PHOENIX – While Phoenix is home to nearly 300 days of bright sunshine a year, Secretary of State Ken Bennett and State Representative Kimberly Yee (District 10) are seeking to apply some of the state's abundant UV rays to Arizona's elected officials financial disclosure statements and lobbyist filings.
Currently, financial disclosure statements are only available by filling out a public records request and either purchasing a copy of the documents, or viewing them at the Secretary of State's office. Representative Yee's bill (HB 2033) introduced today, appropriates general fund resources to the Secretary of State for the development and maintenance of an electronic database where elected officials, companies and lobbyists will file their statements.
"Over and over we hear that 'sunshine is the best disinfectant,'" said Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. "Representative Yee's bill to develop a user-friendly and searchable electronic database of information is a great step to provide an additional level of transparency for the public."
"The electronic database will make it easier for the public to view the statements, and will feature the ability for citizens to better inform themselves on their elected representatives financial interests and lobbyist activities," said Representative Yee.
Every public officer, or candidates for statewide or legislative office must file a financial disclosure statement with the Secretary of State's office. Failure to file by the deadline can include civil penalties and if public officers or candidates are found to have knowingly filed an incomplete or false statement they may be found guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
"The Fiesta Bowl controversy brought to light a number of issues with the reporting system, including public access to the documents," continued Secretary Bennett. "In fact, our office began to post the financial disclosures on our website months ago. Representative Yee's bill will revamp the process to be more accountable to voters, and allows people to view the statements in a manner consistent with today's technologies."
"The public has a right to know who is influencing their government," said Yee. "This legislation will provide the public an opportunity to find out who is taking who to lunch, and how often, without burdensome red tape. Public disclosure of this important information will keep elected officials accountable, and we will be able to track how special interest groups spend their money."
The legislation builds on Secretary Bennett's and Representative Yee's reputation as advocates for open and responsive state government. In 2011, the Arizona Newspapers Association recognized those efforts to improve access and awarded them with the annual Freedom of Information Award.