Subnational Houses in Brazil: Remote Deliberation at the Campinas City Council
My name is Antônio Pedro Rodrigues. I was Secretary-General of the City Council of Campinas until the end of 2020. In order to face the pandemic of the new coronavirus and not interrupt the activities of the City Council of Campinas, bold and safe measures were taken for social distancing. Given the success of the developed solutions, we believe that some measures will be definitively implemented for a post-Covid era.
Among them are holding debates through videoconference, facilitating the decision making by the Honorable Councilors, on important issues for the development of our city.
The first measure taken was the elaboration of an act of the Speaker of the House that instituted the strategic planning and emergencies committee of the Campinas City Council, composed of councilors and civil servants. The committee’s objective was to advise the Speaker on strategies, actions and administrative measures to deal with the Covid-19 emergency.
Soon after came the act of the governing council that structured procedures and rules for the purpose of preventing infection and the spread of Covid-19 within the scope of the Campinas City Council, suspending public events on the premises of the House and regulating access to the building .
After these administrative measures, it was necessary to guarantee the safety of the councilors in the debates and voting on projects. An innovative and unprecedented measure in the city of Campinas was the implementation of the remote deliberation system of the City Council, something that allowed the continuity of the municipal legislative process. Considering the data for September 2020, sessions have taken place weekly since the beginning of the pandemic.
The technological solution relied on the use of Zoom, in an integrated work with TV Câmara that enabled the discussion and voting of proposals and allowed the debate with the use of videos and audios between the parliamentarians, giving simultaneous access of up to 100 connections, which made possible for the Speaker to grant the floor and control the time and to monitor the meeting by the staff of the parliamentary offices, by the legislative advisory and media bodies, through TV Câmara.
In order to assist parliamentarians in the use of new technologies, the user manual was created, as well as workshops. The civil servants were also on standby during the events to answer questions and help with technical support.
The legislative process was also modified during this period. Access to the sigadoc system was made available to the councilors’ offices, something that facilitated the digitalisation of the submission of proposals electronically. The committee meetings and public hearings were held by the remote system allowing greater reach and popular participation.
Between March and September 2020, we held virtually 297 extraordinary meetings, 16 permanent committee meetings, 2 representative committee meetings and 10 public hearings.
Popular participation in the activities of the Campinas City Council took place through a system for sending questions and also through WhatsApp, so that all citizens’ questions were answered. In this sense, between March and September 2020, 486 proposals were deliberated, with 34 complementary bills, 90 ordinary bills, 79 draft legislative decrees, 5 draft resolutions, 76 motions, 68 requests and 134 acts.
For the realisation of remote activities, with the intense participation of the 33 City Councilors of Campinas and the 424 civil servants, the house was also concerned with cybersecurity and made available computers with Linux systems that use the Ubuntu distribution image customised by our IT team. Also, for the security of the deliberations, the web environment was isolated and privilege controls were assigned during the conferences, such as internal and external access control.
The lesson remains that the legislative power can and must increasingly approach the population, even in an atypical situation that we experience due to the occurrence of the pandemic that hit us and forced us to a general mobilisation of social distancing.
The first challenge was to learn a new way of working that would guarantee the continuity of the legislative process. This need for physical detachment demanded a reorganisation of routine and work relationships, but we believe that the quality of the work performed was guaranteed.
Finally, the City Council of Campinas implemented in this pandemic period the Rocket chat, which is an open-source solution that seeks to improve the productivity of the House, in an agile, secure, real-time communication in the entire administrative body of the house. The Municipality of Campinas also has the legislative school, ELECAMP, whose main objective is to bring the population closer to the Legislative Power. Several courses aimed at the community were developed, whose theme deals with the role of the state and the role of the Legislative.
It is worth mentioning that the City Council of Campinas was awarded third place in the transparency and inspection award carried out by the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil in 2019.