My name is Rodrigo del Nero, I am Clerk of the Legislative Assembly in São Paulo. In the Legislative Assembly we were not prepared for remote work, so when the pandemic came, we had to adapt quickly.
At first, we were able to adapt all sessions to the remote, through Zoom, including the committees. Everyone started their work remotely. All of our remote sessions were chaired on the in-person by the Speaker of the House or the Chairman of the committee. The Speaker and the Chairman could not participate remotely, because of the need for infrastructure.
The quorum was done through the connection, that is, the deputy was connected in audio and video, so that we could verify the presence. We deliberated on several projects during this period.
At the Legislative Assembly of São Paulo, we have a lot of work to do to end the paper. It is a long and continuous work, which has been accelerated due to the pandemic. Processes, such as propositions, requirements and nominations are made electronically. The parliamentarian should simply follow the instructions to use the appropriate means, such as institutional emails and authenticity check.
The governing council drafted an act about remote voting that described the operation of the tool, how the work would be conducted, always based on our rules of the house. There was no change in the deadlines, nor in the times of discussion. We were in full compliance with the rules of the house.
Some situations that happen face-to-face, we will make some adjustments to the remote system. For example, there is no symbolic voting on the remote system. When we work with the remote process, even to maintain the legitimacy of the votes, this no longer exists. The roll-call vote was a requirement, so that each member of parliament present connected the audio and video so that the Speaker could receive the vote. The congressman without available video was not considered present.
Legislative work was broadcast live. So, you had the image of the deputy being recorded, in addition to being broadcast live on TV Assembleia. The audiovisual content is stored and is part of the archive of the Clerk office, so that if at any time there is a question about a vote, there is all the documentation. We store the image and audio of each parliamentarian’s vote. In some cases when there was instability in the connection the vote was not counted.
We did it in a way that important proposals were voted on, so we had to ensure legitimacy and legal certainty in our voting.
There is an idea to try to adapt the rules of the house to have hybrid sessions, in the quest to convene the committees more often. The remote reality ended up making the job easier. Committees were able to work much harder, and popular participation increased significantly. A public hearing at a distance makes it possible to bring the population into the legislative process. The population’s participation in legislative activities is much higher, even through chat, or by giving the floor to the participant, depending on the quantity.
There is an advance with technology, but always with the concern with the security of the votes. Implementation took place very quickly, so we have a concern about voting due to ensuring legal certainty.
We believe that the system worked well and there is a whole study based on a belief that remote work is here to stay in some situations. Between March and September 2020, we had 46 remote sessions and the committees met 62 times.
When we deployed the tool, we spent two days doing test sessions where the Speaker himself chaired over the house, conducting simulated sessions with the entire communication team. The Speaker of the house called all the deputies in a virtual session, without voting agenda and made a list of attendance, calling each deputy to be able to test the audio and video functionalities.
We had the full support of the deputies at the first moment, since they understood that in this reality, adaptation was necessary in order to ensure the continuity in the legislative process. There was a commitment by all deputies, some more easily than others. The deputies were interested and when it was time to start taking the test, we noticed that there was support from the family and the cabinet, all committed to helping the parliamentarian to understand the tool and to be able to vote.
The solution had an excellent acceptance, one of the metrics for evaluating this is the quorum. Our quorum has never been higher than in the period of remote deliberations. The house gave support, through a well-assembled structure to really serve the deputies. It was not an easy challenge, but over time, deputies became more used to the platform and the challenges of a remote reality.
There is a study for us to implement remote work permanently for some situations, for example to allow permanent committees to work remotely and the plenary in in-person votes, that is, a hybrid system. This way, deputies have the opportunity to spend more time in their electoral districts, and we note that the meetings are much more productive. There is a saving of time, labor, financial resources and environmental resources with remote work.
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