PHOENIX — An Arizona House committee has approved a bill that would impose
new fees for access to public records.
The bill would allow public-records custodians to charge $20 an hour for labor
associated with retrieving public records. Opponents say it will kill access to
public records by imposing an unaffordable cost on both the public and media
organizations who use public records to investigate wrongdoing and hold
government officials accountable.
The House Committee on Appropriations approved the bill by a 7-2 vote on
Bill sponsor Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, says the bill will protect
cities and towns from excessive manpower costs that come with large and
He has repeatedly cited a Yuma man who he said constantly places unreasonable
requests as the inspiration behind the bill.
Stevens, who had a meeting to discuss the bill Tuesday, said he is trying to
protect cities and counties from burdensome requests that require hours in
House Bill 2419 would allow public-records custodians to charge only after the
first four hours of labor. State law currently allows the custodians to charge
only for the cost of printing public records.
Media organizations and attorneys oppose the fee as a restriction on
information the public already owns.
Attorney David Bodney said the bill would kill access to records. Retrieving
public records is a government function already paid for by taxpayers, he said.
“With all due respect, that’s a very important part of their jobs and a very
important part of what we pay for,” Bodney said.
The League of Arizona Cities and Towns says something must be done to handle
repeated requests from people who overwhelm public employees.
“We’re trying to be as effective with taxpayer dollars as we can be,” league
legislative director Rene Guillen Jr. said.