AUSTIN — A Texas lawmaker ordered troopers to escort a candidate vying for a seat on the Waxahachie ISD Board of Trustees out of the Texas Capitol Building Wednesday afternoon — and she did not leave willingly.
Amy Hedtke was in Austin to attend — and live-stream — a session of Texas State Affairs Committee that addressed a portion of a proposed abortion bill Wednesday, March 22. After just over 45 minutes of recording, Committee Chairman Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, ordered Hedtke to cut the feed to her public Facebook profile. Hedtke is an Ellis County resident and one of six candidates running for two seats on the WISD school board in the upcoming May election.
According to WISD officials, Hedtke joins Judd McCutchen, Melissa Starnater, Kim Kriegel, Joe Garber, and Clay Schoolfield on the ballot for the board.
In Hedtke's video, which runs for approximately one hour before being cut, she informs a trooper with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) that, “State law is clear. I have the right to be here and you are violating state law if you violate my right to record." The video also shows Cook order a DPS trooper to instruct Hedtke to cut the Facebook live-stream, as the lawmaker stated she was not a credentialed member of the media and her actions were a violation of a House policy.
According to Sec. 551.023 of the Texas Government Code, a "person in attendance may record all or any part of an open meeting of a governmental body by means of a recorder, video camera, or other means of aural or visual reproduction." The statute also notes that a legislative body may adopt "reasonable" rules, such as the location of recording equipment or the manner in which the recording is conducted but cannot "prevent or unreasonably impair a person" from the rights granted under Subsection A — the right to record an open meeting.
In a photo posted to her personal Facebook page, Hedtke is pictured standing beside a large white sign with black lettering positioned on an easel outside of the meeting room. The sign stated, "Only those with Capitol media credentials will be permitted to film or record in this committee hearing. The proceedings are available on the internet in real time and are archived for later viewing."
After a short exchange is seen in the video posted by Hedtke, a second video, posted to Facebook by Andy Prior, shows two DPS troopers carrying Hedtke out of the building with her red, white and blue boots held a few inches off the ground. The live video, which was posted by Prior at 11:53 a.m. on March 22, then shows the two troopers set Hedtke down and place her in handcuffs just inside the front doors of the building. Once in cuffs, the troopers then carried Hedtke down the steps and put her into a DPS squad car.
According to a fundraiser for legal fees set up by Jeremy Blosser on FundedJustice.com, Hedtke has been charged with criminal trespass and has plans to file a civil suit. The campaign also notes that the magistrate dropped a charge of resisting arrest for "lack of probable cause." As of Monday at 5:45 p.m., the fundraiser had raised $9,575 of its $25,000 goal.
"State officials have scrambled to provide a justification for the 'media only' recording policy given state law [sic], referencing the Rules of the House and the Committee," the fundraiser's page states. "However, neither the House nor the Committee have adopted any rule regarding recording that anyone can produce, and the law is clear that attendees are allowed to record.
"Amy needs funds to fight the remaining criminal charge. Additionally, there is interest in pursuing a civil action against the parties responsible for her arrest, given the violation of her rights and state law."
The office of Rep. Byron Cook did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith