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What the Devil won't tell you

Cancel Legislature of 2022 seeks to muzzle Arizona's progressives & other undesireables

For a bunch of politicos who “will not be muzzled” in their “war on cancel culture,” the Arizona Legislature is spending an inordinate amount of time this session debating bills that ban liberals and other undesirables from doing ... you name it.

The state of Arizona faces a public school funding crisis, with more than $1 billion dollars in cuts looming. The schools have the money. They just are barred from spending it without a legislative fix because of an outdated constitutional limit on how much they can spend.

That problem hangs over us all like a Greek king's sword. 

But you'll have to excuse the Legislature. Lawmakers have other stuff going on.

They've got bills right now that are trying to keep their opponents from voting and lobbying, while silencing LGBTQ students and muzzling any talk of the imaginative lexicon of "critical race theory."

The Arizona Legislature isn't spending a lot of time or effort on issues like taxes, deregulation, the business climate or even crime. They aren't getting all up in a lather over immigration.

Instead, they are almost myopically chasing a single pursuit: Who are the Arizonans we don't like and how do we shut them up?

I mean say what you will about tax cuts, but at least they are policies aimed at some sort of challenge facing the state. 

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Democrats — love 'em or hate 'em — tend to focus on issues like climate change, mass incarceration and the lack of affordable health insurance. These are situations, challenges or — perhaps crises that require the kind of public attention that leaves Republicans screaming "Freedom!"

But what the 56th Legislature seems most interested in is attacking persons as if the true crisis facing the state is any evidence of individualism contrary to the GOP's current party orthodoxy.

Yes, I'm aware of the Left's problems here and I have called them out, repeatedly.

They would call it cancel culture. But what do you do when it's the Right who are "woke" to the hidden agenda behind teaching history. 

Little Caleb or Brittany might discover prejudice didn't end when the Huxtables went No. 1 in prime time or the first million-dollar NBA contract?

Yes, the #freespeech crowd waving around their constitutions and talking about liberty now act as their sole political imperative is to silence or limit anyone who might hear their argument and say they're wrong.

It's hard to know how many of these bills (and there are a lot of them) will become law. Bills tend to come up, get forgotten and then presto!, they get slammed through at the end of the session and sent to the governor's desk.

So remember the following whenever you hear one side rail against "cancel culture," because it's alive and well at the Arizona Legislature.

Petition this ...

Senate Bill 1198 would prevent cities and counties from using taxpayer money on lobbyists to petition the Legislature for grievance, as the Constitution puts it. It’s already passed out of committee.

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Predictably, the bill has a neat little loophole, which would exempt cities with fewer than 75,000 residents and counties with less than 250,000. So in other words, small rural and exurban cities and counties in “drive-by” country would be able to carry on. Yes, conservatives would be exempt from this legislation.

Jeremy Duda’s lede in the Arizona Mirror puts it perfectly:

Because cities and counties often oppose legislation they propose, Republican lawmakers are looking to ban them from hiring the contract lobbyists who fight those bills at the Capitol.

The same people who say individuals have a First Amendment right to use a private social media platform without any limitations, think lobbying the Legislature is out of bounds.

The First Amendment ends with the guaranteed protection of the right to "petition the Government for a redress or grievance."

No matter: Ban and cancel.

These cities and towns are also representatives of the people. I remember when state lawmakers of old would say "the government closest to the people governs best." That's only true if those governments represent people obedient to the cause, I guess.

The bill, for now, would allow cities and counties to have their own employees lobby the Legislature. My guess is that a few years from now they’ll ban that, too, citing this legislation and calling the final efforts to silence critics “just a simple clean up.”

Why would I think that? Cuz that’s exactly what they are doing with SB 1049. It’s just a minor addition to laws on the books that protect parents rights by imprisoning teachers. Hey, no big. Just a tweak.

Teacher rights ... to remain silent

Under the proposed legislation, teachers would be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor if they violate parental rights, because as Sen. Sonny Borelli told one reporter, a teacher might offer insights into the biology of sex without the written permission of the parent. And if the state can’t send that teacher to prison, what’s the point of being a parent at all?

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume they aren’t talking about teaching the genius of Donald Trump’s trade war with China or that LGBTQ students are asking for “special rights.”

Steve Daniels, chairman of the Patriot Party (exactly what you think it is), said the bill would eliminate schools from pushing an agenda. I guess he's more woke it it than the rest of us.

Daniels had no problem with inflicting his agenda on parents across the state when he demanded his constitutional right to soak the state in a deadly virus.

Parental rights today seems welded to two ideas: Sexuality and race.

