At a hearing for the House State Government committee Wednesday (chair: Mecklenborg) the committee adopted a rule saying no one can audio or videotape committee hearings without permission of the chair AND the person speaking.
Let me repeat that: Every person speaking at the hearing needs to provide approval before you can record a hearing.
These hearings can often be like a circus with speakers being paraded through like clowns coming out of a tiny car. The expectation that anyone will get permission from every speaker at a committee hearing is absolutely ridiculous. And I’m guessing that’s the point.
While the rest of government is forced to abide by sunshine laws, the legislature gets a pass. They pass laws and creates rules that make it excessively difficult for journalists – and nearly impossible for non-journalists – to monitor and track the legislative process.
Legislators already protected themselves against public records requests by making all correspondence between legislative staff and general assembly members and staff private. And they do their best to limit the availability of their other activities as well.
While the House Rules allow for the general proceedings of the house to be completely public and actually require them to be “broadcast by Ohio Government Telecommunications”, all of the real work of the legislature is done in committee hearings like the one I mentioned earlier. And while hearings are technically open to the public, the only way to view a hearing is to actually show up in Columbus and attend the hearing in person. And even if you do attend the hearing, house rules prevent anyone from recording the proceedings without getting approval of the Speaker.
And if you aren’t an official radio or television correspondent, then they added another step to the process. According to the existing rules “no video taping or filming of sessions of the House shall be carried on without the notification of the Speaker and the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association“.
It’s bad enough that the hearings aren’t broadcast so if you want to view a committee hearing in Ohio you have to drive to Columbus, pay for parking downtown, sit in the hearing room with your pen and paper and hope you can take notes fast enough.
It’s worse that if you want to record a committee hearing so you can compare it to your notes, you need to inform the speaker and either belong the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association or inform them of your intent in advance.
But now, at least in this committee, you also have to hunt down everyone who is going speak at the hearing and give them permissions slips if you want to use your little portable tape recorder?
And we thought John Kasich was bad on transparency.
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