The Last Legislative Roundup: Rules of debate, four-year terms, ticket surcharges

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX –This week was dominated by Thursday’s teacher walkout, the dismissal of a lawsuit over college tuition increases as well as the narrow special election for Congressional District Eight.

This will be the last Legislative Roundup for this session, as the Legislature has no definite end in sight and will likely run far past the University of Arizona’s Spring semester.

#RedforEd March on the Capitol

More than 50,000 people descended on the Capitol and Governmental Mall Thursday in support of the #RedforEd movement, blanketing the seat of state government with a sea of red shirts and creative posters. The demonstration takes place on the day of the planned teacher walkout organized last week.

Protesters filled Washington Street for the march to the Arizona State Capitol on April 26th, 2018. The protest was visible from the 7th floor of the Executive Tower. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Despite temperatures in the 90s, supporters of all ages gathered to chant and listen to speakers such as Arizona Education Association president Joe Thomas, who took to the stage to rally the troops.

“The governor thinks he can buy off some of you,” Thomas said.

Gov. Doug Ducey has pledged to raise teacher salaries by 19 percent through the year 2020, on top of the 1 percent raise teachers were already promised. His “20 by 20” plan has met stiff opposition from legislators, with many finding his sources of funding questionablet. Ducey claims that budgetary windfalls will pay for the salary increases without needing to secure additional funding through a tax increase — Ducey has campaigned for reelection under a pledge not to raise taxes.

A woman and two young girls walk across 17th Ave on April 26th, 2018. With teachers participating in the walkout, many schools closed across the state. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

The legislators are joined by teachers in general opposition to the governor’s plan, but for additional, different reasons. The walkout and subsequent demonstration have more to do than just salaries.

“They think Red for Ed is simply about a teacher raise,” Thomas said. “That’s just one piece of the puzzle.”

The group organizing the #RedforEd movement, Arizona Educators United, lists more than just teacher raises in its demands. Aside from what has already been promised, the group is asking for wage increases for support staff, a return in school funding to 2008 levels and a freeze on tax cuts until per-pupil spending reaches the national average.

It is unclear whether or the walkout will continue through next week, although schools and districts are anticipating being closed on Friday.

Click here for a gallery of other images from the rally.

 

Lawsuit Lacks Authority

A lawsuit filed by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich against the Arizona Board of Regents over tuition increases has been dismissed by the judge overseeing the case. Judge Connie Contes tossed out the suit on a motion filed by ABOR that claimed Brnovich lacked the grounds to sue. Without statutory authority or the permission of the governor, Brnovich’s suit was found to be impermissible.

The suit was centered on a vaguely-worded section of the Arizona Constitution that asserts education be offered “as free as possible.” Brnovich found the tuition hikes and numerous fees charged to Arizona college students violated that directive.

CD8 Stays Republican

The special election for Congressional District 8 ended this week with Republican Debbie Lesko beating out Democrat challenger Hiral Tipirneni by roughly fiver percentage points. This was a significant race for a couple of reasons — this seat has been a Republican stronghold for decades, and was vacated by Rep. Trent Franks last winter over allegations of sexual harassment.

Lesko, a former state senator, was no stranger to the area as she had represented much of CD8 at the state level. Tipirneni is a medical doctor and a political neophyte — despite mounting the closest race the district had seen in recent memory.

Lesko will finish out Franks’ term and will therefore be up for reelection in November. Both Lesko and Tipirneni have indicated that they will run again for the congressional seat, for a full two-year term.

Otherwise, here is what happened in the Legislature this week:

Layers of Appeals

The House met on Wednesday for what ostensibly was a short Second Reading of Bills, with just one on the calendar — however things quickly spiraled out of control when Rep. Reginald Bolding (D-Phoenix) stood for a floor speech. He referenced this session’s spate of Rule 19A violations, which have previously been cause for considerable consternation in the past.

The rule in question states that “No member shall be permitted to indulge in personalities, use language personally offensive, arraign motives of members, charge deliberate misrepresentation or use language tending to hold a member of the House or Senate up to contempt.”

Rep. Bolding was speaking about an op-ed penned by Rep. Maria Syms (R-Paradise Valley) which claimed that the #RedforEd campaign was not actually nonpartisan. Specifically, Syms described the leader of the moment as someone who had played rap music in his classroom that contained racial slurs, which she quoted in her opinion piece.

Bolding claimed that Syms had impugned an educator through her op-ed, for which he was called out according to the very same rule he had mentioned at the start of his speech.

“When the gavel is run, you stop,” Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge), the Speaker Pro-Tem, said. “You have violated rule 19A.”

Bolding appealed the decision, which called for a round of voting whether to retain the decision of the chair. After several off-mike conversations, legislators began voting and weighing in on the issue.

“Just because you’re offended by something doesn’t mean they are impugning someone,” Rep. Kelly Townshend (R-Mesa) said.

However, Rep. Gerae Peten (D-Phoenix) didn’t feel the same way. According to Peten, the Syms article was a subtle attack on all members of the African-American community.

“The article had a thematic thread that impugned the African-American people,”  Peten said.

Rep. John Allen (R-Lake Havasu City) was quick to invoke Rule 19A in enforcing decorum on the floor. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Peten then was called out by Rep. John Allen (R-Lake Havasu City) for Rule 19A, as he claimed that the content of Peten’s speech impugned Syms. Shope found her in violation of the rule, which led to an appeal requiring a roll call vote recorded on paper. The electronic system was in use on the previous vote which had not yet finished.

“I don’t know how we can get out of this circle of name calling, without taking what a person is trying to say and weighing it against the rules,” Allen said.

The vote on Peten’s appeal ended 21-34, meaning Shope’s decision was upheld. That meant that the Legislature went back to the electronic board and the vote on whether or not Bolding could continue with his own speech, which was at that point an hour past.

“As members of the House of Representatives we are held to a higher standard,” Bolding said. “The fact of the matter is this: it is never okay to use a racial slur toward any group in quotes or repeated at any point in time. The fact that we are having this debate, on whether or not a word was used in parentheses or not, is unbecoming of this House and is offensive.”

With just one more person voting, the House stood at 22-34 against allowing Bolding to continue. He was at that point instructed to sit down. With no further business, Allen called to adjourn, ending a day on the House floor at three that was in all likelihood set to finish five minutes after it started at 1:15 that afternoon.

“I think it’s a sad day on both sides of the aisle,” Rep. Ray Martinez (R-Phoenix) said.

