I am honored to be a speaker at Women’s Equality: Courageous Conversations on August 26, the anniversary of women’s suffrage and the passage of the 19th Amendment. I will be talking about the history of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the struggle to pass it. Only two more states are needed to ratify the ERA. I filed a bill proposing ratification of the ERA in the Arizona House in 2017, and I plan to do it again in 2018. Event information here.
Standing Room Only at July 8 Townhall
Unlike some politicians who hide from their constituents, LD9 Senator Steve Farley, Rep. Randy Friese, and I held a constituent town hall in early July. At the time, Congress was wrangling with health insurance reform and was poised to knock 30 million Americans off of health insurance, while giving tax breaks to the wealthy, to big insurance and to big pharma.
As a result, our LD9 town hall drew a standing room only crowd at the Martha Cooper Library in midtown– despite 109 degree temperatures. My UA intern Antar de Sa did a Facebook live video, and you can watch the whole event here. I also posted my comments on my YouTube channel.
One of the big stories of the 2017 session of the 53rd Legislature was #PrayerGate. On April 18, 2017, Rep. Athena Salman, who is an atheist, read a secular meditation on the Floor of the Arizona House. This is against the rules. According to the Majority Party (who makes the rules), the daily prayer on the Floor of the House must include seeking guidance from a higher power.
After Salman read her inspirational statement, Rep. Mark Finchem jumped out of his seat to protest her “prayer” as “inappropriate” because it didn’t mention God or Jesus. Finchem was allowed to offer a replacement prayer with God in it. A debate about “appropriate” prayer ensued, with atheists, Native Americans and others defending traditions that have been deemed “inappropriate” by the Republicans who control the Legislature. This is not the first time that Godless prayer in the Arizona Legislature has made international news.
A few days after #PrayerGate, the Secular Coalition of Arizona held a press conference in support of religious freedom– even for the nonreligious. I was glad to stand with Salman, the Native Americans, the Secular Coalition, other Unitarian Universalists, and those who practice Christian or non-Christian religions or no religion.
At the press conference we jointly read the secular meditation that Athena read on the floor of the House.
I stand with the Secular Coalition on this issue because I believe in the separation of church and state and because I am a Unitarian Universalist. We’re the “It’s Complicated” religion because we accept refugees and outcasts from many other religions, and we accept nonbelievers. We are guided by our seven principles which include honoring the inherent self-worth of others, the interconnectedness of life, democracy and fairness, the search for truth (even if it means believing in science!), and more.
If you want to get big money out of politics and you like Arizona’s Clean Elections system, it’s time to speak up to save it. Irregularities in the 2016 election prompted proposed rule changes by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. (There are three versions of R2-20-702 and a new rule R2-20-703.01 – here. You can send your comments to email@example.com or go to this link and submit comments by June 19, before the commission votes at its next meeting on June 22, 2017.)
Below is the back story and a detailed explanation of the proposed rule changes.
After collecting the requisite number of petition signatures and $5 qualifying donations from people who can vote for them, Clean Elections candidates (like me) receive lump sums of $16,000 for the primary and $24,000 for the general election– in exchange for vowing not to take big money donations. With seed money and family money, the total for a Clean Elections candidate is roughly $45,000 for a Legislative campaign. All unspent CE funds must be returned to the CE commission, and all unspent seed money or seed money overage must be returned to the individual donors.
During the 2016 election, two Democratic Party Clean Elections candidates turned over all or most of their CE funds in a lump sum to the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC) of the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) to run their campaigns, provide paid staff, and purchase/design/mail their printed materials. ADLCC provides these services to many traditionally funded candidates and offered them to CE candidates as well in 2016. A problem arose with at least two CE candidates because the party didn’t provide individual invoices for specific services rendered.
The much-anticipated FY2018 Arizona state budget was dropped this week. On Tuesday, just before 5 p.m. both the Republican and Democratic Appropriations Committees heard the JLBC review of the Republican budget. Thus begins the mysterious whirlwind of the Arizona budget finalization process, which is scheduled to end in the wee hours of Friday morning.
As a citizen, I always scratched my head as to why the Arizona budget is always passed in the middle of the night. Obviously, the suspicion is that there is something the majority party wants to pass, and it doesn’t want you to know or to be there when it happens. There’s an element of that, for sure, because we have seen some scary stuff passed in the middle of the night by Republicans– like the voter suppression omnibus bill and blowing the doors off of campaign finance by dramatically boosting campaign limits. The majority party schedules the third day of the budget process just after midnight because they don’t want their members to go home between the debates in the Committee of the Whole (COW) and the 3rd Reading vote. If members go home, someone could say, “What are you thinking?” and change votes.
