Good morning Austin:
When I called Amy Hedtke last evening she was outside the Red Oak ISD Education Service Center, where folks were early voting in a school bond election and Hedtke was electioneering for a “no” vote.
I was calling Hedtke to talk to her about a James O’Keefe Project Veritas video, being released this morning, about the now-famous moment when she was arrested in a sequence of events that followed her refusal to stop Facebook Living an abortion hearing that state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, was presiding over.
(I have made a correction here. I originally wrote that she was arrested “on the orders of state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.” That was not correct. Below is the police report explaining that Hedtke was arrested when she refused to stop recording when told to do so, and refused to leave the hearing.)
Here is the Project Veritas videotape.
But first a little background on Amy Hedtke.
For example, here is a recent slightly off-kilter Facebook Live of a recent bit of electioneering on the bond issue at the same location I reached her at last night, a little something she calls: Parking lot exchange w/ a vitriolic “YES” voter at the ROISD Education Service Center
I like this video a lot because it is a nice introduction to Hedtke, a suburban mother of five, anarchist/Republican activist, explaining to a YES” voter, who I would describe as more exasperated than vitriolic, that taxation is theft.
Vitriolic “Yes” voter especially doesn’t like that Hedtke doesn’t live in Red Oak ISD, but, as she explains to me, “I was living in Red Oak until my divorce” and still has kids in the Red Oak schools and is still very involved in the community.
After all, a year ago she played a leading role in defeating a $17 million park bond in Red Oak.
Here is a pre-election report in the Ellis County Citizen: Tempers flare as Red Oak goes to polls on Bond Election Saturday posted on May 06, 2016 by none other than
RED OAK — Amidst allegations of lies and ugliness, this Saturday’s Bond election is unfolding to be the largest voter turnout in Red Oak’s history.
On February 18, 2016, the Red Oak City Council approved bringing a $17.255 million bond proposition to the voters of the city. If approved by the voters, this proposition would fund, through bonding, the creation of a new community park. In addition to trails, playgrounds, an amphitheater and park amenities, this park would include athletic facilities for soccer and baseball fields. The proposed park would be built next to the Cowboy Church on Ovilla Rd, along Bear Creek. The Bond would be funded by an increase in city property taxes.
That increase is one of the many contested allegations broiling on social media.
Hedtke is, as an anarchist, opposed to bonds in principle, but, she said, she also has a talent for finding reasons for voters who are not anarchists to vote against bond proposals.
Here is a report in the Ellis County Citizen $74M bond proposal hinges on public’s perception of a school building Posted in Red Oak on April 27, 2017, also by
RED OAK — At the middle of the social media discussion over the $74 million Red Oak School Bond is a 1,000 student school building. Tucked away at the end of Live Oak Road, it is being used for special events, training, and storage but not currently housing any students in its classrooms.
The Red Oak Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to approve a $74,085,000 bond referendum to be included in the May 2017 election. The proposition’s leading expense is a second Red Oak Middle School and expanded Red Oak High School.
“Our district is growing. We are expecting our enrollment to grow to more than 8,700 students in the next 10 years, so we are trying to plan for that growth,” Board President Henry Lozano said.
The 1000 student “Building on Live Oak” was utilized for students when the December 2015 tornado damaged Shields Elementary. Since the building is not up to code, the District was granted an emergency waiver to temporarily accommodate student instruction. District assessments point to a $32 million pricetag to renovate the building, which includes $8 million in code compliance projects and meeting additional TEA standards for classrooms.
Opponents of the bond want to see the District put the empty school to work for students before building a new one. Proponents point to issues like traffic flow concerns and age of the building, as well as technology upgrades. At 30 years old, the school building has an expected lifespan of 50 years, although many school buildings in Texas are approaching 75-100 years of service (nearby Waxahachie Global High was built in 1918 and currently serves students as a STEM charter school). For some, spending $44 million for a new school on the West side of I-35 is more appealing than spending $32 million for the “Building on Live Oak.”
The bond is funded by a 13 cent tax increase on the debt service rate up to 40 years, raising it from 37 cents to the state mandated tax cap of 50 cents [per $100 of valuation]. Residents who receive the 65 and older tax freeze won’t experience the tax increase.
ROISD presentations assert that the District has plans to use the building as a 6th elementary school, but Red Oak resident Penny Story is very frustrated with the building sitting empty for almost a decade. “The District has been spending a ton of taxpayer money in maintenance and utility costs all these years. This building was designed to instruct students and is being underutilized.