Going for Four

A House Resolution to extend legislators’ term in office from two years to four has been resurrected and advanced one step closer to being printed on the November ballot. The Senate voted in favor of HCR 2006, which has so far had a fairly tumultuous time in the Legislature this session. The perennial debate over term limits died earlier this year, when the House voted 25-34 to fail the resolution — though Rep. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) moved to reconsider the resolution, which lead to it passing the House floor with a vote of 33-22.

“Last year we passed this same measure out of here successfully, but it failed in the House,” Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) said.

The resolution would extend the term of office for both the House and Senate from two years to four years, starting in 2021. The term limits — two consecutive terms in each chamber — will remain. However, legislators who started service in 2015 are permitted another term in 2021, while those who started in 2017 and 2019 are permitted one and two extra terms, respectively.

As a resolution, this piece of legislation will be decided by the voters, not elected officials. Come November, voters can expect to see the resolution on the ballot. If it passes there, legislators will begin serving their four-year terms in 2021.

Surcharges for Police Stuff

The Senate voted 16-13 on Tuesday to advance a bill that would increase the surcharge placed on traffic diversion programs as a means of funding peace office equipment procurement. House Bill 2527 was introduced by Rep. Todd Clodfelter (R-Tucson) originally to add a question to driver’s tests that would ensure future drivers would know to pull over to the right-hand side of the road when dealing with police.

However, that was changed with a “Strike Everything” amendment in the Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee that rendered the bill in its current form. If passed, the bill would amend the current traffic school fee surcharge from $5 to $9, with that increase going to a newly established Peace Officer Training Equipment Fund.

“A few years ago we passed a bill that would fund these virtual training machines,” Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) said on the Senate floor. “Well guess where the machine for my county is sitting? In a box.”

Allen voted against the bill, citing the need to shrink government, rather than grow it. According to her, the numerous small fees and surcharges add up to ballooning waste, even if they were added for well-meaning projects.

A floor amendment from Sen. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) further modified this bill, key points being the permitting of the courts to mitigate the new increase if deemed necessary as well as allowing someone to pull over at a location the driver believes is safe and in a populated, public area.

The bill will now go back to the House to be found in concurrence, due to the differences between the House and new Senate versions. If the House agrees with the Senate changes, the bill will go before the governor.

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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Legislative Roundup: Home-based businesses, jazz festival, school safety

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX — The Legislature’s optimistic sine die (last day) target of April 17th has come and gone, with only a couple dozen bills left on the calendar. Last week’s announcement of Gov. Doug Ducey’s new teacher salary pay increase has continued to make waves, as his supporters cheer and teachers hold the line on what they say are vague promises.

Teachers across the state voted to strike on Thursday night, in an effort to secure victories for support staff and per-student funding. Seventy-eight percent of the 57,000 votes were in favor of the walkout, which will take place next Thursday.

On top of that, the Don Shooter expulsion saga started a new chapter on Monday. Former Yuma Rep. Shooter filed a Notice of Claim through his attorney, announcing his intent to sue Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) and the state of Arizona for his expulsion. Shooter was expelled from the House with a vote of 57-3, following the release of a report from an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. The Notice of Claim alleges a conspiracy between Mesnard and the Office of the Governor to force Shooter out because of his investigation into misappropriation of funds.

Otherwise, here’s what happened around the Legislature:

School Safety

The Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee voted 4-3 on Thursday to advance Ducey’s school safety legislation. The bill, SB 1519, was introduced by Sen. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) and would create a new type of court order of protection that would target those who pose a credible danger to the public. These Severe Threat Orders of Protection (STOP) can be requested by significant others, family members, and other close relations of a person who may be dangerous.

“This is on a clear and convincing evidence basis,” Smith said. “Which is significant, credible evidence that somebody is going to really harm or really kill people.”

Once the report is filed and a credible threat is established, the respondent will be picked up by local law enforcement and transported “to an evaluation agency as soon as practicable.” The person will be served the order and is guaranteed a hearing within 24 hours of being served. If the judge determines the threat to still exist, then the respondent would be brought to an evaluation agency to be evaluated within 72 hours of arrival. After the evaluation, another hearing will be set within 24 hours — here, if the evaluation supports the finding of danger, the respondent will become a prohibited possessor of a firearm for 21 days and could be ordered to undergo treatment.

“We believe these are steps that will ensure our kids and teachers will be safer at school,” Smith said.

That’s because this process is only one part of the bill — there are additional provisions for a laundry list of school security solutions that truly run the gamut. Things like the establishment of suicide prevention programs to educate teachers on identifying suicidal behavior, printing the safe schools hotline on student IDs, training school staff as gun-carrying reserve peace officers, mandatory reporting of violent offenses on campus as well as increased funding for the deployment of School Resource Officers.

All of these disparate programs will be managed through the center for school safety in the Arizona counter terrorism information center. This Center is run by the Department of Public Safety — according to Colonel Frank Milstead, the Director of DPS, this centralization is vital to ensuring safety across the state.

“The School Resource Officers are paramount to the interaction between the schools, the students and law enforcement and the funding is much needed,” Milstead said.

School resource officers were a second-fiddle debate in a nearly four hours-long hearing that mainly focused on how appropriate it was to preemptively take away a person’s guns through the STOP orders. The Arizona Citizens Defense League, a grassroots gun lobbying group, was originally opposed to the legislation because of this — but switched to neutral during the amendment process that led to the bill’s current form.

“It’s supposed to be school safety bill and a lot of the problem that we see is that it doesn’t address the problem adequately,” AZCDL lobbyist Dave Kopp said.

However, a majority of the committee’s members found it adequate. The next step for SB 1519 is the Senate Rules Committee, where it must be determined to be constitutional and in proper form.

Jazz Festival

Jazz saxophonist Neamen Lyles plays onstage at the 2nd Annual Jazz at Lunch Time Concert at the Arizona Capitol. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Offering a break from the bluster of the Legislature, the Arizona Jazz Festival set up shop on Wednesday to bring music to the Capitol for the second year in a row. Vendors selling arts and crafts were joined by a food truck, turning the street-side festival into a jazz-themed farmer’s market. The concert featured performers such as jazz saxophonists Neamen Lyles and William “Doc” Jones as well as poet Truth Be Told.

The Festival is the Capitol Mall celebration of Jazz Day, which the Arizona Jazz Festival has now spent seven years celebrating. The event on Wednesday was free, but concerts held elsewhere in the Phoenix area required tickets. According to the event’s website, proceeds from those sales go to support  NextStudent Academy for the Arts, which “works with local schools to make jazz music education and instruments available and accessible to students from kindergarten through college.”

