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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Thursday, February 6, 2014

AZ Legislature hits send on revenge porn bill

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 12:18 PM

A bill that would make revenge porn a felony in Arizona passed through the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The bill would prohibit people from sharing or publishing photographs and videotapes of people in the nude or engaged in sexual acts without the subject’s written consent.

Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-17) was inspired to propose the legislation after reading the news and seeing that California had taken up the issue in their legislature. He did a little digging and saw that while only New Jersey, California and Alaska have passed specific legislation, many states had taken up the cause.

“We’ve read these stories of people who have taken pictures and have posted them online. People have committed suicide, they’ve been just mortified,” Mesnard said.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Report: State Needs "Laser Focus" on Kids

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 5:30 PM

After its appointment on Dec. 2, Gov. Jan Brewer’s CARE Team released its first report detailing its progress over the last two months. Here are a few main takeaways:

— 6,554 cases had been designated as “not assigned.”

— 100 percent of those cases are now assigned to a caseworker; 60 percent of them are being actively worked.

— Workers have removed more than 400 children because of safety concerns.

— Cases designated as “not assigned” were a result of “systemic failure, a lack of accountability and transparency and bad decision-making.”

— The agency currently sees about 10,000 hours of new case work come in each week; the agency employs enough full-time employees to cover less than 8,000 hours of new case work per week.

— Team suggests the creation of an agency that is “laser-focused” on ensuring child safety, which would report directly to the governor.

— Suggests better coordination between the Office of Child welfare Investigations and law enforcement to improve the efficiency of the agency’s hotline, which currently abandons 26 percent of the calls it receives.

— Suggests the creation of a “rigorous inspections bureau” to maintain quality assurance.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Battling for Vocational Ed Bucks

Posted By on Mon, Feb 3, 2014 at 3:00 PM

A bill set to be heard by the House Education Committee today aims to return funding to Arizona’s Joint Technical Education Districts, which lost $30 million statewide in 2011, preventing freshmen from attending JTED classes.

District 9 Rep. Ethan Orr tells The Range he's sponsoring House Bill 2176 because JTEDs have had helped students develop solid job skills and finish school. JTED students, who can take courses that train them to be nurses, computer programmers, graphic designers, auto mechanics, plumbers and other trades, have a 90 percent graduation rate.

“I think technical and project-based education for some students is exactly what they need,” Orr said. “I’m a big believer in JTEDs.”

Tina Norton, JTED’s chief operating officer and assistant superintendent, echoed Orr’s sentiment, adding that it’s important to enroll students early in their high school careers, when students are more likely to drop out.

“Having that influence on them earlier to catch them is important because if we don’t have them into their sophomore year, many kids may have already dropped out, so we’ve lost the ability to impact those kids,” Norton said.

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Staff Pick

Frida: Portraits by Nickolas Muray

Tucson Botanical Gardens and Etherton Gallery are collaborating to bring the photography show Frida: Portraits by Nickolas… More

@ Tucson Botanical Gardens Oct. 10-May 31, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 2150 N. Alvernon Way.

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