Work crews have started tearing seats out of the place where visitors to the state Senate have watched floor activities since 1919 so the Senate can get those pesky reporters farther away from being able to see and hear what is going on. Or not.
Seats installed during the restoration of the chamber in 2001 were stacked along a fourth floor hallway wall when we dropped by the other day. We haven’t heard what will be done with them although it seems the most sensible thing would be to store them somewhere safe so they could be put back in place when a less-vindictive mood runs the place. We won’t rehash what that’s all about here. We’ve flailed at that subject in earlier entries that you can find in the archives.
We have preserved a historic moment in this process—the last time (for now, we hope) that members of the Capitol press corps were allowed to sit at what has been the press table since the earliest days of the building.
That’s Bob Watson of the Jefferson City News Tribune, the senior Senate reporter, in the blue suit on the right. Summer Ballentine of the Associated Press is on the other side of the table, in the orange jacket. Most of the others are Senate staff members except for the fellow next to Summer.
That’s Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, who decided earlier this year that people such as Bob and Summer are so undeserving to cover the Senate from that table anymore that the Senate will spend $12,000 for each of the ten positions around the table to move them and their colleagues to the gallery on the other side of the chamber.
Senator Richard lectured his colleagues during the session about honoring Senate traditions and rules.
One of the Senate rules is that Senators will not sit at the press table when the Senate is in session. We think it was in session when this picture was taken. Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe was in the Chair.
Will the Senate behave any better or any worse now that the scourge of the Press is removed from its sight? Will the reporting of the actions of the Senate be better or worse because reporters now will occupy space where spectators have been able to sit for 97 years?
The first test will come during the September veto session. It would be good, however, for the Senate to remember that the Press might now be out of sight—-but it shouldn’t be out of mind.