Arizona Internet-filtering bill clears Senate committee

Monday, March 29, 1999

A bill designed to prevent minors from accessing pornographic materials at public schools and libraries is headed to the Arizona Senate floor.

The Senate Family Services Committee sent the bill to the full Senate after passing it by a narrow 4-3 margin March 24. The House voted 42-16 in favor of the bill earlier this month.

The bill, introduced in the House in January, requires public schools either to equip their computers with filtering software or “purchase Internet connectivity from an Internet service provider that provides filter services to limit access to explicit sexual materials.”

The measure gives more flexibility to public libraries. The libraries must either install blocking software or “develop and implement by January 1, 2000, a policy that establishes measures to restrict minors from gaining computer access to explicit sexual materials.”

The bill would also insulate from liability all public schools and public libraries that comply with the bill's provisions.

Hadden Tucker, legislative liaison for the Center for Arizona Policy, a group that lobbied on behalf of the bill, said he is “not surprised at all” that the measure cleared the committee and is headed for the full Senate.

“There is nothing in this bill that requires libraries to use filtering software,” Tucker said. “All a library has to do to comply with this bill is protect minors from illegal materials.”

“There are no First Amendment free-speech problems because the material the bill addresses is not protected by the First Amendment,” he said.

However, some members of the state affiliate of the American Library Association believe that the measure infringes on local-level control. Sharon Pennington of the Arizona Library Association said: “The state should not dictate policies to individual libraries but should allow local communities and libraries to deal with the problems on their own.”

Tucker responded: “Those concerns (about lack of local control) are simply not relevant. Under this bill, each library gets to adopt and craft its own policy to prevent minors' access to illegal materials. If that's not local control, I don't know what is.”

The Senate has not set a date for a vote on the bill.