Utah House follows Senate’s footsteps in restricting journalist access

Mar 1, 2022, 4:47 PM | Updated: 4:48 pm
The floor of the Utah House of Representatives...
The floor of he House of Representatives is shown at the Utah State Capitol Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Salt Lake City. The Utah House of Representatives approved new rules on Tuesday that limit where members of the press can film and interview lawmakers, following similar action taken by the Utah Senate weeks ago. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the Utah House of Representatives approved a new rule limiting where reporters can go in the House chambers.

The people’s house approved HR2 in a 65 to 9 vote, and the rule is similar to a Senate rule that just passed a few weeks ago. The rule requires journalists to ask for permission to interview lawmakers on the floor and to enter some other restricted areas.

It also requires permission from committee chairs for any video to be taken from behind the dais, where lawmakers sit in committee hearings.

“I know that sometimes committee members get a little bit nervous from the cameras right behind them because they can see their screens,” Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, said in a hearing about the rule.

Utah news organizations have protested the changes, saying the new rules hinder transparency, and make it easier for lawmakers to dodge reporters.

Utah Media Coalition lobbyist Renae Cowley Laub on Monday proposed an alternative, telling lawmakers that credentialed members of the media were working on establishing a formal press corps that could work with lawmakers to refine the rules in a mutually satisfactory way.

She proposed creating a commission with two members of the press and designees from the House, Senate, and state legislative officials to govern press rules, similar to the method used in Utah courthouses.

“As you can tell by doing simple math, the committee would already be stacked in favor of the government. But it does offer the media and members of the press the opportunity to be a part of some of the decisions made regarding their practice and their profession,” she said.

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Utah House follows Senate’s footsteps in restricting journalist access