Another legislative session is completed. The Republican majority has again failed to work with Democrats for the common good in Arizona. Many of us hoped the bipartisan efforts in 2013 would lead to an increased focus on substantive issues like fixing CPS, restoring the massive cuts to education or passing meaningful ethics reform. Instead, Republicans have concentrated on a strategy of appealing to the most extreme elements of their party to the detriment of Arizona’s children, businesses and workers.
Comments by leading economists at Arizona State University cite Arizona’s poor national image and lack of investment in education as major obstacles to the growth of Arizona’s economy. Talk to community leaders, business professionals, public servants or nearly any Arizonan and they would agree. We saw the destructive national media attention that our state garnered in the aftermath of Senate Bill 1062. This wrong-headed and discriminatory bill was written to placate an extreme minority of social conservatives. Led by legislative Republicans, including House Speaker Andy Tobin, they tried to push this unwanted bill despite the fact that it was opposed by Arizona’s business leaders. It was inspiring to see the diverse coalition that arose in opposition, although it was regrettable that a bill like SB1062 saw the light of day in 2014.
SB1062 was not the only tone-deaf bill that found support from legislative Republicans this year. In 2013, Republicans passed HB2305, which added obstacles to citizen initiatives and third-party ballot access, limited the ways that voters could return their early ballots and removed some voters from the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL). Republicans sought these changes to benefit Republicans at the ballot box. A historic referendum effort led by a diverse group of organizations and voters collected 144,000 signatures in 60 days to put the controversial law on the 2014 ballot. Legislative Republicans repealed the law in an attempt to avoid being repudiated by the voters. The referendum process is a constitutional check on power. It is unfortunate that the Republican majority circumvented this process.
What didn’t we see from the legislature in 2014? We didn’t see any serious attempt to restore the massive cuts to education that have occurred over the past few sessions. Arizona continues to occupy the bottom of the list of states for per-pupil education funding. We didn’t see a fix to CPS. We didn’t see meaningful ethics reform from the Legislature. Five years after the Fiesta Bowl scandal broke, nothing has changed. Legislators continue to get wined and dined by lobbyists, receive free tickets to sporting events and take out-of-state junkets. This is unacceptable.
To move Arizona forward, we must elect leaders who will focus on issues that matter to our state. Electing Fred DuVal as governor and more Democrats and other moderates to the Legislature will be the best first step that Arizonans can take.
A critical effort is for the Arizona Legislature to focus on making Arizona more attractive. Focus on crucial significant issues that will make a difference. Forget the ideological.
— Bill Roe is chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party.