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House of Representatives Allows Use of iPads, BlackBerrys on Floor

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Apple's iPad

Members of the House of Representatives are permitted to use Apple's iPad and other devices on the floor.

Image copyright Apple Inc.
Updated January 06, 2011

Tweet, tweet.

That's not just the sound of robins in the springtime anymore.

It's the sound coming from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, which began allowing its members to use wireless devices such as iPads, iPhones and BlackBerrys inside the chambers for the first time during the 112th Congress, which was seated in 2011.

That's right: House members can use Twitter and Facebook all they want.

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The House Republican Conference, which took over the majority in the House of Representatives in January of 2011, approved groundbreaking parliamentary rules at the beginning of the two-year legislative session in January.

Among the changes was to the section of rules dealing with the use of electronic devices on the floor of the House of Representatives.

In the previous session of Congress, the rules stated: "A person may not smoke or use a wireless telephone or personal computer on the floor of the House."

In 2011, the House Republican Conference amended that section of the rules to read: "A person on the floor of the House may not smoke or use a mobile electronic device that impairs decorum.''

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Spokesmen for the Republican Conference told reporters that the rule was softened so as to allow members of the House of Representatives to use their mobile phones and other electronic devices such as iPads and iPhones on the floor.

Of course, the key question was how "impairing" the "decorum" of the House of Representatives would be defined.

"The definition of what is 'disruptive of decorum' will likely evolve over time," one spokesman told the website techPresident.com, "but of course devices are not to make sound and members are not to be speaking on their phones while on the floor."

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