Here’s a roundup of the top secular issue bills headed for committee in the Arizona state legislature this week.
Users of Arizona’s Request to Speak (RTS) system can sign in to show public opposition or support these bills before each committee’s deadline.
Many thanks to our friends at Civic Engagement Beyond Voting (CEBV) for tracking these bills and providing the descriptions. (Subscribe to CEBV’s weekly newsletter for even more bills touching on democracy and human rights.) They can also help you get started using RTS here.
- SB1243, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), would eliminate the “individual” and “switcher” categories for STO (School Tuition Organization) vouchers, roll them into a single category, and increase the maximum contribution amount. This would reduce tracking, make it easier for STOs to take in more money with less administration cost, and circumvent requirements that students attend public schools first. In other words, it’s a way to bolster profit. While CEBV supports the amendment from Sen. Mitzi Epstein (D-12) to prevent double-dipping in both STO and ESA vouchers, the overall bill is ill-advised. Scheduled for Senate Finance Committee, Monday. OPPOSE
- SB1250, sponsored by Janae Shamp (R-29), would force employers to allow employees to claim a religious exemption from the COVID or flu vaccines, or any vaccination FDA-approved for emergency use. Employers would not be allowed to question an employee’s religious beliefs, or to “discriminate” against an employee based on vaccination status. Currently the bar is “sincerely held religious belief.” The sponsor says she was fired from her nursing job for refusing to be vaccinated. Scheduled for Senate Health & Human Services Committee, Tuesday. OPPOSE
- HB2523, sponsored by Barbara Parker (R-10), would require every K-12 student at a public or charter school to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily. Waivers would only be available for students over 18 or at parental request. In 1943, the US Supreme Court ruled that no school or government can compel someone to recite the Pledge because forcing them violates the First Amendment. Scheduled for House Education Committee, Tuesday. OPPOSE
- SB1026, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), threatens school funding by prohibiting organizations that receive state tax dollars from hosting “drag shows” to entertain people under 18. Violators would lose state funds for 3 years. The definition of “drag show” in the bill is broad enough to include school plays (such as Shakespeare) or football players who dress up as cheerleaders for pep rallies. Identical bills have been introduced in several other states, prompting concerns of model legislation drafted by a hate group. Scheduled for Senate Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE
- SB1030, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27), would mandate that counties change their zoning laws to define business that hold “drag shows” as adult-oriented, and would also ban the beloved Sunday drag brunch. The goal seems to be to mislead the public, intimidate LGBTQ people by perpetuating false, offensive narratives, and marginalize or force out of business dozens of restaurants and bookstores statewide. Scheduled for Senate Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE
- SB1305, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), is an “anti-CRT” bill fueled by anti-public school culture wars. This would ban teaching “controversial topics” in district and charter schools (but not ESA taxpayer-funded private schools) and drive further distrust of educators. Teachers could be disciplined up to losing their teaching certificate, and school districts would face penalties of up to $5,000. Students need to know both the good and bad of our history so they can learn from the mistakes of our past. We should support critical thinking which teaches kids to interpret and analyze ideas on their own, not censor classroom conversations. This bill is identical to one from last year which did not pass. See duplicate bill HB2458, sponsored by Beverly Pingerelli (R-28). Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE
- SB1323, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), would make it a felony for any public school employee (but not an employee at an ESA-funded private school) to violate last year’s prohibition on referring students to or using any “sexually explicit” material. This has already essentially frozen the teaching of books like “The Color Purple,” “The Canterbury Tales” and “Atlas Shrugged,” preventing Arizona’s students from getting a well-rounded education. State law already makes it a felony to show pornography to children. Scheduled for Senate Judiciary Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE
- SB1500, sponsored by Frank Carroll (R-28), would require state retirement funds to evaluate their investments solely based on finances. Similar to other bills this session that crusade against “pro-abortion, pro-sex-ed” banks. This culture war against an imaginary problem could create real consequences for those who depend on Arizona’s retirement system. An ill-considered blanket mandate such as this could leave half a million teachers, municipal workers and other government employees with retirement accounts that are unable to invest in most major companies, and may create a minefield for investors and pension fund managers. Scheduled for Senate Government Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE
- SB1564, sponsored by Steve Kaiser (R-2), would mandate that students at small private schools or who use ESA vouchers must be allowed to try out for interscholastic activities at public schools. Athletics should be something parents consider when choosing a school for their student. ESA vouchers siphon dollars away from local public schools; it is unreasonable to require them to cover non-attendees’ costs for extracurriculars. When parents opt out of local schools, they opt out of extracurriculars. This bill places an unreasonable burden on public schools, who would be expected to include voucher students without any additional funding. Scheduled for Senate Education Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE
- SB1323, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), would make it a felony for any public school employee (but not an ESA-funded voucher school employee) to violate last year’s prohibition on referring students to or using any “sexually explicit” material. This has already restricted the teaching of books like “The Color Purple,” “The Canterbury Tales” and “Atlas Shrugged,” preventing Arizona’s students from getting a well-rounded education. State law already makes it a felony to show pornography to children. Scheduled for Senate Judiciary Committee, Wednesday. OPPOSE
Ask for a Hearing
- HB2351, sponsored by Patricia Contreras (D-12), would ban health care professionals from using the abusive, widely discredited practice of LGBT “conversion therapy” on minors. These methods can include electric shocks, induced vomiting, or elastic bands snapped against the skin to create negative associations with same-sex attraction; hypnosis; masculinity workshops; and spiritual counseling. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and other national organizations oppose this “therapy” as destructive and unprofessional. You won’t be able to sign in on RTS about this bill until it gets a hearing. Contact House Health Chair Steve Montenegro (R-29) (email@example.com / 602-926-3635) and House Judiciary Chair Quang Nguyen (R-1) (firstname.lastname@example.org / 602-926-3258) to ask that the bill be placed on an agenda. SUPPORT