A lawyer for the Arizona Republic blasted Republican lawmakers in Arizona as “petty and vindictive” after both state legislatures voted to exclude themselves from the state’s “open records” policy earlier this week.
David Bodney, who represented the Phoenix-based newspaper in open-records cases about the 2020 presidential election, told the Washington Post that the recent decision affected the party’s transparency.
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“I think it is petty, vindictive, and contrary to the plain interests of transparency and government accountability in Arizona,” Bodney said.
Republicans in the state Senate voted to exempt themselves from the open records policy and allowed themselves to delete emails after 90 days. Arizona House Republicans did the same but also added additional rules that allow them to immediately delete text messages on personal phones, even if the text is business related.
Prior to the vote, members of the state legislature were required to keep most of their correspondence and records indefinitely and produce copies of the items requested when asked. Republicans, who lead both chambers, were able to get the changes through without the approval of Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) because the chambers adopted the adjustments via rule changes.
Government watchdogs were also unhappy with the GOP’s way of changing things. Heather Sawyer, the executive director of American Oversight, claimed that if the new rules were in place during the 2020 presidential election, no one would have known much about the Maricopa County audit.
“This rule change only benefits lawmakers who want to hide the truth from the people they serve,” Sawyer told NBC News. “If this destruction rule had been in place in 2021 or 2022, the public would not have learned the whole truth about the partisan ‘audit’ of Maricopa County.”
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Other states also have excluded their state lawmakers from open records policies. Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts all have similar laws in place. Wisconsin has had a loophole that excludes state lawmakers from the policies since 1982, NBC News reported.