By Terri Jo Neff
Votes by State Senators on three bills Thursday may have been overshadowed by the struggle to get budget legislation passed, but some legislators say the importance of those votes should not be ignored.
After its passage Thursday in the Senate, SB1074 was sent to Gov. Doug Ducey. The bill introduced by Sen. David Livingston (R-LD22) prohibits the state, as well as any state agency, city, town, county, or other political subdivision of Arizona from using public monies for and requiring an employee to engage in orientation, training, or therapy premised on any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex.
The 16 to 14 vote banning what is commonly called Critical Race Theory training from government workplaces is something Sam Stone, chief of staff for Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, applauds the Legislature for, as it stops what he calls “hate” in its tracks.
“A lot of people who aren’t familiar with it confuse Critical Race Theory with the racial sensitivity training they may have had in the past. Critical Race Theory is not that,” Stone told AZ Free News. “It is a pernicious, racist ideology that seeks to rewrite history, and asserts that every single white person is, by definition, a racist and every person of color a victim.. No one should ever be told who or what they are based on the color of their skin.”
But there is much more to SB1074 than the training prohibition.
If Ducey signs the bill, it will usher in a major change to how cities, towns, counties, and community college districts approve the financial statements related to statutorily-required audits. The approval is often conducted under the radar by a city or town council, county board of supervisors, and college board of directors through the consent agenda of a meeting.
No discussion is allowed of items on a consent agendas, leaving the public with little awareness of any problems identified during an audit. But under Livingston’s bill, Arizona’s cities, towns, counties, and community college districts would be prohibited from shielding a negative audit through a consent agenda vote.
SB1074 also requires the governing body to have the CPA or auditor who performed the audit or prepared the financial statements to make a public presentation of the results. And it must be conducted during a regular meeting of the public body which has been properly noticed.
Another bill headed to Ducey is HB2792 introduced by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-LD12) to make it a felony for a county recorder or other election official to knowingly mail out an early ballot to a voter who has not requested the ballot. The bill is one of several put forth by Republicans in connection to election reforms, and it passed the Senate on a party line vote of 16 to 14.
One bill that did not make it to Ducey after Thursday’s vote is SB1532, which seeks to prohibit blame or judgment tenets or lesson plans, such as Critical Race Theory, from public schools. It also set rules for how educators can teach controversial topics, and includes a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per incident against a teacher who violates those mandates.
SB1532 has been the focus of many passioned comments from legislators since being introduced by Livingston several weeks ago. It passed the House earlier this month on a 31 to 29 party line vote, and would have needed the support of all 16 Republican Senators on Thursday to pass.
But it was the bill’s provision allowing prosecutors from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office or a local county attorney’s office to sit in classrooms to investigate a teacher’s conduct which led to Sen. Paul Boyer (R-LD20) voting no.
“I’ve been struggling with this bill,” said Boyer, a junior high school teacher, in explaining his vote.
The bill would have died on a 15 to 15 vote, but Livingston utilized a procedural maneuver to change his yes vote to a no vote on his own bill. The resultant 14 to 16 vote ensures Livingston has a chance to work on a possible amendment which would garner Boyer’s support on a reconsideration vote.