Wednesday, February 26, 2014

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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Monday, February 17, 2014

McCune Davis Fights Windmills on House Floor

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 4:11 PM

There was a small display of political resilience on the house floor today when the Committee of the Whole heard HB 2537.

The bill would allow pawnbrokers to charge five percent higher interest rates and would eliminate interest for military members who are deployed while forcing pawnbrokers to hold goods for 60 days after a military member returns from active duty service.

Two amendments were introduced, one by Rep. Sonny Borelli (R-Lake Havasu) and one by Rep. Debbie McCune Davis (D-Phoenix).

First, McCune Davis spoke out against Borelli’s amendment, which would change language from active duty service to deployed, saying that it would strip away protections from military families. His amendment passed anyways.

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The Week (at the Capitol) Feb. 10-14

Posted By on Mon, Feb 17, 2014 at 3:38 PM

On Monday, the House Committee on Education heard a bill that would fund ninth graders who were enrolled in a Joint Technical Education District. Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) is the primary sponsor; fellow Tucson Rep. Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) signed on with him.

JTEDs were created in 1990 so students could pursue vocational, technical and career-oriented classes that don’t typically require an advanced degree. The program, which is in place in 13 districts, has decreased the dropout rates in those districts. Orr said: “I believe the reason is because it’s a very effective teaching model for some students. You allow kids to do project-based education, to put their hands on the material, which is why they have such a high graduation rate.”

The bill passed through the committee 8-1. “I’d love to see JTEDs be able to go down to the middle schools and the junior highs. I think it’s the best dropout prevention program that we have,” said Rep. Doris Goodale (R-Kingman).


The Senate Committee of Judiciary considered the repeal of 2305, the omnibus elections bill that was pushed through the Legislature at the end of the session last year. The House version passed through the House Committee of the Judiciary last week and passed through the Committee of the Whole on Thursday. The debate in the Senate committee, similar to that in the House, divided along party line. Many speakers who came to oppose the bill. The bill passed along party lines 6-3.

Sen. Judy Burges (R-Sun City West) proposed a bill that would prohibit female genital mutilation. Twenty states have already passed laws against female genital mutilation and 12 have made it a felony to perform such mutilation on a minor. The bill passed 8-1 through the committee, with Senator Steve Gallardo as the only opponent. Federal law has banned female genital mutilation in the United States since 1996, as a crime punishable by five years in prison.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

The Week (At the Capitol) Feb. 3-7

Posted By on Fri, Feb 7, 2014 at 9:59 AM

The cluck of chickens and the howl of wolves:

The Committee of Government and Environment was a zoo of sorts on Monday. The Homegrown Freedom Act, a bill that would allow residents to raise fowl in their backyards, was brought to committee. … “Fowl” encompasses any bird that is raised for the purpose of consumption: chickens, quail, even geese could be raised in backyards, should it pass.

“There are many suburban families who would love to have their children have the opportunity to really find out where eggs come from and how animals really live in our society,” Sen. David Farnsworth (R-16) said.
The bill allows towns to prohibit male fowl, because they make more noise, and enables towns to limit the number of fowl that can be raised. “Many of us moved to the big city and lost the flavor of the hometown freedom that we once had,” said Farnsworth. …The bill passed unanimously.


Bills that would allow the Arizona Department of Agriculture and livestock operators to lawfully kill Mexican gray wolves that have been documented in the act of killing livestock; appropriations of $250,000 to the Department of Law in litigation expenses relating to the expansion of the Mexican wolf recovery program; and a resolution that would express the legislature’s support for focusing future introduction of the wolf in New Mexico and northern Mexico — all were heard in the Committee of Government and Environment.

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Staff Pick

PCC Theatre Arts - Popol Vuh: The Story of Seven Macaw

. November 9-19 in the Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre (Thu.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun.… More

@ Pima Community College Center for the Arts Thursdays, Sundays, 2-4 p.m. and Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30-9:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19 2202 W. Anklam Road.

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