April 23 UPDATE: As only she can do, Senator Kelly Townsend put a fly in the Republican Party’s ointment on Thursday when she unexpectedly voted NO on HB1485, killed the PEVL Purge bill (at lease temporarily), and left the building. [Below is my original blog post about the House vote.]
April 20 was high drama in the Arizona House — and not because it was 4/20!
After multiple parliamentary maneuvers to shut down debate on voter suppression, a retreat by the Democratic Caucus, and three hours of raucous wrangling over one bill, the Republicans passed SB1485 on a party line vote.
This bill has been dubbed the PEVL purge￼ because it will knock voters off of the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL). It will disproportionally affect Black, Latino and Native American voters, seniors, and registered Independents. According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, if this bill passes, ~200,000 Arizona voters could be knocked off the PEVL before the next election.
Speaker Rusty Bowers refused to allow ANY debate in the Committee of the Whole (COW). Democrats called foul on lack of debate and late posting of amendments. Rep. Athena Salman, our parliamentary procedures whiz, called for a 24 hour delay in Floor action because amendments were not provided to members in a timely fashion, as per House rules. Floor was delayed one hour (instead of 24 hours). Republicans really wanted to pass both SB 1485 (voter suppression) and SB1457 (anti-abortion/fetal personhood) on the same day and then head to the border for a photo op on Wednesday with Governor Doug Ducey, who announced deploying National Guard to the border.
Democrats Take a Walk
Democrats didn’t want either of these terrible bills to pass and noticed that Republicans had four members joining the Floor remotely that day. Back in January, Democrats pushed for virtual members to have the same benefits as in-person members, but Republicans really wanted to restrict speech and participation of virtual members and virtual public testimony. The situation evolved during the session. Now, virtual members have most Floor privileges, but they can’t explain their votes, and they are not included in making quorum. Thirty-one members have to be on the Floor to make quorum and to do business. The Republican rule is that virtual members are not included in the quorum, although they are counted as “present.” Republicans have only 31 members. With four of their members remote, they didn’t have quorum to hear these horrible bills without out the Democrats, so we left the building!
The Republicans got testy with us because they had to bring their four virtual members back to the Floor of the House to make quorum. Rep. Brenda Barton was in the building, but Reps. Beverly Pingerelli, Judy Burges and Frank Pratt had a ways to travel, with Pratt being in Casa Grande. (Now the Republicans know that they not only need all of their 31 members to pass their worst ideological bills, but they better be prepared to make quorum on their own.)
How Many Times Was ‘Point of Order’ Called?
The non-debate, extreme parliamentary procedures, and belligerent shouting that transpired later on in the afternoon was wild. During the 3rd Read voting, Democrats were called out of order repeatedly when they pointed out the inconvenient truth behind this horrible legislation. Laurie Roberts’ article about the SB1485 debate in AZCentral was spot on. She wrote, “Apparently, speaking truth to power is violation of House rules” because so many Democrats were gaveled down by Bowers or shouted down by Republican Legislators. I lost count how many times Reps. John Kavanagh, Travis Grantham, Regina Cobb and others called “point of order” and interrupted Democrats’ speech.
Bowers was obviously bending the rules and shutting down speech to limit facts being explained on the Capitol TV. Sometimes I think they forget that everything we say is captured and archived on video. They looked like scoundrels from my vantage point in the back row. I was the second person to explain my vote, so I watched the fiasco which began with the third speaker, Rep. Aaron Lieberman. He had the nerve to say, “This is an effort to make it harder for people of color to vote.” (I don’t think statements of fact should be labeled as “impugning” in the House, but it happens all the time.) The video clip of Grantham’s point of order impugning complaint against Minority Leader Reggie Bolding went wild on Twitter after The Recount and basketball star LeBron James tweeted it. Several white Republicans actually started shouting at Bolding, who is one of only two Black people in the Legislature, and telling him to sit down, after Grantham’s point of order.
Roberts also pointed out that this SB1485 is one of the three voter suppression bills that the Greater Phoenix Leadership has come out against. I’m glad Phoenix business leaders are telling the Governor Doug Ducey and other Republicans to stop the voter suppression bills. As Roberts points out, it is obvious that Republicans have proposed a plethora of voter suppression bills because they are desperate to keep their stranglehold on an increasingly purple state. SB1485 has to go back to the Senate before it goes to Governor Doug Ducey for his signature.￼
The Democrats’ walkout had the effect of delaying passage and signing of both SB1457 and SB1485.
Please tell your senators and the governor not to take away your voting rights. This is only one of many horrible voter suppression bills proposed by the Republicans￼. I have two other 2021 video updates on voter suppression bills. Most of them are still in play.
You can watch the raucous Floor action on April 20 here. https://www.azleg.gov/videoplayer/?eventID=2021041051
Photo Caption: Minority Leader Reggie Bolding explains his vote on voter suppression bill SB1485. This was taken minutes before the Republicans gaveled him down.