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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

March 5, 2014 at 1:01 PM

Legislators have other priorities than new TVW equipment

OLYMPIA – The state public-affairs TV network says it needs funding to continue covering the Legislature, but some lawmakers say they have other issues to worry about.

TVW, the state’s version of C-SPAN, covers legislative sessions, state Supreme Court hearings and more — on television and online. The network requested $2.84 million to upgrade equipment around the state Capitol, some of which have been around since 1995.

Neither house met TVW’s request in their original budgets. The Senate Ways and Means Committee later added the funding, but the House removed it when versions were combined.

State Rep. Hans Dunshee, a Snohomish Democrat who chairs the House Capital Budget Committee, said it’s not a priority.

“Right, the cameras don’t work,” he said. “But is that important versus things like flood management and mental health?”

Network president Greg Lane says it should be.

“Citizens deserve to have access to the process and to see it directly first hand,” he said. “Transparency and openness are critical to the health of the legislative process.”

Outdated equipment, he said, has failed in key areas of the Capitol. Cameras, which the network uses to broadcast live debates and public hearings, have stopped working on the House floor and in House and Senate hearing rooms.

Dunshee said the House, controlled by Democrats, will negotiate with senators to finalize the capital budget.

The network’s website was down on Wednesday because of an unrelated server problem. The requested funding would be used only for equipment upgrades.

TVW receives private and state support, but annual funding from the state doesn’t cover equipment replacement.

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