Working From Home

The House voted 32-25 on Monday in support of a bill that would ease restrictions on running a home-based business. SB 1387 was first introduced by Sen. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) as a bill requiring the disclosure of leftover paint and batteries during a home sale — but was changed with a “Strike Everything” amendment in the House to the current form. The bill passed in the House would allow a person looking to run a home-based business to do so without having to buy a special license, install fire sprinklers or rezone their home.

As long as the business is “no-impact” and employs less than three non-family members as employees, the business owner can operate in their own home. Rep. Jeff Weninger (R- Chandler) claimed that this bill would make starting home businesses easier for the poor — Rep. Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson) disagreed.

“We are giving them sort of a false promise,” Engel said. “They could easily fall out of this category.”

That category was the “no-impact” label — if a business grows to the point where it affects the neighborhood it is in, then the business would have to move to a traditional place of business.

“I doubt people who are poor are falling over themselves that we are protecting them from being too successful for running their own business,” Weninger said. “But as you grow, you’re going to want to expand.”

The bill now goes back to the Senate. If it passes there, it will go to Ducey to be signed into law.

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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Exceeding the last day of the Legislature comes at cost

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX — April 17th is the 100th day of the Arizona State Legislature, the milestone that marks what should be the end of the legislative session. The operative word is “should,” because with bills left for consideration, the Legislature isn’t going anywhere quite yet.

Running past sine die — the Latin term for the time of adjournment — isn’t anything new for the Legislature, it’s common practice. Things come up, bills take longer to debate and controversies must be dealt with. This year was no different, with Gov. Doug Ducey’s Special Legislative Session to pass his opioid act and the expulsion of former Rep. Don Shooter took up a portion of precious legislative time.

Each day the Legislature remains open means another day of full security, janitors, office managers, legislative assistants, clerks and pages. They all get a paycheck and it adds up. However, many of them are on staff year round — for the Legislative Council, work doesn’t end when the legislators do. According to Executive Director Michael Braun, sine die just means its time to switch gears.

“We’re here year round, full time, with a variety of responsibilities,” Braun said. “We just change hats.”

The legislators themselves, however, aren’t so versatile.

Their salaries are set by statute — each legislator earns $23,000 a year as well as $35 per day for the first 120 days of the session, and then $10 per day if there’s any time after that. Legislators living outside of Maricopa County earn an extra $25 per day for the first 100, then an additional $10 per day after that.

Time for some math: Arizona has 60 representatives, 28 of which have districts that exist solely outside of Maricopa County. All 60 earn their $35 per day, and those 28 earn an additional $25 per day. For 100 days of the Legislature, that comes out to $280,000 in per diem salaries. The Senate is made up of 30 senators, with 11 outside Maricopa County. Earning the same rate puts that chamber at $132,000.

Salaries being what they are, the legislators can run the session an extra 20 days to pick up an additional $56,000 for the House and $26,500 for the Senate. Beyond that, taxpayers are on the hook for $880 and $410 per day for the House and Senate, respectively.

A 120-day session would cost nearly half a million dollars in per diem salaries alone,  a drop in the Arizona bucket — the Fiscal Year 2019 General Fund is estimated to be $9.95 billion, according to documents from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

However, that’s not to say the Legislature has free reign when it comes to extending the session beyond 100 days. According to Rule 2 of the Rules of the Arizona House of Representatives, there are a few brakes on that late-running train:

“Except as provided herein, regular sessions shall be adjourned sine die no later than Saturday of the week in which the one hundredth day from the beginning of each regular session falls. The Speaker may by declaration authorize the extension of the session for a period not to exceed seven additional days. Thereafter the session can be extended only by a majority vote of the House.”

The Senate has a near-identical end-of-session calendar in Rule 27 of the Senate Rules:

“Except as provided herein, regular sessions shall be adjourned sine die no later than Saturday of the week in which the one hundredth day from the beginning of each regular session falls. The President may by declaration authorize the extension of the session for a period of not to exceed seven additional days. Thereafter the session can be extended only by the Senate by a majority vote of the members present.”

Which means that for the Arizona State Legislature to run at least one more week, both Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) and Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) would have to declare it so. Beyond that, the legislators themselves would have to vote on an extension.

And vote they will have to, as Gov. Doug Ducey’s pledge to increase teacher salaries by 20 percent by the year 2020 will mean last-minute legislation for the House and Senate. This further complicates the closed-door negotiations over next year’s budget, almost guaranteeing a longer session.

“It’s not every day that something of this magnitude that’s a budgetary item gets put on the table in April,” Mesnard said. “So we’ll move as quickly as we can.”

Last year the Legislative Session ran past sine die by 22 days. Since 2010, the Arizona State Legislature has only met the sine die deadline three times — in 2011, 2014, and 2015. It’s clear that hitting the deadline is the exception, rather than the rule — and 2018 will be no different.

Whether the Legislature ends next week, next month or in September is up in the air — Mesnard was evasive when asked.

“Yes,” Mesnard said, declining to comment further.

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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Legislative Roundup: Gift cards, Equal Rights Amendment, fake service animals (again), NDAs

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX — The Legislature inched toward closing this week, as the threat of a teacher walk-out dominated the news landscape, in the newest development in the fight over teacher pay. In the House, tempers flared over several instances of the Rules of the House of Representatives invoked to shut down a speaker. Reps. Tony Navarrete (D-Phoenix) and Isela Blanc (D-Tempe) were both subject to points of order over Article 19, which covers impermissible debate.

Both Navarrete and Blanc were called out by Republican representatives and warned by the speaker — though Navarrete was subject to a second point of order and forced to sit. This represents a break from the more relaxed enforcement of the rules that has so far been the case this session.

Despite that, legislative action moved forward — albeit much more slowly than in the past. Here are a few examples:

Gifts Must Keep on Giving

The Senate joined the House on Wednesday in voting unanimously in favor of a bill that would preserve the value of gift cards, prohibiting expiration dates on value as well as fees associated with gift cards. Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R-Gilbert) introduced SB 1264 as a piece of legislation targeting bank deposits, but a “Strike Everything”

Refillable gift cards and prepaid cards may still be subject to fees, even if gift cards are not.

amendment made by Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa) in the Senate Finance Committee transformed the bill into its current iteration.

Adding on to that, Rep. Jeff Weninger (R-Chandler) offered an amendment on the House floor to exempt re-loadable or prepaid cards from the fee-charging ban of the bill.

The bill was transmitted to the Senate, where the changes made by the House had to be found in concurrence due to the drastic nature of the changes. Now, the final step for this piece of legislation is a signature from Gov. Doug Ducey, which will put it on the books as law.

Arizona Says No to Equal Rights Amendment… Yet Again

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley (D-Tucson) derailed the House session on Tuesday with a motion to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment — a move that was immediately countered with a motion to adjourn by House Majority Leader John Allen (R-Cave Creek).

