Cinco de Mayo in #AZLeg: House Passes Bills Attacking Free Speech (video)

Freedom of Speech

The 55th Legislative First Session has been filled with crazy, right-wing ideological bills attacking voting rights, reproductive rights, patients, doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, teachers, engineers, professionals, unions, public education, the Permanent Early Voting List, the Citizens Initiative, Clean Elections, and transparency in campaign finance. Adding insult to injury, these bad bills are passing on party line votes — often with little or no debates and no public input. This is tyranny of the minority. Yes, Republicans are in the majority with 31 members in the House compared to the Democrats 29, but these extremist views are not held by the majority of Arizonans.

Wednesday was Cinco de Mayo and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Given the importance of this day to other cultures, it is appalling that we would spend most of the day debating bills that would limit speech regarding racism, sexism and other “controversial issues” in schools (SB1532) and in government, including community colleges (SB1074). The floor debates for these two bills lasted at least five hours. The Democrats offered many eloquent speeches, while the Republicans insisted they aren’t racist. In addition to limiting speech, SB1532 also bans critical race theory and would make it difficult — if not impossible — for schools to use programs like the 1619 Project.

Republicans claim to be simply protecting children, students and employees from uncomfortable conversations or trainings  on controversial topics that might make them feel guilty about their race, ethnicity or class. SB1532 says the if teachers choose to teach controversial topics they must teach both sides, without giving deference to one opinion over another. What are the upsides of slavery, the Holocaust, climate change, racism, sexism, or violence … for example?

In one of my floor speeches, I pointed out that the amendment to SB1532 is reminiscent of HB2281, the anti-Mexican American Studies bill signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer in May 11, 2010, not long after she signed SB1070 (the infamous anti-immigrant bill) and almost exactly 11 years ago. The state of Arizona was sued over HB2281 and lost in court.

Background on HB2281 ruling…

The 9th Circuit ruled that laws banning ethnic studies classes are unconstitutional.

The Court ruled that an Arizona law prohibiting courses which:

    • “promote resentment of a race or class of people”,
    • are designed primarily for the sake of one ethnic group, or which
    • advocate for “ethnic solidarity,”

Are unconstitutional, in violation of both the 14th Amendment equal protection clause, as well in violation of students’ first amendment right to receive information and ideas.

The Court found that the Arizona law prohibiting ethnic studies was invidiously discriminatory, in violation of the 14th  Amendment – even though it was not explicitly discriminatory, it’s impact would disproportionately effect students of particular ethnic minorities.

Additionally, it violated the students first amendment right to “receive information and ideas.”

Given the 9th Circuit Court decision on HB2281, the broader redux (SB1532) and its evil workplace twin SB1974) are skating on thin constitutional ice. The amended versions of 1532 and 1074 take Arizona backward to the days of Russell Pearce and Jan Brewer. It’s obvious we will get sued over these two bad bills. I have lost count how many unnecessary lawsuits the Republicans are getting us into this session — at least five or six. Check out this story in Forbes about the action in the Arizona Legislature:
Arizona GOP Hopes To Clamp Down On Teachers.

And There’s More …

In an interesting twist of fate, after all of that drama and a few other votes, Republican Rep. Michelle Udall motioned for immediate first and second read of SCR1044 and for putting SCR1044 in the queue for final vote if the motion passes. This is a ballot referral from Senator Paul Boyer which would allow Arizona voters to decide if “Dreamers” can get in-state tuition. Dreamers or “DACA students” are people who were brought to the US as children when their parents crossed the Mexico border without papers. They were raised and educated in the US. This ballot referral would allow voters to decide if they should get in-state tuition like other kids who were raised and educated in Arizona.

You would think that after hours of telling the world on video and social media how “not racist” they are that the Republicans would jump at the chance to show the world how “not racist” they are by approving this motion… but no.

We suffered through hours of counter motions by the Republicans to stop the movement of SCR1044. Udall was amazing and very strong. Rep. Joel John, who beat Democrat Rep. Gerae Peten in November 2020, plus all 29 Democrats stuck with Udall through the procedural votes today. SCR1044 already passed the Senate in late March with Boyer and Senators Tyler Pace and T.J. Shope voting with all of the Democrats to pass it.

Stay tuned for more drama on SB1532 and SB1074, which now go to the Senate. They can still be killed. SCR1044, the budget and lots of odds and ends are in the queue. Are we done yet?

You can watch the archived House video from May 5, 2021 here.