The Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature passed a extent this week waiving the state’s public records law and authorizing the destruction of all email sent or received by legislators and their staff after 90 days.

He new rules adopted by both GOP-led chambers effectively shield members and their staff from public records requests, making investigations into any potential wrongdoing that much more difficult.

Exemptions from public records laws and the ability to destroy email after 90 days apply to both chambers. However, the state House also adopted new rules that allow its members and staff to immediately delete all text messages sent and received, as well as calendars and «communications on online platforms.» The new Senate rules protect texts related to official government business from public records laws if they were sent or received on non-government devices.

The state’s public records law requires «all public officials and agencies» to maintain records and correspondence «reasonably necessary or appropriate to maintain an accurate knowledge of their official activities and of any of their activities that are supported by monies of this state.» indefinitely and to comply, with some exceptions, with public records requests immediately after they are filed.

Democrats and government watchdog groups criticized the new rules as an abuse of power, while Republicans who voted for the changes say they are intended to protect lawmakers’ privacy.

Other rule changes adopted by the Republican majority in the state House this week include new limits on debating proposed legislation, limiting such discussions to just 30 minutes, a move that state House Democrats said removed one of the few tools that possesses the minority party to examine or delay bills that the majority is promoting.

Because the chambers adopted the changes through rule changes, not legislation, Republicans were able to bypass the need for Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’ signature for them to take effect. All rule changes were adopted in both chambers along party lines.

Government watchdog groups criticized the public records exemptions, noting that such measures, had they been in place two years earlier, likely would have nullified efforts to reveal the extent to which allies of former President Donald Trump sought to overturn the election result. 2020. election in the state.

“This rule change only benefits lawmakers who want to hide the truth from the people they serve,” said Heather Sawyer, executive director of American Oversight.

“If this destruction rule had been in place in 2021 or 2022, the public would not have learned the full truth about the partisan.”audit‘ Maricopa County,” he added.

American Oversight and the media, including The Washington Post, used Arizona’s public records law to obtain correspondence between Republican lawmakers and other Republicans: including Ginni Thomasthe wife of Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who helped reveal efforts nullify the 2020 election in the state.

Democrats in the state also criticized the new rules.

“Saying the law doesn’t apply to us is a terrible message to send to the public,” Arizona House Minority Leader Andrés Cano said Tuesday in a speech from the chamber floor.

“Arizonians want a government that is open and transparent. This is not. Unfortunately, these rule changes are an ongoing pattern of disrespect, obstruction, and dysfunction that we have experienced since we began,” she added.

Attorney General Kris Mayes said in a statement to NBC News that she had «deep concerns» about the new rules and would «review any retention policies» implemented by her Republican predecessor.

It is not uncommon for legislatures to have the ability to protect themselves from public records laws. State legislators in Wisconsin have enjoyment the benefits of such escape since 1982, when the state’s open records laws created a exemption specifically for them.

Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma Y Massachusetts they also have laws in place that effectively exempt state legislators from public records requests, according to MuckRock, a records request nonprofit, though it remains extremely common for legislators in states where such exemptions do not exist explicitly for avoid complying with public records laws.