This was an almost exact repeat of a similar episode last year, with the Powers Hannley motion quashed by a recess instead of a substitute motion to adjourn.

With a vote of 32-25 along party lines in favor of the adjourn, the House yet again avoided having to take a vote on the ERA.

The ERA proposal was first approved by the U.S. Congress in 1972 and proposed that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” The amendment was first introduced in 1921, reintroduced in 1972, and the transmitted to the states for ratification after it passed through Congress.

The deadline for ratification passed in 1982, but that hasn’t stopped these symbolic votes — the Nevada Legislature voted to ratify the ERA in 2017, and Illinois is considering ratification as well.

Fake Service Animals Face Fine

A “service dog” vest for sale on Amazon.com that comes with 50 cards that show “your rights.” (image by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

The House voted 32-26 to send a bill to Ducey’s desk that would make misrepresenting a service animal a fine-able offense. The bill, HB 2588, isn’t the first service animal misrepresentation bill this session and it took several iterations to get there. That’s because the bill was first introduced by David Cook (R-Globe) as a bill dealing with appropriations for county services. It underwent a “strike everything” amendment that reorganized the text, then another striker to get to its current form.

The crime of misrepresenting a service animal would be a civil penalty that leads to a fine of not more than $250. The bill is the latest incarnation in the quest to legislate fake service animals at the state level. It has succeeded where SB 1040 and HB 2276 failed, as well as being related to another bill that has lost traction called HB 2395.

SB1040 and HB 2276 are very similar to the passed bill, in that they create a civil fine for misrepresenting a service animal — the Senate Bill is identical in language to Cook’s bill, where HB 2276 sets a fine for $50 instead of $250. HB 2395 allows for the creation of service animal ID cards, however business owners would be prohibited from asking to see a card to prove a need for the service animal.

This vote was the last step for this piece of legislation — it will now go to Ducey to be signed into law.

Breaking NDAs in the Name of the Law

The Senate voted 29-0 in favor of a bill that would weaken the power of non-disclosure agreements both in and out of the courtroom. HB 2020 was first introduced by Rep. Maria Syms (R-Paradise Valley) and makes NDAs unenforceable in cases involving sexual offenses. According to the bill:

“A NDA is unenforceable if the person party to a NDA related to allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment  “responds to an inquiry from a peace officer or prosecutor, or makes a statement in a criminal proceeding not initiated by the party.”

Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of public funds to secure a NDA for the purpose of allegations of those sexual offenses. The bill underwent amendments for clarifying changes and a “Strike Everything” that reordered the bill and put greater emphasis on NDAs in addition to the confidentiality agreements.

The bill will now go back to the House for concurrence, due to the changes made in the Senate. If it’s found to be in concurrence, then it will finally go to Ducey to be signed into law.

ABOR Gets a Lumberjack

The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously on Thursday in favor confirming Gov. Doug Ducey’s pick for the student regent of the Arizona Board of Regents.

Lauren L’Ecuyer is a senior studying hospitality and political science at Northern Arizona University, and has served in the Association Students of Northern Arizona University for four years including one year as president. She will be representing more than 180,000 university students in her new position on the board that sets policy for the Arizona university system.

L’Ecuyer’s no stranger to state politics — her mother Jeanine L’Ecuyer, an award-winning media relations expert, was communications director for former governor Janet Napolitano. Lauren L’Ecuyer has also held an internship with Sen. John McCain’s (R-Arizona) reelection campaign, according to her testimony in the Education Committee.

The new student regent will begin her tenure in July, though will not be able to vote in ABOR meetings for the first year of her two-year term. ABOR voted last week to approve tuition increases for Arizona universities — ASU students won’t have a tuition increase, while incoming UA and NAU students can expect 2 percent and 3.5 percent increases, respectively.

 

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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Last chapter in Arizona abortion reporting legislation

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

Protesters dressed as handmaid’s from Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” sit in protest during debate on an abortion reporting bill. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

PHOENIX — The Senate voted 17-13 on Wednesday to confirm the passage of a controversial abortion reporting bill, closing the last chapter of a tumultuous measure that has undergone numerous changes throughout its time in the Legislature.

SB 1394 was first introduced to the Senate by Sen. Nancy Barto (R-Cave Creek) as a means of stepping up the reporting requirements for abortion providers as well as the women who seek them. The state law regarding abortion reporting currently requires the abortion provider to note the following:

  • the name, address and county of the facility where the abortion is performed
  • The woman’s age, race, marital status and level of education
  • The county and state of residence of the woman
  • The number of prior pregnancies, abortions and spontaneous terminations
  • The gestational age of the unborn child
  • The reason for abortion, including whether the abortion is elective or due to maternal or fetal health considerations
  • The type of procedure and date of when it happened
  • Preexisting medical conditions
  • Any known medical complication
  • Whether or not the abortion was a medical emergency
  • A physician’s statement and the fetus’ weight (if applicable)
  • Whether or not the fetus or embryo was delivered alive during or after the abortion
  • Sworn statements that the fetus or embryo was not observed to be alive after the abortion

Barto’s bill originally replaced the “whether the abortion is elective or due to maternal or fetal health considerations” reason with a set of specific answers. Additionally, the bill adds a set of specific medical complications for abortion providers to record, if they happened. They must also report to the state if they offer “informed consent” materials, and report to how many women the materials were offered to.

This information would then be published yearly by the Department of Health Services, with breakdowns by month, location and specific reason — as well as the number of abortions partially or wholly paid for by the state of Arizona.

As previously reported, the bill underwent a number of changes as it moved through the House. An amendment made by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R- Chandler) in the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee stripped the bill of that specific list of questions, instead replacing them with recording “whether the abortion is elective or due to maternal or fetal health considerations.”

That change blunted many of the issues that critics held with the bill — at least until it made its way to the House floor. That’s where Farnsworth made yet another amendment, adding an entirely different set of questions for abortion providers to ask:

  • If the abortion is elective
  • If the abortion is due to maternal health considerations including one of the following:
    • A premature rupturing of membranes
    • An anatomical abnormality
    • Chorioamnionitis
    • Preeclampsia
    • Other
  • If the abortion is due to fetal health considerations, including:
    • A lethal anomaly
    • A central nervous system anomaly
    • Trisomy 18
    • Trisomy 21
    • Triploidy
    • Other
  • If the pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault, incest, or if the abortion was coerced

The response to this floor amendment was a series of additional amendments by Democrats that ranged from additional provisions for questions on contraceptives or sexual education, crisis pregnancy center reporting, and a repeal of informed consent laws. None of the amendments received the required voice votes to be applied to the original bill.