Meanwhile, since her divorce, Hedtke is now living in Waxahachie, where she is running for the Waxahachie ISD board of trustees.
Hedtke, who I suspect is the only anarchist in the six-person field, is not running to win. She is running so she is eligible to seek a recount, which she plans to do after the results of Saturday’s election are certified on Sunday.
She did the same thing last year.
From Mary 26, 2016 in the Waxahachie Daily Light: WISD election: Hedtke seeks vote recount, by
A school board candidate from the May 7 WISD school board election has filed for a vote recount.
Hedtke said she is running, and filing a recount this time to get a better look at the practice of strategic “undervoting,” in the election, in which each voter can vote for two candidates, with the two top candidates winning spots on the board. Last year’s top vote getter, she said, advised supporters to bullet vote for him, which she said was a smart strategy. But, she said, it would be more democratic if the election were broken down into two places, with voters casting one vote for each place.
As the person filing for the recount, Hedtke said she will have to pay for it – about $200 – but that cost is actually being bankrolled by another local citizen who is especially interested in changing he way the school board members are elected.
So, to recap, on Saturday, Hedtke hopes to claim victory in defeating a school bond in Red Oak and concede defeat in a Waxahachie school board race.
On Sunday, she plans to filed for a recount in the school board race.
On Monday, she has to appear in court in Austin on her arrest emanating from Cook’s hearing – for which she is the heroine of the Project Veritas video – and then from Austin she will be joined by some friends and political comrades and they will drive off together to San Diego for the spring meeting of the Republican National Committee at the Hotel del Coronado (technically in Coronado, Calif.)
As I mentioned earlier, Hedtke is an anarchist/Republican.
I really wish I were going to be there.
Many years ago I stayed at the Hotel del Coronado. It is a magnificent hotel. It is the hotel – posing as a Florida hotel – where Some Like it Hot, perhaps my favorite movie of all time, was filmed.
Think of Amy Hedtke as the Marilyn Monroe character – Sugar Kane Kowalczyk – and the Republican Party Under Donald Trump as embodied by the randy billionaire, Osgood Fielding III, played by Joe E. Brown, who ends up not with Marilyn Monroe but Jack Lemon in an ending as timely as Senate Bill 6.
If you don’t think Amy Hedtke has the stage presence or presence of mind to pull off the Marilyn Monroe character consider that photo of her, mid arrest – blowing a perfect bubble from a three-pack of Bubblicoius Bubble Gum she got at the Dollar Tree.
Hedtke got into Republican Party politics, and anarchism, via Ron Paul. She was a Rick Santorum alternate – but really a Ron Paul supporter – to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, and a Donald Trump alternate – but “I’ve been pretty much never anybody for a while”- at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Like me, she was in Cleveland for two weeks.
The group of Paulistas she fell in with continue to be a loyal and politically savvy cadre – especially savvy if you are getting arrested doing something political – so, as she was being arrested, she knew they were all about doing social media promoting her arrest, arranging for an attorney and bail, etc.
Did blowing the bubble come from the Ron Paul playbook?
No, that was really kind of an impromptu thing.
Sure I like my gum but never actually made it into a thing before.
The whole arrest, to that point, in my head it was going really well. I wasn’t screaming, I wasn’t yelling, I wasn’t being tazed. There were several people around me seeing and following and documenting everything.
Then I saw Johan ( fellow abortion abolitionist and photographer Johan Gervais) kind of circling me taking pictures and I watched him and noticed that, by golly, he was setting up his shot. He was trying to get a good background and frame the picture, and then I caught his eye and I blew this bubble and I held it and he was able to catch what I meant and he went and took a picture of the bubble.
It was the perfect image of the devil-may-care, mother-of-five, anarchist-under-arrest, and she said it became the source of countless memes along the lines of “Zero F—s Given.”
I guess we should back up again.
Here is the text that goes with the Project Veritas video.
– In this Project Veritas video, James O’Keefe teams up with Texas mother and citizen journalist Amy Hedtke who was unlawfully removed from a State Affairs Committee meeting for attempting to film it in accordance with Texas state law.
The Chair of the Committee, Republican Byron Cook, made the decision to have Hedtke removed from the meeting, according to the DPS Officer and David Sauceda, the Sergeant of Arms for the Texas House of Representatives:
Amy Hedtke: This state law says that I have the right to record. So you’re going to break state law and remove me?
DPS Officer: The chairman has the right to make that decision.
