During pro-abortionists’ attempted insurrection of the Arizona State Capitol on Friday, several Republican senators took up arms to defend their legislature. The Arizona Department of Public Safety (ADPS) noted that there were between 7,000 and 8,000 protesters at the Arizona State Capitol Complex on Friday.
In an interview with “Conservative Circus” host James T. Harris, State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) recounted how the senate was in the middle of approving universal school choice when pro-abortion protestors attempted to breach the Arizona Capitol. Townsend said that she and three other legislators retrieved their firearms to help secure the building.
“We got word that there was trouble in paradise, that people were trying to break into the capitol. We knew they were out there, but then they started trying to break into the doors,” said Townsend. “It was just surreal. It wasn’t traumatizing, it wasn’t dramatic. It was just, ‘This is really happening in our capitol.’ It was something that I will never, ever forget.”
Townsend also described the wide range of fellow members’ reactions to the insurrection threat: from those assuming leadership roles to those cowering and experiencing meltdowns. The legislator shared that she encouraged fearful members to take heart, sharing confidence in their safety due to being armed against the rioters.
“That’s the difference between AOC and us — when you’re armed, you are empowered to take care of yourself. You’re not traumatized. You are there to hold down the fort, right?” said Townsend.
The senator recounted that the only individuals traumatized by the event, by her observation, were the two children of a fellow, unnamed senator.
“When you saw who was out there, it was these petulant little 20-year-old girls. There was definitely some Antifa, and that was what caused DPS to act, but mostly it was just girls banging on the window and then coming out with their spray paint and then destroying these monuments with their graffiti — not destroying them but, you know, getting them messy,” said Townsend.
AZDPS reported that rioters committed “felony criminal damage” to the capitol. In their attempts to address the chaos brewing amid trespass and unlawful assembly, AZDPS explained in a press release that they resorted to deploying gas to clear the plaza. In response to criticism of their tactics with children present, AZDPS countered that it was unwise for individuals to bring children to such a protest.
“What began as a peaceful protest evolved into anarchical and criminal actions by masses of splinter groups. As groups realized the state legislature was in session, they attempted to breach the doors of the Arizona Senate and force their way into the building. The violence of their efforts literally shook the building and terrified citizens and lawmakers who occupied the building. As the glass doors bowed from attempts of forced entry, the occupants of the building were instructed to move to secure locations,” reported AZDPS.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich denounced the rioters’ attempts to undermine law and order.
Despite the antics of the weekend, Townsend said that she and other legislators showed up early to the capitol to clean up the aftermath of the pro-abortionists. She observed that some Gold Star mothers were outraged by the defacement of the Enduring Freedom Memorial. The rioters wrote “ABORT THE COURT” and “F**K SCOTUS” across multiple memorials.
“If you could put yourself in their shoes and your son’s name is on there, and these petulant children come and spray paint it because they’re not able to take their child’s life?” remarked Townsend.
On Wednesday, the State Senate approved legislation lowering the percentage of assessed valuation for commercial property to 15 percent. SB1093 would reduce the property assessment ratio gradually over the next five years.
According to the bill sponsor in a press release, State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), explained that the aim was to ensure that Arizonans have more money to spend and, ultimately, invest back into the economy.
“Property taxes are a critical issue to all businesses, but especially for our smaller establishments. This bill will provide broad relief to our job creators,” said Mesnard. “Reducing the tax burden allows our small businesses to invest more money in their workforce and in expanding operations.”
The bill passed along party lines in both the House and Senate.
SB1093 would impact class one property: commercial and industrial properties that include those for mining, telecommunication companies, utilities, standing timber, airport fuel delivery, oil and gas production, pipelines, shopping centers, golf courses, and property devoted to any commercial or industrial use. Additionally, SB1093 prohibits fire district tax from increasing beyond $3.75 per $100 of assessed valuation.
State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) commended Mesnard for the bill.
