NH House: No 1st Amendment Rights in committee work sessions?

Free Speech 'misunderstanding' in the NH House?


By Kimberly Morin

Tomorrow morning, Free Speech activists are planning on showing up in the Finance – Division I work session in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Their intention isn’t to disrupt the meeting but quietly video record the meeting due to an incident that happened last week. It’s a matter of freely practicing 1st Amendment Rights.

Last week Dave Ridley of The Ridley Report posted a video of a Finance – Division I Committee work session in which he was told he could not video by Chair Lynne Ober (Republican – Hudson). The raw video is available on his YouTube channel and it does indeed appear that Ober told him he wasn’t allowed to video the public work session. Political Buzz spoke with both Ober and Ridley about the incident.

All work sessions are indeed public and the public is allowed to video record every work session. When contacted, Ober said there was a misunderstanding. Ober claims that she simply wanted Ridley to move to a different position while filming and that she wasn’t trying to stop him from recording the session. Unfortunately, committee members started chiming in and it then caused a disturbance. In an interview with Ober she stated the following:

It was a regrettable situation and I’m sorry we couldn’t have a reasonable conversation.

It wasn’t Ober who requested security come to the work session. Ober explained during the interview that every committee has a “security representative.” This representative is the one who notifies security if they believe there is an issue. It was that representative who spoke with security but in the video security says that the Chair requested Ridley stop recording and was attempting to enforce that.

Ridley says the video speaks for itself. He believes viewers can watch the video and decide for themselves whether or not Ober’s statements were appropriate as well as his actions. He points to Ober’s own words in the video where she tells him there is no photography in the committee room. When Ridley asks what law forbids him from filming, Ober claims that it is “house rules” and that he should see the speaker, referring to Speaker Shawn Jasper.

There are no “house rules” forbidding citizens from photographing or recording any public meetings in the state house or legislative office building. These are representatives doing the people’s business. Citizens have the right to sit in on these meetings as does the media.

Any citizen can attend these work sessions to listen in, some are actually broadcast live. Just as with public hearings; executive sessions; committee meetings and floor votes, the public can not only sit in on these meetings but they can photograph and film. Ober claims it was a misunderstanding so there shouldn’t be any issues going forward if anyone plans to record. That will be verified tomorrow when some indeed put her to the test.