“This really has nothing to do with healthcare,” Farnsworth said. “Having access to contraceptives is not a healthcare issue.”

With opinions on the issue split along party lines, the failure of the Democrat amendments comes as no surprise. Despite that, opposition to the original bill resulted in back-and-forth debates on the need for this reporting.

“We’re failing to really have a thoughtful discussion on contraception,” Rep. Isela Blanc (D-Tempe) said. “How committed are we to ensuring that women are making good choices for their health and their bodies?”

As the debate dragged on, tempers flared over comments made by Rep. Tony Navarrete (D-Phoenix) against the bill. He claimed that the bill was politically motivated, which provoked a point of order from Majority Leader John Allen (R-Cave Creek) invoking Rule 19 of the Rules of the Arizona House of Representatives. The rule covers impermissible debates, under which Allen argued Navarrete was impugning the bill and Farnsworth.

Revising his statements, Navarrete tried again, to another round of points of order under the same rule.

“This bill is specifically going after women,” Navarrete said.

After a lengthy pause and informal debate over the rules, Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) asked for everyone to reread their rule books and conform to the proper rules of debate. Navarrete was cut off and asked to sit. With tensions flaring, the House voted 35-22 to pass the bill. However, since it underwent significant changes from the Senate version, it had to go back to the Senate floor to be found in concurrence.

The affirmative vote on concurrence means the bill now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey to be signed into law — which will take effect after Dec. 31.

 

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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Legislative roundup: Chinese organ harvesting, God Enriches, finance gold stars, confusing initiatives

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX — This week saw a host of memorials, resolutions, and other bills going through the Senate and House. While lofty-sounding and sometimes addressing big international issues, these are merely suggestions or tokens of goodwill.

Outside of that, the Capitol was rocked by a (minor) scandal, as prominent lobbyist Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy was recorded in a telephone conference with leaders of private and parochial schools discussing the future of school vouchers and the quest to reduce the accountability regulations that cover these non-public schools.

Which leads to…

Report Cards

Building off of the wave of support that the Red for Ed protests garnered last week, the Save Our Schools Arizona group that organized the rally held a press conference on Wednesday to announce their politician report cards. The protesters last week had the opportunity to fill out report cards on what they perceived to be their legislator’s

Report cards collected by the Save Our Schools Arizona group that organized a protest at the Capitol. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

effectiveness, math competency, and knowledge of the voucher program’s damage to public education. SOS Arizona cofounder and spokesperson Dawn Penich-Thacker  claimed that Ducey collected the highest amount of report cards.

“These run the gamut but they do have a common theme, which is Arizona voters want to fund schools,” Penich-Thacker said.

According to Penich-Thacker, the report cards were filled out by a wide range of Arizona citizens, from a seven-year-old 2nd grader to an 87-year-old woman from Mesa. The issue over vouchers is but one part of the larger education funding battle in Arizona, with teachers on the verge of striking due to low pay — while lobbyists and legislators alike call for an expansion of the voucher system that would potentially pull money away from the public education system.

“It’s not going away tomorrow, it’s not going away this summer, and it’s definitely not going away this November,” Penich-Thacker said.

Other than that, here are some of the bills from this week:

Ending Organ Harvesting — In China?

A motion to call attention to Chinese organ harvesting has made it through the last round of the Senate with a yes vote of 30-0, and will now pass on to Gov. Doug Ducey. HCM 2004 condemns the persecution of religious group Falun Gong, the alleged harvesting of executed prisoners’ organs, and the lack of transparency in the Chinese organ transplant industry. First introduced by Rep. Tony Rivero (R-Peoria), the memorial follows in the footsteps of similar legislation in the Minnesota Legislature and the United States House of Representatives.

However, it is likely that this won’t make much of a difference, given that it is essentially an extremely hopeful letter to Congress asking them to do something.

That something is a numbered list at the end of the memorial:

  1. U.S. government should investigate the Chinese organ harvesting industry
  2. Congress should ban entry to the U.S. for doctors involved in the trade
  3. Laws should be written that ban U.S. citizens from getting these illicit organs
  4. Caution travelers to China and raise awareness to this issue
  5. Send a copy of this memorial to the President of the U.S. Senate, Speaker of the House, the Executive Director of the Arizona Medical Board and the Dean of the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

If Ducey signs off on this, copies will get sent out per demand #5 listed above.

God Enriches, But in What Language?

Arguments exploded in the House on Tuesday over the two-word translation of the state motto and whether the translation should be in classrooms. The discussion started over the language in SB 1289, which was introduced by Sen. Gail Griffin (R-Hereford) and passed through the Senate on to the House. Griffin’s bill would add the state motto and its English translation to the list of pieces of American and Arizonan heritage that can be displayed in every classroom in the state.

“The state motto ‘Ditat Deus,’ which means ‘God Enriches,'” is the line in contention.

But what God does that refer to, is the English translation presentable even if its not the actual motto and is a mention of God appropriate in the classroom? Those were some of the questions that came up during debate on the floor.

“Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever is not included in statute,” Rep. Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) said.

Boyer claimed that the translation was accurate but did not encompass every deity, however he did not name which one specifically he thought the phrase was referring to. Rep. Mitzi Epstein (D-Ahwatukee) voted against the bill, and cautioned the Legislature of the potential for lawsuits.

“We must be very careful about what we display on our classroom walls,” Epstein said.

Majority Leader John Allen asserted that opposition to the bill based on the words and documents of the Founding Fathers is misplaced, as they were all Christians and made reference to God numerous times.

“Religious has a place in the public square,” Allen said.

That Christian connotation bothered Rep. Eric Descheenie, who took issue with the troubled history that Christianity has had with Native Americans. He brought up the Indian Schools that “Killed the Indian and saved the man” as well as his own departure from the Christian religion.

“Not all of us follow that same ideology,” Descheenie said.

Those in favor of the bill were quick to point out that this bill doesn’t make it a “shall” but instead a “may” so teachers won’t be forced by the state to display the state motto. The House voted 33-23 in favor of the bill, sending it before Ducey to be signed into law.

Diploma Gold Stars

The House voted on Thursday 43-16 in favor of establishing a voluntary program to award a seal of financial literary on on the diplomas of high school students for those who qualify. The bill was introduced by Sen. Kimberly Yee (R-Glendale) into the Senate as SB 1442, where it successfully made it through all the way to the House.

Debate on the floor centered mainly around an amendment by Paul Boyer (R-Glendale) that added a requirement for the program to be developed “in collaboration with any organization with expertise in finance or financial literacy,” although Boyer was vague as to what sort of companies that would include.

