By Cassandra Fairbanks
31 March 2015
Dallas, TX– Jason Villalba is the republican state representative who is becoming infamous on the web after authoring HB-2918. HB-2918 is an unconstitutional bill which would have restricted filming the police.
Villalba is now saying he may need to withdraw the proposal after the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas- the largest police union in the state- has come out opposition to it.
The bill, which was designed to limit the police accountability of journalists, concerned citizens, bloggers, and activists, would criminalize anyone who films police activity within 25 feet, or within 100 feet if the person is carrying a handgun. Only “traditional media” would be exempt from having their rights trampled. The representative has even described it as targeting “independent bloggers who are focused on keeping law enforcement accountable.”
The opposite of wanting to keep police accountable is what, again? It is important to note that while Villalba claims this measure is to keep officers
safe,” the distance requirements would only apply to those who are holding cameras. If you do not have a camera, you can be as close as you’d like. Apparently being filmed is highly dangerous for officers.
If passed, the bill would amend the current “INTERFERENCE WITH PUBLIC DUTIES” statute (Sec. 38.15), to include language only allow filming of police (within 25ft) by “news media.”
The term “news media” is then defined as such:
(A) a radio or television station that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission;
(B) a newspaper that is qualified under Section 2051.044, Government Code, to publish legal notices or is a free newspaper of general circulation and that is published at least once a week and available and of interest to the general public in connection with the dissemination of news or public affairs; or
(C) a magazine that appears at a regular interval, that contains stories, articles, and essays by various writers, and that is available and of interest to the general public in connection with the dissemination of news or public affairs.
As we previously pointed out, the proposed legislation also ignores legal precedent, established in Glik v Cunniffe, where the court held that “a private citizen has the right to record video and audio of public officials in a public place.”
In that case the court went on to say:
“…we have previously recognized that the videotaping of public officials is an exercise of First Amendment liberties,” affirming Glik’s constitutional right to videotape public officials in public places.
The bill was set for a hearing on Thursday, but was withdrawn from the committee agenda as Villalba claimed it was being amended. That claim was called into question by Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations, who told NBC that he is under the impression that the bill will be pulled permanently.
“His indication was that he wasn’t going to go forward with it,” Wilkison told them on Friday. “We would have been opposed in the hearing, but we didn’t even get that far.”
They also reached out to Villalba’s spokeswoman who told them that they are reworking the bill along with the union to get it “where they might be able to support it a little more.”
The representative has been pandering to the police on twitter, but received little support from anyone as he continuously blocks anyone who even questions him on the bill, myself and his precious “traditional media” journalists both included.
— Entire BillOfRights (@EntireBoR) March 30, 2015
Prior to the opposition from the union, Villalba had already stated that he intends to fix one of the biggest problems with the bill, that a citizen could be charged if they recorded their own encounter with police. He blamed “clumsy drafting” on this massive oversight.
“Look, the buck stops with me. I’m not going to blame it on anyone else. I should have read it closer,” Villalba told Dallas Morning Views Blog.
“He can’t even write his own bills… that’s not a surprise, but the fact that he has no shame about that is appalling. When I put my names on things other people write, it’s called plagiarism… when he does it, it’s “legislation”? What is he being paid for?” one user on the site commented.
For those opposed to HB-2918 of Jason Villalba stonewalling and blocking reporters, call him and let him know.
Dallas office 214-363-8700