In apparently unprecedented limit on media access, reporters were barred from the Arizona House floor as a security policy based on concerns for officials' safety.

A new rule would bar reporters who had been convicted of certain crimes and has caused concern about freedom of the press. Members of the Capitol press corps had been asked this week to authorize background checks of their criminal and driving histories and "other public records."

David Bodney, a media lawyer whose clients include The Republic, said the new policy was made available to him with only 24 hours notice. Many details should have been worked out before the current media badges were taken away, he said. And the state House has not demonstrated a need for the policy. "There has to be a rational basis for a new policy, and then the new policy should be narrowly tailored or at least fairly tailored to address that basis," Bodney said.

Bodney said he was representing The Republic, Arizona Capitol Times and The Associated Press in discussions with House leaders about the new policy.

"Can legally confidential information about reporters be seen by any members of the House?" Bodney said. "Can the information be used to smear reporters who are viewed unfavorably, perhaps for articles they've written about any particular member of the House?"

The Arizona Senate, a building with a similar architectural setup and public access just yards away from the House, had not adopted a similar policy, he said. Indeed, that body specifically welcomed reporters to its floor Thursday.

"It's telling, isn't it?" Bodney asked.


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