A Texas House committee chairman, sued by a woman who was forcibly removed from a March hearing at the Capitol, cannot bar her from videotaping future committee meetings, a Travis County judge ordered.
District Judge Lora Livingston’s temporary injunction bars Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, from following his longstanding policy of limiting filming to reporters and photographers who have Capitol media credentials — but only as it applies to Amy Hedtke, who sued Cook after she was removed from a State Affairs hearing in March for continuing to broadcast the event using Facebook Live.
The order also applies only to Cook, chairman of the powerful House State Affairs Committee, even though several other committee chairs follow a similar practice.
“We respectfully disagree with the ruling on the temporary injunction and look forward to a fuller discussion of these issues,” Cook said in a written statement Tuesday. “The Texas Constitution gives the House and Senate authority to conduct its own proceedings in accordance with each body’s rules.”
Cook’s committee next meets Wednesday.
Hedtke said Tuesday that she is not all that excited about most of Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda. She would have preferred if he had put constitutional carry and the abolition of abortion on the agenda, the two top legislative priorities of the 2016 state Republican Party Platform.
But she figures that as long as she, for the time being, has the singular protection of the court to videotape in Cook’s committee, she intends to take advantage of that right.
“Freedom that is not exercised will atrophy,” Hedtke said.
Livingstone noted that the Texas Open Meetings Act “allows a person in attendance to record all or part of an open meeting of a governmental body” — including a committee within the legislative branch.
The judge set an Oct. 16 trial on the matter, the next step before a permanent injunction can be issued. Hedtke said she hopes the protection will be extended to everyone.