After passage through the House the bill will go to Ducey to be signed into law, amendments and all.

Choosing Nuclear

The Senate moved forward on a resolution that would empower the Corporate Commission to require energy providers to use 50 percent renewable sources by 2050 — but only if the Corporate Commission determines that is necessary and affordable.

HCR 2017 was originally a resolution that supported the Palo Verde Generation Station and the nuclear energy it provided, introduced to the House by Rep. Vince Leach (R-Oro Valley). It was changed in the Senate Appropriations Committee by a Strike Everything amendment that expanded the bill into its present form. According to the amended bill:

“The Corporate Commission shall evaluate the affordability of retail electricity, the well-being of this state and the reliability and resiliency of the electrical grid in connection with the renewable energy requirements in this section within ninety days after the effective date of this section. Based on this evaluation, the Corporation Commission shall decide whether to implement the renewable energy requirements in this section.”

This new resolution bears the name “Clean and Affordable Energy for a Healthy Arizona Amendment,” which is curiously close to Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, the name of a ballot initiative that will go before the voters in November.

“I recommend we give voter’s a choice,” Sen. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) said.

The choice Kavanagh is referring to is this difference between the two similarly named pieces of legislation. Assuming that this resolution makes it through the Senate (it has already passed through the House) then it, too, will go before the voters right next to the other initiative. Kavanagh claimed that this choice was a “safety valve” on renewable energy, if it proved to be too expensive or damaging to the grid.

“Voters already have a safety valve: it’s called voting no,” Sen. Martin Quezada (D-Phoenix) said.

Quezada argued that having two initiatives with similar names and descriptions would only serve to confuse the voters — if they wanted to kill renewables, they could elect to vote no on the original initiative rather than be faced with the one created from this resolution. Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) agreed with Quezada that the safety valve was a no vote.

“You’re right, they should have a choice,” Borrelli said. “Options equal freedom.”

But Quezada questioned the efficacy of offering multiple initiatives that contradicted each other. According to him, this was a scheme to intentionally confuse voters and thus get them to vote against renewable energy.

“There’s an ethical way to oppose ballot initiatives, this is not the way to do it,” Quezada said.

Regardless of the ethics or potential for confusion, the resolution will move forward With a vote of 16-11 in favor. Voters can expect to see both initiatives on the ballot come November.

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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Arizona Legislature says yes to state dinosaur

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

The Sonorasaurus may be Arizona’s state dinosaur, joining the list of state symbols that includes the Palo Verde for state tree and bolo tie for state neck tie. (Photo by: Dimitry Bogdanov CC BY 3.0)

PHOENIX — The Sonorasaurus cleared the last legislative hurdle on Tuesday, sending the dino is on its way to becoming Arizona’s official state dinosaur.

The House of Representatives voted 55-2 in favor of SB 1517, originally introduced to the House Senate by Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix). The bill would add the Sonorasaurus to the list of state symbols, joining the ridge-nosed rattlesnake (the state reptile), palo verde (state tree) turquoise (state gem), among others. 

The most recent addition to that collection was the Colt Single Action Army Revolver, the cowboy’s favorite and now Arizona’s state firearm. That happened in 2011, making Arizona the second state to do so after Utah. there are currently eight states with official firearms.

The revolver was first manufactured in 1873 — not nearly as old as the Sonorasaurus, which walked the Earth anywhere from 112 to 93 million years ago. The dinosaur was about 50 feet long and 27 feet tall, making it one of the smaller Brachiosauridae.

While the common name may be “Sonorasaurus” the actual species was officially described as S. Thompsoni in 1998, named for the man who first found the fossil. The discovery happened in 1994, when University of Arizona student Richard Thompson was hiking through the Whetstone Mountains in Southern Arizona to hunt for fossils.

“I learned how to read a geologic map and just went out there,” Thompson said.

According to Thompson, most reporting on the discovery is inaccurate in descriptions of him — while he has a master’s degree in geology, he was studying mathematics at the time of his discovery and hadn’t been planning on finishing school.

“After I found the dinosaur, I wanted to do geology,” Thompson said.

That newfound interest motivated him to go back to school, finish his degree and then attend graduate school. Thompson now is a UA professor teaching programming.

The find that changed Thompson’s life has been captivating tourists ever since. The fossils have been installed in an exhibit at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, which Thompson claims has been very popular. According to him, it’s a much smaller relative of one of the most iconic saurian movie stars.

“That was the ‘Veggie-Saurus’ in the first Jurassic Park,” Thompson said.

A tourist draw is one way that the Sonorasaurus could be a boon to the state. The Arizona State Museum runs exhibits on all aspects of the state’s history and is overseen by the Secretary of State — state symbols being one part of the museum’s operation. For the Secretary of State’s Communications Director Matthew Roberts, the Sonorasaurus is a chance to broaden the horizons of Arizona history.

“Anything we can do to capture the minds of Arizonans who are interested in history, we try to incorporate those things into the museum,” Roberts said. “Something like this could really expand our reach.”

All that remains now is for Gov. Doug Ducey to sign the bill into law, which would immediately make Arizona the 13th state in the nation to have a state dinosaur. Assuming gubernatorial pen hits paper, it will be a good day for dinosaur enthusiasts across the state — especially for the man the dinosaur is named after.

“It’s really exciting,” Thompson said. “I can’t believe it’s finally going to happen.”

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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Legislative Roundup: Juveniles, militias, dark money

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX — The Legislature’s leisurely winding-down was interrupted this week with an upset on the Monday House floor by Rep. Todd Clodfelter (R-Tucson).

Clodfelter managed to single-handedly shut down the House with a motion to release all of the evidence related to the sexual harassment investigation that led to Don Shooter being expelled from the House. Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Gilbert) declared the motion out of order and recessed the House which did not meet until the following day.

Protesters march in support of the #RedforEd campaign to bring awareness to low teacher salaries in Arizona. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Other than that, there were a few big pieces of news this week.  Gov. Doug Ducey suspended Uber’s autonomous vehicle testing in Tempe, following the death of a jaywalker in a collision with one of the testing vehicles. Teachers gathered on the Capitol for a “Teach-In” and to protest as part of their #RedforEd campaign to raise awareness about school budget issues.

The Legislature closed up shop early on Thursday, with the Senate blazing through the Committee of the Whole while the House got tangled up in arguments over rules of order during debate.

With only a few weeks left, there wasn’t much in the way of legislation happening, but here are some of the more interesting pieces remaining:

19-Year-Old Juveniles

HB 2356, first introduced by Rep. Russell Bowers (R-Mesa), could stretch the definition of a “juvenile delinquent” a bit beyond what it means now — by at most, a year. The bill allows a juvenile court to make a determination of jurisdiction that could keep delinquents under the purview of the court until their 19th birthday. Currently, that ends at the 18th birthday, where a minor becomes a legal adult.

