Blogislature

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Week (At the Arizona Capitol) March 3-7

Posted By on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 11:26 AM

In the week after the drama over SB1062, the legislature turned back to the usual routine. The deadline to file bills has already passed, so now the committees in the House and Senate are in the process of going through the bills that have passed through the other. In that spirit the House has been spending long hours on the floor debating and voting on bills to get them over to the Senate.

But first the toy race cars. On Monday, all members of the House were greeted by toy race cars on their desks from Phoenix International Raceway … but that would only be a minor distraction from the long list of bills that were to be heard during the week by the Committee of the Whole….

A bill that would make it illegal for teens to use phones while driving passed through the committee without any debate. The bill makes says that that those with Class G licenses (the licenses given to teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 18) could be fined for using cellular devices while driving. However, the police would be unable to pull over someone suspected of using a cellphone unless they were violating another motor vehicle law. The bill is unlikely to make it through the Senate, however, because Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) has consistently let laws addressing texting while driving die.

A ballot measure that would put funded measures up for a vote every 8th year passed through the Committee of the Whole after some debate. Democrats feared that the bill was an attempt to discourage voters from approving funding-based measures. “If we think there are some voter-approved measures that are problematic and obviously, there are some, let’s refer those individual ones back to the voters.” Rep. Martin Quezada (D-Phoenix) said.

Majority Leader Chad Campbell agreed. “We can already do this. If the voters feel that something is not working they can send it to the ballot any time,” he said. “This is simply another, what I think, backdoor way to oppress voters.”

Republicans disagreed. They felt that asking voters to re-approve measures was reasonable because it would enable new voters to have a say on legislation. “The voters would have to pass this. That’s why it’s beyond me if we don’t even want to ask the voters,” Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) said. “I don’t see the harm in that.” If the bill passes through the Senate it will be on the ballot in November.

A bill increasing safety measures for trampoline courts passed through Committee of the Whole without debate. The bill was brought forward by the family of 30-year-old Ty Thomasson, who died after breaking his neck while jumping into a ball pit at a trampoline park. The tightened regulations would force the trampoline courts to have insurance, which would result in more frequent inspections and stricter safety standards. The bill passed through the House on Thursday.

A bill that would provide protections for companies that market outer-space flights against liability from passengers passed through the Committee of the Whole. The bill is an attempt to get companies promoting commercial space flights to move to Arizona and to help out World View Enterprises and Paragon Space Development, both of which are based in Tucson.

Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) sponsored the bill and he said that he feels that Arizona can become a major player in space activities with the help of this bill. It passed unanimously, without discussion. The bill passed through the House on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the House canceled all the committee meetings and went through a large thirdread calendar to address most of the bills from the Committee of the Whole that were heard last Thursday.

On the list was a bill that would make it legal for the Department of Health Services to do spot checks on abortion clinics. The abortion-clinic bill would allow for the Department of Health Services to randomly check abortion clinics without a warrant. To do an inspection, there would have to be reasonable cause, as determined by the director of the department.

Democrats pointed to the last time that a state law allowed unannounced checks, in 1999, when that law was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court. “We’re wasting money; we’re wasting time on an issue that was already decided,” said Rep. Stefanie Mach (D-Tucson). “This is something that we all need to accept, that it’s unconstitutional.” The Republicans disagreed because of new regulations on the abortion clinics that went into place in 2010.

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale) went on to argue that this bill should be a non-partisan issue about safety for women. “This is not a pro-life vs. pro-choice issue.” she said, “This is about the healthiness of a facility where a woman goes to get a procedure done. That is what this bill is about.”

The Republicans had the final say. The bill narrowly passed 34-22, with four people not voting.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More on Brewer's Veto of SB 1062

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 7:08 PM

PHOENIX-Governor Brewer vetoed SB1062 on Wednesday night.

In a press conference in the rotunda of the 9th floor of the Executive Building, the Governor explained her reasoning for vetoing the bill.

“Senate bill 1062 does not address a specific or present concern relating to religious liberties in Arizona,” Brewer said. “I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.”

The announcement was received by celebration on the Capitol lawn. Groups that had come to protest began chants of “Thank you Jan!”

Among the throngs of people with rainbow flags and signs that said “Arizona is open for everyone”, Democratic legislators joined in on the celebration and encouraged people to remember this bill in November.

“I think that Gov. Brewer realized that Arizona is just now coming out of a recession. Our economic development is just now coming back.” Sen. Lynne Pancrazi (D-Yuma)

The major reason Gov. Brewer cited for killing the bill was for the effect that it would have on Arizona’s economy. Sen. Pancrazi talked about how she was around when former Gov. Evan Mecham didn’t acknowledge Martin Luther King Day and during SB1070 and how this bill was similar to those discriminatory pieces of legislation.

“People of every background, every race, every socioeconomic level, were all coming to the state of Arizona and this bill, if it were to pass, would have just cut that off and stifled it completely,” Pancrazi said.

