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'Poorly Worded' Sign Doesn't Mean What it Says

A sign outside the House Economic Matters Committee is not meant to restrict the public's rights to audio or video record meetings, according to a lawyer for the Maryland General Assembly.

The sign outside the House Economic Matters Committee says reporters must get permission to film or tape committee proceedings.

But an attorney assigned to the Maryland General Assembly said the "poorly worded" sign, which was not outside the other five House committee meeting rooms, reflects a legal limitation and is not an attempt to circumvent the state Open Meetings Act.

"It's legal but poorly worded," said Dan Friedman, a lawyer in the Maryland Attorney General's office who is assigned as counsel to the Maryland House and Senate.

State law requires that committees hold open public meetings and allow the public to photograph, record or video the proceedings as long as the methods are unobtrusive. The state Open Meetings Act does not distinguish between the public and the news media and grants reporters no special privileges.

Friedman said members of the press, particularly photographers and television cameras, are given access to areas of the hearing room that are off limits to the general public. The sign was meant to make that process more orderly and allow committee staff the opportunity to plan for such coverage.

"This is a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction and not an illegal prior restraint," Friedman said.

I pointed out that the sign could have a chilling effect on the public who might wish to record or photograph a meeting they attend.

In 2006, Deborah Belcher was ordered by a Maryland State Police trooper to stop recording the voting session of the House Judiciary Committee as it took up the issue of a constitutional amendment that would have limited the definition of marriage to men and women. Belcher is the sister of Del. Don Dwyer.

The Open Meetings Compliance Board later found that the committee had the right to have a policy regarding the recording of meetings, but that preventing Belcher from videotaping the hearing violated the state Open Meetings Act.

It appears this issue will have a faster resolution.

Friedman said late Thursday afternoon that the poorly worded sign would be replaced in the next day or two with a more accurately worded one.

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BadStatistics February 05, 2013 at 02:54 PM
@ Sanchez, I stated the guns were purchased legally - and that they were military grade weapons (aka assault rifles). I was also aware that they were illegally modified to be fired fully automatic (Illegal Modification), By Military Grade I mean an assault rifle as defined by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which expired in 2004.
Sanchez February 05, 2013 at 03:30 PM
"I stated the guns were purchased legally -" There is no evidence they were purchases legally! None!
Steve February 05, 2013 at 08:14 PM
When you are herding cats in general and female ones in particular you spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting by the pool.......waiting in the lobby....
FIFA February 05, 2013 at 08:51 PM
Did our resident Executive Administrative Assistant prepare that sign? Appears accidentally typed "Reporters" instead of "darlings"? Weird?
Kongo February 06, 2013 at 12:23 AM
Why limit the imagination of the Stanker to just one, Ike? I'm sure Walter "Stank" Mitty has been the banker to you, me, and Hussein Obama at one time or another. I'll bet he's even been the bag lady down the street. All from the comfort of Mom's basement. ROTFLMAO

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