Half of House budget meetings not streamed in first week (now updated weekly)

Budget meetings sorted by week

As part of our push for more government transparency, we have been tracking the streaming of legislative budget meetings each week. Below is list of how many budget meetings were held compared with how many were streamed, sorted by week. For a more thorough explanation of this issue, see our original report at the bottom.

Week one (1/11/22 – 1/13/22)

Only 5 of 10 budget meetings were streamed this week, the lowest proportion for the year. Agencies that did not have their budget meetings streamed include (non-exhaustive list):

  • S.C. Public Service Commission
  • S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff
  • Department of Children’s Advocacy
  • Department of Social Services

Week two (1/18/22 – 1/20/22)

8 of 9 budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week. While a clear improvement over week one, some budget meetings that were planned to be unstreamed were cancelled. It should be noted that this week’s data was gathered using an internet archive tool captured on Tuesday, January 18, so it possible a change occurred later in the week that would affect the official tally. Agencies that did not have their budget meetings streamed include:

  • SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare 
  • Department of Mental Health 

Week three (1/25/22 – 1/27/22)

11 of 14 budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week, a much higher proportion than were streamed in week one. Agencies that did not have their budget meetings streamed include:

  • MUSC Hospital Authority
  • State Judicial Department
  • Administrative Law Court
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • Department of Administration

Week four (2/1/22 – 2/3/22)

 7 of 8 budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week. All House budget meetings were streamed, a first for the year (one Senate meeting was not streamed). Agencies that did not have their budget meetings streamed include:

  • Law Enforcement Training Council
  • Department of Public Safety
  • Commission on Indigent Defense
  • Prosecution Coordination Commission

Week five (2/8/22 – 2/10/22)

3 of 3 budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week (two House and one Senate meeting). This is the first week all meetings were streamed, though fewer were held than in previous weeks. As such, there are no unstreamed meetings to list.

Week six (2/15/22 – 2/17/22)

The House finished gathering budget data from state agencies and only held one subcommittee hearing this week to review changes to budget provisos (provisos are temporary directives included in the budget that help guide spending, though lawmakers will often bend the rules by adding provisos that function more like general laws).  

Only 1 of 2 budget meetings were streamed this week (a Senate K-12 subcommittee meeting was not streamed). 

Week seven (2/22/22 – 2/24/22)

The full House Ways and Means Committee advanced the first legislative draft of the budget, while the Senate held just one budget subcommittee meeting (which was not streamed). As such, 0 of 1 budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week. Agencies that did not have their budget meetings streamed include:

  • SC State University 
  • Lander University 
  • Technical Colleges System 
  • Lottery Commission 

Week eight (3/1/22 – 3/3/22)

0 of 9 Senate budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week, representing the worst period for budget transparency since the beginning of session. In our extended update (which you can read here), we noted that 36 state agencies presented their budget requests to lawmakers without audio/video streaming or recording. Agencies that did not have their budget meetings streamed include:

  • The University of South Carolina
  • The Department of Social Services
  • The Department of Agriculture
  • The Department of Employment and Workforce

Week nine (3/8/22 – 3/10/22)

0 of 5 budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week, continuing the Senate Finance Committee’s streak of putting no effort into fiscal transparency for taxpayers. As of this week, we have found just one budget subcommittee meeting that was streamed by the Senate throughout the entire 2022 session. Agencies that did not have their budget meetings streamed include:

  • Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • Department of Natural Resources
  • Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation
  • Office of Resilience

Week ten (3/15/22 – 3/17/22)

Exact budget data is not currently available for this week as the Statehouse website was updated before we could get an official count. When the homepage is updated, the legislative calendar for the previous week is lost. We can confirm there were several budget subcommittee hearings held, and that none were streamed, according to the Statehouse video archives page.

Week eleven (3/22/22 – 3/24/22)

0 of 5 budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week, continuing a lack of transparency in the Senate budget process. Agencies that did not have their budget meetings streamed include:

  • State Port Authority 
  • Department of Health and Human Services 
  • State Ethics Commission 
  • SC Transportation Infrastructure Bank 
  • Public Service Commission

Week twelve (3/29/22 – 3/31/22)

1 of 6 budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week. The only meeting that was streamed was to review provisos (provisos are temporary laws within the budget that are meant to direct funds, but often change policy unrelated to spending.) Agencies that did not have their budget meetings streamed include:

  • The Department of Commerce 
  • The Department of Education  
  • The Commission on Higher Education 
  • The Citadel 
  • Multiple charter school districts 

Week 13 (4/5/22 – 4/7/22)

2 of 6 budget subcommittee meetings were streamed this week. The two meetings that were streamed dealt with the education funding formula and related education provisos. The unstreamed meetings dealt with provisos for:

  • Natural resources and economic development agencies;
  • Transportation and regulatory agencies;
  • Health and human services agencies; and
  • Constitutional agencies

Please note, this the final week of budget subcommittee meetings for the year. The Senate is expected to debate their version of the budget starting April 26. According to the Statehouse budget schedule, the final legislative draft of the budget will be delivered to the governor in the final week of session, which ends May 12.

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Half of House budget meetings not streamed in first week

January 14, 2022: This week and last, House lawmakers on several powerful budget subcommittees have heard from state agencies about their spending plans, gathering data that will be used by the full Ways and Means Committee to produce the first legislative draft of the budget. Despite the tremendous stakes and obvious public interest, lawmakers have once again failed to ensure that all of these meetings are streamed.

Why is this relevant now? After all, we’ve drawn attention to this issue for years. The answer is that lawmakers repealed a longstanding budget transparency law last year, and before doing so, some members on the House Ways and Means Committee had strong words about their commitment to a transparent budget process. Here’s what they said: 

We found that of the 10 budget subcommittee meetings held last week, only half were streamed. According to meeting agendas, budget discussions for the following agencies were not streamed:

Tuesday 1/11/22

  • S.C Public Service Commission
  • S.C Office of Regulatory Staff
  • S.C Department of Insurance
  • Department of Disabilities and Special Needs
  • Department of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Commission for the Blind

Wednesday 1/12/22

  • S.C. Board of Financial Institutions
  • S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs
  • Department of Social Services
  • Department of Children’s Advocacy
  • Department on Aging
  • Comptroller General
  • Secretary of State
  • Inspector General
  • State Auditor

This isn’t just an problem for those who want to watch along as lawmakers deliberate state spending. When a meeting isn’t streamed and recorded, it can’t be archived and viewed later. And since meeting minutes are not kept, there exists no public record of what was said as lawmakers consider how to spend taxpayer dollars.  

There is no excuse for this. If a meeting room doesn’t have the necessary video equipment, all a committee member or staff person needs to do is stream the meeting with their smartphone and post it to Facebook, YouTube, etc. Citizens have done this for years, why can’t more lawmakers take initiative?  

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