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Author Topic: NH: Chair forbids filming of finance committee meeting @ State House complex  (Read 1219 times)

RidleyReport

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3/13/2017: Concord, New Hampshire

State Rep. Lynne Ober interrupted her scheduled budget work session today so that she might order me not to film it.   Ober cited House rules as the reason for the restriction.  In roughly 40 camera-wielding visits to the House complex this is the first time I can recall ever being ordered not to film inside a scheduled meeting...with the exception of Party caucuses.

Here is all my raw video from right before the meeting started, up to the point where a House security person escorts me out of the room, pressures me to stop filming him too and then leaves.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk4FFKl2v3c

According to https://ballotpedia.org/Finance_-_Division_I_Committee,_New_Hampshire_House_of_Representatives  "The Finance - Division I Committee is a standing committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives," and Ober is its chair.

A March 10 announcement at http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/house/caljourns/calendars/2017/HC_15.pdf refers to the meeting as "FINANCE - DIVISION I, Room 212, LOB 1:00 p.m. Budget work session: Department of Justice."  LOB stands for Legislative Office Building, where most NH legislative hearings are held, and Rm. 212 was in fact where the meeting took place. 

The restriction seems to violate Article 8 of the NH Constitution, which reads: "All power residing originally in, and being derived from, the people, all the magistrates and officers of government are their substitutes and agents, and at all times accountable to them. Government, therefore, should be open, accessible, accountable and responsive. To that end, the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted." 

I had planned to only spend about 3 minutes in the meeting itself and leave with about 35 seconds worth of video.... just enough to show people what the meeting looked like.   The original purpose for being in that area of the LOB was mostly to interview officials on their way to and from the meeting.

Additional details/updates should appear as new posts at
http://forum.freestateproject.org/index.php?topic=28785.0
« Last Edit: March 13, 2017, 08:36:02 pm by RidleyReport »
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RidleyReport

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Ober could have been motivated in part by the fact that I uploaded a video of her physically going for my camera about a year ago:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m0dB3NKNXQ
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RidleyReport

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just noticed that at 6:20 on the raw video upload above...  one of the reps starts filming or photographing me... in his meeting that supposedly bans filming and/or photography. 

Update: Got on Free Talk Live and discussed this last night. The Girard at Large show has me on as a guest tomorrow talking about it; the Nashua Telegraph interviewed me today and also interviewed Jasper or his office.  Apparently he and/or they denied that there is a rule against folks filming meetings of this type.

A playlist is now started where you'll be able to view my tape in sequence from before/during/after the meeting:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGeF52rAuBvXnxAiOkcutfv2u3WyfZmmD

« Last Edit: March 20, 2017, 09:01:08 pm by RidleyReport »
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RidleyReport

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NH RSA Section 91-A:2, II reads in part:

"all meetings...shall be open to the public...Any person shall be permitted to use recording devices, including, but not limited to, tape recorders, cameras, and videotape equipment, at such meetings."

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RidleyReport

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https://youtu.be/pdl49Zb0npo

...should be 21 minutes of continuous audio recording from right before the meeting to well after I left it.  The camera stops, the audio recorder doesn't.  It contains their interruptions of the meeting to speak with  me....plus every sound I made in the room - lol.    You don't need my permission to quote me on any of this or to air it....all my uploads to YouTube are automatically public domain unless otherwise prominently noted.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2017, 04:09:06 pm by RidleyReport »
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Conan the Barbarian

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I wrote Speaker Jasper with the following:

No one can be barred from taking photos or videotaping of NH House or NH Senate proceedings.

Not FC Chairwoman Ober, who is obviously carried away with her own self-importance, and not House Speaker Jasper

  RSA 91-A:1-a Definitions.   

   VI. "Public body'' means any of the following:
 
            (a) The general court including executive sessions of committees; and including any advisory committee established by the general court.

 
     RSA  91-A:2 Meetings Open to Public. 

      II. ---------- Any person shall be permitted to use recording devices, including, but not limited to, tape recorders, cameras, and videotape equipment, at such meetings.

Speaker Jasper responded:

A mistake was made, by a chairman, which hopefully will not be repeated in the future. That being said there is more to this story, but going into the details serves no purpose. I will simply state that it is the responsibility of any chairman to make sure that the video taping of a meeting is done in a way that is not disruptive to the meeting or to any individual member. It is also the right of the chairman to direct that the video taping take place in an appropriate area of the room. As a point of clarification the rules governing activities within the House and Senate Chamber are subject only to the rules established by the body.

To which I replied:

Is there a specific exclusion under RSA 91-A for videotaping public meetings in the  House and Senate Chambers, using their own “rules” to supersede NH law?

I cannot find any, but perhaps you can enlighten us.

Incidentally, I viewed the recording online under Ridley’s Report, and saw no disruptive behavior other than David Ridley politely but firmly asking what law barred his recording, to which no one (guards, attorneys, representatives) would give him an answer.


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RidleyReport

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Thanks Conan.  Here is the full statement that the NH1 apparently got from Lynne Ober:

"I requested he stop filming. Before I could point out a more suitable place to film from in the meeting room, he began yelling.

He continued to yell and be disruptive and security finally asked him into the hall and he never came back.

It was unfortunate that we were unable to have a dialogue so that he knew a better place to set up for filming, but we were in the middle of a public hearing in a tiny meeting room."

Probably the best thing to do is listen to the uninterrupted audio file of the incident above; match that against her statement.   Another activist, Nemi Jones, tried to or was planning to attend the March 20 meeting of the same committee.  It got cancelled at the last minute....then happened apparently later.  A third activist says he did attend but without a camera.   Press coverage of the incident so far has come from the Nashua Telegraph, Free Talk Live, NH1.com, NH Political Buzz and a couple shows I called into: Girard at Large (90.1 FM Goffstown I think), WTPL-AM west of Manch....and WKBK-AM Keene.  PINAC.com runs their piece later.
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