Legislature Democrats disliked that funds accrued from those property taxes would no longer be available, arguing that the state would turn elsewhere for the lost funds: homeowners, sales taxes, and the general fund.
State Senator Lela Alston (D-Phoenix) insisted during the Senate floor vote that the legislation would result in a tax increase on homeowners down the road.
State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D-Chandler) offered similar sentiments last month during the House floor vote. She added that the fund was a slippery slope mindset that would ultimately lead to steep cutoffs of education funding. State Representative Pamela Powers Hannley (D-Tucson) argued that the bill was based on trickle-down economics that she said only made the rich richer and the poor poorer.
“This bill picks winners and losers with the regular folks being losers in the state of Arizona,” said Powers Hannley.
State Representative Kelli Butler (D-Phoenix) added that the bill would result in county deficits that must either be mitigated or result in cuts. Butler said that the deficit would hurt rural areas the most.
“If you want to continue to fund law enforcement, like I do, if you want to continue to fund really important things in your counties and rural Arizona, you need to vote against this bill,” said Butler.
State Representative Neal Carter (R-Queen Creek) rebutted the arguments put forth by his Democratic colleagues. He insinuated that their calculations were simplistic and neglecting the potential for exponential and possibly unprecedented growth inspired by low tax rates.
“In reality, the loss is less than it may appear by simply subtracting the revenue that’s brought in,” said Carter.
State Representative Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix) noted that the assessment ratio is applied across the state equally and would eventually make Arizona more competitive with Texas, Colorado, and Utah.
SB1093 now heads to Governor Doug Ducey for approval.
Dawn Penich-Thacker, cofounder of the largest teachers’ union in Arizona, Save Our Schools (SOSAZ), said that parents were “drama queens” for demanding more curriculum transparency.
The Arizona legislature is considering several bills to expand K-12 curriculum transparency currently. One of the most all-encompassing bills, SB1211, would require schools to publish a list of all its curriculum as well as teacher training materials and activities, on its website. Penich-Thacker scoffed that the bills would be mandating practices that already take place.
In a statement to the Arizona Daily Independent, State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) expressed disappointment that teachers’ unions would oppose the legislation.
“God forbid that legislators codify policy to protect children from the grooming and pre-sexualization that has found its way into curriculum more than once,” said Townsend. “The job of the legislature is to protect the public, and if there were no violations then we would not have to act.”
During a committee hearing on the bill last month, two House Democrats argued that schools shouldn’t have to adhere to further transparency and scrutiny. Instead, State Representatives Judy Schwiebert (D-Phoenix) and Jennifer Longdon (D-Phoenix) opined that parents should switch schools. The pair cited Arizona’s school choice system as the solution for a school’s lack of transparency.
SOSAZ celebrated the delay of legislation like the curriculum transparency bills, which they called “education attack bills.”
Another bill enforcing curriculum transparency, HB2161, was scheduled to be voted onby the State Senate on Monday, though no final vote took place. It empowers parents to sue school districts and officials for denying access to records or intervening in their right to raise, educate, and care for their children. The sponsor, State Representative Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), explained that the bill’s intent was to ensure that parents had a mode of relief if their rights were violated.
Opposition to the bill came largely from LGBTQ activists such as a transgender school board member, Paul Bixler, and a former teacher and Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) Phoenix co-chair, Caryn Bird.
Democrats also opposed the bill, with some arguing that parents needed to do better — not the schools. State Representative Daniel Hernandez (D-Tucson) argued in a January committee hearing that parents weren’t as involved in their child’s education as they ought to be.
A state senator has introduced a bill to prohibit public school districts from using taxpayer dollars to pay for membership in a state or national school board association.
Current state law allows a school district governing board to budget and spend funds for membership in an association of school districts within Arizona. But a school district board is not permitted to spend taxpayers’ dollars to join an association which attempts to influence the outcome of an election.
