Can The Texas House Prevent Visitors From Recording Meetings?

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Laura RiceMay 3, 2017 10:32 am| ,

State troopers arrested a Texas woman after she persisted in shooting video of a legislative hearing in keeping with a decades-old state law.

That law says: “A person in attendance may record all or any part of an open meeting of a governmental body,” including legislative panels.

Amy Hedtke, a 2017 Waxahachie school board candidate and self-described anarchist, streamed on Facebook Live a portion of the March 22, 2017, hearing of the House State Affairs Committee in a building on the Capitol grounds. Hedtke transmitted the live video, we confirmed, despite the panel’s chairman, Rep. Byron Cook, announcing at the hearing’s outset that anyone making a recording who lacked media credentials would be asked to leave.

According to a March 22, 2017, Texas Department of Public Safety statement provided by the agency at our inquiry, Hedtke, 42, was removed “after she ignored repeated requests by the House Sergeant-at-Arms to stop recording/live video streaming during the meeting. Signs posted in the meeting room prohibit such action without proper media credentials.”

Anthony Holm of Austin, who brought Hedtke’s removal to our attention, noted an April 2017 news report about Hedtke by WFAA-TV, Channel 8 in Dallas. Hedtke’s removal was reported earlier by the Waxahachie Daily Light.

Holm asked that we look into whether officials had the authority to act against someone simply taping a hearing as the open-meetings law permits. Our initial inquiries led us to the House’s legal explanation in a letter from a House leader, Rep. Charlie Geren, to the TV station that essentially said House rules in keeping with a state constitutional provision let members rule their proceedings regardless of conflicting laws.

Is that a fact? Gardner Selby of the PolitiFact Texas fact-checking team has the answer.