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SB1062 Explained

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 11:06 AM

There is a lot of information out there about SB1062, so let's try to break it down.

How this came to be: There's a group called the Center for Arizona Policy and they were scared of a case in New Mexico where a lesbian couple sued a photographer for not photographing their wedding (they were able to find a cheaper photographer in time to shoot their wedding, but still sued for discrimination and won the lawsuit). So this group proposed a bill and got Sen. Steve Yarbrough to sponsor SB 1062 in the Senate and Rep. Eddie Farnsworth to sponsor another version in the House.

Legal issues: The LGBT community is not a protected class in Arizona or the United States, but they are a protected class in some cities, like Phoenix and Tucson. So technically, if you're gay you could be denied service from a gas station in Casa Grande right now, even without this law because you're not protected. However, with this bill, state law trumps city law which could cause problems in Tucson and Phoenix.

How the Democrats see this bill: This is a discrimination bill. This bill was designed for the sole purpose of discriminating against the LGBT community. Even though there is no law protecting the LGBT community now, this will provide a safeguard years from now when there is a law protecting the LGBT community (Republicans can see the writing on the wall). Even if this bill doesn't defend people who are discriminating against gay people, it will give them a "legal" defense that can only be overturned in court. That means theoretically a businessman can turn a gay couple away and just take his chances on whether or not he will be taken to court. This will hurt business in Arizona. Just look at the companies that are calling for the Governor to veto the bill. If she signs this into law the economy will be significantly damaged because companies won’t want to move to Arizona’s hostile culture.

How the Republicans see it: This bill is being blown out of proportion. The LGBT community isn't protected, so this changes nothing for them. All it does is protect people's religious beliefs. People who are religious shouldn't be forced to violate their religion because the government says so. This bill also tightens up the language on the existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act from 1999 (similar to the federal one from 1993) and makes it so that there has to be a substantial burden on a person's religion in order for a business to turn them down. Their goal is so that it protects churches that don't want to marry gay couples or doctors that don't want to perform abortions. It's not intended to protect bigoted business owners that don't want gay people's money. The Democrat’s claims that people will be discriminated based on religion, race and sex are unfounded. All three of those classes are protected by federal law, which trumps state law.

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AZ House Approves Call for Constitutional Convention

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 10:18 AM

PHOENIX — Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) may have missed out on the first Constitutional Convention, but he doesn’t plan on missing a second one if it ever happens.

Thorpe is the sponsor of House Resolution 2017, a resolution that calls for Congress to call an Article V convention. The resolution barely passed through the House on Tuesday.

The recent Article V movement nationally centers around the clause in Article V of the U.S. Constitution saying that new amendments to the Constitution can occur if two-thirds of the state legislatures call on Congress to form a constitutional convention.

The push started in the tea party movement and has been picking up momentum lately since the publishing of a book called “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic,” by Mark R. Levin, a talk-radio host and commentator. Many conservative supporters of the convention initiative hope to limit the power of the federal government over states, but some liberals see that a constitutional convention could be useful to them as well. In such a convention, amendments (if ratified) would not require the approval of the president or the existing Congress. But opponents of the idea worry about a runaway convention could occur, where significant and impulsive changes to the Constitution, including weakening of the Bill of Rights, could occur.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Jon Stewart on the "No Cake for Gays" Bill

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 2:30 PM

Arizona once again makes The Daily Show as a punchline for a segment about how even Kansas rejected the anti-gay legislation that passed the AZ Legislature yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mother Jones looks at how similar bills are cropping up in state legislatures across America:

Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader "religious freedom" bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.

"This is a concerted campaign that the religious Right has been hinting at for a couple of years now," says Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promotes gay rights. "The fact that they're doing it Jim Crow-style is remarkable, considering the fact that one would think the GOP would like to be electable among people under 50 sometime in the near future."

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The Week (At the Arizona Capitol): Feb. 17-21

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 10:54 AM

On Monday, a bill that would permit the government to construct a “virtual fence” at the border between Arizona and Mexico passed through the Senate Government and Environment committee. The bill would provide $30 million out of the state general pay for the fence.

Sen. Bob Worsley (R-Mesa), the sponsor, said he doesn’t trust the federal government’s border efforts. Instead he talked to the chief executive of SpotterRF, a surveillance-technology company in Utah that has had some U.S. military contracts. “We can independently, as a state, then trust our federal government — but verify the claims that they are making to us,” Worsley said.

Not everybody was on board with Worsley’s message, though. Sen. Chester Crandell (R-Heber) said that he liked the idea if it was going to be used for law enforcement to cut down on border-related crimes such as trafficking in people and drugs, but he didn’t feel like that was the bill’s intent. “It seems that most of what you’re putting here is just to observe, to determine whether the federal government is actually telling the truth or not,” said Crandell. “I’m not sure it’s a good, wise use of money to tell the federal government ‘ha-ha we can see what you’re doing and we don’t agree with what you’re doing.’” … The bill passed 4-3 with the Republican majority in the committee, but it still has to get through Appropriations and Rules before it will be up for debate on the floor.

