On a 39-17 vote the House approved a measure allowing businesses to shield certain information about their violations of health and environmental laws from those who might seek to sue them.
HB 2485 creates a special "privilege'' for health and safety reports and audits that companies do of their own products and practices. That means these reports can be kept confidential not only from those who file suit but also from government regulators.
Rep. Justin Pierce, R-Mesa, said the move actually will protect safety.
"Companies simply aren't going to engage in these sorts of audits,'' he said. "They're not going to do the right thing for fear of being punished for the good deed.''
But Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, said her constituents fear allowing firms to hide this kind of information.
"It is going to affect children, workers, business owners,'' she said. "It allows people to keep things secret.''
But Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, said the legislation, which now goes to the Senate, provides the privilege only if a company actually cleans up what it finds.