The state Supreme Court has heard arguments by an advocacy group that the state Senate shouldn’t be able to bar it from recording hearings, but the Court might not decide the case this time.
Liberal advocacy group Progress Missouri says it’s still being prevented from recording in some Senate hearings, and argues the state’s Sunshine Law should allow it to record.
Progress Missouri’s attorney, Christopher Grant, says the Senate shouldn’t be allowed to restrict recording privileges to members of the Capitol Press Corps.
“When you allow one group to record – for instance the institutional, established media – but not another, you’re trying to influence, the government is trying to influence, the type of coverage,” said Grant.
The Attorney General’s Office represents the Senate in the case. Deputy State Solicitor Jeremiah Morgan argues that the Senate is allowed to create its own rules regarding who can record, and those supersede the Sunshine Law.
“The legislature has absolute legislative immunity, and there’s no violation of the Constitution,” said Morgan.
Morgan said the state Senate models its control over who can record its hearings after how Congress operates.
“They have their own radio/television correspondents gallery which this is modeled after, and in order to record you have to be a member of that gallery,” said Morgan. “In order to record you have to be a member of that gallery. The rules of that gallery – and this is all authorized by Congress – the rules of that gallery say gallery members can’t be engaged in lobbying, advertising, publicity or promotion.”
Grant said there is a key difference – that Missouri has its Sunshine Law.
“The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to Congress, but we have here a law that expressly states there shall be recordings, or a person shall be allowed to record,” said Grant.
The Court could rule on the case at any time, but some judges expressed a concern that it doesn’t have jurisdiction and should send it first to an appeals court. Even if that happens, it could wind up back before the Court later.