Amy Hedtke: Where does the chairman have the right to break state law?
David Sauceda: You’re going to have to leave, there is no discussion. I’m sorry.
DPS Officers took Amy’s camera and moved her outside of the meeting room, where she was arrested.
Amy Hedtke: I have the right to stay and record with video camera. If you remove me…If you remove me… I am not going to leave. Cause I am exercising my rights. I have the right to be here. And I have the right to record.
David Sauceda: I’m sorry you don’t.
- A person in attendance may record all or any part of an open meeting of a governmental body by means of a recorder, video camera, or other means of aural or visual reproduction.
It appears that Representative Cook has a track record of limiting the transparency of government–other organizations have also accused him of prohibiting citizens from filming public meetings.
Following Hedtke’s arrest, Project Veritas decided to visit Representative Byron Cook’s office. O’Keefe was quickly escorted from the office before he could meet with the Representative. Shortly thereafter, O’Keefe was contacted by Cook’s Chief of Staff Toni Barcellona, who evaded commenting on the law which allows citizens to record meetings, instead only citing the Committee rules.
“Amy Hedtke should have been allowed to film that hearing,” said James O’Keefe in a video. “Amy should not have been arrested, but she was willing to be arrested. She was standing up for her rights, she was standing up for the people in the state of Texas and she was standing up for all of us.”
Last week, Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas waded into the Cook-Hedtke imbroglio to see who actually had the law on their side, and it turns out that it a is a “murky” issue that has yet to be settled in court.
“We are going to file a lawsuit,” Hedtke said.
From Gardner’s report:
Hedtke’s video plus video shot by another person show her refusing requests that she stop taping and being carried by troopers to a DPS sedan. By phone, Hedtke later told us that she was then taken to the Travis County Jail where she was charged with criminal trespass for failing to depart when asked; a court hearing, she said, is scheduled for May 2017.
Hedtke’s video from the hearing shows Hedtke telling an unidentified House aide: “State law says that open meetings, you cannot prohibit attendees from recording.” The aide replies: “The rules of the House have precedence over that — the Constitution, as well.”
Geren, chairman of the powerful House Administration Committee, said the same in his April 11, 2017, letter to the TV station, which we fielded by email after asking Jason Embry, a spokesman for House Speaker Joe Straus, why Hedtke was stopped from recording and carried out.
Geren’s letter says the station’s news account mistakenly indicated the law allowing individuals to record government meetings prevails over House rules giving members control of its proceedings.
Constitutional provision and House rules
Article III, section 11 of the Texas Constitution, Geren wrote, “authorizes each house of the legislature to determine the rules of its own proceedings.”
In its entirety, the section says: “Each House may determine the rules of its own proceedings, punish members for disorderly conduct, and, with the consent of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same offense.”
Geren, chairman of the House Administration Committee, further wrote that the House’s 2017 rules deem those rules to be “the only requirements binding” on the 150-member body.
Correct: House rules adopted by members at the start of the 2017 legislative session open:
“Pursuant to and under the authority of Section 11, Article III, Texas Constitution, and notwithstanding any provision of statute, the House of Representatives adopts the following rules to govern its operations and procedures. The provisions of these rules shall be deemed the only requirements binding on the House of Representatives under Section 11, Article III, Texas Constitution, notwithstanding any other requirements expressed in statute.”
We asked Geren if he wished to elaborate on his letter, which WFAA-TV subsequently excerpted in a note preceding a web version of its story; he did not.
In the latest House rules themselves, meantime, we didn’t spot any provision that a House member can obviate the open-meetings law including its provision that people can record meetings. Otherwise, the rules require the House to post video of public meetings and specify that permission to make live or recorded television, radio, or Internet broadcasts in or from the House chamber when the House is in session may be granted only by the administration committee.
Section 551.023 of Texas’s government code, part of the open-meetings law that came to be in 1973, says: “A person in attendance may record all or any part of an open meeting of a governmental body by means of a recorder, video camera or other means of aural or visual reproduction.” But, the law says, a governmental body “may adopt reasonable rules to maintain order at a meeting, including” rules relating to the location of recording equipment and how the recording is made. The law also says those rules “may not prevent or unreasonably impair a person from” recording during a meeting.
So, what gives?
Angling to sort this out, and with help from Kelley Shannon of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, we queried Austin attorneys steeped in Texas open government laws.
