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League of Women Voters of Iowa urges Senate GOP to let media back on press benches

DES MOINES —The League of Women Voters of Iowa says removing the media from the press benches on the Iowa Senate floor prevent the public from having “first-hand knowledge” of what’s happening in the Senate. Terese Grant, the organization’s president, led a rally inside the state Capitol Wednesday.

“The League of Women Voters wants the press to be able to have direct access to legislators so that all Iowans have the most accurate information about the actions and decisions that are made on a daily basis in the Iowa Senate,” Grant said.

Linda Serra Hagedorn, past president of the League of Women Voters of Ames and Story County, said the decision by Senate Republicans to restrict the media’s access to the legislative process “could escalate” into larger attacks on the First Amendment.

“Open and transparent is the only way for the government to proceed to be legitimate,” she said. “…The journalists are our ears and our eyes to know what is taking place in this beautiful building. We must know, we deserve to know and we demand to know. We ask for a system where access to our lawmakers is restored.”

Representatives of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and the Iowa Capitol Press Association also spoke at the rally. House GOP leaders allow reporters and photographers who cover the legislature daily into areas called “press benches” on the House floor.

A spokesman for Senate Republicans said earlier this month that the “proliferation of non-traditional media and First Amendment concerns” made it difficult for the Senate to define media access, so journalists are no longer allowed in workspaces on the Senate floor. One speaker at Wednesday’s rally said reporters are being “sequestered in the rafters of the Senate” — in the upper level of a third floor seating gallery.

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