A new bill brought in the Arizona state legislature by Republican Senator Sylvia Allen of Snowflake would dramatically scale back government transparency. The bill would allow lawmakers to meet in secret before conducting public votes.
Under current legislative rules, all parts of the meeting process on bills is done in public. Allen says allowing legislators to meet in secret before voting would allow politicians to get more done. She has no problem with votes being conducted in public, but the debate process would no longer be transparent.
According to the Arizona Daily Sun, Republicans in the House already voted last week to allow closed-door caucus meetings. Allen says her bill is unrelated, if adjacent to that effort. The senate bill is co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group of 13 senators.
The language of the bill would effectively redefine what an executive session means to allow for secret meetings. Other amended definitions include “legal action,” “meeting,” and “public body” among others. In addition to allowing for secret meetings the definition changes would also impact Arizona’s existing public records statute in terms of what falls under those rules.
Other state governments have introduced measures to roll back transparency in recent months. Illinois is working through adjustments to its open records laws that would make it more difficult to request information and receive it in a timely manner.
The Republican led Wisconsin state legislature has also voted to limit the length of floor debates and allow members a broader exemption from the state’s open meetings rules to discuss the public’s business behind closed doors.