AUGUSTA – The State House in Augusta was a battleground between Democrats and Republicans Thursday but the battle wasn’t over a law or regulation that directly affects constituents.
What Democratic and Republican lawmakers fought over was the use of cellphones and other cameras to record each other during the sessions when the media is not there.
Democrats pushed a proposal through to ban state representatives from photographing or videotaping other members during official deliberations.
Republicans took issue with the proposal, saying that the restriction limited transparency in the House of Representatives.
Lawmakers ultimately voted in favor of the proposed restriction 91-53.
“Members really should have the right to be able to keep and record their own photographs and records of what’s happening in the chamber so that their constituents can have an accurate and fair explanation of what’s happening with their tax paying dollars,” said Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle.
Democrats believed that even with the restrictions, the House was still just as transparent. They said that all the restriction did was eliminate certain distractions.
“There’s a difference between a camera on a wall 50 feet from you filming what you’re saying while you’re standing up and articulating something that really matters to your constituents that you really care about. Versus a camera that’s right here in your face perhaps from the member sitting right next to you. That could be a distraction,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland.
There were also Independents who backed the restrictions.
“Not only are we video recorded but there’s also a full audio of each House session and audio of everything we do here. Every word we speak on that House chamber on the record is recorded,” Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, I-Friendship, said.