The bill is set to clear one of the last hurdles before going to Ducey’s desk to be signed into law, in that it was heard by the Senate Committee of the Whole and passed . The next step is the third reading of the bill, but since it has essentially received unanimous yes votes every step of the way, odds are it will pass.

Unrestricted Age for Militias

Part of Rep. Dave Stringer’s (R-Prescott) militia legislation passed through the Senate Committee of the Whole without a single shot being fired. HCR 2002 would (if signed by the governor and passed by the voters) change the State Constitution regarding a state militia by changing the age range of those who could serve if needed. Instead of the original cap at 45 years, the new legislation reads “who are capable of acting in concert for the common defense.”

As reported earlier in the session, this does a lot more than just open up a hypothetical militia to senior citizens. It is, in fact, a sort of preemptive gun legislation that would ensure the continued ownership of firearms that are used by military or police units in the state of Arizona. If everyone above the age of 18 is potentially part of an Arizona militia, and the militia is allowed to buy, sell and own a certain subset of firearms, then the thinking goes that the federal government cannot legislate away the use of firearms by a state militia.

Local Dark Money

With a 17-13 vote in favor on the floor, the Senate has moved a “dark money” bill to the last step needed prior to going before Ducey to be signed into law. HB 2153, introduced by Vince Leach (R-Oro Valley) eases restrictions on political action committees being “in good standing” with the Corporate Commission and other requirements to give money to candidates, shielding where the funds are coming from.

“The confidence in us as a legislature is at an all time low, for a good reason,” Sen. Martin Quezada (D-Glendale) said. “I have had dark money spent against me, and dark money spent for me, and I don’t like either of them.”

The bill would prohibit local governments from requiring tax-exempt organizations to register as PACs, as well as having to disclose contribution information. Additionally, these tax-exempt (but not PAC-status) organizations would not have to submit to audits, subpoenas, or produce evidence related to campaign finance violations.

“If someone takes part in the political process, it should be done in public,” Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) said.

The bill will now go before Ducey to be signed into law.

 

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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Fear and loathing in the Arizona Capitol cow milking contest

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

Dairy cattle eat in preparation for the milking competition on the Capitol. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

PHOENIX — Long accustomed to suckling the teat of taxpayer dollars, the titans of Arizona government learned on Thursday to milk a different beast.

Dairy cattle.

In the tradition of Marie Antoinette, the directors of six Arizona state agencies descended from their high horses and join the peasantry in their cattle competition. The directors were on the clock to see who can wring the most milk in two minutes. 

But in Thursday’s milking, there was more at stake than the fortunes of agency heads — the fate of the State Employees Charitable Campaign fundraising hangs in the balance.

That’s because the adoring masses weren’t just rooting for their favorite boss — they were voting with their wallets. Each person could pledge a dollar and pick who they think will win. If their bet paid off, then they are entered into a drawing for the grand prize of Omaha Steaks or Killian Beef.

Bets on who will win the milking contest fill these pails, each bought with a $1 donation to the State Employee Charitable Campaign. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

According to SECC director Linda Stiles, the money goes to a fund collected by state employees and donated to charities across Arizona. So, in a way, the lives of Arizonans all over depended on the milking technique of the men and women who run their government.

The crowd favorite was, naturally, Department of Agriculture Director Mark Killian. This is a man who has years of experience mucking both cattle stalls and halls of government, and he came dressed for the part. Killian was the only competitor with an actual cheerleader section, as his employees waved signs with his name and cried out for their fearless leader.

“Actually, you never know if he’s going to win,” Stiles said. “It may be home field advantage.”

Two of Killian’s ardent supporters were enthusiastically waving their rather plain-looking signs and cheering his name. Cheryl and Shelly, who only gave their first names, each had their own reason for coming out to partake in this hero worship.

“He’s our boss,” Shelly said. “And to support the Department of Agriculture,” Cheryl added.

Regardless of where the loyalties lay, both women felt that their bet on Killian was the only way to enter the drawing for the sought-after steaks.

“Our money’s on him,” Cheryl said. “He better win,” Shelly quipped.

Shelly and Cheryl hold up signs as they cheer on their boss. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Emboldened by this cult of personality, Killian was quick to lay out his schemes. That is, of course, the only way to describe his path to victory — it involved corruption and abuses of power that would make even a sitting president under special investigation blush.

I’m excited,” Killian said. “Here’s the deal: Even if I don’t get the most milk, since we regulate the dairy industry, I can go around and confiscate their buckets for testing purposes, put it in my bucket, and then I’ll win.”

This shockingly honest statement was followed up with some historical background. Thursday wasn’t the first time that the current head of the Department of Agriculture had tipped the scales in his favor.

“We did that 20 years ago when I was director of revenue,” Killian said. “I didn’t win, but since I was director of revenue, I went around and collected a ‘milk tax’ from all the other competitors. So I’m just following tradition.”

Arrayed against Killian and his milking malfeasance were a veritable list of Arizona giants: Director Charles Ryan of Department of Corrections, Director Gregg Edgar from the Lottery, cigar-smoking Alberto Gutier from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Director Wanell Costello of the Exposition and State Fair and a team from Arizona Department of Administration comprised of Marie Isaacson, Megan Rose and Jessica Shuster.

Director Charles Ryan’s black gloves may or may not have helped him milk. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

With the crowd gathered and the two dairy cows full of milk, the tensions began to rise with the humidity. The sun sweltered as competitors paired off to begin the task that everyone had been waiting for. The timer started and the first pair, Ryan and Gutier, went to it.

Director Ryan came prepared with black, latex gloves where his competitor had merely brought a cigar. As the clock ticked to a close, Gutier tragically spilled some of the cream-laden milk out of his pail. It was a small amount, and it may have cost him that round. Ryan was the clear victor — whether it was the extra grip of his gloves or a dogged determination to achieve victory is unknown.

Round two was set between Costello and Isaacson — each was quick, methodical and ruthlessly professional in the pursuit of more milk. So much so, and so evenly, that it was impossible to truly declare a winner that round. It was here that the cattle became restless with the raucous cheering and feverish milking.

Megan Rose milks a dairy cow that was pretty tired of being milked. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

The third round played host to a face-off between allies: Shuster and Rose of ADOA were forced to compete against each other for the top ADOA milker. Despite a rocky start and a less-than-willing cow, Shuster managed to pull ahead with the greater amount in her pail. Faced with such adversity, the crowd cheered.

