State Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton skipped out on the ethics committee hearing concerning her swiping and hiding state capitol Bibles. Stahl Hamilton stands accused of unethical conduct and undignified behavior.
The House Ethics Committee considered the allegations against Stahl Hamilton in a hearing on Thursday. Chairman Joseph Chaplik (R-LD03) revealed in a statement following the hearing that Stahl Hamilton neglected to provide notice to the committee that she wouldn’t be participating in her own ethics hearing.
“Today’s hearing was not a trial, but the Committee made every effort to provide Representative Stahl Hamilton the due process to which she is entitled as a member of the House,” stated Chaplik. “Unfortunately, because of her absence, and the limited information that could be provided by the counsel she sent to represent her, committee members and the public were left with a lot of unanswered questions.”
Amid the fallout concerning her actions, Stahl Hamilton deleted her Twitter account. Reports surfaced in April of Stahl Hamilton caught on security footage taking Bibles from the members lounge and hiding them.
Former state lawmakers Diego Rodriguez and Domingo DeGrazia served as attorneys for Stahl Hamilton during Thursday’s hearing. Rodriguez insisted that, for full context’s sake, the committee be shown the many hours of footage surrounding the incident. The committee rejected that request.
Rodriguez defended Stahl Hamilton’s actions as a valid advocacy for the separation of church and state, as well as a “prank” on fellow members. However, when pressed, neither Rodriguez or DeGrazia could elaborate how the presence of Bibles at the state capitol constituted a violation of the separation of church and state.
“Her intent was the peaceful protest of what she perceived to be for the separation of church and state,” stated Rodriguez. “What today boils down to is that certain folks are just not comfortable with the way certain things happened. And subsequent to that, they’re not comfortable with the way certain things were explained. And unfortunately that’s just part of life.”
State Rep. Travis Grantham (R-LD13), vice chair of the committee and speaker pro tempore, read aloud Stahl Hamilton’s written response to the ethics committee investigation. In her letter, Stahl Hamilton acknowledged that she should have engaged in a discussion about the separation of church and state rather than engaging in the behavior she had.
“I find it a little disingenuous to reference church and state. You’re talking about the separation of church and state, which says no coercion in religious matters, no expectation to support a religious document or religion against one’s will, in that religious liberty encompasses all religions. How is a Bible sitting on a table somehow a violation of church and state?” asked Grantham. “Did Mrs. Stahl Hamilton feel like she was being coerced to follow a certain religion?”
Neither Rodriguez or DeGrazia had an answer for Grantham. The vice chair also asked whether the state motto, “God enriches,” would be considered a violation of the separation of church and state. Rodriguez and DeGrazia smiled but didn’t answer directly.
“It’s not seemingly normal behavior, and there doesn’t seem to be a real good answer with regards to what was written here,” said Grantham.
The 2005 case Van Orden v. Perrydispelled the argument that Christian text on government property violates the separation between church and state. In the case, a citizen claimed that the Texas State Capitol grounds couldn’t contain a monument bearing the Bible’s Ten Commandments. The Supreme Court disagreed in a 5-4 decision.
State Rep. Gail Griffin (R-LD19) said she didn’t view Stahl Hamilton’s actions as a joke.
“I don’t understand why she’s so angry about a Holy Book that many of us feel very close [to] and rule our lives by,” said Griffin.
State Rep. Justin Heap (R-LD10) was one of the members who filed the complaint. Heap testified on Thursday, saying he became aware of Stahl Hamilton’s Bible swiping after it was reported on at the national level.
“What was particularly disturbing to me was not simply that these Bibles were removed, but the photos of where these Bibles were placed: both in a refrigerator and under the cushions of chairs of where I and other members and lobbyists sit,” said Heap. “Now I have to deal with the question of, if at some point while these Bibles were missing, was I sitting on my own sacred text? I don’t appreciate that to have happened. I feel that’s inappropriate for any member to do that to other members, it’s a desecration to their scripture and a disrespect to their beliefs.”
Rodriguez asserted that Heap didn’t personally observe the Bibles in any of the places where they were discovered.
State Rep. Jennifer Longdon (D-LD05) questioned whether Stahl Hamilton should be exonerated since she apologized following discovery of her actions. Heap responded that Stahl Hamilton’s apology didn’t absolve her of wrongdoing.
“The apology came only after her actions had been known; she was informed that this had been caught on video and that this became an issue of national concern. That does put a shadow over the sincerity of her apology,” said Heap. “That question is irrelevant to the question of whether her behavior was appropriate.”