“The Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA) has a consistent pattern of lobbying with a clear bias,” Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16) said Tuesday. “This constitutes political activity and is often against the very taxpayers that funded them.”
ASBA “should be serving the parents, and not working hard against them,” Townsend added.
As a result, Townsend is sponsoring Senate Bill 1011, which would still allow a school district to join ASBA or another state association, as long as the membership dues are not paid by taxpayer funds. That leaves ASBA the option, Townsend suggested, of pursuing 501(c)(4) tax exempt status so it can fundraise for operational money “without relying on the taxpayer.”
SB1011 passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday via a 5-3 partisan vote.
The Arizona Association of County School Superintendents has come out against Townsend’s bill, as has the Arizona School Administrators Association. Among those supporting SB1011 include the Center for Arizona Policy and Diane Douglas, who served as Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2015-2018.
School boards and associations have come under scrutiny the last two years due to COVID-19 protocols which have frequently pitted educators and administrators against the wishes of parents. It has led to a groundswell of parental interest in school operations and curriculum, as well as in how school boards spend funds.
Last September, the National School Boards Association got sideways with many school district governing boards and parents after sending a letter to President Joe Biden complaining about purported threatening and aggressive behavior on the part of parents toward school board members.
NSBA claimed such actions amounted to domestic terrorism which warranted federal law enforcement intervention. The fallout led several state school board associations to withdraw from NSBA.
And in Arizona, it resulted in the creation last year of the Arizona Coalition of School Board as an alternative to ASBA, which is still a member of NSBA.
Townsend recently requested records from ASBA about its expenditures for legal fees in connection with any litigation involving the state. She said her intent is to determine whether those expenditures came from dues paid by any Arizona school board.
ASBA did not comply with her public record request, Townsend said.
“I would hate to know the dues this organization receives from school boards are being used to pay attorneys to sue our state and overturn legislation we’re crafting on behalf of these constituents,” she said. “This is completely inappropriate, and I will be looking into whether or not taxpayer money has been used in this fashion to undo our laws.”
Last month, State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) requested Attorney General Mark Brnovich investigate Pima County for denying reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs conflicting with their COVID-19 vaccination requirement. At this point in the investigation, Townsend has requested Pima County employees to file complaints to the civil rights division of the attorney general’s office.
The county requires current and future employees to get vaccinated. However, the county must abide by A.R.S. § 23-206 which requires reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs.
“If an employer receives notice from an employee that the employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, practices or observances prevent the employee from taking the COVID-19 vaccination, the employer shall provide a reasonable accommodation unless the accommodation would pose an undue hardship and more than a de minimus cost to the operation of the employer’s business,” read the statute.
Pima County contended that the law poses an undue hardship. In a statement released Thursday, Townsend asserted that Pima County’s allegations of undue hardship conflicted with their previous two years of mitigations without a vaccine.
“[T]he County alleges that it cannot provide reasonable accommodations in certain situations due to the hardship it would cause them, even though employers have successfully adjusted to accommodate COVID-19 in the workplace for nearly two years,” stated Townsend. “I am confident the attorney general will continue to investigate, and where appropriate prosecute, instances of personal freedom infringement across Arizona, including in Pima County.
Townsend promised further that she would continue to fight for individuals to make their own medical decisions.
Late last month, Brnovich responded to another request from Townsend concerning another COVID-19 topic: forced quaratines of K-12 students. Brnovich issued an opinion declaring that students had a right to legal counsel in the event that their school required them to quarantine for COVID-19 exposure.
In September, another one of Townsend’s inquiries to Brnovich on the legality of COVID-19 response measures prompted action from the city of Tucson. After Brnovich opined that the city acted unlawfully when it handed down five days unpaid suspension to unvaccinated employees, the city halted its vaccine mandate.
Within a week, the CDC changed its guidelines to halve the quarantining recommendation from 10 days to five. As AZ Free News reported, the changes came after a request letter to the CDC from Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian.