Subnational Houses in Brazil: Remote Deliberation at Pouso Alegre City Council

Read Geraldo Cunha Neto’s from Pouso Alegre City Council (Brazil) article

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I would like to start my text by presenting the experience of the Pouso Alegre City Council. We were not prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic, so here in the Legislative Branch we introduced, through a draft legislative resolution, the remote deliberation system, using the Zoom application.

 

I would like to emphasize that here in the Legislative Branch of Pouso Alegre, the city’s legislative process is practically all electronic. The signatures of the projects are via digital certificates, so the parliamentarian and the civil servants have no contact with paper. We have everything included in the legislative system and proceed in a way that is exclusively virtual throughout this system.

 

The House is composed of 15 parliamentarians. Of course, not everyone was qualified to use these computer applications, but they all adapted very smoothly. Through a draft legislative resolution, we instituted the rules by which the entire legislative process was deliberated.

 

The broadcasts of the sessions took place online through applications such as YouTube and Facebook, with greater publicity for legislative acts. We also have the TV Câmara and Rádio Câmara, which also contribute to the transmission and dissemination of parliamentary acts, with respect to the principle of publicity of legislative acts.

 

In the case of remote sessions, the quorum call is made through an alphabetical call with all those present.

 

The agenda and the use of the platform, where the councilors manifest their activities was also done by the Zoom application. The voting of the proposals is a roll-call, in alphabetical order.

 

These continuation of the legislative sessions through virtual media provided a greater proximity to the population, demonstrating that the legislative work will continue. City councilors had the possibility to continue working remotely by conducting sessions via Zoom application either from their cell phone or from their offices’ computer.

 

There was training in the first moment through the legislative advisors and in a second moment, session simulations alongside the parliamentarians. The link to the session is made available via WhatsApp, in a group of councilors. About an hour before the sessions, a link is sent alongside the password. We have had cases of councilors who did not have technological expertise, but there was no problem of adaptation. The sessions continued very smoothly. In this legislative resolution there was an instrument that categorises the disclosure of the link to third parties outside the group as a serious form of breach of parliamentary decorum, precisely to ensure security and prevent hackers or other individuals from accessing the sessions.

 

This is all in the resolution that instituted the first remote session and later the content of the resolution was brought into the rules of the house. Almost 100 proposals, draft resolutions, requirements and nominations were duly approved between March and September 2020. We see that the legislative process has not stopped, the Pouso Alegre City Council has been operating exclusively on a virtual basis.

 

We count on the unanimous presence of the councilors in the session. The debates continue with the same quality as before. There is rarely any absence. Therefore, we can say that the legislative process worked well and this has brought the population closer, through social networks. The population continues to monitor legislative activities through TV Câmara and during this pandemic period, it can also monitor the work of the legislature through remote deliberations.

 

The lessons are extremely positive. The pandemic came to teach us. Unfortunately, we are living in a chaotic situation throughout Brazil, but this moment has contributed for us to learn, to improve and for the legislative power to be able to continue working remotely.

 

I propose a reflection and I leave here an experience that I think will be the future for legislative houses. At the end of the pandemic, it will be demonstrated that it is possible that certain meetings, whether of ordinary or extraordinary deliberations, at the level of the state legislatures and the national congress, can be held remotely and thus reducing expenses with travel, fuel, airline tickets, among others.

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