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Eleanor N.
Democrat DC 0

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  • Introduction of a Bill to Permit Commercial Filming and Photography on the Grounds of the U.s. Capitol

    by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton

    Posted on 2016-01-05

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    NORTON of the district of columbia in the house of representatives Tuesday, January 5, 2016 Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, today, I introduce a bill to permit commercial filming and photography on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, east of Union Square, the only area where such filming is currently authorized. This bill would permit commercial photography and filming outside of the Capitol and congressional office buildings by permit, so long as both the House and Senate are not in session. In today's world, where many societies are facing upheavals, our country should be the first to encourage commercial photography and filming of the Capitol, which symbolizes U.S. democracy at work. Hollywood and other commercial filmmakers should not have to go to other or fake capitol buildings for movies and films about the U.S. Capitol. The current policy permitting filming near the United States Botanic Garden shows that the Capitol police can handle filmmaking on Capitol grounds, especially when Congress is not in session. However, filming from that vantage point captures the least familiar view of the Capitol. At a time when the reputation of Congress is particularly low, filming of the Capitol, a building that represents American democracy, could bolster its image. Keeping filmmakers from standing in front of the Capitol is neither business-friendly nor true to the nation's democratic traditions. Encouraging commercial photography and filming at the Capitol would help spread the story of our national legislature around the world. The time is overdue to allow to commercial filming and photography of the exterior of the historic 19th century Capitol building.

    There is no good reason why commercial filming and photography should be confined to Union Square. Specifically, my bill gives the Capitol Police the discretion, depending on the circumstances in and around the Capitol, to issue a permit authorizing commercial filming and photography under the same conditions as those in Union Square. Such areas might include, for example, Independence Avenue on the House side and Constitution Avenue on the Senate side. No policy or security reason exists to justify limiting commercial filming and photography of the Capitol complex to only one location, Union Square, particularly considering that permits are necessary. People are regularly seen on East Capitol Street (east of 2nd Street) taking pictures, where they get a full view of the Capitol building, demonstrating how arbitrary it is to limit commercial filming to Union Square.

    Capitol Police would also have authority to charge a fee to cover any costs incurred by the Architect of the Capitol as a result of the issuance of the permit, to be deposited into the Capitol Trust Account. The Capitol Trust Account was established to accept proceeds from any fees collected for commercial filming permits for Union Square. Amounts in the Capitol Trust Account would be available without fiscal year limitation for such maintenance, improvements, and projects with respect to the Capitol grounds as the Architect of the Capitol considers appropriate, subject to the approval of the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate.

    Views of the U.S. Capitol are among America's most iconic. Limiting commercial filming and photography of the Capitol, an important vehicle for telling the nation's story, does not serve the American people. Indeed, most of the world knows our country and reveres our system of government largely through commercial photography and films of the Capitol, which symbolizes our democracy at work. Commercial films and photographs of the Capitol, the seat of our democracy, are perhaps the best modern vehicles for telling the nation's story and showcasing its democratic system of government. My bill would enable appropriate, permitted commercial filming and photography of the Capitol, and would create economic benefits for the nation, the city, and private business.

    I urge support of this bill.


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