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Reporters Back On State House Floor, But No Guarantee They Stay There

Reporters are back on the state House floor. But a move to ensure they're not removed again fell short.

On Tuesday, Speaker David Gowan suspended his five-day-old policy which said reporters would only be allowed on the floor if they consented to extensive background checks. House Democrats noted that Gowan had not actually revoked the policy. So they proposed a rule prohibiting Gowan or any future speaker from taking such unilateral action.

Rep. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, said it's important that reporters have direct access to lawmakers.

"Of course the press can do their job up in the gallery. But it's when we really have to answer the questions, is when they're an arm-length away. It is what holds us accountable to the citizens of Arizona," she argued.

Republicans voted as a block to preserve the speaker's right to banish the press from the floor. But Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, who could be the next speaker, said after the debate that doesn't mean they approve of what Gowan did in the name of House security.

"I was comfortable with the policy we had in place before. And I think many of my colleagues were. I think safety as a general matter is legitimate. If we were going to go down a road that impacts this place I would have preferred, and I've expressed this to leadership, a more public forum," he said.

And Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, said the actions of leadership tainted everyone in the House.

"We believe in the press. And that's what I'm talking about. I don't want to get tarred by 'We're anti-press or we're lawbreakers.' That's a bunch of crap. We're not," she said.

While access to the floor has been restored, the House will not reactivate electronic ID cards that allowed easier access to the halls that led to lawmakers' offices.