify who is speaking.  This could be because the audio quality is poor.  It is also because when a person is speaking live in a room, you can tell where their voice is coming from.  Their voice has direction.  That direction is lost over a phone call.  Multiple speakers appear to be coming from the same place, so it is harder to distinguish them.  Also, people tend to speak at the same time more often in a conference call.  This is because of extra delays transmitting their voices, and the lack of visual cues used to subtly negotiate who gets to speak.

Given this extra difficulty identifying speakers on both ends of a phone call, it is critical that the votes at a public meeting be unambiguous and transparent.  Requiring a roll call vote makes them unambiguous.

Since members should only participate electronically when it is not “reasonable practical” to attend in person, the slight burden of a roll call vote should be the exception instead of the rule.  The extra transparency outweighs this burden.

The provision to require roll call votes for electronic participation must be kept.

Please contact the House Judiciary Committee and ask them to vote that HB 1169 is Inexpedient to Legislate.