Each one agreed that no court has ruled on the ability of the House or Senate to invoke the constitutional provision about the bodies setting internal rules to bypass the permission spelled out in the Texas Open Meetings Act for people to record meetings. Likewise, we found no sign of any such court interpretation when we reviewed materials available at the Texas State Law Library.
The lawyers diverged, though, on whether Geren’s explanation holds up.
“It gets murky,” said David Donaldson of Austin, a retired lawyer whose past clients include the Austin American-Statesman, one of the newspapers that sponsors PolitiFact Texas. By phone, Donaldson added: “The answer may be that we don’t know the answer yet.” Over the course of a couple days, Donaldson told us, he was swayed by conflicting arguments both for and against a person being able to record a legislative meeting.
Bob Heath, who has advised lawmakers in the past, and Buck Wood, who helped write the open-meetings law, each said the constitution’s language supports what Geren told the station. To his chagrin, Wood said by phone, House members reinforced such a stance by adopting the provision leading its rules stating the body’s rules shall be deemed the “only” requirements binding on the House, regardless of state laws.
In contrast, attorneys Bill Aleshire and Jennifer Riggs each suggested a portion of the open-meetings law signals an overarching legislative commitment to complying with the open-meetings law. Section 551.003 of the state’s Government Code states: “In this chapter, the legislature is exercising its powers to adopt rules to prohibit secret meetings of the legislature, committees of the legislature, and other bodies associated with the legislature, except as specifically permitted in the constitution.”
By email, Aleshire maintained that the section protects the open-meetings law from being preempted by lawmakers any which way. He noted also that the Constitution doesn’t say the Legislature has the power to outlaw recordings.
Another hearing, another approach
While checking this claim, we noticed that days after troopers carried Hedtke out, a different House chairman, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, let people at a hearing, including Hedtke, take pictures and shoot video.
According to House-posted video, just after the start of the March 28, 2017, meeting of the Homeland Security & Public Safety panel, King said: “We want to talk a little bit about cameras and things like that. I’m going to be a little flexible there.” King directed anyone taking photos to do so from the back of the Capitol hearing room. “The rule of the day,” he said, “is don’t disturb other people when you do it.”
Hedtke told us, and King confirmed, that she later got King’s permission to move her camera closer to the front of the room; intermittent noise from the hallway was marring her recording from the back.
King, asked why he laid out guidelines for people to record the meeting, told us he recognized before the hearing that people following issues before the panel wanted to record or livestream.
By phone, King said he’s aware of the law that says anyone can record a government meeting. Yet, he said, his decision to let people take photos or video was based on his discretion under House rules to run the hearing as the committee’s chairman. King said it’s the duty of any chair “to make sure the meeting is smooth, efficient and not disrupted.”
How did the permission to record affect the hearing? “It was fine,” King told us. “Everybody behaved themselves.”
Geren wrote that House rules authorized by the Texas Constitution supersede the state law permitting anyone to record an open government meeting.
We find that a constitutional provision plus sweeping House-adopted language that arguably lets the body operate without regard to any law support the chairman’s statement. But it’s also worth clarifying that the rub with the 1973 law allowing anyone to record a government meeting has yet to be dissected by a court.
We rate the claim Mostly True.
Now, the arrest and booking, thanks to Hedtke’s resistance, was a bit gnarlier than simply blowing a bubble.
From Gardner’s notes of his interview with Hedtke.
Took me down to the Travis County jail. I wouldn’t get out of the car. They rolled out the prisoner transport chair. Hooded me. Removed hood indoors. Left me shackled in chair for 2 hours. Declined to put on jail garb. Took to room, dress removed, buck naked. I sat there in all my Lady Godiva glory for another 20 minutes… Now they had to figure out how to block the picture window… At this point, they had to get me dressed… Finally got clothes kinda sorta on me. Took mug shot, strapped into the chair … Stripped again, in padded cell, 4 pm to 9 pm. PR bond. I got dressed after assured was walking out.
“That was a new experience,” Hedtke said of the hood and the nakedness and all.
It was not Amy Hedtke’s first arrest.
But it was only her second.
Fortunately, this being Amy Hedtke, we have video of her first arrest.
And, by way of introduction, here is the really classic top of the April 15, 2015 story on her arrest from the CBS station in DFW.
RHOME (CBSDFW.COM) – Amy Hedtke is facing charges for failure to report a change of address on her driver’s license, failure to register a vehicle and “obedience required to police officers and to school crossing guards,” but she says that’s not why she went to jail on Tuesday.