Check out the budgetary known knowns, known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns below.
The Arizona House Democrats made history on April 27, 2017. Through a ninja parliamentary procedure, we forced members of the Arizona House of Representatives to voice their opinion on equal rights for women and, specifically, on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
I made a motion for immediate third reading of HCR2012 ratification; equal rights amendment, which temporarily caused muted chaos at the dais. ERA backers in the Democratic Caucus had conferred with the rules attorneys and the Clerk in advance of the motion; so, we knew we were on solid parliamentary grounds.
Predictably, Speaker J.D. Mesnard offered a substitute amendment to recess, which stopped the up-or-down vote on the ERA. Democrats had anticipated this move on the chess board. By calling for a roll call vote on the substitute amendment, everyone opposed to the up-or-down vote on the ERA was put on record as stopping the vote. (Watch video clip of the motion, the quiet chaos that ensued, Mesnard’s motion, and my speech here. It will start automatically after a pause.)
During the vote explanation exercise, nearly every Democrat and several Republicans stood up and gave their opinion on the ERA, equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, equal protection for women under the Constitution, the nuances of Article V of the Constitution, and the reasons why American women need the ERA (or not).
“I want to clarify that a vote for this substitute amendment to recess is really an up-or-down vote on the Equal Rights Amendment, ” I started.
“The Equal Rights Amendment is a simple, one-sentence statement: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.
“Members, there is a dramatic wage gap in the US between men and women. You may have heard the statistics that overall women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Over a lifetime that translates to a $500,000 in lost wages for the average working woman. The wage gap has narrowed only 13 cents per hour since 1980, I continued.
Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was proposed in eight states in 2017: Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Missouri, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and Illinois. On March 22, 2017– the 45th anniversary of Congress starting the ratification process in 1972– Nevada became the 36th state in the US to ratify the ERA.
Arizona women deserve equality and equal pay for equal work. We won’t get that until we pass the Equal Rights Amendment because the ERA puts teeth in the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
The ERA has been proposed at least five times in the Arizona Legislature– first in 1972 by then Arizona Senate President Chief Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; three times (two ratification proposals, one deadline extension) by Rep. Victoria Steele; and this year jointly in the Senate and the House by Senator Martin Quezada and me.
In Arizona and Utah, the 2017 bills were never heard. My bill HCR2012 was assigned to the Judiciary Committee but never put on an agenda. Quezada’ ERA mirror bill was assigned to the Government Committee but never heard by the chair.
Along with other state legislators across the country, I will propose ratification of the ERA every year until it becomes law. I hope Arizona remembers its Progressive roots and helps add to finally add the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.
Everyone keeps telling me “things are different this year” in the Arizona House of Representatives.
From my perspective, there are many possible reasons why things are different, but the three most obvious are: 1) Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard has chosen to run the House efficiently and fairly; 2) 23 House members (including 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans) were elected for the first time in 2016; and 3) the Democratic Caucus is highly diverse, with half of the members being women, more than half Latino, and several Progressive.
The result has been some interesting votes on funding issues. On several spending votes, fiscally conservatives (who don’t like to spend money) and fiscally conservative Progressives (who don’t want to spend money on non-essentials until the schools are made whole) are voting together for different reasons. (This phenomenon is being reported at the Congressional level also— with both far-right Republicans and Progressive Democrats voicing extreme dislike for TrumpCare.)
As the Arizona House moves from hearing bills in committee and voting on the floor to debating and voting on the budget, it will be interesting to watch the Conservative/Progressive budget hawks. A hint of things to come can be found in a recent article from the Capitol Times: Ducey determined to pass university bond plan lawmakers dislike.
As outlined in his address to the Arizona Legislature on Inauguration Day, Governor Doug Ducey wants to increase funding for building construction and repairs at the three universities by giving them back the tax they paid on the purchases they made. (The proposal is to refund their Transaction Privilege Tax or TPT– essentially sales tax.)
The universities would split the roughly $30 million per year proportionally and use those funds to pay interest on roughly $1 billion in bonds.
