Media Face Tougher Time Covering Texas Legislature in a Pandemicposted on 1.04.2021
The 87th Texas Legislature opens amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at Noon. The ability of journalists to cover the session will be hampered by COVID-19 protocols in both chambers for opening day and in the rules each chamber will adopt to follow beyond.
Improved conditions could impact and allow for an adjustment of the rules beyond that point.
Pool cameras and gallery-only access during floor sessions of each chamber is expected to be the norm not only on opening day, but also for at least the first 60 days of the session.
Senate staff indicate the Senate will vote on its rules during the first week of session.
House lawmakers have not issued a timeline.
Both chambers have opened their media credentialing processes.
Stations seeking to cover opening day ceremonies should not wait until Jan. 12 to attempt to get credentials.
House Media Credentials
The House Business Office will only issue weekly pass cards at this time which must be renewed on Friday of the week they expire.
View temporary media letter
Regular media credentials will be issued only after the House of Representatives adopts its permanent House Rules.
An application for accreditation must be approved before a media representative may be issued a pass card for admission to areas on the floor or in the gallery designated for media representatives to observe House proceedings.
All applications are subject to review by the Committee on House Administration.
The House Business Office strongly encourages media representatives to apply for a temporary pass card as soon as possible to help expedite the process.
Applications will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
An applicant for accreditation must complete and submit a notarized Application for Accreditation Form together along with a letter (sample letter), on business letterhead, from the editor, publisher, bureau chief, or supervisor of the sponsoring news organization.
The letter must certify that the applicant is engaged primarily in reporting the sessions of the legislature and no part of the applicant's salary for legislative coverage is paid by any source other than the sponsoring news organization.
Questions may be directed to Rob Morgan in the House Business Office at 512-463-1599 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senate Media Credentials
Like the House, the Senate strongly encourages members of the media to apply for credentials as soon as possible to help expedite the process.
Applications are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
An applicant for Senate media credentials must complete and submit a notarized Media Credential Application form along with a letter (sample letter) on letterhead from the editor, publisher, bureau chief, or supervisor of the sponsoring news organization.
The letter must certify that the applicant is engaged primarily in reporting the sessions of the legislature and that no part of the applicant's salary for legislative coverage is paid by any source other than the sponsoring news organization.
Upon determination that the application is complete and verification of employment, the applicant will be notified by e-mail to report to the Senate's Human Resources Department in Suite 625 of the Sam Houston State Office Building to have their photograph taken.
Questions may be directed to the Secretary of the Senate’s office at (512) 463-0100 or email@example.com
Senate Media Pool
The Senate has indicated it will maintain a press pool rotation that will allow two designated representatives from the electronic media (one urban, one rural) and two designated representatives from the print and digital media (one urban, one rural) to be in the Senate Gallery while the Senate is in session.
The Senate website said pool assignments are non-transferable and will be announced 24 hours in advance of a Senate floor session.
At the conclusion of each floor session, media members will be escorted from the gallery.
Senate news media credentials should be always worn and be visible to gain entrance to the Senate Gallery when lawmakers are in session.
House Media Pools
At a minimum, the House will have designated space in the House gallery for media and accordingly, seating will be limited.
The House Administration Committee has discussed the possibility of pool coverage on the House floor for floor sessions, but there is nothing firm at this time.
State Preservation Board protocols
The Texas State Preservation Board, the caretaker of the Capitol and its grounds, issued a directive last week establishing access requirements to public areas of the building.
For now, the building will be open 9 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday, and closed over the weekend.
The public must enter via the North Entrance of the building.
The TSPB said COVID-19 testing is highly recommended and will be easily accessible on the Capitol’s north plaza at no expense.
No personal data will be collected.
In a Monday media release, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, however, indicated that all members of the media will be required to be tested for COVID-19 to enter the Capitol.
The TSPB is mandating face mask use inside the building.
Public visitor capacity limits will be observed, and social distancing will be required in all public areas
The TSPB said lawmakers will manage public access to their offices and assemblies once convened and rules are adopted.
Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.
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