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Technical Difficulties Prompt Vermont House to Cancel Committee Meetings

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The Vermont Statehouse - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • The Vermont Statehouse
Updated at 8:05 p.m.

For a couple of hours Thursday morning, committees of the Vermont legislature conducted remote meetings that members of the public could not view.

According to an email to legislators from director of information technology Kevin Moore, "a communication issue between Zoom and YouTube" prevented the legislature's livestreams from functioning properly. Committees use Zoom's online platform to conduct meetings, which are simultaneously broadcast to the public via YouTube.



When contacted about the problem later Thursday morning, representatives of House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) and Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) told Seven Days that committee meetings would continue and be uploaded for public viewing later on Thursday.

Subsequently, at around 10:30 a.m., the House decided to cancel all meetings until the problem was resolved, according to Johnson's chief of staff, Katherine Levasseur. The Senate, however, continued to meet, according to Ashe's chief of staff, Peter Sterling.

Around midday, according to Levasseur and Sterling, the legislature’s IT staff devised a workaround that allowed committees to broadcast live using a different method. Several House committees resumed their work. By the end of the day Thursday, videos of the earlier House and Senate committee meetings were still not available online.

The situation could raise questions about the legislature's adherence to rules around transparency. While the legislature has argued that it is not subject to the state's open meetings law, the Vermont Constitution requires that the doors of the Statehouse "shall be open for the admission of all persons who behave decently."

Thursday’s incident was not the first time the legislature has struggled to do its work remotely. A day earlier, the livestream of a Senate floor proceeding was interrupted due to unrelated technical difficulties. The meeting continued for a short period of time before the feed could be fixed, according to Senate Secretary John Bloomer, but no video was recorded.

Last month, a quorum of the Senate briefly discussed public policy issues during a private portion of an online caucus meeting. Ashe subsequently apologized for failing to make the meeting accessible to the public sooner.

Kevin McCallum contributed reporting.

Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly. Find our conflict-of-interest policy here: sevendaysvt.com/disclosure.