Republican legislators expressed displeasure with a bill brought forth by State Senator Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) to require county recorders to publicize the total number of early ballots returned to voting locations on election day — 14 of 31 Republicans voting against it. Effectively, House Republicans were divided in half on the issue.
One of the first legislators to express their disapproval of the bill was State Representative John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction). He said that Arizona had passed three historic election integrity bills and failed 14 others, 13 of which he blamed on Boyer. Fillmore said the bill was an insult to Arizona voters.
“This bill doesn’t do a darn thing but insult our caucus, the state of Arizona, and the Republic,” said Fillmore. “This is a bill that should’ve never been brought to the floor.”
The bill, SB1329, passed with some bipartisanship. 15 Republicans joined 22 Democrats to pass the bill. In addition to Fillmore, State Representatives Brenda Barton (R-Payson), Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City), Walt Blackman (R-Snowflake), Judy Burges (R-Skull Valley), Neal Carter (R-Queen Creek), Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale), Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley), Teresa Martinez (R-Oro Valley), Kevin Payne (R-Peoria), Beverly Pingerelli (R-Peoria), and Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix) voted against the bill.
Democrats expressed wholehearted support for the bill. State Senator Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale) claimed that belief that the 2020 election was rigged in favor of President Joe Biden was the biggest lie of all time. Sierra’s assertion elicited groans from those around him, provoking him to insist that Fillmore instigated him.
“I support this bill because it attacks the greatest lie ever told in the course of human history,” said Sierra. “[Fillmore] started it, it’s going, I vote yes!”
State Senator John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) made light of Fillmore’s ire, remarking that his colleague’s vote against the bill seemed to inspire all Democrats to support it. His comment stoked laughter around the room.
“I wanted to thank Representative Fillmore for discovering a new, secret weapon for the Republicans. Apparently if he votes against an election integrity bill, every Democrat votes for it, which is absolutely amazing,” said Kavanagh with a laugh.
As an explanation of her “no” vote, Martinez simply referenced the recent documentary on widespread mail-in ballot fraud in the 2020 election, “2000 Mules” from conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza.
“2000 Mules. And with that, I vote no,” stated Martinez.
Minority Leader Reginald Bolding (D-Laveen) insisted that the bill was a common-sense policy that offered transparency to voters concerning the number of ballots cast and counted in real time.
“This gives many of the unfounded issues that we saw during the 2020 election when people asserted that there were somehow additional ballots that were out there, floating, that were being added to support candidates or another,” said Bolding.
SB1329 now heads to Governor Doug Ducey for approval.
Votes by State Senators on three bills Thursday may have been overshadowed by the struggle to get budget legislation passed, but some legislators say the importance of those votes should not be ignored.
After its passage Thursday in the Senate, SB1074 was sent to Gov. Doug Ducey. The bill introduced by Sen. David Livingston (R-LD22) prohibits the state, as well as any state agency, city, town, county, or other political subdivision of Arizona from using public monies for and requiring an employee to engage in orientation, training, or therapy premised on any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex.
The 16 to 14 vote banning what is commonly called Critical Race Theory training from government workplaces is something Sam Stone, chief of staff for Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, applauds the Legislature for, as it stops what he calls “hate” in its tracks.
“A lot of people who aren’t familiar with it confuse Critical Race Theory with the racial sensitivity training they may have had in the past. Critical Race Theory is not that,” Stone told AZ Free News. “It is a pernicious, racist ideology that seeks to rewrite history, and asserts that every single white person is, by definition, a racist and every person of color a victim.. No one should ever be told who or what they are based on the color of their skin.”
But there is much more to SB1074 than the training prohibition.
If Ducey signs the bill, it will usher in a major change to how cities, towns, counties, and community college districts approve the financial statements related to statutorily-required audits. The approval is often conducted under the radar by a city or town council, county board of supervisors, and college board of directors through the consent agenda of a meeting.
