New Texas House rules to require press members to affirm they do not lobby

By John Reynolds
The Texas Tribune
Originally published Dec. 4, 2014

Members of the press will continue to be allowed on the House floor in the upcoming legislative session, but they will now be required to affirm that they do not lobby, according to procedures adopted Thursday morning by the legislative panel that manages operations of the Texas House.

The normally routine procedure of credentialing media organizations received more scrutiny than usual after the conservative group AgendaWise filed suit after being denied floor access last legislative session.

That suit was recently thrown out by a state appeals court after judges decided that time had run out ahead of the upcoming session to consider the arguments.

In a brief meeting, House Administration Committee Chairman Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said the new credentialing application tries to address the growing prevalence of electronic media.

Geren did not mention AgendaWise by name on Thursday morning, but he did make brief mention of the suit filed by the group. Under the new procedure, reporters will be required to affirm that they do not lobby or advocate for a political party, group or individual. Also, they must affirm that they work for publications that are “editorially independent of any institution, foundation, or interest group that lobbies the government, or that its not principally a general news organization.”

Reporters will need to have their application notarized, also a new requirement. In addition, Geren said that the appearance of the credentials will be updated to make more explicit that they are the property of the state and can be revoked at will on a temporary or permanent basis.