Transparency check-in: Streaming at the Statehouse (2024)

Transparency check-in: Streaming at the Statehouse (2024)

Since 2022, the South Carolina Policy Council (SCPC) has annually tracked the livestreaming rates of state legislative committee meetings in an effort to encourage transparency. In this short time, we have seen a positive shift in consistency among several committees, some of which finished this year with perfect records.

Legislative committees play a critical role in the lawmaking process. Not only do they review and approve bills before they reach the House and Senate floors, but they also revise them through proposed amendments. Often, these changes are adopted by the full legislative bodies with little resistance, giving committees a big say on policy outcomes.  

Livestreaming, followed by posting the video recordings online, is a convenient way for South Carolinians to engage with this process and follow a bill’s journey. It also provides valuable insight into lawmakers’ actions. With the regular session now concluded, now is a great time to check in on the livestreaming results for 2024. 


2024’s top performing committees

Using data provided by legislative staff, we measured how often each of the House and Senate legislative committees (including their subcommittees and ad hoc committees) streamed during the second year of the 2023-24 regular session, which ran from January 9 to May 9.

The following committees had the highest streaming percentages in 2024:


Chair (during 125th session)

Percentage of meetings streamed

House Judiciary Rep. Weston Newton 100%
House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Rep. Sylleste Davis 100%
Senate Judiciary Sen. Luke Rankin 100%
House Ways and Means Rep. Bruce Bannister 98.5%
House Education and Public Works Rep. Shannon Erickson 96%

(Note: committees that don’t primarily deal with bills, such as the House and Senate Legislative Oversight Committees, are not factored into this report.)

Of those we measured, three held perfect streaming records throughout the 2024 session. One committee in particular – the House Ways and Means Committee – stands out. In addition to receiving bills on taxes, revenue and other matters, Ways and Means is the starting place for South Carolina’s new budget each year and, accordingly, holds far more meetings than other committees (though it is nearly matched by its counterpart, the Senate Finance Committee). This year it streamed 67 of 68 meetings, earning itself a near-perfect score.

We are pleased to report that the House and Senate Judiciary Committees streamed all their meetings. That means all committee-level discussions about judicial and liability reform proposals were captured for the public and are available to watch online. The House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee also maintained a 100% record.

However, we found disappointing results for those committees on the lower end. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, for example, did not stream any of its meetings in this year. Others most needing improvement are the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee (streamed 1 of 8) and the Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee (streamed 2 of 15).

While House budget deliberations were largely visible to the public in 2024, the Senate process was mostly opaque due to insufficient livestreaming. Only one-third of Senate Finance Committee hearings were broadcast online. As noted above, this count includes subcommittee meetings, which significantly contributed to Senate Finance's poor record. Much of the business conducted by its budget subcommittees occurred without any cameras rolling. 

We recognize that external factors can impact livestreaming consistency, such as not having video equipment in meeting rooms or a lack of legislative staff. This issue can be addressed through better planning and prioritization by the General Assembly, which controls the state budget and can allocate funds to meet these needs. In the interim, all that is needed to livestream is a cellphone or laptop and a secure internet connection.


Why is livestreaming important?

Livestreaming, combined with video archiving, serves two main purposes in government: 1) it gives citizens insight into the actions and decisions of public officials through a lasting digital record, and 2) it deters misbehavior and abuses of power through visibility and exposure. This is especially true for committee hearings, where key deliberations – often more rigorous than discussions in the full chambers – take place about pending bills.

In other words, without livestreaming, there is no comprehensive public record of these conversations. While state law mandates that public bodies keep meeting minutes, we found in April that not all committees comply with this rule. Minutes also must be requested from legislative staff, and generally lack the level of detail and context provided by video.

Livestreaming furthers public engagement by allowing real-time viewing and remote testimony. It keeps meetings open and accessible, helping citizens to hold their representatives accountable.


Comparing 2024 streaming numbers with 2023
  • Three committees maintained perfect streaming records in 2024, compared to two in 2023
  • The average streaming rate of the top five performers in 2024 is 98.9%, compared to 93.6% in 2023
  • Of the committees primarily dealing with legislation, only one did not stream any meetings in 2024, whereas two committees did not stream their meetings in 2023

Our recommendation

The goal is for every House and Senate committee to livestream all their meetings. Despite the success of the top-performers, there is still plenty of work to be done for those in the middle- and lower-rankings.

Streaming consistency can be achieved in two steps, ideally within the next 12 to 18 months, with the right course of action. First, lawmakers should determine whether existing funds can supply all meeting rooms with cameras (many have them currently) and if current staff can be reorganized to operate the equipment during meetings. If more resources are needed, this should be addressed in the next state budget.

Second, we recommend legislation to make livestreaming committee hearings mandatory. While some committees have done an excellent job of streaming voluntarily, others have struggled with consistency. As noted earlier, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee broadcast none of its meetings this year. The public deserves a guarantee that all meetings are open and accessible.

A great template for this policy is the Government Transparency Act, filed in 2023 by S.C. Rep. Rob Harris with the backing of 13 cosponsors. It proposed that all committee meetings must be livestreamed – including nomination hearings for state judicial candidates. It also sought to increase transparency surrounding the state budget, state and local records, and public employee salaries. The proposal takes after the recommendations in our 2022 report, "Seven steps to make S.C. government more transparent".

We encourage the same bill, or one like it, to be filed in 2025 and that it be taken up as soon as possible.