No discussion is allowed of items on a consent agendas, leaving the public with little awareness of any problems identified during an audit. But under Livingston’s bill, Arizona’s cities, towns, counties, and community college districts would be prohibited from shielding a negative audit through a consent agenda vote.
SB1074 also requires the governing body to have the CPA or auditor who performed the audit or prepared the financial statements to make a public presentation of the results. And it must be conducted during a regular meeting of the public body which has been properly noticed.
Another bill headed to Ducey is HB2792 introduced by Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-LD12) to make it a felony for a county recorder or other election official to knowingly mail out an early ballot to a voter who has not requested the ballot. The bill is one of several put forth by Republicans in connection to election reforms, and it passed the Senate on a party line vote of 16 to 14.
One bill that did not make it to Ducey after Thursday’s vote is SB1532, which seeks to prohibit blame or judgment tenets or lesson plans, such as Critical Race Theory, from public schools. It also set rules for how educators can teach controversial topics, and includes a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per incident against a teacher who violates those mandates.
SB1532 has been the focus of many passioned comments from legislators since being introduced by Livingston several weeks ago. It passed the House earlier this month on a 31 to 29 party line vote, and would have needed the support of all 16 Republican Senators on Thursday to pass.
But it was the bill’s provision allowing prosecutors from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office or a local county attorney’s office to sit in classrooms to investigate a teacher’s conduct which led to Sen. Paul Boyer (R-LD20) voting no.
“I’ve been struggling with this bill,” said Boyer, a junior high school teacher, in explaining his vote.
The bill would have died on a 15 to 15 vote, but Livingston utilized a procedural maneuver to change his yes vote to a no vote on his own bill. The resultant 14 to 16 vote ensures Livingston has a chance to work on a possible amendment which would garner Boyer’s support on a reconsideration vote.
On Monday, Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill, SB1453, sponsored by Sen. Paul Boyer and Rep. Becky Nutt, which allows community colleges to offer four-year degrees.
Supporters say the legislation will drive the cost of higher education lower, while detractors fear it will force the community colleges to raise taxes to afford the additional costs associated with offering 4-year degrees.
Ducey said the legislation paves “the way for Arizona’s current and future workforces and expanding opportunities for populations that are historically underrepresented in higher education.
“Arizona’s community colleges play a critical role in supporting students of all ages and equipping our workforce with skills and resources,” said Ducey in a press release. “Arizona is a school choice state, and today’s action is school choice for higher education. This is ‘Opportunity for All’ in action. It will allow students even more opportunities as they strengthen their education and expand their employment opportunities. Thank you to Senator Paul Boyer and Representative Becky Nutt for leading on legislation that supports Arizona’s higher education students and our talented workforce.”
“Today’s legislation will help people in every corner of our state,” said Nutt, who helped spearhead these efforts. “Arizona has been a national leader in school choice for many years, and allowing community colleges to offer four-year degrees will take a step further in meeting the needs of adult students.”
While the legislation is seen as necessary in the rural areas Nutt represents, those in urban centers with easy access to State universities are concerned the lower cost of a 4-year degree will steer students away from the hard-to-fill trade-type careers.
The legislation will align Arizona with 23 other states, including all neighboring states, to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees in limited circumstances.
The signing of #SB1453 by Governor @dougducey marks a monumental day for our System. As a leader in #HigherEd and economic engine, our ability to offer students 4-year degrees will support workforce needs while creating affordable education.
There are protections against the unwarranted expansion of courses. Under the legislation, community colleges opting to offer baccalaureate degrees must approve each program based on specific criteria, including workforce need, financial and administrative analysis of the feasibility of offering the program, and mitigating duplication.
“At Eastern Arizona College, we’re ready to support and work with students who want to get a higher education and build a career,” said Eastern Arizona College President Todd Haynie in a press release. “The legislation signed by Governor Ducey provides an accessible way for Arizona students to continue their education and build a brighter future for themselves and their loved ones. When community colleges offer four-year degrees, it opens up opportunities for more students of all ages and backgrounds. Thank you to everyone who supported this bill.”