House Floor Ban For Reporters Still Stand Despite Democrats’ Appeals
Apr 12, 2016 05:33 AM EDT
Arizona House Democrats' efforts to give back reporters access to the chamber has failed despite several appeals.
Democrats sought new rules on Monday to allow access for reporters and another barring firearms from the floor to which the majority of Republicans disapproved. Because of this, journalists remain relegated to the gallary, according KTAR news.
Last week, Republican House Speaker David Gowan banned reporters to access the floor unless they agree to undergo extensive background check. However, different news groups refused to sign the waiver that they are willing to have the background check. The extensive background check includes not just the criminal history of the reporter but all driving records, public records and civil records will be checked as well. This rule denied traditional access to different news organizations such as Associated Press, Arizona Republic, Capitol Times and Capitol Media Services who were granted access for more than three decades already.
Rep. Bob Thorpe voiced out that this extensive background check is unnecessary although he claims that he supports some scrutiny of who has floor privileges. "I don't think we need to go through these folks' background with a fine-toothed combed, with a microscope," he said.
According to the state House, it is a matter of security. Gowan clarified that the new policy is not targeting the media but keeping the lawmakers safe and secured. However, some Democrats argued that while they understand the claims for safety, it was revealed that Gowan allowed lawmakers to carry weapons on the floor.
As per Rep. Lela Aston, who had legislative experience sinc 1977, she never felt at risk from the public. She also shared that she had survived high-tension incidents such as impeachment hearings in the 1980s which involved Gov. Evan Mecham. "I want to know how I'm going to ba safe on the floor," Alston said. She also said that she wants to have a list of people Gowan allowed to bring weapons on the floor. "I would like to know about that so I know, when in times of tension, who I need to stand away from," she added.
Another angle about the new regulation is that is has nothing to do with security but with the discomfort of what the reporters are writing about the lawmakers such as state-paid travels, according to Rep. Reginald Bolding. This is in reference to a story earlier written by Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Capitol Times pertaining to Gowan's travels at State's expense where Gowan had to pay the House over $12,000.
Ginger Lamb, the publisher of the paper, referred to the new policy as "peculiar". "The new protocol would have an adverse effect on a member of our reporting team that has written several stories that are critical of the speaker's leadership," Lamb said. "I would hope this is coincidence, but past experience leads me to believe otherwise," she added.
Gowan again reiterated that the extensive background check has nothing to do with any specific news group or reporter. The protesters' disturbance last week in the gallery is what led him to implement it.