Arizona’s House of Representatives says only reporters who agree to an extensive background check will be allowed to report from the floor.
House Speaker David Gowan, (R) said the policy is about keeping lawmakers safe and not about targeting the media.
Several media organizations who routinely cover the Legislature, including the Associated Press, the Arizona Republic, the Capitol Times and Capitol Media Services 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.
The Capitol Times reports that Gowan argues “the policy covers all ‘non-employees’ who have access through key cards to the House floor ‘so that we know who people are, come in, so that our members are protected.'”
“I don’t understand the crisis here,” he said.
“Non-employee badge holders are generally if not exclusively law enforcement officers and reporters,” said House Counsel Robert Ellman.
Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, suggested that the new regulations have less to do with security than with the discomfort of some lawmakers with what reporters have been writing. And that, he said, includes reports on state-paid travel.
That is a reference to an extensive story earlier this year by Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Capitol Times about Gowan’s travels at state expense, much of it in the congressional district where he wants to get elected.
Gowan eventually had to repay the House more than $12,000.