There are multiple reasons I don’t like this idea…
Last week was action-packed in the Arizona Legislature. We returned to work on Monday– just a few days after immigration restrictions and the Muslim travel ban and related protests unfolded at airports (including Sky Harbor).
This week I was proud of the Democrats in the Legislature. I am particularly proud of my Sisters who are also first-time Legislators: Representatives Athena Salman, Isela Blanc, Kelli Butler, Winona Benally, Mitzi Epstein, and Kirsten Engel.
Yes, we’re the minority, but we’re a fiery bunch with a lot to say. Thirteen of the 25 Dems in the House are new, and several of the newbies are unabashedly Progressive (like me) or Progressive-leaning, depending upon the issue.
Often, the people who spoke truth to power this week included some or all of the women listed above. But don’t take my word for it. Watch the videos.
Jan 30:Democrats made statements about the Muslin travel ban.
Jan 31:Democrats spoke out against snake shot and rat shot in the city. (The vote broke along party lines.)
Feb 1:A lively debate ensues regarding states rights and Donald Tump’s executive orders. Unnecessary fingerprinting which could disproportionately affect the poor also debated.
Feb 2: We had our second gun rights debate– this time we discussed “smart guns”. Feb 2 was such a big day that there are eight videos. (Helpful hint: if you click on one here and look below the video feed, it will say which bills are debated in that clip.)
More action this week with a full calendar of votes. It’s TV worth watching; all of the meetings are live-streamed, videotaped, and archived. Archives are here. Live streaming link here.
Floor action begins daily at 1:30 p.m. Committee meetings are at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. (or after Floor). Republican and Democratic Caucuses meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays. All of these meetings are Monday – Thursday, so out of town Legislators can be home on the weekends with family and constituents.
The Tucson marchers were a diverse group. Although the event was dubbed the Women’s March, everyone was invited, and everyone came. From children to seniors, all ages were represented. There was an impressive number of men who marched, and the LGBTQ, Latino, and African American communities were also well-represented. There were people in strollers and people who use wheelchairs. For more photos, go to my Facebook page. (Video after the jump.)
Today, January 20, 2016, President Barack Obama became our former president.
Today, Donald Trump entered the office of president with the worst approval rating ever– 40%.
For many months, different groups have been planning post-inauguration protests, teach-ins, marches, and other activism to greet the new president. (After all, many groups were alienated by him during his campaign, and we’re motivated.)
On Saturday, January 21– here in Tucson and nationwide–women (and others) will be marching in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. (Background below.) The Tucson event will start at 10 a.m. at Armory Park, and attendees will march to the main library downtown for booths, speeches and festivities. (Details here.)
The theme of the nationwide march is: “Become the soul of the nation.” This is taken from a quote by Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved, I believe that you must become its soul.” – Coretta Scott King
We can’t continue to be depressed and bitter about the election. It’s time to push against the forces that want to keep us down. What better way to start the new year and the newest phase of the struggle than to march in solidarity, build community, and fight for equal rights?
To that end, I submitted a bill to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) on January 12. HCR2012 is the House bill, and Senator Martin Quezada submitted the same bill in the Arizona Senate (SCR1003).
The ERA needs only three states to ratify it before it can become the next amendment to the US Constitution, and Arizona is one of the 15 states that never passed it. Former Supreme Court Justice and former Arizona Legislator Sandra Day O’Connor was the first person to propose passage of the ERA in Arizona back in the 1970s. It’s time to finish the job. The ERA was originally proposed in 1923, and women need Constitutional protection now more than ever.
Unfortunately, the House version of the ERA is currently wallowing on Speaker J.D. Mesnard’s desk and has not been assigned to a committee. (Bills are killed by not being assigned to a committee, by being voted down in committee or by being voted down on the House or Senate floor. The Senate bill has been assigned to government and rules. You can use the Request to Speak system if it gets on the agenda or comment any time via email and telephone.)
The ERA deserves to be heard in committee and debated on the floor of the Arizona House and the Arizona Senate. If you agree, please call or email your representatives and senators and urge them to support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.
Women will not have equal pay or full equal rights in the US without passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Even at the highest income levels, women make less than men. Overall, Latinas and African American women make far less. This is a societal economic issue; it’s not a “women’s issue.” When 51% of the population makes less than the prevailing wage, that suppresses the economy statewide and nationwide. When people have money in their pockets, the economy thrives. When people are scraping by due to low wages and high debt, the economy lags. It’s time to turn this ship around and give women equality and Constitutional protection.