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House Dems: Tea party bills diverting attention from jobs, education

“Extremist” bills inspired by the tea party movement are taking the Legislature’s attention away from issues important to Arizonans, such as jobs, fixing schools and making government accountable, House Democratic leaders said Monday.

“These bills are a distraction and echo the extremism we’ve seen take over the Capitol,” said Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, the House minority leader.

He and other House Democrats released a list of 38 “Tea Party Extremist Bills,” such as legislation to loosen gun restrictions and a measure that would prohibit any law appropriating state money based on a federal mandate unless Washington proves it is constitutional.

Not all of the bills had received committee attention before last Friday’s deadline for legislation in each chamber to receive a public hearing, suggesting that those won’t advance. And not all of the bills listed appeared closely aligned with core tea party principles such as fiscal responsibility, limited government and support of free markets.

For example, under the heading “Anti-Transparency/Voter-Suppression” was HB 2441, authored by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, which would exempt any communication between a lawmaker and a constituent that is intended to be private from Arizona’s public records law.

Under the heading “Attack on Middle-Class Families” was HCR 2056, authored by Rep. Steve Court, R-Mesa, which would have voters decide whether to allow employers to pay less than the state’s minimum wage to tipped employees and workers under age 20 with part-time and temporary jobs.

“It’s amazing to me that tea party lawmakers are so focused on self-serving legislation and attacking the middle class,” said Rep. Anna Tovar, R-Tolleson. “It saddens me to see families, some who voted for these lawmakers, in dire need of jobs, health care and education.”

Mike Philipsen, communications adviser for the Senate Republican majority, and Rey Torres, director of communications for the House Republican majority, said they wouldn’t comment on the list and suggested that a reporter contact the bills’ sponsors.

Rep. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, said HCR 2025, a resolution he authored to urge support for dissolving the United States’ involvement in the United Nations reflects the opinions of conservative Arizonans. The measure hadn’t received a committee hearing.

“The Democrats don’t have enough history to know that this is an old idea, it predates the tea party,” he said. “If we’re not using the U.N. to protect our interests, we need to get out.”

Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, said HCM 2003, which would call on Congress to transfer all Bureau of Land Management lands to Arizona as state trust land, is far from extremist and would help raise money for schools through land sales. That measure also hadn’t received a committee hearing.

“Anyone opposed to this bill is extremist,” Dial said. “I think the Democrats are just throwing hyperbole out there.”

Some other bills listed by House Democrats:

• HB 2650 and SB 1481: Would require presidential electors to swear an oath to cast ballots only for candidates who are natural born U.S. citizens and at least 35 years of age.
• HCR 2005: Would require voters to re-approve initiatives and referendums that involve public funds every six years.
• HB 2039: Would remove the requirement that teachers have teaching certificates.

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