February ended with a burst of bad bills that make it more difficult to vote. The legislature also has passed a cluster of clunkers for classrooms.
The 2022 Legislative Session has been wild even by typical standards. I’m just now getting a chance to share my recap of February actions at the Legislature…that says a lot, doesn’t it? There were a slew of terrible bills in February, some of which failed and some of which we are still working to improve or fight altogether even though it’s inevitable some of them will pass thanks to a single-vote majority by Republicans. These bad bills mainly aim to do two things that are bad for Arizonans: 1. make voting more inconvenient and difficult and 2. to punish teachers, penalize our public schools and even make our students less safe on campus.
Your Right to Vote
I voted NO on six, count ‘em SIX, bad elections bills in February alone:
• HCR2015 would raise the minimum number of signatures Arizona citizens would have to collect to pass an initiative or referendum. This bill is simply punishment for the teachers, parents and retirees who have tried to fund public education and other social goods the last several years.
• HB2602 would eliminate Voting Centers which are an incredibly popular and convenient way to ensure all voters can cast a ballot, even if they are voting outside of their single designated spot on a single designated day. It creates unnecessary barriers to voting.
• HB2289 would force thousands of volunteers to babysit every single polling place in the state to observe the operations all day. This half-baked idea isn’t feasible or to anyone’s benefit.
• HB2617 creates new ways to cancel people’s voter registration. If this bill becomes law, some totally-legal and eligible Arizona voters will have to fight red tape to prove their right to vote.
• HB2710 would give public access to sensitive personal information about voters. It’s a big bill of many changes that were not vetted thoroughly.
• HB2379 You remember the fiascos that ensued around the Arizona Senate Republicans starting a re-count of 2020 ballots and hiring Cyber Ninjas - the fraud-ridden for-profit company that is now out of business after bringing national ridicule to our state? This bill would require legislators to choose “experts in electronic voting systems” to meddle in Arizona election processes.
I also got the pleasure of voting YES on one good bill that will fund efforts to protect and restore election integrity (HB2493).
I have always held teachers in the highest regard. Keeping the attention of 30 squirmy 12-year-olds has always been an admirable feat, but these days teaching has become one of the most complicated jobs with ever-increasing federal, state and local mandates, students and families dealing with intense social, emotional and financial stress, and the rising cost of housing that is forcing many teachers to take third jobs, quit the profession or move into shared homes just to keep a roof over their heads.
February saw two horrendous bills get passed and a third is stalled but not yet gone:
• HB2495 is book banning. To be clear: It is already a crime to show pornography to children and parents can already preview every book any public school offers or assigns. This bill bans “sexually explicit material” using a definition that would outlaw classics like Romeo and Juliet, Catcher in the Rye, A Wrinkle in Time, Hatchet, The Outsiders, Jane Eyre and many more timeless stories.
• HB2008 is Social Studies according to the Koch Brothers. I kid you not: this bill requires the State Board of Education to consult with two special departments at Arizona State University and University of Arizona that are funded by and beholden to the Koch Brothers in order to promote their political agenda, and this bill would force our K12 schools to do their bidding as well.
• HB2447 would allow guns on college campuses and open the door for too many weapons in an active shooter situation. The good news is that it was retained without a vote - so far.
One bright spot
HB2622 For people who had been foster children, they would be automatically renewed on AHCCCS (Medicaid health insurance) until age 26, or they have other insurance. This bill passed the House and is moving through the Senate.
I’ll be back in just a couple weeks with March’s wrap-up. With the deadline for committee hearings passed, the session now begins to narrow in on more controversial bills and the beginning stages of formulating the state budget. As always, I will be keeping you up to date on the most important happenings while fighting every day for great schools, quality jobs and fiscal responsibility!
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