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After Lawsuit from Conservative Group, Texas House Changes Media Pass Rules

After Lawsuit from Conservative Group, Texas House Changes Media Pass Rules

AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, the Texas House Administration Committee adopted new rules for press credentialing at the Capitol that many are interpreting as a reaction to scrutiny from alternative and online conservative media. Under the new rules, credentialed members of the media will still have access to the floor during the legislative session, but will not be eligible for that credential unless they first affirm that they will not be engaged in lobbying.

As Breitbart Texas has previously reported, Texas is one of the few states to allow broad media access to the floor during session, and that access has been the subject of controversy during recent sessions. AgendaWise, Inc., a conservative media outlet, objected when their applications for press passes were denied and filed suit against several state officials. The lawsuit was dismissed last month because of timing issues (essentially, last session’s media passes are a moot point and cannot be awarded retroactively, and the passes for the upcoming session have not yet been denied or awarded). 

Committee Chairman Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) acknowledged that the proposed rule change was a reaction to the litigation, although he did not identify AgendaWise by name. Scott Braddock at Quorum Report reported that Geren acknowledged the growth of online media, and claimed that one goal of the new rule was to “increase access for publications that are exclusively online.” 

The revised media credential application form, embedded at the end of this article, does include a space for “internet news organizations,” the first time it has provided for online media. Ross Ramsey, Executive Editor of the Texas Tribune, told Breitbart Texas that he was glad to see the form finally modernize and acknowledge online-only outlets like the Tribune and Breitbart Texas, mentioning that, until recently, it still included telegraph services.

Members of the media who wish to obtain a Capitol media credential will be required to affirm that they are “not engaged in any lobbying (requiring registration under Chapter 305, government code) or paid advocacy, advertising, publicity, or promotion work for any individual, political party, corporation, organization, or government agency.” Additionally, reporters will be required to affirm that their news organizations’ “publications and broadcasts are editorially independent of any institution, foundation, or interest group that lobbies the government, or that is not principally a news organization.” 

The application form will have to be notarized, another new development. Geren also announced that the credential itself would be changed to clearly say that they are the property of the state of Texas, and subject to being temporarily or permanently revoked, according to the Texas Tribune.

AgendaWise Executive Director Daniel Greer confirmed to Breitbart Texas that they would “most likely” still submit an application for the upcoming session and these new rule changes would not affect their decision. 

The new rules were the subject of discussion among several reporters at a coffee event hosted by Governor Perry that this reporter attended Thursday morning, and the consensus was that the new rules would not noticeably affect media access. The new acknowledgement of online media was viewed as a positive development. Braddock, who was not at the event, seemed to share this sentiment, tweeting that the First Amendment “will remain intact if someone who’s lobbying loses their access to the floor during session.”

Likewise, Ramsey did not anticipate that the rules would create a problem for the Tribune. “Our concern starts and stops with whether or not they are going to allow journalists to work on the floor of the House and Senate, and it looks like the answer is yes,” he said.

The true test, of course, will come when Geren’s committee has everyone’s applications, and the decisions to approve or deny those applications are made.

New Texas House Media Credential Application:

Draft Credential Application

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker

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