Legislators Approve Controversial Measure Exempting Them from Public Records Laws

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Public records requests and laws forcing legislators and their staffs to preserve email documentation are backbones to many investigations into possible corruption or wrongdoing by elected officials, however, rule changes in the Arizona legislature are now exempting lawmakers in the state from these public records laws, and allowing them to delete emails after 90 days.

Both bodies of the Arizona state legislature passed new measures this week that would allow them to be exempted from public records laws, circumventing state law that requires "all officers and public bodies" to retain official records that are “reasonably necessary or appropriate to maintain an accurate knowledge of their official activities and of any of their activities that are supported by monies from this state." They are also required to comply, with some exceptions, with public records requests.

However, with the new rules passed by the Arizona Senate and House, both chambers are exempting themselves from having to comply, with the bodies removing the requirement to respond to public records requests and also giving themselves the ability to delete emails after 90 days.

The House went one step further, also allowing their members to immediately delete all texts sent and received, as well as calendars and “communications on online platforms,” according to NBC News.

Arizona Democrats and watchdogs have attacked the new rules, which were done in lieu of an introduced bill in order to avoid a possible veto from Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs.

“Saying the law doesn’t apply to us is a terrible message to send to the public,” Arizona House Minority Leader Andres Cano said in a speech Tuesday.

“Arizonans want a government that’s open and transparent. This is not it. Sadly, these rule changes are a continued pattern of disrespect, obstruction and dysfunction we have experienced since we gaveled in,” he added. 

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