For a number of years, the Grand Canyon State has been home to some of the most pro-life and pro-family lawmakers, officials, and advocates in the nation, giving Arizona a superior reputation for protecting life and parental rights. Even with a drastic change in values from the state’s new governor, some legislators are still seeking to augment their state’s pro-life standing.
Senator Jake Hoffman introduced SB 1146, which “requires the State Board of Investment to identify U.S. companies that donate to or invest in organizations that promote, facilitate or advocate for abortions for minors or for the inclusion of, or the referral of students to, sexually explicit material in grades K-12,” according to the purpose of the bill provided by the Arizona Senate. Hoffman’s legislation would require “the State Treasurer to divest from the identified companies.”
SB 1146 has eleven co-sponsors: two in the Senate (Senators Anthony Kern and Justine Wadsack), and nine in the House (Representatives Joseph Chaplik, Justin Heap, Rachel Jones, Alex Kolodin, Cory McGarr, Barbara Parker, Jacqueline Parker, Beverly Pingerelli, and Austin Smith). Earlier this month, it passed out of the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by J.D. Mesnard, with a party-line 4-3 vote. Senators Mesnard, Steve Kaiser (Vice Chairman), Janae Shamp, and David Gowan voted to approve the bill; while Senators Lela Alston, Brian Fernandez and Mitzi Epstein voted to oppose.
In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News on why he sponsored this bill, Senator Jake Hoffman said, “There is no excuse for Arizona taxpayer resources being used to prop up woke corporate oligarchs that are funneling their profits into far-left extremists groups working to undermine our state’s pro-life and pro-family policies. We are in a war for the minds and souls of our future generations, and we should not sit idly by while the ruling class ‘elites’ force feed them a radical agenda that is antithetical to the values of the majority of Arizonans.”
Democrat Senator Mitzi Epstein strongly disagrees with this legislation, saying, “It would violate people’s First Amendments; their various rights to have an abortion, which is legal in Arizona or their various rights to learn about things from places that provide those materials. The Senate Democrat Caucus also warned about this bill before the Finance Committee took it under consideration this week, tweeting, “SB 1146 interjects politics into our money management where there is currently no problem. Further demonizing age-appropriate sex education and abortion care is not popular policy. We cannot afford more Republicans games.”
Should this bill pass both chambers of the Arizona Legislature, it would likely find an open door on the Ninth Floor for an expedient veto from Governor Hobbs, who made abortion rights one of the themes of her State of the State address to the Legislature in January.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
On Thursday, the Arizona House approved two separate bills cracking down on divisive and adult content in K-12 schools: a bill banning critical race theory from curriculum, HB2112, and a bill outlawing sexually-explicit materials from schools, HB2495. Both passed along party lines, 31-28.
Both bills received a similar partisan reception when passed by the House Education Committee: in their opposition of the bills, Democrats doubted their efficacy and necessity, whereas Republicans championed their cause and applauded them.
Introduced by State Representative Michelle Udall (R-Mesa), HB2112 bans teachings rooted in the traditional, original definition racism: that one race, ethnic group, or sex is superior to any other, and that an individual’s race, ethnicity, or sex predetermines their moral character and makes them inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive. The bill also rings of Biblical wisdom: similar to what Ezekiel 18 imparts, teachers also may not assign guilt or lay blame on any student for the actions and events of others who share the student’s race, ethnicity, or sex. Additionally, the bill would reject teachings that academic achievement, meritocracy, or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or sexist. Violations of this legislation could result in teachers facing penalties such as suspension or the loss of their teaching certificate, and school districts receiving up to $5,000 in fines per violation.
The legislature’s previous attempt to ban critical race theory was struck down in court last year because it was integrated in a bill that the judge ruled was a violation of the single subject requirement of the state constitution.
Udall explained that she received “countless” pleas from parents on the divisiveness and harms caused by critical race theory teachings in public K-12 schools at present. She cited several specific examples; for one, a Red Mountain High School teacher required students to study the critical race theory terms “intersectionality,” “anti-racist,” and “restorative justice,” then write a self-reflection paper about their privileges. Another example concerned an Arizona State University (ASU) teacher preparation program assigning a book called “Nurture Shock,” in which one chapter discussed “why white parents don’t talk about race.” Yet another example concerned a social studies teacher in Glendale who sent her colleagues materials to discuss race in class, focusing in part on how white people have a greater burden for being anti-racist, such as understanding their privilege.
“This categorization and scapegoating will not heal racial divides. Instead, it emphasizes ethnicity and gender as insurmountable barriers to peace,” said Udall.
