Republicans in the Utah Senate push through rule to limit media access

Media is prohibited from the Senate chamber without permission.

Without any debate, Republicans in the Utah Senate pushed a rule change limiting press access to final passage on Tuesday.

Previously, members of the news media were allowed access to the Senate chamber, halls, lounge and committee rooms. SR1 makes most of those areas off-limits to news media unless they are accompanied by a senate staffer.

There was no debate offered before the rule won final passage on Tuesday morning.

Senate Republicans bristled at suggestions they are hiding something with the new restrictions, suggesting worries about limiting access to the news media are overblown as committee meetings and floor debates are live-streamed.

Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, the sponsor of the measure pointed to the Senate’s daily media availability.

“The Senate has a long-standing tradition of holding media availability. That’s not going to change. That happens every single day after floor time,” McKell said.

There have been 20 such media availabilities during the 2022 session prior to Tuesday. The average time senators spent taking questions from the media during those events was just over 13 minutes.

McKell cited security concerns as another reason to block the media from those areas. Media members are required to submit to a yearly criminal background check as part of the credentialing process.

During floor debate on Monday, Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, justified his vote in favor of the change alleging unethical acts by members of the press.

“I have witnessed with my own eyes members of the media skulking into the chamber, hiding behind pillars, eavesdropping on conversations all in the name of fair and honest journalism. I think that type of journalism has no place up here,” Anderegg said.

The rule change passed on a 17-5 vote. Sen. John Johnson was the only Republican to vote against the change.