It was the last round that everybody had truly been waiting for: the trial of the favorite. Killian was squaring off against his competitor, Edgar, and sauntered up to his cow with the practiced ease of a professional. This, clearly, was not his first rodeo. To show his dominance over the pantheon of agency heads, Killian only used one hand.

Such a cocky move proved to be his undoing, however — Killian lost out to Edgar and didn’t even come close to the bounty that Rose had pulled in the last round. To try and even the odds, he did exactly what as he said he would: abuse his privilege as the czar of the Department of Agriculture to steal milk from other competitors.

Mark Killian uses his power as head of DOA to steal milk from others in an attempt to win. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

The crowd, both cronies and passerby, laughed off this egregious act. Instead, Stiles declared the ADOA team to be the combined winners of the competition. The women cheered as the onlookers shuffled away. The farmer’s market was right next to the competition, and it was lunch time.

The cows, at this point, looked quite put upon to have to take selfies with people from the crowd. Rose stood on the edge of the crowd, surveying all that she had help win. She was graceful in victory and reflective of what it took to get there.

SECC Director Linda Stiles holds up the results of the milking competition. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

“It feels great, and it was for a great cause,” Rose said. “I think that we were really practicing ahead of time, and we were really learning from the audience who was helping us.”

This means that ADOA wins the coveted SECC blue ribbon this year. With Arizona’s agricultural golden boy dethroned, the door was opened for a freer and fairer competition next year. At least, that’s what Stiles thought.

“This is our first annual, hopefully not our last annual,” Stiles said.

What competition arises for next year remains to be seen. Will the same state superstars deign to stoop and milk cattle, or will new challengers appear? Is Killian going to attempt to redeem himself, or once again sour the milking with his heavy-handed regulation? At least in his case, he knew exactly who the main competition was, and always will be.

“Oh, the cow,” Killian said. “The one with all the dark black color.”

 

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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Legislator claims mass murderer ‘Did not kill all of those people’

Read more of this story here from Arizona Sonora News Service by Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News.

The Men and Boys Memorial marks the spot where migrants were massacred by Mormon militiamen in Utah during the Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1857. (Photo by: Wikimedia Commons)

PHOENIX — The Arizona State Senate is poised to permit the construction of a monument to a footnote in Arizona history named for the man who orchestrated one of the worst mass killings in the American Southwest — to be built next to a memorial for the Armenian Genocide.

The bill is called HB 2509 and was introduced by Rep. Brenda Barton (R-Payson) to the House of Representatives. The Lee’s Ferry Bell Memorial will commemorate a remote ferry crossing on the Grand Canyon that operated for 50 years, moving mostly Mormon settlers across the river on their way south into Arizona. John D. Lee, the polygamist who established the ferry, was convicted and executed four years after founding the ferry service for his role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

A monument to the Arizona survivors of the Armenian Genocide may soon share a space with a memorial named after a man who led the killings of 120 people due to differences in religion. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Lee was a Mormon leader in the Iron County, Utah, militia and led a four-day siege of a wagon train of settlers from Arkansas and Missouri that was moving west toward California. The 1857 attack ended with the deaths of every man, woman and child over the age of seven who were a part of the caravan — a massacre of over 120 people that Lee fled to Arizona to avoid paying for, according to the National Parks Service.

Last week, it was reported that the Senate Government Committee had given Barton’s bill a “Due Pass” recommendation. The bill had already passed through the entire House. The House Government Committee was the first group to take a look at the bill, and the chairman, Rep. Doug Coleman (R-Apache Junction) defended the memorial and the man it’s named after.

“He did not kill all of those people,” Coleman said. “He wasn’t alone.”

Coleman has that right — Lee was accompanied by 50-60 militia members and an unspecified number of Paiute Native Americans. However, he was the only one tried for the massacre. Eventually, the adopted son of Mormon president Brigham Young was excommunicated and later picked up by the federal government. Lee was convicted and sentenced to execution by firing squad on the site of the massacre in 1877.

Donna Kafer is the Legislature’s chaplain, serving a prayer meeting and lunch every Wednesday in the basement of the Executive Tower. For her, whether or not the state should separate Lee from Lee’s Ferry is a tricky question from both political and religious standpoints. Kafer has served in her role for nearly 20 years, and has shied away from weighing in on bills and politics — according to her, she’s there for all the legislators.

I just think how do you separate a person’s crime from honoring your ancestor?” Kafer said. “It’s really difficult, isn’t it?”

Barton should know — she is a fifth-generation descendant of Lee, from his sixth wife. For Barton, the question of Lee’s legacy is less important than the role that his ferry played in the settlement of Arizona.

“We shouldn’t disparage Arizona’s part in history, let Utah live with it,” Barton said. “It doesn’t have to be a part of [the memorial].”

Indeed, the bell itself came long after Lee was executed — installed by a later operator in the church tower of the tiny community that was clustered around the ferry operation. That community was built by Lee and named Lonely Dells by one of his wives, due to the remote nature of the location.

The bell is owned by Fred DuVal, the Democrat who ran against Doug Ducey for the governor’s race in 2014. According to DuVal, the plan is to have a nonprofit foundation design and build this memorial at no cost to the state. He would then donate the bell to Arizona, and the fixture would be installed at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza.

“I want this to be about the bell and the migration, not John Lee,” DuVal said in a phone interview.

This memorial to Arizona’s pioneer women commemorates those who settled Arizona, from Utah. A similar memorial may go up next to it — recognizing a place they crossed, named for a sectarian murderer. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Bolin Plaza is significant for its prominence on the Governmental Mall of the Capitol as well as the other memorials that are installed there — such as the Armenian Holocaust Memorial, Arizona Pioneer Women Memorial, and a host of war-related memorials to fallen soldiers and peace officers.

The installation of a memorial named for someone who led the killing of dozens of religiously different innocents, next to one that commemorates the Armenian innocents  killed for their religion, doesn’t seem incongruous to Barton.

“Armenian genocide, what does that have to do with John Doyle Lee? Barton said. “I don’t think I have a comment on that.”

But for Kafer, that mashup of religious strife stands out as a bad combination. She likened those who died at Mountain Meadows as matyrs, and said the inter-denominational conflicts were similar to the Quakers and Puritans.

“That is horrible, it makes me want to cry,” Kafer said. “Don’t you just love religion? All in the name of how someone believes. What a tangled mess.”

DuVal will be in charge of this tangled mess, and will be developing the text of the memorial once the legislation is passed. DuVal claims that he will take into consideration Lee’s history when it comes time to building the message of the memorial. According to Kafer, that consideration should not be taken lightly.

“Much thought, consideration and much prayer should be given,” Kafer said.

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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