When I was a child, I hated getting my picture taken. An infamous family photo taken at an older sister’s wedding is of the entire family grouped together, grinning for the professional photographer – except 10-yr-old me. I have a scowl on my face big enough to scare away the Dalai Lama. Not sure how old I was before I quit hiding when mom or dad yelled, “Family picture time!”, but eventually I overcame the low self-esteem and painful shyness that dominated adolescence.
40 years later, it’s more than a little ironic that one of my duties as Art’s clerk is to photograph his legislative day. After winning re-election, Art decided to document the process involved in how our laws are made. This means a gazillion pictures of meetings with constituents one-on-one, pictures of group meetings, pics of sub-committees, full committees, and ultimately pictures of House debate.
Last week, after taking pictures of various representatives during floor debate on education, I returned to my seat next to Art’s. The Chief Clerk came out of the Well (rather unusual during floor action, but House Leadership told her not to wait), up to my desk and told me not to take pictures of individual reps unless I had their permission – per House Rules.
This was news to me, as I’d been taking pictures for three years, unencumbered. (In fact, another legislator said they didn’t know this rule and had been taking pics from the House floor for 17 years).
This is the pertinent section of Rule 4 that House Leadership was referencing: “The public may take photographs from the galleries at any time. Members of the press may photograph from the press box. Photographs shall not be taken on the house floor when the members are voting on a question put before the house. Photographs or video recordings of the voting boards shall not be taken while a nonrecord roll call vote is displayed. Photographs may be taken on the house floor at other times with the consent of the subject or subjects of the photography.”
So, we sent an email to all Democrat legislators asking for permission to take their pictures from the floor of the House. This week, I took pictures of Dems from the press box, and Reps from the Gallery. (It’s kinda pointless, because the camera angle from the Gallery is actually better, and I’m able to zoom in on the individual speaker.)
Yesterday, Art received the following email from House Leadership:
“It was brought to my attention that a photo taken in the House chamber including legislators and other House personnel was posted to your Facebook account on Tuesday. I want to remind you again of House Rule 4, copied below, that prohibits taking of photos on the House floor without the consent of the subjects in the photo. I believe when we discussed this last Thursday, I actually misstated the rule in saying that it applied only to taking photos of members. However, in re-reading the rule, it does have a broader application in including anyone on the House floor from whom you have not received permission.”
When Art pointed out that the pics on Facebook were taken from the Gallery, this was the response:
“I was in error in saying that it was posted to Facebook, but to Twitter. I believe it is clear the photo was not taken from the gallery.”
Below is the “offending” picture – one that Art himself took Wednesday of an event occurring in the Well. This is of Rep. Chris Hall defending his request to bring up the “Bullying Bill”.
You see, this isn’t really about a legislator not wanting his/her picture taken.
In 2011, House Republicans set school funding at 0% for the upcoming year. Although Art wasn’t in the legislature then, I know that his colleagues fought hard to adequately fund our public schools. But there was little press coverage, little public outcry, and no repercussions as House Republicans got re-elected.
This year, House Rs are once again whittling away at state monies spent on education. The difference between 2011 and 2015 is that House Ds are using social media to notify Iowans.
As a result of the public seeing what’s happening in the House, we’ve seen hundreds of parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens at the Capitol beseeching their legislators to fund their schools.
I think it’s time for House Republican Leadership to get past the fear of public exposure. Instead of focusing on Twitter Pictures, let’s protect our children from bullying and fund our schools adequately.