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An experiment in government -"Bringing the Legislature to Montanans" videoconferencing of hearings shows promise

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April 4, 2005View for printing

The Montana Legislature is test driving a new way for residents to get involved with state government, and Havre residents had a chance to participate Thursday night. Videoconferencing technology is allowing residents and local government officials in various cities across the state to participate in the legislative process without having to drive to Helena.

A pilot project called Bringing the Legislature to Montanans brought Havreites together with people in Billings, Butte, Bozeman, Roundup and Helena on Thursday evening for a meeting of the Senate Local Government Committee.

Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher, who was asked to moderate the Havre session, said videoconferencing shows promise.

"I think it's a real good start, but we probably don't have enough sites across the state to handle all of the bills going through the Legislature," Kaercher said. He noted that the Legislature meets throughout the day, limiting the chances for regular citizens to get involved.

"It's pretty tough for the Legislature to decide which bills will be heard in which communities," he said. "I think, over time, it will become more widely used. As it becomes more popular, more people will be interested in it. I'm certainly glad to be at home instead of Helena."

Larry Kline

Havre Daily News

Full Story: ... ernment.txt

See: Sen. Jeff Mangan, Chair of the Senate Local Government Committee announces that committee will use videoconferencing to conduct 6 public hearings in Montana:

Reader Comments:

Just a brief comment. MSU-Great Falls College of Technology has been utilizing videoconferencing to connect the community of Great Falls to legislators since 1997 through the State's METNET system. This has provided invaluable two way communication allowing our legislative delegates to better serve their constituents as well as our community.

Expanding the teleconferencing capabilities into hearings is an excellent initiative. It would also be wise to consider expanded coverage on public access television (cable stations or Montana PBS).

Good point Joe. We have two video systems in the state that most of us don't utilize enough. Is there an events directory for MetNet broadcasts that could be shared with others? If so, I'll be happy to post.

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