State Senate President Tim Bee told capitol reporters last week to vacate offices in the state senate building that they've worked in since the 1970s.
As first reported on Friday by the Arizona Republic's capitol reporter, Matthew Benson, Bee sent an eviction letter (reprinted below) to Howard Fischer, the capitol's one-man news wire service. Laura Devany, spokeswoman for the Republican senators, confirmed for New Times that the letter applies to all news media working in the building.
Devany says that Bee -- who made the decision on the lease -- has not yet told her the reason for moving the reporters. She says past regimes tried to move the media from the first-floor senate offices, ostensibly to free up space for senate business. Bee was unavailable for comment as of 2:30 p.m. If he calls back, New Times will update this blog with his response.
Devany also could not provide the cost of the media's senate office lease, or whether the senate would gain or lose money by taking over the space.
The media will move into the old legislative library office on the fourth floor of the old capitol building, above the museum. The library moved out a couple of months ago. It's a "bigger, nicer" space, Devany says. And Bee's letter states the new lease won't cost media organizations more money -- this year, anyway.
To the lefty blog Random Musings, the move looks like Republicans targeting the press, who are unlikely to be sympathetic to the new, more conservative state legislature put in place last month by voters.
Could be. The new office, if the media takes it, is a tiny walk away from the current office -- but it's far enough to affect the timing of today's 24/7 news cycle. While it's true the media takes up some primo real estate in the senate building, it's job of explaining the prolific and complex work of lawmakers to the public is an important one. Making the media's job harder, if that's what this does, won't serve the common good.
The full text of Bee's letter follows:
Dear Mr. Fischer:
This letter is to inform you that the Arizona state Senate will not be renewing the current lease ending December 31, 2008, for the media space within the Arizona Senate building.
Arrangements are being made for you to continue to lease space from the Arizona Legislative Council on the Capitol Complex in the old Capitol. The Legislative Council will be mailing out a new lease that is similar in all material respects with a few modifications.
The new lease amount is not anticipated to increase over the next lease term. If you choose to enter into a new lease with the Legislative Council, please respond as soon as possible so the space can be made ready for occupancy January 1, 2009.
Thank you for your consideration.
Timothy Bee, Arizona Senate President
-- Ray Stern