There's Sen. Borelli's sexuality and the wrong sexuality. There's Borelli's race and the wrong race (referring to southern Italians, senator).

The parental rights law in Arizona also involves medical procedures  and religious formation for their children. Lawmakers are discussing expanding this law to include prison terms so other people's kids don't learn what the most ignorant parent in the school doesn't want their kids to know.

Speaking of which …

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The word is 'theory!'

House Bill 2112 (because the reference to Rush's album about a dyspotic future was too inviting, apparently) would ban teaching any form of history that blames a race for any action.

How ... how ... how ... how in the name of God do you teach Jim Crow without saying one race did something to another? How do you teach slavery? I know. The ships did it! The boats just raced ashore in West Africa and started grabbing people with their spinnakers, then hauled them back to Virginia.

Apparently, Mesa Republican Michelle Udall heard complaints that white kids were being told to write essays discussing their white privilege. Like the time Michelle got to write a bill that canceled white peoples' culpability in slavery and Jim Crow.  

House Bill 1211 would require teachers to post all textbooks and work sheets online so parents can look for evidence of "critical race theory" being taught in schools.

Oh good Lord, not this again …

I don’t have to know anything about "critical race theory" to know it’s not indoctrination because its title includes the word "theory." A theory is simply an idea put forward for debate and defense. It invites criticism by definition. That’s not how any form of indoctrination works.

Critical race theory was developed in Harvard Law School, based on the idea that racism is systemic. It's mostly taught in law schools and at the graduate level. But in the minds of the Right, this theory (that scary word, again!!) has come to encompass any lesson plan that might make a white kid feel uncomfortable if forced to confront the idea that slavery and Jim Crow 1) were bad and 2) had any sort of lasting effects subsequent to their end.

Apparently some white parents are too fragile for these concepts.

Morlock is a German name. It’s safe to say my people have some stuff to confront in our volk’s history. My family has proven quite capable. So have many Brits and French who have come to think not everything done under colonialism was genius.

We Americans kind of fought a war against some of that colonial stuff, remember? Or does that make Hessian kids feel guilty?

The s-word

If you are a transgender kid, you can be forgiven for feeling like you are caught in triangulated fire from an elevated position.

Senate Bill 1138 disregards everything previously said about parents' rights and bars transgender surgery on anyone under 18, even if the parents want it. So transgender kids aren't so much canceled as they are postponed.

HB 2161 would basically prevent students from talking to their teachers about their sexual identity because the teacher would immediately have to inform the kid’s parents.

The kids would be silenced on school grounds from seeking the point of view of someone they respect (or shouldn’t students respect teachers?) as they wrestle with some pretty existential stuff.

Here’s how one parent, Nicole Eidson, put it to lawmakers: “I’ve been hearing a lot about that kids have rights, but in my household, I gotta say, it is a dictatorship.” 

Eidson says it's wrong for schools to offer any contradictory evidence to her despotic rule.

I swear to God, that parent belonged to a group called “Moms for Liberty.” 

Yeah. OK. First, the school is not her house and second, the right to an education (and yes, it is a right) does not belong to moms and dads. It belongs to the kid.

Because she doesn’t want her kid to confide in teachers, no other kid can.

In fact, a raft of legislation targets transgender youth and seeks to cancel them from lesson plans and even sports.

Gay and transgender students are probably dealing with enough without having the Legislature's boot constantly in their faces.

SB 1165 would bar from girls' K-12 athletics and university sports anyone who is a (quoting legislative language,  Twitter) "biological male."

It's supposedly meant to protect women's sports. Anyone remember conservative Republicans ever championing Title IX before? Only when women's competition gives them a platform to attack easier political targets I guess.

There’s always been political power in walking across the proverbial playground and kicking the kid who feels isolated and different. Until Democrats figure out how to make them pay come election time, that will continue.

Excuse me. I slay myself. I suggested people who disagree with the Legislature should be allowed to vote. I know. Funny, huh?

Vote on this

The Republicans up at the Legislature are iffy on the whole voting thing.

SB 1058 would ban drop boxes for early voting. SB 1474 would cancel early voting by mail and in person but would turn Election Day into a holiday forcing businesses to let workers vote without a wage penalty. (It's already long been state law that your boss needs to give you paid time off to vote on the appropriate Tuesday.)

See, Donald Trump won the Election Day vote in Arizona but got beaten with early ballots. So obviously the solution to the Republicans losing their iron grip on state politics is to ban early voting (there's a problem with this I'll get into some day, just not now).

About 90 percent of voters used early ballots in 2020, but if they can cancel just enough of those voters by making voting less convenient, they think they can tip elections at the margins. 