***

That same day, a bill sponsored by Sen. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) that would prevent the use of the Water Protection Fund to plant high-water-use trees, passed through committee. However, Sandy Barr, chapter director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter didn’t agree that this was the best way to conserve water.

“We have no issues with restricting the use of the fund to plant tamarisk or any non-native vegetation, because that is contrary to the intent of the fund,” Barr said. But she also said that restricting it so that no high-water-use trees could be planted would limit riparian restoration. “You couldn’t plant trees like cottonwoods and willows, for example, and in fact that’s the whole intent of the fund — to restore those areas,” Barr said.

Griffin was unimpressed: “They actually planted mesquites in an area where water was a question, so if we want to conserve water, then planting high-water-use vegetation in my opinion is not the best use of tax payers funds.” The bill passed 4-3 along party lines.

***

On Tuesday, the House Committee on Government heard a bill that would ensure that restrictions were not placed on ride-sharing vehicles, exempting airports from limiting the number of ride-sharing vehicles. … The bill was prompted the increasing popularity of ride share organizations like Uber, an app that connects passengers with local drivers.

John MacDonald representing Total Transit, the parent company of Discount Cab, spoke out in opposition. “It is about shifting liability to drivers and the public to give these companies a competitive advantage,” MacDonald said. “That’s why this bill exists. This is not about a unique business model as the proponents assert.” … Before voting yes, Rep. Warren Peterson (R-Gilbert) said: “To me the choice is crystal clear, are we going to get out of the way and allow success here or are we going to regulate this thing to screeching halt?” The bill passed unanimously.

***

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Andrew Sullivan on AZ's Latest Anti-Gay Legislation

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Andrew Sullivan weighs in on the anti-gay legislation nearing passage at the Arizona Legislature:

I know the danger to gay people remains great, and I don’t want to minimize the impact of living in a state where businesses of all kinds are empowered by law to put “No Gays Allowed” or “No Gays Served” in their best practices. But in America in the 21st Century, the movement that seeks to legislate outright discrimination against a tiny minority is doomed to bitter failure. It’s doomed because the principle of non-discrimination is now endemic in American culture — and among the younger generation the first article of their civil religion. Such a principle became embedded in the national identity in the Civil Rights era, where the evil of Jim Crow laws was exposed with fatal finality.

Now, the Christianist right is putting its full weight behind legal discrimination against any groups or individuals who might offend someone’s sincerely held religious conscience. Arizona’s Senate just passed a new bill expanding the concept of religious freedom from being the province of “religious assemblies and institutions” to a much broader category that includes “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.” So rights once accorded to purely religious institutions are now for anyone — any business, any teacher, any pharmacist, any florist, any hotel-owner and on and on.

I’ve had my say on this, but it’s worth reiterating that this bill has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. It is, rather, is an attack on Christian principles and a betrayal of the Gospels.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Senate Passes Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 6:08 PM

After shutting down 8 floor amendments from the Democrats, the Republicans passed SB 1062 through the Senate today.

The bill would provide protection for business owners if they refuse a customer because serving him or her would violate their religion.

Republicans insist that the bill is simply intended to protect the first amendment rights of Arizona citizens, but Democrats claim that the bill will just enable businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community.

“The one thing that no one can stand up and dispute is that fact that the heart of this bill would invite discrimination against gays and lesbians, bottom line.” Sen. Steve Gallardo (D-Phoenix) said.

The Democrats called for a head count when Gallardo’s amendment that would prevent discrimination against people for their gender, gender identity or sexual orientation was struck down verbally and lost 16-12.

Sen. Ed Ableser (D-Tempe) attempted a no holds barred attack to change the language of the bill—more as a way to point out the flaws in the language than to actually get anything passed.

The first of the 6 amendments he proposed attempted to change the definition of person to “A bipedal primate to which modern humans belong characterized by the brain capacity averaging 85 cubic inches and the dependency on language and the creations and use of complex tools” because he opposed Sen. Steve Yarbrough’s (R-Chandler) loose definition of “person” in the bill.

“I think we can all agree to that, that’s it not bricks and mortar that makes a person, it’s actually brain activity and opposable thumbs,” Ableser said.

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Staff Pick

Fanaux: Paintings by Hank Tusinski and Tim Mosman

Recent paintings and drawings by Mosman and Tusinski. Artist reception 5:30-7:30pm, Sept16 at Temple Gallery. Hours: 10-5,… More

@ Temple Gallery Fri., Sept. 16, 5:30-7:30 p.m. and Mondays-Fridays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31 Temple of Music and Art. 330 S. Scott Ave.

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