The Arizona Legislature is considering a pair of bills that would limit public access to government records and make it more difficult for individuals to recoup legal costs in battles with the government over those records.
Supporters said the intent is to protect crime victims and witnesses and to prevent individuals from using records requests to harass local governments.
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Unifying for Florence, a local advocacy group, filed a public records request for three years worth of emails between top officials in Florence Unified School District. The district responded, saying the information was available for a price: $42,202.50.
Using simple math, the district is saying Superintendent Amy Fuller exchanges an average of 118 pages of email with her assistant superintendents and board members each day, including weekends and holidays.
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For one state lawmaker, allowing political candidates to keep their home addresses out of the public record would help ensure their safety. For another, allowing former judges to keep their addresses and phone numbers out of public records would accomplish the same.
Three bills introduced so far during this legislative session would make what currently is public information private, including a measure that would keep the names of lottery winners secret for 90 days to give those people time to prepare for the world knowing.
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Joseph Wood has the right to know about the lethal-injection drugs that will be used if he is executed on Wednesday. He should also know about the training of the execution team and how the execution protocol was developed.
Withholding that information is not simply violating Wood's right to know. It is violating the rights of all of us.
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Your teenage son is walking through his Arizona neighborhood, on a sidewalk perhaps 50 feet from the fence that separates us from Mexico. He is visiting his brother at work. Some kids begin throwing rocks across the fence at Mexican border guards. Your son tries to evade the confrontation.
The Mexican border guards respond with gunfire, shooting through the fence to the U.S. side. Your son is killed, shot 10 times in the back and head. Everyone else runs safely away. Witnesses say your son was not involved.
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A proposal that would allow governments to charge a fee for time-intensive public records requests would restrict access to information and undermine open government, a media attorney told lawmakers Thursday.
"Bottom line is public records in Arizona belong to the people. They don't belong to government officials, they don't belong to government bureaucrats and they don't belong to public bodies," said Chris Moeser, who represented Phoenix Newspapers Inc. and KPNX-TV before the House Committee on Technology and Infrastructure.
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