May 17, 2024 6:17 pm

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Legislators Want the Option to Make Their Addresses Private

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by Caitlin Sievers, Arizona Mirror
May 3, 2023

A bill that would allow public officials to hide their addresses from constituents is on its way to the desk of Gov. Katie Hobbs after garnering bipartisan support in both the Arizona state House and Senate. 

Senate Bill 1061, sponsored by Republican Sen. T.J. Shope, of Coolidge, would allow elected officials and election officials to petition a court to restrict public access to records that contain personal information about them, including their home addresses. 

The Senate voted 26-3 on Wednesday to forward the bill to Hobbs, with three Republicans voting against the bill. 

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The Senate’s backing of SB1061 comes less than two weeks after Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers, of Flagstaff, filed a restraining order against Arizona Capitol Times reporter Camryn Sanchez after the journalist showed up at two of Rogers’ residences in the Valley. Highlighting one of the questions that some had about the bill, Sanchez visited Rogers’ homes in Chandler and Tempe as part of an investigation to determine if Rogers actually lives in the district she represents. 

A judge granted the restraining order, but the Capitol Times has vowed to fight it, with the next court date set for May 10. 

Sens. Shope and Republican J.D. Mesnard, of Chandler, both previously shared that they believe this bill is necessary to ensure the safety of legislators, other elected officials and their families. 

“People’s homes are protested on a regular basis,” Shope told the House Government Committee on March 13. 

Democratic Rep. Jennifer Longdon, a member of the Government Committee, said she supported the bill, but asked Shope how members of the public could ensure that their elected officials lived in the districts they represent if they don’t have access to that legislator’s address. 

Shope answered that the Secretary of State’s Office is technically in charge of ensuring that candidates live within their districts but that historically the office has left it up to members of the public to challenge a legislator’s residency within a district. 

Jen Marson, representing the Arizona Association of Counties, pointed out that the bill only allows officials to petition for restriction of their information from their voting record and any records maintained by the Arizona Department of Transportation, the county recorder, assessor and treasurer. The bill does not apply to information kept by the Secretary of State’s office. 

If signed into law, the measure would also make it a felony to disseminate personal information of a public official on the internet if sharing that information poses “an imminent and serious threat to the safety of the public official or election officer or the public official’s or election officer’s immediate family.”

Shope told the committee that, while the legislators knew when they ran for office that they might face harassment, their families did not sign up for the same sort of treatment. 

“I think there’s a genuine fear that at some point someone’s going to get hurt or may get killed out there,” Shope said.

Mesnard shared with his Senate colleagues on Feb. 28 that a year or two prior someone mistakenly vandalized his neighbor’s house, thinking that it was his home. 

Curse words, including an insult aimed at Mesnard, were painted across his neighbor’s garage and front windows, he said. 

“I gotta be honest with you, if we want people to serve in public office, you cannot have their families feel like they’re in danger,” Mesnard said. 

SB1061 received more dissent in the House, where it was approved April 4 by a vote of 43-12, with several Republicans voting against the bill. 

Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, told the House that day that he believed the bill should have gone before the House Elections Committee because of the impact it would have on elections. 

“This bill holds public officials to different standards and makes elections more opaque,” Kolodin said. 

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Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.