Grantham pointed out that Stahl Hamilton’s apology wasn’t for the act of swiping and hiding the Bibles, but rather for the fact that some members felt offended by her actions.
“To my recollection, and correct me if I’m wrong: she didn’t apologize for the action. She apologized for the offense of anyone who thought that that action was inappropriate,” said Grantham. “I never remembered an actual apology for the action.”
COVID-19 brought with it unprecedented uses and abuses of emergency powers in every state, Arizona included. Businesses were arbitrarily shut down. Workers were told their jobs were nonessential. People were prevented from going to church, couldn’t visit their dying parents and grandparents in hospitals, and kids were put in masks and barred from their schools. Many questioned how these mandates were even constitutional. Lawsuits were filed, but executive emergency authorities were largely upheld – including in Arizona.
That’s why our lawmakers are currently considering a critical constitutional amendment sponsored by Representative Chaplik, HCR2039, to reign in these powers, provide proper legislative oversight, and ensure checks and balances to protect the rights of individuals…
Scottsdale will halve the number of lanes on a major roadway, a “road diet” that effectively burdens car travel. The changes will occur to 68th Street between Indian School Road and Thomas Road, and will reduce the two-lane roads on either side into single lanes.
According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), a “road diet” occurs when a four-lane undivided roadway becomes a two-lane undivided roadway, with the former road lanes converted into alternative transportation lanes: bike lanes or pedestrian refuge islands, for example.
DOT noted that road diets are typically implemented on roadways with current and future average daily traffic of 25,000 or less. According to the city data last updated in 2020, the average daily traffic counts for that area were 38,000 at the crossroads of 68th Street and Thomas Road, and 46,100 at 68th Street and Indian School Road. That number is undoubtedly higher now based on the latest population data.
According to census estimates, Scottsdale is growing at a rate of about one percent annually, and has grown by nearly three percent since the 2020 census. According to the U.S. Census annual state population estimates released last December, the state was the fifth-fastest growing state in the nation; Maricopa County leads in those gains.
The city approved the changes during its council meeting last week in a close vote, 4-3. The two lost lanes will be turned into bike lanes using a .2 percent transportation sales tax funding, costing just over $334,600. The city will also receive over $1.48 million in federal funding awarding environmentalist development: “Congestion Mitigation Air Quality” and “Transportation Alternatives” funds.
With federal and local funds combined, current funding sources for the project total $1.8 million. Proposed funding for the project total over $1.9 million.
Councilmember Barry Graham lamented his fellow council members’ decision.
“I tried to find a compromise that preserved the car lanes,” tweeted Graham. “Unfortunately, councilmembers made the issue about what they want—not what you want.”
Vice Mayor Kathy Littlefield and Councilmembers Betty Janik joined Graham in his “no” vote.
State Rep. Joseph Chaplik (R-LD03) criticized Scottsdale for adopting a “road diet.”
Chaplik also testified that he bore witness to similar initiatives taking place in Portland, Oregon, before that city “imploded.”
The reduction of car lanes to disincentivize car use echoes similar “Vision Zero” efforts — an attempt to eliminate all traffic fatalities by restructuring roads in ways that, ultimately, diminish the number of cars on the road. Vision Zero is a fiscally sponsored project of Community Initiatives, a grantmaking institution whose funding comes from a variety of left-leaning nonprofits such as the Grove Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the NoVo Foundation.
Scottsdale’s major neighbor, Phoenix, adopted a Vision Zero plan of their own.
Last September, the city of Phoenix decided to spend $10 million every year until they achieve zero traffic-related fatalities, as per their Vision Zero Road Safety Action Plan (RSAP).
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.
Katie Hobbs certainly seems to like power. That’s probably why she was so giddy with laughter and excitement during her swearing-in ceremony last month. Now, she’s gotten to work. And despite her claims that Republicans and Democrats will have an open door to her office to get to work on bipartisan compromise, her preferred method appears to be executive action.
In just over a month since beginning her reign as governor, Hobbs has already signed seven executive orders. And there’s no sign that she’ll stop there. Her first executive order, prohibiting gender identity discrimination in state employment and contracts, was particularly eye-opening. Consider it a small taste of the woke agenda Hobbs is looking to implement over the next four years. And while it’s good to see that groups like the Arizona Freedom Caucus are planning to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of such an order, it will take more than that to stop Hobbs from overstepping her authority…