Utah House joins Senate in limiting media access at state Capitol

Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, and Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, talk on the House floor at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.

Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, and Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, talk on the House floor at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A day after the Senate finalized a rule limiting media access to certain areas at the Capitol without permission, the House took a similar step by passing its own resolution.

HJR14 would, among other things, require that journalists get permission from a committee chairperson before being allowed to stand behind the dais to take photographs or video. Unlike SR1, however, it doesn't address access to the House floor.

The resolution contains a number of other changes to legislative rules that are unrelated to media access. It would require that standing committees only consider legislation from the opposite chamber during the last week of the general session and changes what happens to bills that are not recommended by a committee by the last meeting of a calendar year.

Sponsor Rep. Timothy Hawkes, R-Centerville, called the resolution a "comprehensive" review of legislative rules to address a "lack of clarity."

When it comes to media access, Hawkes said the resolution would still give media access, but would simply require permission first. Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, asked Hawkes why the provision was included.

"It just seems odd to me," she said.

Hawkes said he wasn't aware of any specific incidents where media members caused a disruption to committee meetings.

"I don't know of a specific instance that led to this," he said. "I think it's just simply more allowing the chairs to manage that. . . . They have to get the chair's permission to be up there next to the legislators, which seems like a reasonable thing to let the committee chair control when we're in some of these more contentious committee hearings."

During debate on the Senate's rule, security for lawmakers was a primary reason for adopting the change, though senators didn't provide evidence of journalists disrupting meetings or posing a threat.

The resolution passed on a mostly party-line vote, though House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, voted in favor. As a joint resolution, HJR14 will head to the Senate, but is not subject to approval or veto from Gov. Spencer Cox.

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