Several times during the tax cut debates on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Ben Toma and other Republicans repeated the mantra that Arizona has a “budget surplus”. The only reason that we have funds that have not been allocated is because we have had decades of budget cuts and chronic underfunding of important programs like public education(!), the Housing Trust Fund, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and so forth. It’s not that there is no need in our state, and, so therefore, we have extra cash. We don’t have extra money.
Also, several times during the committee meeting, I reminded everybody that Arizona is worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We are not only shortchanging our school children by underfunding education, we are shortchanging small children before they ever get to school. It is highly ironic that Arizona is the country’s #1 “pro-life” state and also #50 in ACEs, due to our stingy policies and poor treatment of￼￼ our children.
In my study of gaps and inequities in maternal and child health in Arizona, I took a comprehensive approach and looked through the lens of the social determinants of health. Two contributing factors to Adverse Childhood Experiences are housing insecurity and food insecurity.
January 15, 2020 is a red letter day for the women of the United States because the Virginia Legislature ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
While the Arizona Legislature has been tied up in pomp and circumstance, speeches, and meetings with lobbyists during this first week, Virginia got busy and passed the ERA.￼ How did this move so quickly? The voters Virginia ousted the Republican majority from their legislature in the fall election and restored the Democratic Party to power in that state.￼ Democrats get things done.
Now that Virginia has become the 38th and final state needed to ratify the ERA, it will be sent to the Congress to be made part of the Constitution.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) needs only one more state to ratify it before it can become an amendment to the US Constitution. Although State Senator Sandra Day O’Connor and Arizona State Rep. Sister Claire Dunn proposed ratification, Arizona is one of the laggard states that never ratified the ERA in the 1970s.
Both Senator Victoria Steele and I proposed ERA ratification in 2019 and in past years. Now, HBO Commentator John Oliver has jumped on the ERA bandwagon. Below, you can watch his segment on the history of the ERA and why it should be ratified. Steele has a cameo appearance talking about Arizona’s opportunity to move out of laggard status and move into the history books as the 38th and final state to ratify the ERA.
Throughout my school years, I was told that I was “not athletic”. When I couldn’t do things– like swim across the pool in swim class– the reason given was that I was “not athletic. You see, my Mom was telling me what she was told when she was a girl. Mom didn’t know how to ride a bike or swim, and she offered these examples as evidence that she was “not athletic.” In reality, there were access and affordability issues, since Mom was a child of the Great Depression.
Gym Class Cemented My Loathing for Sports
Fast forward from the Great Depression to my childhood in the 1960s, Mom made sure we had bikes and learned to swim, but there were other physical education doors that were open to my brother and not to me. Discriminatory funding practices across physical education and sports offerings created an unlevel playing field for students from kindergarten through the university. Growing up, I was taught not to want activities like sports teams, weightlifting, or a variety of sports instruction in gym class because I was “not athletic.”
For the third year in a row, Arizona House Democrats forced a debate and a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). On April 16, I made an “emergency motion” to skip over First, Second and Third Readings of HCR2030 and bring the ERA up for an immediate vote. Predictably, the Republicans offered as substitute motion which led to two hours of rousing debate on women’s equality.
The Back Story
Earlier in the session– when the Democrats still believed that at least a few Republicans may have a tiny independent streak– Senator Victoria Steele and I both garnered signatures from a handful of Republicans and all of the Democrats for ratification of the ERA. Steele had the votes to pass it in the Senate, but Judiciary Chair Eddie Farnsworth refused to hear the ERA in committee, and President Karen Fann stopped a real floor vote.
Arizona Senate debated, but since there was no floor vote– only a division call– the Republicans weren’t held accountable for their stance against equal rights for women. None of the Republicans who had signed Steele’s bill stood up for the ERA or spoke in favor of it.
Fast forward to yesterday. The House didn’t hear the ERA on the same day as the Senate because the plan was to propose the ERA in the House on a different day… unannounced. A stealthy surprise for the House Leadership. The Republicans don’t like it when the Dems surprise them with parliamentary procedures and force votes on bills they thought they had killed with parliamentary procedures. Their intransigence is the catalyst for our shenanigans.
Several weeks ago, I met with Speaker Rusty Bowers about the ERA and asked him to assign HCR2030 to a committee that would hear it. Every year, the Democrats and ERA supporters ask for a real committee hearing, a real floor debate in Committee of the Whole, and a Third Read vote on the ERA. Every year, the Republicans use “horse and buggy procedures” to stall any meaningful progress.
At the time of our meeting, the ERA had not even gone through the First Read– the very first step in the legislative process. He told me in no uncertain terms that he had “no intention” of doing anything to move the ERA forward. Initially, he declined to tell me why and said he wanted to “explain his position in a larger forum.” I pushed for a reason, and he talked about his wife and daughter and how it would negatively impact them. He also talked about more lawsuits as a result of passage of the ERA. I told him that the ERA focuses on government-based discrimination. If the ERA is passed and if the state of Arizona has discriminatory laws on the book, then, yes, the state could be sued, but the real issues are equal pay for equal work, equal protection under the Constitution, and structural sexism in our country.
Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Arizona was in the news and in the streets this week. ERA supporters launched an ambitious 38 Mile March for the ERA through the streets of Phoenix– starting at the Capitol on Monday, March 11 and ending there on Wednesday.
After the speeches, supporters filled the gallery of the Arizona Senate, and a contingent of 30 or so supporters went to the Arizona House. In the Senate, there was a motion to suspend the rules and vote on the ERA. In the House, Democrats attempted to introduce the ERA supporters in the gallery and were shut down when the Republicans decided to police the content on our speech– in addition to strictly limiting our time to one minute.
Patriarchy and suppression of speech were on full display. You can watch the whole scene here on the official video. Points of Personal Privilege start at around 2 minutes. Note the lengthy introductions that are allowed for people who are representing other groups– not the ERA.
Rep. Athena Salman starts the ERA introductions at about 10:28 minute mark. She and I both got through our introductions without interruption. Things heat up when Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez (at the 13:16 minute mark) tries to introduce an ERA marcher from Rep. Warren Petersen’s district and is gaveled down and scolded by Speaker Pro Tempore T.J. Shope. At 15:43, Shope shuts down Rep. Raquel Teran and tells the gallery to be quiet. At 17:08, Rep. Randy Friese is not shut down. At 18:14 Rep. Mitzi Epstein is shut down and protests Shope’s censorship of her speech. At 20:25, Rep. Isela Blanc is allowed to introduce her student shadow, but when she starts the ERA introduction, she doesn’t get more than a few words into her introduction before Shope stops her. At 21:17, Salman reads the rule book and calls out the Republicans for censoring our speech. The gallery and the Democrats burst into applause and get the gavel. The rules limit the amount of time we can speak to one minute but not the content.
The scene devolved after Shope ruled Salman out of order. Friese protested the ruling of the chair and called for a roll call vote (23:05). This resulted in multiple speeches about the ERA and freedom of speech– and multiple women being called out of order for speaking truth to power. I watched the whole fiasco on video, and it is shocking how many women were disrespected– House members and women in the gallery.