Jupiter aligns with Mars | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Jupiter aligns with Mars

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2009 at 4:17 PM

Readers know I've had a little sport with Republican Rep. Mark Martin of Prairie Grove. When it comes to issues, he's from Pluto and I'm from Earth. Or vice versa, if you prefer.

But he's a blogging, Twittering fool. I admire his energy and robust exercise of free speech. (The First Amendment says nothing about quality or content of the speech, thank goodness.)

So my ears perked up when Martin began Twittering today that he might be about to be taken to the woodshed for his live blogging of legislative meetings (an activity, it happens, that also has been engaged in vigorously by some Democrats, notably Rep. Steve Harrelson.) Martin said was encouraged by Rep. Allen Maxwell to have a sitdown with Tim Massanelli, the boss of the House staff and reigning expert on matters of rules.

The executive committee of the Legislative Council, it develops, has just issued a mild warning about disruptions in the area of the committee room for staff and legislators. As it so happens, Martin has used that space to get close to the action at, for example, meetings of the blue ribbon commission on highway funding. He used that platform recently for some pithy blog remarks, via netbook, about the commission's missing a point or two, in his not-so-humble opinion.

Martin has been led to understand that this apparently riled a few senators, a humorless bunch that has not yet arrived in the 20th century when it comes to televised proceedings, never mind blog/Twitter/etc. Martin had no complaints about his meeting today with Massanelli. He said he'd gotten a reminder that nobody had a problem with his blogging if it was not disruptive. But Massanelli did note an obscure portion of the Constitution -- Article 5, Section 15 -- that restricts "questioning" of members. It was Massinelli's counsel that Martin be careful about "direct quotation" of members in his blog posts or to give them a heads-up if he planned to do so. Martin said he didn't want to pick a fight and would take care as he continues to live blog, which he sees as a service to his constituents.

Massanelli hastened to tell me in a separate interview that, though some had complained that Martin was "recording" meetings, that there was nothing to prevent Martin from either recording or blogging about open meetings. He noted, though, that rules gave chairs authority to move Martin  to another area if they deemed him disruptive and he confirmed that he'd cited the Constitution as a potential limit on what Martin, as another legislator, might be able to write. (But not the press.)

“I told him that if he was quoting people excessively, especially if he was not correct, he was going to run into trouble," Massanelli said. "And he agreed.”

I'm not sure I get the applicability of Article 5, Sec. 15 to this issue. It is a short section about privileges of members of the legislature. But here it is:

"The members of the General Assembly shall, in all cases except treason, felony, and breach or surety of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the sessions of their respective houses; and, in going to and returning from the same; and, for any speech or debate in either house, they shall not be questioned in any other place. "

I think the long and short of it is that some uppity colleagues didn't like impertinent instant commentary from a lowly House Republican and got House leadership to send a gentle message to Rep. Martin that they have ways of dealing with annoying pups.

Blog on, Rep. Martin. Without fear or favor.

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