Pearce restricts news media's access to Senate floor - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Pearce restricts news media's access to Senate floor

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Posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 3:32 pm | Updated: 11:32 pm, Sat Mar 19, 2011.

Capitol reporters are losing their privilege of being able to go onto the Senate floor before or after session to chat with lawmakers.

Senate President Russell Pearce had staffers inform reporters of the new policy Tuesday afternoon. Pearce said he had complaints during a closed-door caucus earlier in the day that some senators felt "they could not have the privacy they needed to finish up work as we adjourn or recess'' when reporters approach them.

He said reporters now can go to a senator's desk only if invited.

Senate rules do restrict access to the floor at all times to lawmakers. But the rules also provide for a press gallery.

And, for at least three decades, the practice has been that reporters may go to members' desks before or after the session.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said the timing of this announcement is suspect

"It's only been since one of their (Republican) members, their majority leader, the No. 2 guy in leadership, is the topic of conversation, now it's a problem of having media on the floor of the Arizona State Senate,'' he said.

That person, Scott Bundgaard, R-Peoria, has found himself surrounded by reporters after the daily floor session after police investigated a fight he had with his now-former girlfriend in the median of a Phoenix freeway. Bundgaard, however, said he was not the one who insisted on closing off the floor to reporters before and after session.

Pearce said nothing keeps reporters from questioning legislators in the halls outside the Senate before or after the floor session.

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