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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “State to make records, videos more accessible”

    PHOENIX – With the goal to make Arizona politics more accessible to the public, the state Legislature has added two features intended to give residents more oversight in state-related proceedings.

    Two new employees in the Arizona Ombudsman-Citizens’ Aide office will help residents gain access to public records, and an new function on the Legislature’s Web site will make video of floor and committee hearings available for 24 hours.

    Arizona residents have said repeatedly that access to data such as the video archive helps them make more informed decisions in elections and daily life, said Diane Brown, the executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit advocating a fair and democratic government, among other issues.

    “”The public has a right to a political system that is open and accessible to every Arizonan.””
    – Diane Brown,
    executive director, Arizona Public Interest Research Group

    “”The public has a right to a political system that is open and accessible to every Arizonan,”” Brown said. “”The Web site is an important tool to learn about issues and hold their elected officials accountable.””

    With the help of the two employees, who were hired in February, the Ombudsman office’s jurisdiction has grown to include county, city and town agencies, and school districts, said Patrick Shannahan, the Ombudsman-Citizens’ Aide.

    A bill signed into law last year allocated $185,000 to the office, allowing the staff to educate residents and public officials about access to public records and open meetings.

    Educational booklets and information on the Web site will lead the way, while the office staffers plan to tour the state later this year, speaking to community groups and at public meetings.

    “”We hope this will develop into a one-stop resource for people across the state who get the access to government records and open meetings,”” Shannahan said.

    The office also works on cases addressing individuals’ questions and concerns, he said, adding that all services are free.

    Legislature officials have been working for over a year to provide the video service, said Rep. Bob Robson, R-Chandler, the House speaker pro tempore, who also co-chairs the technology committee.

    While committee hearings could be viewed live before, they were not available after the hearing was done.

    “”This is a major, major enhancement to opening up government,”” Robson said.

    Both the Ombudsman’s office and the Legislature video archive help people gain insight in government proceedings so they can be more informed and make critical decisions, supporters say.

    “”One of the cornerstones in a strong, healthy democracy is confidence in our public officials,”” said Brown, speaking of both the video and Ombudsman office. “”Such confidence requires having governmental decisions open to public scrutiny.

    To view videos of state government hearings and floor sessions of the last 24 hours, visit www.azleg.gov. Contact the Arizona Ombudsman office at www.azleg.state.az.us/ombudsman/default.htm or via e-mail at ombuds@azoca.gov.

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