Members of the House Republican caucus held a private meeting Tuesday without public or press access, and some wouldn’t even confirm the nature of what would be discussed.
That didn’t stop Associated Press reporter Gary Fineout, who planted his ear against the closed door of the meeting room on the Capitol’s third floor.
As the meeting went on, Fineout occasionally called out snippets of conversation he could overhear to a band of other reporters hovering in the hallway.
The conversation inside confirmed the meeting was about the current health care funding disagreement. That’s the issue dividing the Legislature’s two chambers and holding up work on the 2015-16 state budget.
At one point, Fineout was confronted by a deputy of the House Sergeant at Arms, who told him, “You can’t do that.”
That man and another House security officer were quickly intercepted by Kathy Mears, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s chief of staff, who told them their presence was appreciated – but not needed.
Fineout, a veteran reporter at Florida’s statehouse, continued listening at the door.
As Crisafulli was addressing members, Fineout said, “He’s saying Jeb Bush was misquoted,” referring to comments by the former governor about Medicaid expansion.
A Tampa Tribune reporter started taking video of him on Periscope, a Twitter-based app that allows live broadcasting over the Internet through a smartphone camera.
The feed of Fineout with his ear to the door eventually drew a high of 229 viewers.
After the meeting, Crisafulli took questions from reporters, including Fineout, who asked about the propriety of making the meeting secret.
House rules say meetings between more than two members of the Legislature must be open to the public if they are “agreeing to take formal legislative action on pending legislation or amendments.”
Crisafulli said he had checked with the House of Representatives’ lawyers, who said closing the meeting was OK.
Original article here.