Sen. John Coghill said Tuesday evening he is considering a revision of a ban of cellphone usage on the Senate floor. Coghill is the Senate Rules Committee chair.
Some members of the capitol press corps were dismayed on Monday when they arrived at Coghill’s office to pick up their press pass.
Along with their press pass, reporters received a memo that said, “Smart devices such as cell phones are prohibited inside the chambers.” Some reporters use their phones to record the Senate or take photos because they have no other camera.
The memo said the rule would “be strictly enforced by the floor staff” and failure to comply would result in “immediate expulsion.”
On Tuesday, Coghill told the Empire he forbade cellphones for two reason: “inordinate communication and disruption.”
Legislators had already been forbidden from cellphone use for similar reasons, he said.
Coghill said he learned from reporters who spoke out against the change that sometimes they take pictures of the vote board, or use their phone as a wireless hotspot, or communicate with staff photographers.
“Those are things I hadn’t even considered, which I am in the process of doing now,” he said. “It’s probably the disruption that I’m going to focus on. How do we allow use of it without disruption? I’ll probably restrict it to usage around the media table.”
Coghill cautioned he is still deciding if the rule should change. Coghill said he hopes he’ll have a memo regarding cellphone usage and the media for Wednesday’s session.
“It would be nice if we started the session with a clear set of rules,” Coghill said. “If we keep it to respectful use of recording device, so you can get the best story you can from the floor, we should do that.”
Coghill noted that people in the gallery have FaceTimed or taken selfies in the past, which was a distraction. This cellphone ban applies to the gallery, too. He is not considering lifting the cellphone ban from the gallery.
This ban does not apply to the House, which has its own rules.
Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258.