State Rep. John Kavanagh spoke for a lot of Republicans, it seems, when he told the Washington Post last year Republicans "don't mind putting security measures in that won't let everybody vote — but everybody shouldn't be voting."

I agree. Let's start with the unvaccinated and then move on to Moms for Liberty.

One bill to watch right at the end of the legislative session, when laws are invented at 4 a.m. and in the blink of an eye, is Rep. John Fillmore’s bill that would allow him and his colleagues to reject election results in legislative, congressional and statewide races.

If the Republicans don’t like, for instance, that voters gave control of the Legislature to Democrats, Republicans in the lame duck session could toss those results. That would allow the courts to order a new election. Presumably, if Democrats won that one too, the Republican Legislature could do it again … maybe until the new election is up or their term limits take effect.

Not that that would happen of course, said bill sponsor Fillmore, a Republican from Apache Junction. He assured us:

“Do you think we come down here just to create havoc? No,” Fillmore said. “I don’t think, when you have 60 members down here, that we’re going to arbitrarily say, ‘Well we disagree.’”

See 6th, January.

I’m sorry. Couldn’t resist. It’s not like they’d allow the school funding system to collapse or hire a firm called Cyber Ninjas to conduct a fake audit, solely meant to cast doubt on the results of an election prior.

Why ever would we think this crew would create havoc arbitrarily? I mean if they were going to do that, they’d ban early voting and insist votes be cast on election day. Then they’d require election workers  just 24 hours to count 3 million ballots … by hand. Scanners would be canceled.

I mean they’d never do that … oh. That’s in Fillmore’s bill, too.

This bill faces competition from SB 1338 by Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, who would cancel the 21st, 20th and parts of the 19th century voting technology by banning machine counting. It would also ban voting centers, forcing everyone to vote in precincts tied to their address.

Just to be clear, the audit took three months to count Maricopa County's 2.1 million votes. So we won't know who won in November until after the Legislature is seated.

As bonkers as it is, this bill cleared committee and awaits a full vote by the Senate.

Cancel the voters. Cancel the problem.

Ballot initiatives

Turns out the Legislature rather enjoys having full authority over a state of 7 million.

What Republicans don’t like is when those 7 million people disagree with lawmakers. That’s not allowed. That must be canceled.

The people and the Legislature have split on issues like more money for schools, the minimum wage and the legalization of weed. The Legislature’s solution to them being out of step with voters, is to silence the voters.

So House Concurrent Resolution 2014 and 2015 are designed to make it harder for voters to pass their own laws. The first would require signatures be gathered in numbers greater than 15 percent of the total vote cast the previous statewide election and those votes signatures come from all 30 legislative districts. The second would require voter initiatives pass with 60 percent of the vote rather than a simple majority.

Rep. Tim Dunn, a Yuma Republican, sponsored the proposed changes. He crafted the 30-district requirement just to make it “more equitable” and the 60-percent threshold because ballot initiatives can’t be amended by the Legislature without a three-fourths vote of both chambers.

I’m actually with Dunn on constitutional amendments. They should probably be passed with super-majorities. People should be sympathetic to concerns about un-amendable legislation.

But how about some sympathy out of the Legislature for honoring the will of the people? How about tackling issues that voters care about rather than just using the legislative authority to attack people Trump Republicans don’t like.

Thankfully, this legislative action will require voter approval. They can't cancel majority rule without the people canceling themselves.

Ban baby, ban

And finally, what would a liberty-loving Legislature be without some good, old-timey book banning?

The Legislature wants schools to rid prurient literature like "The Great Gatsby" on account of its discussions of sex.

Especially where gays are concerned – never mention the gays.

The law now allows to have parents opt out of teaching their kids books like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic.

Here is specifically what the bill bans:



Just force students to read that legislative language after the steamy parts. They won't want sex until they are 34.

The new bill would force parents to opt in meaning that without written consent, the material can not be read. So a teacher would have to teach multiple books simultaneously or just say "screw it" and teach Tom Clancy.

The new right seems to have this weird idea about liberty these days. They have rights and everyone else has responsibilities.

Specifically, it's every Arizonans responsibility to live their lives the way the legislative Republicans insist. That way we can all be free to be just like them.

It's how they cancel tyranny — by insisting on their freedom to exercise it.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years, and as a communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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1 comment on this story

Feb 19, 2022, 5:23 am
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Why is it that the people who are so petrified of Sharia Law have no problem forcing me to live by their Bible?

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Wide angle look at the Arizona Capitol complex, where the Legislature is launching a broad side of canceling political targets


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