PHOENIX - A Mesa Republican and Tempe Democrat were among a group of state lawmakers voting Wednesday to make it more difficult to find out where they live.
But they said that threats they face make the move necessary.
Without dissent, members of the Senate Government Committee approved a measure that would allow - but not require - all state and federal lawmakers and all statewide elected officials to ask a court to prohibit the general public from accessing their home address, home phone number, personal photograph or photos of their home or vehicle.
Once the request is made and approved, however, a judge would direct that all this information be excised from publicly available documents, ranging from voter files to records maintained by the county recorder, assessor and treasurer, as well as anything maintained by the state Department of Transportation.
Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who crafted SB 1061, said it’s one thing for those who seek public office to make themselves accessible to constituents. But Shope, who is married, said that changes everything.
"Your family didn't sign up for this,'' he said.
Shope said he has been the target of those in the Patriot Movement, with members of the right-wing group showing up, armed, outside his home.
Shope is not alone.
Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, said there was a "detailed, threatening letter'' left at his house.
He told colleagues that if he had found it, it would not have been a big deal.
"However, my wife found it,'' Farnsworth said. "And it caused a huge upheaval in our lives for a couple of weeks.''
Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, agreed to support the measure.
"I definitely don't want to see anybody getting hurt,'' he said.
"I definitely get these threats all the time, too,'' Mendez continued, saying he and his wife, state Rep. Athena Salman have had to install a security system and cameras.
"It's a little peace of mind, but it still doesn't make things any easier.''
But Mendez said lawmakers and elected officials need to look inward to determine how things got this bad in the first place. And that includes the rhetoric that sometimes comes at the Capitol.
"We have to make sure we are doing our responsibility to make sure we are not lathering up our constituents into a frenzy,'' he said.
"We have to remember that people act on our words,'' Mendez continued. "And this is not happening in a bubble.''
Nothing in SB 1061 would prevent someone from using other sources to find -- and even publish -- this information.
"I know that with the internet everything is routinely available,'' Shope said.
"But should it just be so available that all you have to do is a cursory Google search and, boom, there it is,'' he told colleagues."I think we would all agree it should be a little bit more difficult than that.''
There are some flaws in the current version of the bill.
One goes to the fact that legislative candidates have to live in the district they seek to represent.
Under current law, a candidate's claim of residency is accepted as fact by the Secretary of State's Office. It is up to political foes to mount a legal challenge.
Shope conceded that becomes difficult, if not impossible, if the candidate's claimed address is not public.
He proposes to amend the measure when it goes to the full Senate to require employees at the Secretary of State's Office -- the people who actually have what a candidate says is his or her address to actually verify that. Shope acknowledged that will come at a cost.
He also said the law does not take into consideration ranchers whose business address -- which the legislation does not shield -- also is a home address. Shope said he is unsure how to deal with that.
And then there's the problem caused by the fact that Shope is piggy-backing his protections for elected officials on an an existing law about confidential addresses for judges, police officers, prosecutors, child protective services workers and others as the model.
That law predates -- and makes no mention -- of cell phones. In fact, it actually lists "pager numbers'' among the items that can be kept confidential.
And there's something else.
SB 1061 does not extend to local elected officials, even as there have been threats against some county supervisors and others following the 2022 election. Shope said he is weighing whether to alter the measure to extend the same protections to them.