Arizona GOP lawmakers vote to change rules on keeping emails, texts

The new policy calls for all emails, to and from House and Senate members, to be destroyed after 90 days. In addition, text messages can also be deleted.
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 7:51 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Arizona lawmakers are always talking about being open and honest, but a new rule passed by Republican lawmakers has public watchdog groups sounding the alarm. The new policy calls for all emails to and from House and Senate members to be destroyed after 90 days. It also allows for text messages to be deleted as soon as legislators receive them.

Gregg Leslie is the Executive Director of ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Leslie said the new policy raises concerns about transparency and public trust.” I think it has to send the wrong message that we just don’t want to be accountable to the public,” said Leslie. “We want to do our business in private, and the final results of our action is all the public needs to know.” Republican leaders insist the new policy strikes a balance between disclosure and privacy and was badly needed to replace their old retention policy for emails and texts.

Senate Speaker Pro Tem TJ Shope (R-Coolidge) said there are many ways for the public to oversee their actions. “At the end of the day the reality is what happens here on a daily basis is all done on camera,” said Shope. “We just finished a session that everybody could have watched on TV.”

Arizona currently has a public record law in place that requires communications to and from elected officials to be preserved and maintained. However, it doesn’t specifically provide a timeline, which could lead to the new rule on emails and texts being challenged in court. “You want to know who is influencing the legislature,” said Leslie. “Why they are making certain decisions. The same reason we have financial disclosure rules, there needs to be greater transparency.”