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Assembly Reporters Take a Back Seat

From United Press International

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown inaugurated the era of televised legislative sessions Friday by booting news reporters off the Assembly floor.

When the Legislature reconvenes on Monday, reporters no longer will occupy rows of desks along the side walls of the chamber. Instead, they will be restricted to desks in the rear of the room in a manner similar to the state Senate.

And as a result, they will have less access to lawmakers while they work.

Brown’s press secretary, Michael Reese, said it is “a coincidence of timing” that reporters are being moved to the rear of the chamber at the same time that the lower house begins its own television broadcasts of Assembly sessions.

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The broadcasts, over Assembly-owned equipment operated by Assembly employees, will begin Monday, with reception at first limited to Capitol offices. The service later will be offered to cable companies and other broadcasters throughout the state.

Reese said the Assembly Rules Committee, which was polled on the question in December, is expected to endorse the decision on Monday.

Reese said there have been complaints for years “from many quarters” that the present system is unwieldy and that the sergeants-at-arms have difficulty enforcing rules against reporters wandering into restricted areas among the lawmakers’ desks or against gaggles of news people blocking aisles by encircling a news-making legislator.


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