LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (NWA Politics) — Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, is pushing for adding live video streaming to Arkansas Senate sessions, and after a number of legislators have either pleaded guilty or were convicted of various crimes, he received the cost estimate for those services.
The senate president pro tempore-elect told NWA Politics in June he first started pushing for adding cameras and live streaming capabilities to senate meetings back in March.
After former Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering, former Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, was found guilty of wire fraud and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, was tied to a federal bribery probe, Hendren said he received an estimate on how much it will cost to put video streaming in place.
“It’s something I said when I was elected back in March,” he said.
Hendren said one estimate put the cost for video equipment around $450,000, but that didn’t include installation. Altogether, the senator said he expects it to cost between $500,000 and $1 million.
The cost is worth it to Hendren, who said, “It is a lot of money, and it is expensive, but I also think it’s a service that is necessary these days. Everyone expects that access and transparency, and it’s time we provide it.”
Hendren called the installation a “large capital investment,” but one that’d be maintained and used for years to come.
“I think when utilized for hopefully well over a decade, it’s not so expensive over that span of time,” he said.
The Republican said he hasn’t narrowed down where exactly the funds would come from but said the Arkansas Senate has its own appropriation, and there’s potential for some grants to help pay for the project. One way or another, if approved, Hendren said he’s confident the senate will find the money.
The senate president can’t authorize this installation. It’ll have to be voted on by the full Arkansas Senate, according to Hendren.
“It’s a senate decision,” he said, but added it’s something he’ll continue to make the case for.
Hendren said he’s pushing for these cameras because of his focus on ethics, something that, according to the senator, has recently been left in tatters following the above-named criminal activity.
The Arkansas House of Representatives already has live video streaming so people can watch sessions and meetings from anywhere with an internet connection. Hendren said the House has done a good job with its streaming but doesn’t have a specific reason why the senate has waited to add live video to its own chamber.
The Republican said the House and Senate are separate institutions and do things their own way.
“They take care of their own business like we do,” Hendren said, speaking on the House.
“We’re not trying to hide anything in the way we do anything in the senate,” he said.
If approved, Hendren hopes to have most everything set up before the 2019 general session begins.
He said bipartisan support for live streaming has grown over the last few years, though it will likely face some opposition.
Hendren said, “There’ll be some opposition, but I think for the most part it’ll have bipartisan support and pass.”