Udall then described the gaslighting parents endured when they contended the presence of critical race theory in classrooms: how parents were told their experiences were a one-off incident and that critical race theory isn’t being taught in schools, despite the National Education Association (NEA) repeatedly advocating for the theory after issuing a resolution last summer that they would make concerted efforts to instill critical race theory teachings in classrooms.
“These concepts should be things we can all agree on: that all men are created equal, that hard work and persistence pay off, that students of all races are capable of being held to a high standard of academic excellence,” said Udall.
Democrats’ arguments against the bill alleged that it would get in the way of teaching history. However, the bill didn’t outlaw teachings of certain history, such as slavery or Jim Crow laws — rather, the bill focused on conclusions and statements of fact imparted by critical race theory teachings.
State Representative Judy Schweibert (D-Phoenix) argued that critical race theory teachings imparted lessons of honesty, integrity, and freedom to pursue dreams.
“When we teach history, it’s not about assigning guilt or blame. It’s about teaching young people to think deeply and critically themselves so we don’t repeat the same mistakes,” said Schweibert.
State Representative Richard Andrade (D-Glendale) insisted that critical race theory teachings were “the truth.” State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D-Ahwatukee) said that she agreed that “the sins of the father shouldn’t be visited on the children” and appreciated the intent of the bill, but feared that the bill’s wording would prevent teachers from placing any blame on anybody.
HB2495 bans the sexual explicitness of materials given to K-12 students. State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) introduced the bill. It would prohibit K-12 public schools from exposing or referring students to “sexually explicit material,” which was defined as depictions of sexual conduct such as masturbation, intercourse or physical contact with a person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, public area, buttocks, or a female’s breast; sexual excitement, meaning the sexual stimulation or arousal of human male or female genitals; and ultimate sexual acts, such as any form of or allusion to intercourse, fellatio, cunnilingus, bestiality, or sodomy.
The bill passed with Udall’s amendments to exempt classical literature, early American literature, and books required for a course awarding college credit, but only with written parental consent prior to exposure of each material. If parental consent can’t be obtained, the school must furnish the student with an alternative assignment without sexually explicit material.
“This is simply a practice that I believe a majority of Arizonans don’t want. I don’t believe that they want sexually-explicit material shown to their children,” said Hoffman.
In rebuttal, Democrats argued that there were already laws prohibiting inappropriate materials from being shown to children. They insisted that they were equally opposed to showing children pornography in schools.
Schweibert argued that parents didn’t have a right to determine what other people’s children were to learn — even in this case. She asserted that the legislature was “treading on dangerous territory” tantamount to instigating a book burning movement. Schweibert cited bans on historically revered books like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Of Mice and Men,” and the Bible; however, those were the doing of left-leaning groups, often with blessings from Democratic leaders.
Both bills now head to the Senate for consideration.
This week, the House Government Committee narrowly passed two bills to further secure elections. HB2236 would prohibit automatic voter registration, and HB2241 would require anyone dropping off an early ballot to either show their ID or sign that they have permission to do so for the individual who completed the ballot; it’s a class six felony if they refuse. State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) introduced both bills, securing passage along party lines, 7-6.
Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) insisted that the bills were “anti-voter.” Bolding is running for secretary of state; his major platform points include the fact that he’s running against former President Donald Trump’s pick for the position and that he’d be Arizona’s first black secretary of state, two qualities that bear striking similarities to President Joe Biden’s must-haves for his next Supreme Court pick.
House and Senate Republicans’ attempts to further secure elections over the past few years have caused controversy with left-leaning communities.
This week, over 200 “faith leaders” issued a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to relocate the next Super Bowl from Arizona over the state’s “disease of racism, and, particularly, its symptom of voter suppression.” They cited bills passed last year: SB1003, which requires voters to rectify their signature by 7 pm on election night; SB1485, which cleans up the early voters list; and SB1819, which formed a special committee on the election audit. That final bill, SB1819, was overturned by the Arizona Supreme Court due to violations of the state constitution’s single subject rule.
As another reason for moving the Super Bowl away from Arizona, the group cited Senator Krysten Sinema’s (D-AZ) opposition to the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. Sinema refused to support the legislation because doing so would have scrapped the filibuster. Unlike Sinema, Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) came out in support of ending the filibuster to pass the legislation to federalize elections.
Although the individuals signed onto the letter identified themselves as faith leaders, it is unclear whether they claim to be faith leaders in relation to the Christian Bible considering the nature of their doctrines.
If the NFL remains consistent with their decision-making, it’s unlikely that this latest letter will have any influence on Arizona hosting the next Superbowl. Last May, Bolding made the exact same demands of Goodell in a letter of his own, even hearkening back to the state’s historic refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which the NFL ignored.