PHOENIX — Winners of large Arizona lottery jackpots would have their names kept secret for three months to give them time to prepare for their newfound wealth and shield their financial affairs under a bill given initial approval by a Senate committee Monday.
The bill by Republican Sen. John Kavanagh is a watered-down version of a bill he pushed in 2013 when he was in the House that would have kept winners names secret forever. The bill failed in the Senate.
The state's largest newspaper, The Arizona Republic, objected to the original bill. The attorney for the Republic and Phoenix television station KPNX testified in 2013 that shielding winners' names would impair public accountability and the appearance of fairness by hindering the ability of the press and the public to monitor the Lottery's action.
Kavanagh's revised bill was still opposed Monday by KPNX's lawyer, although he said it was much better than the previous version.
"This is an infinitely better bill than the one in 2013," attorney Chris Moeser said.
Moeser said he hopes the bill will be amended to give winners 45 or 60 days to get their affairs in order. He noted that a winner already has 180 days to claim their prize, giving them plenty of time to prepare for their names to be made public.
Kavanagh first pushed the bill after a Phoenix-area man won half of a $587 million Powerball jackpot in late 2012. The man's name was released under state public records laws.
The bill, however, would still require the disclosure of a prizewinners' hometown and would allow the Arizona Lottery to publicly present a giant check to winners who agree.
"It occurred to me to put your name so quickly put out into the public really would subject you to a lot of problems," Kavanagh said. "The safety problems, like your kid being kidnapped or burglarizing your house when you're suddenly worth $10-, $20 million dollars, to the little things like suddenly everybody who's an investment adviser is hounding you."
The Senate Commerce Committee approved the bill on a 7-0 vote and it now goes to a full Senate after a routine vetting on constitutional issues.
The Arizona Lottery did not oppose the bill Monday.
The large majority of 44 states participating in Powerball require winners to be publicly identified and some require winners to appear at a press conference for a presentation.