- Associated Press - Friday, February 6, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona legislators are offering a variety of proposals to keep some government information and proceedings out of public view.

Legislative proposals would allow public bodies to meet behind closed doors more often, permit lottery winners to keep their identities secret, withhold the names of police officers who shoot somebody, and let candidates, elected officials and former judges keep their addresses out of public records, the Arizona Capitol Times (https://goo.gl/YItcBp) reported.

Critics contend such proposals would reduce transparency in government. But legislators backing some of the proposed changes say they would protect elected officials, citizens and public employees from harassment and allow less constrained discussions.

Paula Casey, executive director of the Arizona Newspapers Association, which is lobbying against many of the proposed changes, said 2015 is shaping up to be a busy year of fighting such legislation at the Capitol.

“It looks like it’s kind of the perfect storm this year. Everything is seeming to hit (at once),” she said. Casey added that many of the proposals have been years in the making, as lawmakers have repeatedly voiced frustration with the constraints of the laws.

Sen. Sylvia Allen, a Snowflake Republican and a former member of the Navajo County Board of Supervisors, said the current open meetings law hampered her ability to develop good policy. Allen is chief sponsor of a bill to allow public bodies to meet behind closed doors to discuss matters that currently must be aired in the open. Action such as votes would still have to be done in public.

“If I talked to one board member, and they turned around and he talked to another board member … we violated the open meeting law. So what happens is you just don’t talk,” she said. “And I think that in a way you’re hampering your ability to be a good public servant.”

Dan Barr, an attorney who directs the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, said the bill would “gut the open meetings law” and do just the opposite of leading to better government.

“The evidence is all to the contrary,” Barr said. “It will lead to less transparency, less accountability, and history shows us that leads to worse government. The facts are overwhelming that it would lead to worse government.”

Secrecy also is an issue within the Legislature itself. Majority House Republicans in January pushed through a rules change to loosen a House rule that generally required lawmakers’ political party caucus meetings be open to the public.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide