After repeatedly ignoring the Sergeant-At-Arms requests to stop videotaping, Waxahachie resident, Amy Hedtke, was physically removed from a March 22, 2017 hearing of the House State of Affairs Committee in Austin.
DPS Officers subsequently arrested Hedtke, charging her with Criminal Trespass, after she refused to leave Capitol grounds, when asked to do so.
The House State of Affairs Committee is chaired by Texas Representative Byron Cook, District 8.
Hedtke maintains that she has a right to videotape proceedings, citing Texas Open Meeting laws that allow any person to record “all or part of any open meeting of a governmental body.”
However, the law also stipulates that the same governmental body “may adopt reasonable rules to maintain order at a meeting.”
These may include location of recording equipment and how a recording is made.
Currently, Texas House rules allow for filming and recording ONLY by those with Capitol Media Credentials.
The application process requires employment verification with an independent news organization.
“The House Committee on State Affairs has required a capitol media credential for filming or recording the proceedings since July, 2013,” states Rep. Cook. “It was implemented to help ensure the safety of the public and the members of the committee. The Texas Constitution gives the Texas House the power to determine the rules of its proceedings, including committee meetings.”
Signage is posted outside the committee room, notifying attendees of the rule.
In fact, Hedtke posed before this sign, as she was filming Live on her Facebook page.
Hedtke is not currently employed by a news organization. She describes herself as a transparency and accountability watchdog.
“This committee, which I chair, frequently addresses difficult issues that are emotional for many,” states Rep. Cook. “Since the filming and recording requirements were put in place, thousands of Texans have made their voices heard through testimony and countless more have attended our meetings, without getting themselves arrested by the Texas Department of Public Safety.”
According to news reports (and YouTube videos), Hedtke has a history of political protest and has been escorted out of open meetings on previous occasions, for disruptive behavior.
Although recording is limited, the Texas House offers access to Live Streaming online, along with archived videos of committee hearings, Chamber sessions, Capitol events, press conferences and more.
Live and archived video may be viewed online at http://www.house.state.tx.us/video-audio/committee-broadcasts
The balance of observing a citizen’s right to be heard and to participate in the political process – while, at the same time, allowing public officials the ability to conduct the work they were elected to do – will no doubt continue to be debated.