A state senate bill that would have allowed lawmakers expanded ability to meet in private, outside the public eye, did not receive a committee hearing. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’s uncertain whether the bill’s sponsors will try again.
SB 1435 would have allowed meetings of the legislature, county supervisors, school boards and city councils to be conducted behind closed doors unless a vote was being held.
According to the bill’s author, Republican Senator Sylvia Allen, Arizona’s current open meeting laws put up roadblocks in the legislative process, preventing frank discussions among lawmakers.
But Dan Barr, an attorney with the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona, says Allen’s bill would have gutted government accountability, because the public would be shut out of the debate.
“What the open meetings laws allow for is better government. It allows for the public to better participate in their government. Watching people taking a vote after all the discussion has taken place and they’ve reached a consensus is really a poor substitute for what the law currently allows,” Barr says.
Barr says Allen’s bill is concerning because it would have left the public out of controversial legislative discussions, citing immigration bill SB 1070 and last year’s so-called religious freedom bill, SB 1062.
“It just removes one more avenue for people to find out what’s going on — makes it more difficult,” Barr says.
In an email statement, Senator Allen gave no indication as to whether her bill would be reintroduced in the future.