Broad Capitol security video bill rewritten

Security surveillance video from the Louisiana Capitol complex would be kept off-limits under a bill headed for full House debate, a measure that supporters say would boost safety in the buildings.

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the proposal without objection Wednesday after a heavy rewrite that narrowed its scope.

As passed with no debate by the Senate, Senate Bill 446 would have exempted all state building security footage from Louisiana’s public records law. That would have swept in state parks, public college buildings and hundreds of facilities around the state.

SB446 also would have shielded from public view any compact disc, digital video disc, jump drive or other electronic storage device that contained the surveillance video, even if the discs or devices had other items on it as well.

Lawmakers on the House committee balked at the broadness of the measure, raising concerns about how much would be hidden.

State Sen. Sherri Smith Buffington, R-Keithville, said her chief concern was about the State Capitol.

So the committee limited the measure to the Capitol and its immediate buildings, grounds and parking areas.

Committee members also rewrote the language to apply only to images on security surveillance video, rather than sweeping in other items that might be contained on the same electronic storage device.

“I think we would get to the intent of not disclosing security images but not being overly broad and make secret things that don’t need to be made secret,” said state Rep. Greg Miller, R-Norco.

Buffington has said she doesn’t want people to be able to use surveillance footage from the Capitol to spot vulnerabilities in the building’s security.

“Certainly, we don’t want a group to know what area or what angle of the camera is not covered in the Capitol and that is certainly done for the public’s safety as well as everyone else here at the Capitol,” she said before the Senate voted 33-1 for the bill earlier this month.

Buffington didn’t testify before the House committee, instead leaving it to Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, to handle the bill for her. Berthelot didn’t object to limiting the measure to the Capitol area.

Johnny Koch, a lobbyist for the Louisiana Press Association, opposed SB446 in its original, Senate-approved form. But he removed his objections after House members rewrote the proposal.

“With those amendments I think we would be — I wouldn’t want to say in support — but we would be neutral,” Koch said.

If the House agrees to the rewritten proposal, it would need to go back to the Senate for consideration of the changes.