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House Locks The Doors, Offers Mea Culpa

The public and press were barred from Thursday's meeting to facilitate taking a photograph.

Thursday was a tough day for open government in Annapolis.

Shortly after the Senate overwhelmingly voted against a resolution to allow the public to listen online to committee voting sessions, the House of Delegates locked out the public and press while they debated and voted on bills.

Apparently the reason for the closure was related to a scheduled panoramic group photograph.

Alex Hughes, a spokeswoman for Michael Busch, said the Speaker of the House "didn't even realize you guys were locked out. The desk clerks told him to run the bills for efficiency purposes."

The response from the Speaker came after Patch and other media outlets reported the closure on Twitter. [Hat tip to our friend Holly Nunn of the Gazette for including a photo of the locked doors.]

The group photograph is a semi-complicated effort even before you add in the idea that you have to organize 141 legislators and ask them to remain at their desks. The camera is moved around the chamber in order to complete the picture of the entire chamber. [This is what part of the process looks like.]

Traditionally, the photo is taken before or after the legislators complete their work. The press and public are typically not in the room so that they also do not appear in the photo.

The Senate had a similar photograph taken on Thursday before its regularly scheduled session.

Hughes called the House of Delegates lock-out "an oversight."

Patch had planned on filing a complaint with the Open Meetings Compliance Board.

That board has the power to review violations and issue determinations on whether the law was broken but cannot penalize the public body that violates the law.

In this case, an acknowledgement and apology might be the best outcome the public could hope for.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John Doe February 14, 2013 at 08:30 PM
I would have preferred them to offer mea coffee.
Evets February 14, 2013 at 08:46 PM
I like that! Thanks for the smile.
Theresa Defino February 14, 2013 at 11:35 PM
How long was the lock out for and what bills were debated and voted on? Or was this only long enough for the photo?
Buck Harmon February 15, 2013 at 01:10 PM
Getting all of their heads together for a photo must have been a monumental task... Did they all have to say cheese at the same time as well..?
Theresa Defino February 15, 2013 at 02:17 PM
Sure sounds like much ado about nothing without further facts from Brian. His link to media reporting on this "event" is his own Twitter feed.

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