Reporters that want to cover Arizona's state house need to agree to a very extensive background check.
Claiming it’s a matter of security, the state House on Thursday banned reporters from the floor who would not consent to the checks.
A number of Media organizations who routinely cover the Legislature were denied the traditional access after refusing to sign documents allowing House staff to check not just criminal history records but all civil records, driving records and other public records.
House leaders said similar documents would need to be signed by any other reporter coming to the Capitol for the day who also wanted floor privileges which have traditionally been granted for more than three decades.
Even Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, who said he supports some scrutiny of who has floor privileges, said that seemed unnecessary.
“I don’t think we need to go through these folks’ background with a fine-toothed comb, with a microscope,” he said.
But the policy went beyond the checks, listing specific criminal offenses that would automatically disqualify a reporter from having floor privileges, including misdemeanor offenses like trespass.
Speaker David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, said it was not targeting the media but about keeping lawmakers safe. He cited a disturbance last week, not at the press tables in the secure area of the House but in the public gallery.
But several Democrats openly scoffed about the claim of those concerns for their their safety, pointing out the recently revealed news that Gowan was allowing lawmakers to carry concealed weapons on the floor.
Rep. Lela Alston, whose legislative experience goes back to 1977, said she’s never felt at risk from the public. And Alston said she weathered some high-tension times such as the impeachment hearings in the 1980s against Gov. Evan Mecham.
Alston said her worries are a bit closer to her. “I want to know how I’m going to be safe on this floor,” she said. Alston said she wants a list of lawmakers who Gowan has allowed to be armed.
“I would like to know about that so I know, when in times of tension, who I need to stand away from,” she said.
H/T Az Capitol Times