Policy Analysis | September 2019

Media Access at State Capitols

Nick Bowman

State legislatures may provide credentials to members of the media to report on legislative developments. These credentials may grant special access to state capitols, such as access outside of traditional business hours or to dedicated areas for the media. Additionally, some legislatures require media organizations to pay rent for the use of dedicated space. The information presented is a summary of a survey conducted of Southern legislative service agency directors to determine how different states and chambers address media access.

Alabama

Members of the media have credentials or ID cards permitting them to bypass security and have full-time access to the State House. There is a press room in the back of each chamber and a separate press room and private offices on the first floor of the State House. A written license agreement with the organizations that use the private offices is required.

Arkansas

Credentialed media members are permitted to bypass security and have full-time access to the Capitol or similar state building. Members of the media also have rent-free offices on the first floor near the entrance to the Capitol.

Georgia

Members of the media who have offices in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB)–legislative building adjacent to the Capitol– are given building access badges which enable them to bypass security in the Capitol and CLOB. Media credentials are processed by the Senate and the House, separately, for access to each chamber for members of the press who do not have offices located in the CLOB. Media organizations pay rent to the Georgia Building Authority for the use of this space. They pass through security like all other visitors to the Capitol and CLOB.

Kentucky

Credentialed media members are permitted to bypass security and have full-time access to the State Capitol. A number of media organizations, such as the Associated Press, rent office space in the Capitol from the state’s Finance and Administration Cabinet, which provides fiscal management for state agencies. Media organizations with dedicated office space have non-stop access to the Capitol.

Louisiana

Members of the media receive credentials via the House Sergeant at Arms Office after submitting a required application and paying a processing fee. While the legislatively issued credentials do not exempt members of the media from required security checks, generally those with approved media credentials bypass the normal metal detectors upon entering the Capitol. The credentials also grant members of the media access to areas of both the House and the Senate chambers that are not available to the general public. They do not have non-stop access to the Capitol, but can access the building after normal business hours via on-site security during session and during certain other times of the year. For access to the House Sergeant at Arms letter outlining the process of media credentialing, access the link: http://house.louisiana.gov/H_Staff/ASPNETFORM/PDF/2019FinalMediaLetter.pdf.

Several media organizations have permanent offices in the Capitol. Those organizations lease the space via the Division of Administration, the state’s oversight and management division. Those with permanent offices in the Capitol include: The Associated Press, The Advocate, The Times-Picayune, LaPolitics.com. and Gannett News Service. There also is a common area located on “Press Row” that is used by media without permanent offices in the Capitol. The permanent media offices are in the Capitol on the ground floor, near the primary ground floor entrances. The chambers are located on the first floor.

Members of the media have been in the same location since at least 1976. Capitol space allocation is outlined in state law. Certain floors are allocated to the governor and other statewide elected officials. Those areas not specifically set aside for those elected officials are under the purview and allocation of the Legislature, including the space used by the news media.

Missouri

Credentialed members of the media have space dedicated for their use near the chambers. They do no pay rent for the use of this space; the Board of Public Buildings, comprising the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, allocated space to the media in 1988.

Oklahoma

Media members have credentials, but cannot bypass security. They have a designated office space on the fourth floor of the Capitol, near the House and Senate chambers. The media also have an enclosed viewing platform above the chambers to observe floor proceedings and prepare stories.

Virginia

Credentialed members of the media have space dedicated for their use in the Capitol and the General Assembly Office Building, the building dedicated to members, staff and legislative staffing departments. Media organizations do not pay rent for the use of this space.

West Virginia

Members of the media have credentials and designated offices in the Capitol basement. Media organizations do not pay rent for this space.

Source: Email communication with legislative service agency directors, January to August 2019.