Mo. Senate Sued Over Coverage Rules

AP) – A liberal advocacy group sued the Missouri Senate on Wednesday, asserting that restrictions on filming some Senate committee meetings are in violation of the state’s open-meetings law.
Progress Missouri’s lawsuit alleges that decisions by some Senate committee chairmen to prohibit filming by the group violate the state’s Sunshine Law and infringes on the group’s freedom of speech and association. Executive director Sean Nicholson said he’s tried to work out a solution for months.
“Some of these senators think the law doesn’t apply to them,” Nicholson said.
Missouri’s Sunshine Law allows public bodies to establish guidelines on recording to minimize disruption, but the lawsuit says Progress Missouri’s filming wouldn’t have been disruptive. Senate rules state that cameras may be allowed with the permission of the committee chairman “as long as they do not prove disruptive to the decorum of the committee.”
The lawsuit says some senators’ policy allowing only members of a Capitol media association to film hearings violates freedom of association by essentially requiring Progress Missouri to join the group.
Senate Majority Caucus spokeswoman Lauren Hieger said the Senate would not comment on pending legal action, but noted that the Senate has made improvements in technology to set up audio feeds in overflow rooms for Senate hearings.
“We just follow the same policy that we follow on the Senate floor,” said Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, declining to comment further on the lawsuit. Kehoe is one of the chairmen named in the lawsuit, along with Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, and Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, and the Senate itself.
Media outlets seeking to film Senate proceedings typically request permission in advance, and Senate rules state that making live or taped recordings of the full Senate is subject to approval from the Senate president pro tem and the majority and minority floor leaders.

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