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Senate panel OKs rule change on recording

The Roundhouse. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – A Senate rule requiring advance permission to take pictures or record committee hearings could soon be a relic of the past.

The little-known rule surfaced during this year’s 30-day legislative session when a KRQE-TV reporter was kicked out of a Senate Conservation Committee hearing while doing her job.

Before that happened, one senator said the reporter’s video footage could be “spliced and edited” to make lawmakers look bad.

The incident prompted widespread criticism of the involved senators on social media – and led to heightened scrutiny of the rule.

Under a change proposed by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, photography and video and audio recording of Senate committee hearings would be allowed without any advance permission being required – for both the media and the public.

“We’re the people’s body – we’re doing public work,” Steinborn said Wednesday.

However, certain limitations could still be imposed on exactly where in a committee room pictures or video could be taken. And filming or photography by a member of the public that’s deemed to be disruptive could still be halted by the committee’s chair and ranking minority member.

“This is everybody’s home and everybody’s house, but there also has to be some decorum,” said Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, during Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Rules Committee.

The proposed rule change, Senate Resolution 2, was approved 7-0 by the Senate Rules Committee. It still must pass the full Senate before the session ends Feb. 20 in order to take effect.

Before voting to approve the change, several members of that committee said they have no qualms with media members doing their jobs during committee meetings.

“I think it’s vital for our representative republic that media be included in these hearings,” said Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell.

In addition, Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, pointed out that all committee hearings – and floor sessions – are now webcast by the Legislature, under a 2015 rule change. Archived webcasts are also available of both House and Senate floor sessions and committee hearings.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to go this route,” Sanchez said.

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