May 07, 2020

Select Committee Hosts Virtual Member Discussion

Members were joined by two guest speakers to discuss committee continuity and remote operations

Washington, D.C. – The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (“Select Committee”) held a virtual discussion with two guest speakers to discuss the importance of committee continuity and how to continue working effectively on behalf of the American people during the ongoing global pandemic. The Select Committee met virtually with Marci Harris, CEO of PopVox, and Beth Simone Noveck, Director of The Governance Lab and Chief Innovation Officer for the State of New Jersey. The Members and guests discussed best practices for remote committee and Member operations, and ways other legislatures around the world are handling business.

“It seems appropriate and important to talk about how we can continue working as a committee,” Chair Derek Kilmer (D-WA) said in his opening remarks. “Our work on behalf of the American people cannot, and I think we all know, should not stop as a result of this pandemic,” said Vice Chair Tom Graves (R-GA).

The Modernization Committee's hosts virtual member discussion

Ms. Noveck shared best practices from state legislatures around the country, and innovative ways legislatures around the world have been operating remotely over the last few months. She highlighted a number of virtual platforms, like Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx, that have been used internationally in countries like Argentina, the United Kingdom, Ecuador, and Spain for legislative business. “The ongoing need to prepare for social distancing underscores the importance of ensuring that our legislative institutions are prepared to continue functioning through both the current challenges and those that lie ahead,” she said.

Over the last month, Ms. Harris has hosted mock remote hearings and mark-ups to test the capabilities these virtual platforms offer. She highlighted the usual technical issues that many Americans have experienced, such as needing to mute a line, or turn video capabilities on, but she also shared the positive feedback she received following each session. She highlighted the pros and cons for each session, and how to find workarounds for the in-person connection and interaction that many legislators rely on. “The main finding from our two mock hearings, as you’re demonstrating today, are not a question of technology, but of culture, process and will,” she said.

Since the U.S. Capitol closed to public visitors and guests, and the majority of congressional offices moved to a modified telework operating status, the Select Committee has continued to hold Member-level discussions on committee priorities and ways to continue effectively working ahead of the October 30, 2020 committee report deadline.