“In the activist world, we call it pissing off a police officer,” she says.
Hedtke, who spent the night in jail, says she was stopped while on the way to drop off her son at a Boy Scout meeting
And what do her five sons – four of them Boy Scouts – think of her fussing with authority.
“It depends on which fuss,” she said.
The Rhome arrest had pretty heavy consequences.
“My ex used that to take the kids away from me,” she said.
But, of her Cook arrest, she said, her kids are,”You go mom, hope you sue them.”
As for her political education:
In 2006, 2007, I dipped my toe into local politics, I was showing up at City Council meetings, and I was on teh Parks Board and I was on the Library Board.
I was a home school mom so I was teaching in the home school coop. I was a 4-H Club manager. Meals on wheels, and stuff like that.
Then in 2011 there was a chemical plant explosion in Waxahachie.
That kind of got me into county-level politics. Then I learned about the LEPC and what a freakin- county commissioner was.
That same year, 2011, she saw an ad on Facebook – Ron Paul needs your help. Be a delegate for Ron Paul.
She remembered Ron Paul from homeschooling her kids about politics in the 2008 election. He sounded good to her, and she ended up in Tampa for the convention.
When we got back to Texas the guys who were kind of training us and advising us – most of us were ready to just dump our GOP costumes at the thrift store on the way out of Tampa – but they were like, “No, no, no, hang onto that. We’ve got other stuff we’ve got to do.” And we’re like, “What?”
So they get us involved in the Texas Legislature. So we come back from Tampa and we’re watchdogging the Texas Legislature and we’re down there and we’re testifying and following bills and that’s where it happened, sitting through 10-hour committee hearings, listening to these douchebags – “we’ve got to close that loophole, we’ve got to this, we’ve got to do that” – if I hear the phrase “close the loophole” – that’s where i sat there listening to these thinking, this is not going to go anywhere, this is bull…., and that’s when I slid all the way off the right end of the spectrum.
Then it was just a matter of what do I do now, how do I reconcile the things I do believe with the atmosphere we have now.
I wasn’t an anarchist at first. I was your nice conservative home school mom.
What she was seeing at every level of government did not connect with what she and her kids dug up studying history and rhetoric and the founding of the country and the Constitution – “and we’re really getting into this because we’re serious infojunkies” – and “that’s when I bascially said, “Screw that, I’m done sanctioning this kind of crap.'”
But her Ron Paul training kept her involved – for “even the anarchists that think taxation is theft, there are bond elections out there that need to be fought and we can show you how to do that.”
That’s why my arrest went so well. Because I had that group acting before I was even dragged out of that room. They were prepared, already on-line, they were watching this, they understood what might happen politically and legally. I had already dealt with a lot of our activist friends being arrested during the open carry stuff from last session. We deal with activists getting arrested all the time so I already knew going in because I’ve been on the other side of the wall, outside, at the jail, waiting for them to release my friends.
Any time you start challenging the status quo on anything you better have getting arrested as a possibility to plan for.
I’ve got five kids. I’ve four boys who were Scouts. “Be prepared” is a very serious phrase.
Did Cook see her coming on the fateful day?
Well, I was wearing the boots.
The boots have become well enough known.
I wore them a little in 2013. I wore them a lot 2015.
And by the time I got to 2017, the reps and the staff in the Capitol recognized the boots are that weird chick that’s always bitching about something.
What else is on Hedtke’s legislative agenda:
Home school bills – there’s a Tebow bill that we’ve been opposing, and these Educational Savings Accounts that we are opposing …’ make socialism great again.’ Second Amendment stuff. Constitutional carry. Parental rights. Decrim bills for marijuana. Death penalty bills (she wants it abolished). Jury nullification.
She is an abortion abolitionist, which, she said, is the appropriate anarchist position on abortion.
The crime of abortion of literally messing with people. So, from the non-aggression principle, abortion violates he non-aggression principle. It does not reconcile the rights of both individuals with the proportionate amount of force.
Meanwhile, she said, “The same guys telling us we need to do Texas Legislature stuff were also telling us we need to start going to the Republican National Committee meetings. Those happen three times a year in different part of the country.
So Saturday we have the election. Sunday (after filing for a recount) we drive to Austin. Monday morning I do my Austin court appearance, and then I get in the car and pack up with a couple of other people and drive out to San Diego for the RNC meeting. We watchdog the meetings, we attend the committee meetings, we schmooze and talk and listen and try to document what’s going on.
At the Hotel del Coronado.