By Daniel Stefanski |
Last week, Governor Katie Hobbs signed HB 2456 into law, continuing the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB) for four years.
In a letter to Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, Hobbs explained the reasons why she signed the bill from the Legislature, writing, “The Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB) is a cornerstone of the visually impaired and Deaf and hard of hearing communities in Arizona. For over 110 years, ASDB has moved forward with their mission of providing well-rounded, high-quality education to children who are blind, visually impaired, hard of hearing or deafblind from birth to grade 12.”
Hobbs, though, did not stop with this positive reinforcement of the bill, deciding to attack legislators over their deliberations. She stated, “The ASDB community was treated with a lack of respect and was not given equal access to participate in the legislative process. Parents, students, and teachers were made to worry about the continuing existence of their school while caught in the middle of political games being played by a fringe minority of the Legislature.”
The Democrat governor encouraged “the Legislature to reflect on the passage of HB 2456 and send (her) a bill next session that includes a full eight-year continuation.”
Republican legislators didn’t take kindly to the governor’s volley in their direction – especially Senator Jake Hoffman, who was one of the principals in shaping the proposal to ensure adequate oversight. He told AZ Free News, “Sadly, Katie Hobbs continues to engage in childish behavior and play petty partisan games in both her rhetoric and actions. Delivering the highest quality educational services to Arizona’s deaf and blind children is not only the right thing to do, it’s a constitutional obligation. Democrats’ exploitation of this important Arizona community in an attempt to score cheap political points is both despicable and highly offensive. Republicans are committed to providing the best education possible to every child, including the deaf and blind, and allowing for greater oversight furthers that mission.”
HB 2456 garnered significant bipartisan support on the floors of both legislative chambers; however, the process and debate was extremely partisan in nature – largely due to the number of years for the continuation. When the proposal was first put before the full House for a vote, it passed 60-0. The Senate then amended the bill and approved it 27-1, with two Democrats not voting. The House then concurred with the Senate’s changes, giving the final green light to transmit it to the Governor’s Office by a vote of 58-0, with one Democrat member not voting and one seat vacant.
Although most of their members voted to clear the bill from the chamber, the Arizona Senate Democrats Conference was furious after the vote, tweeting the following response to the Senate Republicans’ statement: “Try talking to the community before you speak on their behalf.
You know that the Conference Committee recommended 8yrs., the House passed 8yrs., the community asked for 8yrs. Senator Hoffman is dragging his caucus down with him.”
On April 14, the Senate Democrats also issued a series of tweets that blistered Republicans for “attacking the Arizona State School for the Deaf & the Blind.” The Democrats charged the Republicans were engaging in “discrimination,” writing, “This community has seen and dealt with this type of ableism and protectionism before. It was this type of thinking that allowed the disabled to be stripped of their autonomy and their fundamental rights in the past. Disability does not equate to incompetence and reviving this history of bias and prejudice is not only discriminatory, it’s dangerous and wrong. Republicans are performing a type of prejudicial bias that we cannot let go unchecked. Discrimination against the disabled should never go unchallenged.”
Of course, Senate and House Republicans would vehemently disagree with the framing from their colleagues on the other side of the aisle. During the legislative process, the Senate Republican Caucus shared a clip of Senator Jake Hoffman on the floor during the Committee of the Whole consideration of the bill, explaining “why an 8-10 year continuation of these schools without proper oversight would be a big mistake.” In his remarks, Hoffman said that “the Constitution gives us the authority and responsibility to provide educational services for deaf and blind children. Yet for some reason, we’ve been treating this incredibly important community within our state like we do the paper pushers at ADOA (Arizona Department of Administration)…. Our job, that the Constitution tasks us with, is to provide the best possible education to deaf and blind children in our state.” He championed the Legislature’s efforts to ensure oversight at ASDB and stewardship of taxpayer resources.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.