Cameras, recording should be allowed in Capitol committee hearings
Give anyone an ounce of power, and it goes directly to their heads. Nowhere is that more apparent this week than in the state Capitol where committee chairs are attempting to keep the people, at least electronically, out of public meetings.
A Lawrence pastor was asked to stop taking pictures during the House Federal State Affairs Committee meeting last week. According to media reports, Pastor Enrique Penaloza was standing against a wall in a committee hearing listening to testimony related to an illegal immigration bill when he snapped a photo and was reprimanded.
Committee chairs, who are members of the Kansas Legislature, should think long and hard before asking patrons to put away their cameras and recording devices during public meetings in public buildings.
In this instance, the offender was Wichita Republican Rep. Steve Brunk, chairman of the House committee. Prior to the meeting, he announced he would enforce a ban on video cameras, flash photography and recording devices.
We don’t get it.
While Kansas open meetings laws allow prohibitions on photography and recording devices in an attempt to insure orderly conduct of proceedings, we fail to see how a non-flash camera or an audio recorder could be so distracting as to warrant a ban.
When controversial topics are addressed in committee meetings at the Capitol, they typically occur in cramped rooms filled with interested participants, press and legislative staffers. There’s often very little space for the public at large, and in years past, that would be a problem.
But it shouldn’t be today. With the advent of cell phones, Twitter and YouTube, there’s no reason the public should ever be denied access, and that includes not just reporters or those with press badges, but those concerned citizens who may be tweeting or documenting the proceedings for social media or blogs.
Rep. Brunk owes Pastor Penaloza an apology. Brunk should take a moment and reflect on how his prohibition affects all Kansans. And honestly, the rest of Kansas should get an apology, too. By limiting the flow of information out of the Capitol, all Kansans are diminished.