Legislation to increase Americans’ First Amendment rights at Arizona colleges and universities appears to be obtaining more bipartisan appeal as it moves towards the Governor’s Office.
On Monday, the Arizona House of Representatives passed SB 1013, which deals with free speech zones on state universities and colleges. The proposal, sponsored by Senator John Kavanaugh, “allows a person to engage in expressive activity in any area on a public university or community college campus where they are lawfully present, and modifies the state aid amounts from a community college district that exceeds its expenditure limitation in FY’s 2024 and 2025.” SB 1013 passed 57-1 (with one Democrat not voting and one seat vacant).
Kavanaugh’s bill first passed the Arizona Senate on February 28 with a 16-14 vote along party lines – after clearing the Education Committee with a 5-2 tally. When the legislation was transmitted to the House, it was assigned to the Education Committee as well, where it received a unanimous 8-0 approval (with two Democrats voting ‘present’).
The bill was amended twice – once in the Senate and another time in the House. The first amendment came from Senator Kavanaugh, specifying “that the authorization for a person to engage in expressive activity on a public university or community college campus in any area where the person is lawfully present does not prohibit a university or community college from regulating economic activity on the campus.” The House amendment, sponsored by Representative David Livingston, set “penalties for a community college district that exceeds its expenditure limitation;” and also limited “the maximum penalty that can be withheld from a provisional community college district established before December 31, 2015, located in a county with a population less than 300,000, which exceeds its expenditure limitation.”
Days after his bill passed the Arizona Senate, Kavanaugh recorded a video to explain his reasoning for introducing the legislation, saying, “If you’re on a college campus, and you have a legal right to be where you’re at – and you’re not blocking people and you’re not disrupting anything, then you can do and say whatever you want that’s legal. We’re going to restore the First Amendment to our universities. It’s long overdue.”
Since the House amended the Senate’s version of SB 1013, the Senate will have to concur with the changes in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, the bill was sent back to the Senate to await further action.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
Election integrity measures haven’t been a source of unity for all Arizona Republicans over the past two years, but one bill just introduced by a state senator may have brought the party somewhat closer together on one aspect of reform.
The one-page bill, SB 1471, was recently introduced by Senator John Kavanagh, dealing with ballot tabulation and hand count comparison. According to the legislation, which would only apply to Arizona counties with a population of more than two million persons, “the officer in charge of elections in (these counties) shall randomly select four election precincts in the county from the ballot test decks used for logic and accuracy testing for the 2022 general election and shall recount all races using one hundred of those ballots from each precinct.” There would be a hand count of these ballots that would coincide with the machine count.
The legislation requires a county recorder to “compare the tabulator total and the hand count,” and take additional steps to recheck the counts should there be a “difference in the totals that is greater than one-tenth of one percent.” The county recorder would then “estimate how many persons working sixteen hours a day would be required to hand county the entire number of ballots cast in the November 2022 election.” After the conclusion of this process, the county recorder would transmit the report to the governor, president of the Arizona Senate, and the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives.
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer released a statement this week that appeared to be in support of the legislation, saying, “Smart legislation is key to improving Arizona’s elections and voters’ trust. …This legislation will build confidence in our election system by showing that machine tabulation is highly accurate, free of bias and fast. Thanks to Senator Kavanagh for this good idea.”
It remains to be seen if Republicans at the Legislature will be appreciative of Recorder Richer’s statement on SB 1471. Maricopa County officials and members of the Arizona Legislature have not always seen eye-to-eye over election integrity since the 2020 presidential contest, and there are often competing interests or motivations even in a perceived daylight of agreement between two opposing factions. Some legislative Republicans may see this bill as an opportunity to validate hand counts, while other Republicans may view this legislation as an endorsement of machine counting.
This bill has not been assigned to a committee, nor does it have any cosponsors at the time of publication.
Should this legislation pass the Arizona Senate and House, it remains to be seen whether it would be signed into law by Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs, who has promised to use her veto stamp on bills she believes are partisan in nature.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.
On Friday, a group of Arizona legislators reached out to Governor Doug Ducey with an offer to work with him to address the “omnipresent border crisis.” In a letter to the governor, the legislators also inquire as to the level of funding provided to the Border Strike Force.
Led by Rep. Shawnna Bolick, the lawmakers advised the governor that they hope to work with him to “come up with a concrete plan to further allocate resources to complete portions of the Border wall and ensure Border Strike Force is fully funded.”
The lawmakers accuse the Biden Administration of not making “the public safety or health of Arizonans” a top priority, noting that it “took until today for Vice President Kamala Harris to see the invasion for herself in El Paso.”
“We applaud other governors answering your call for assistance to send some of their law enforcement as back up as the ongoing invasion continues along the southern Border,” write the lawmakers. “The problem is real. We wish you didn’t have to rely on other states to bail us out because the federal government has failed us, but illegal immigration affects every state.”
The lawmakers cite as a source of concern an incident that occurred earlier this year which was “highlighted in the local newspaper that the Department of Public Safety release two confessed human smuggler with just a traffic citation after stopping him along a valley freeway in April with a van full of illegal immigrants.”
“It was rather alarming to read that the illegal immigrants in the van were released into the Phoenix area even though it is a direct violation of state law to be in our state unlawfully. It is noted that the federal agents would not pick up this van full of illegal immigrants if they weren’t violent felons. If the Border Strike Force isn’t identifying traffickers along the southern Border and they are making their way into the Valley, is the Border Strike Force understaffed and underfunded?”
The lawmakers expressed a desire to “work together to further investigate why this human trafficker was let go.”
“We support trade relations with Mexico, but we do not want transnational crime rings bringing further ruin into our state. It is past time to plug the gaping holes on state land that buttress Mexico allowing traffickers to invade our state.”
The lawmakers argue that border security is a states’ rights issue.
Last week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas would build its border wall. Abbotts aid that the state will be soliciting donations from across the country to help fund the wall.
“When I do make the announcement later on this week, I will also be providing a link that you can click on and go to for everybody in the United States — really everybody in the entire world — who wants to help Texas build the border wall, there will be a place on there where they can contribute,” Abbott said on a podcast show called “Ruthless.”
As AZ Free News reported earlier this month, Ducey and Abbott urgently requested all U.S. governors to send available law enforcement resources to their states along the U.S.-Mexico border as illegal border crossings, apprehensions, and unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody increase.
The Customs and Border Protection apprehension numbers for May showed more than 180,000 illegal aliens were apprehended crossing the border over the course of the month, a 674% increase from the 23,237 illegal aliens apprehended at the border in May 2020.
In a joint letter from Ducey and Abbott, fellow governors were told: “In response to the ongoing surge of illegal border crossings, with the accompanying threats to private property and to the safety of our citizens, Governor Abbott has declared a disaster and Governor Ducey has declared an emergency.”
Bolick was joined in the letter by Reps. Becky Nutt, Tim Dunn, Walt Blackman, Brenda Barton, John Kavanaugh, Mark Finchem, Joseph Chaplik, Beverly Pingerelli, Leo Biasiucci, Judy Burgess, Frank Carroll, Quang Nguyen, John Fillmore, Jacqueline Parker, and Steve Kaiser.
Earlier today I wrote a letter to @dougducey addressing the #BorderCrisis & the need to work together to solve it. Many of my fellow legislators co-signed it. If the Fed’s aren’t going to finish building the wall, AZ should. ???? pic.twitter.com/DXbit71KP3