Saturday, March 15, 2014

Talking and Taking Back

Arizona operates with a "part-time" legislature: every year, members shoot for a 100-day session and then go back to their day jobs. Having lived in Arizona nearly 20 years, I can't remember when they last met that 100-day goal.

This year will likely be no exception: both chambers have filled up their floor agendas with myriad bills but none feature the main event, the budget bills. And it appears that when they finally get to doling out funding, we may see an extended rematch of last year's budget battle thanks to fault lines that have already cracked open with the first bill passed this session.

That would be the now infamous SB1062. Yes, the first bill sent to the Governor by our majority-conservative, "pro-business" legislature was not a job creation package or even ways to fund our schools or fix our child welfare crisis. Instead, though billed as a correction to existing law, SB1062 rode into town a Trojan horse that could have unleashed rampant discrimination in the name of the "free exercise of religion."

Arizona spent a week in the nation's spotlight, the butt of many jokes, a dark stain on graphics mapping anti-discrimination laws. But Arizonans grew vocal about not wanting this preemptive piece of legislation that created rather than "solved" problems. In the end, SB1062 was vetoed, but its malice echoes in bills awaiting votes.

So we need to keep talking and make sure we are heard, whether for or against bills. And then we need to keep talking all the way to November with our votes. Because the only way we can see an end to bills like SB1062 is by ending the tenure of legislators who support them.

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