The sit-in demonstration by House Democrats this past week, attempting to force a vote on a relatively modest gun measure (denying sales to those on the federal no-fly list) became visible and audible to the world, thanks to several members’ video-capable smartphones and internet posting software—despite Speaker Paul Ryan’s ordered shutdown of live C-SPAN coverage.
As noted in a Sacramento Bee editorial, technology, and especially social media applications and impulses, have thus ended Congressional leaders’ traditional blackout power over how much the public is allowed to see and hear of what its representatives say and do.
Turning the video cameras off at certain key points or restricting what they are permitted to focus on—by order of the leadership—is likewise not unknown in the California Legislature. That fact has led the authors of the initiative ballot measure called the California Legislature Transparency Act to propose amending the state constitution to give spectators in any open committee or house proceeding the right to make and share, as widely and as soon as they please, their own video and/or audio recordings of anything they can see or hear.
The Act’s language, expected momentarily to be placed on the November ballot, includes the following provision:
The proceedings of each house and the committees thereof shall be open and public. The right to attend open and public proceedings includes the right of any person to record by audio or video means any and all parts of he proceedings and to broadcast or otherwise transmit them; provided that the Legislature may adopt reasonable rules . . .regulating the placement and use of the equipment for recording or broadcasting the proceedings for the sole purpose of minimizing disruption of the proceedings. Any aggrieved party shall have standing to challenge said rules in an action for declaratory and injunctive relief, and the Legislature shall have the burden of demonstrating that the rule is reasonable.