On Tuesday, in yet another attempt to push a controversial bill through with as little daylight involved as possible, two State Senate committees put their approval on legislation that, among other nasty bits of business, would make it illegal for even emergency responders to disclose the chemicals used in Hydraulic Fracturing.
The bill was first rushed through a 2pm Senate Commerce Committee meeting so that it could be taken up in the Finance Committee meeting which began just 2 hours later. The Finance Committee meeting was scheduled on the Senate calendar, but the agenda for the meeting was not made public, instead being listed on the calendar as “Agenda to be determined.”
Instead of hearing the merits of the bill in Wednesday’s Finance Committee meeting on the calendar for 10am, they pushed the bill into a meeting that would be that was scheduled for the close of most people’s business day. The North Carolina State legislature attempting to operate under a veil of secrecy is not news, but as part of this particular effort, Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Dist 2) attempted to have a reporter’s recorder seized.
N.C. Policy Watch’s Sarah Ovaska reported that Commerce Committee chairman Gunn announced at the meeting that all recording equipment had to be registered with the legislature’s sergeant-at-arms staff. This has never been done before. Considering that this meeting was being held in a room that does not provide streaming audio for the public, the attempt to bring down a veil of silence over discussions that will affect drinking water for everyone in North Carolina is stunning.
According to Ovaska:
N.C. Health News Editor Rose Hoban, then had her audio recorder seized by the sergeant-at-arms after Gunn made his comments.
“’Did you have it registered?,’” Hoban said she was asked when she inquired where her recorder was.
Hoban, who has covered the legislature for several years, said she has never been asked previously to register audio equipment. The state open meetings law specifically allows recordings of public proceedings, finding that “any person may photograph, film, tape-record, or otherwise reproduce any part of a meeting required to be open.”
Gunn reversed himself halfway through the meeting, after word about his ban had been reported on Twitter.
“I rescind my comment about the recording equipment,” he said.
Sen. Gunn had no interest in answering reporter’s and observer’s questions about his attempt to seize Ms. Hoban’s recorder, but Ovaska did speak to Phillip King, the Seargent-at-Arms on Tuesday and he indicated that he would be seeking “clarification” on the rules related to recording.
According to King some legislators have been worried recorders are being left in rooms to record candid, and potentially embarrassing, conversations. “Had we not picked it (a recorder) up and it had recorded some off-to-the cuff comments that were not meant for the public, at non-public meetings,” King said, “it could have been bad for whomever was in the room.”
Apparently Raleigh law makers feel that they should be allowed to say, scheme, or bully without the public being privy to what goes on in their own Legislative Building. Coupled with the recent facilities rules changes at the Legislative Building which were targeted at Moral Monday demonstrators, it is beginning to look like the Republican supermajority is attempting to build Fortress Raleigh in order to execute their agenda free from the interference, opinions, or desires of the people of North Carolina.
You can read NC Policy Watch’s Full coverage HERE.