Last Week at the Legislature-March 5, 2023 – Representative Judy Schwiebert

Sunday, March 5, 2023

We just completed week eight of the Arizona legislature’s 56th session, and the decisions made or not made there will affect all of us. It’s my great honor to serve as your representative on the House Education, Appropriations, and Sub-Appropriations Committee on Budgeting and Finance. Here’s a recap of what happened last week and a preview of next week.

Representative Judy Schwiebert, LD2
[email protected]

Things Came to a Head Last Week

I came to the legislature to do what I’ve always done as a teacher, parent, non-profit leader and member of the community – to work together to get things done for people.  We need more of that now than ever in our legislature. So, I’m proud to have co-sponsored Republican bills, and to have welcomed Republican co-sponsors on my bills. But this past week, I confess I got fed-up  with the extremist wing of the Republican Party that’s holding our chamber hostage. 

Very few Democrat bills – even those with bi-partisan support have been allowed to be heard in committee, and fewer still have been allowed a vote on the House Floor.

Last week, the extremists in the majority moved the goalposts on us, refusing to put even the few Democratic bills already scheduled for a floor vote up on the tally board unless Democrats ALSO now gathered 16 Republican signatures first. Mysteriously, we had difficulty getting those signatures from Republicans who suddenly couldn’t remember the bills – or said to come back to them when we had 15 signatures. 

That included my bill HCR2037, a bi-partisan Resolution brought to me by constituents to honor the Assyrian New Year for which I already gathered signatures from 32 Democrats and 12 Republicans as co-sponsors (including Speaker Toma and Speaker Pro-Tem Grantham).

Essentially, the extremist wing of the Republicans in the House which makes up one quarter of the membership is ruling by minority. 

That’s no way to run a democracy. 

Like my Democratic colleagues, I’d  had enough.  All Arizonans deserve to have their voices heard.  That’s why we took a stand in the only way left to us – protesting this highjacking of our democracy by voting NO on every bill brought to the floor last week.  It’s time for moderate Republicans and Democrats to stand up to the extremists. 

Republicans have a one-seat majority in both legislative chambers, and Arizona elected a Democratic governor.  We need each other.  Let’s work together for the everyday citizens of Arizona. 

Minority rule is anti-American, but it’s how Republicans are governing in ArizonaFor some insight on this issue in the State House,  I recommend this excellent commentary by Jim Small of the  Arizona Mirror. 

My Top Priority

Investing in Teachers & Public Schools

As a longtime teacher, my top priority is to turn the tide of previous legislatures that have put our state’s public school investment to the national basement and kept it there. Our public school teachers and administrators have done a heroic job of meeting the needs of students.  But they – and all of us deserve greater support from the legislature if we are to have a community where everyone gets their chance to thrive.

Yet even during Public Schools Week, instead of hearing bills to better invest in our schools, the following were heard and passed along party lines.  My fellow Democrats including members of the “Teacher Caucus” (Representatives Jennifer Pawlik, Laura Terech and Nancy Gutierrez, and I) voted NO on these:. 

2533 classroom instruction; posting requirements. Just last week it was reported that we still have over 2800 teacher vacancies in our public schools, yet this bill requiring teachers to list every single item they use or discuss in their classrooms will be one more burden on our already overworked and underpaid teachers. It would drive even more of them from the profession.  There are already multiple ways in which teachers work with parents: through email,  phone calls, parent-teacher conferences, and curriculum nights.

2546 large school districts; division; election This bill requires school districts with more than 35,000 students to hold an election to divide the district.  At a time when Republicans complain about school administrative costs, this would multiply them. It’s an attack on a handful of districts in the East Valley and Tucson, and a waste of taxpayer money and time since there is already a statute that allows taxpayers to collect signatures to hold an election to divide a district. 

2504 STO scholarships for foster care students Student Tuition Organizations (STO’s) have already drained over $2.1 Billion from state revenue and made millionaires out of the former legislators who created STO’s. Students in foster care already qualify for ESA’s to attend private institutions. If an ESA student has special needs, the voucher can reach $40k with little accountability. Meanwhile, the vast majority of foster students whose families choose public schools are left without qualified teachers in too many classrooms, and the worst student-to-counselor ratio in the nation. 

2667 disruption; educational institutions; concealed weapons This bill allows concealed carry weapons on community college and university campuses. It is strongly opposed by campus police and the Board of Regents who warned about the mental health challenges students face and said, “throughout its history, our state has recognized there are some places that have a unique and specific public purpose which is better served without the presence of firearms. State law sets aside the legislature, court buildings, and places of public education as just such unique places in our society., ” 

2705 schools; safety training; pilot This bill appropriates $10M for schools to opt into a safety training program that may include firearm training. Everytown reports that 95% of American public schools drill students on lockdown procedures. Yet, there is almost no research affirming the value of these drills for preventing school shootings or protecting the school community when shootings do occur. Experts are now reporting that active shooter training is not effective and can scar kids emotionally. Children should not be made responsible for treating wounds that result from adults’ failure to protect them by enacting common-sense safety laws. 

2786 teacher training; parental notification; requirements This requires schools to make all printed and digital teacher training material to be available for parent inspection creating an administrative burden for school districts and exposing them to potential litigation over publicly sharing private companies’ intellectual property. This appears to be based on a belief that schools are sneaking social-emotional learning (SEL) training into schools, even though research shows that SEL positively impacts kids’ lives and ability to learn. 

Next Week
Call to Action! From Save Our Schools Arizona
and Civic 
Engagement Beyond VotingArizona Schools Face $4.5 Billion GapThis week, Save Our Schools Arizona reported that Arizona schools face a $4.5 billion deficit compared to the national average in annual per-student spending.  Yet instead of acknowledging this problem, legislative Republicans are doubling down on the systematic shrinking of our state budget, pushing endless and costly tax cut proposals that will make future funding of Arizona’s schools and other vital state services next to impossible. 

Instead, they are continuing attacks on teachers and vulnerable trans youth and advancing unworkable and even unconstitutional bills, despite a clear backstop of guaranteed vetoes from the governor. 

Click here for this week’s Ed Report from Save Our Schools to learn more about the really bad education bills that will be in committee this week and how to contact committee members as well as your legislators to oppose them. 

Click here for this week’s Civic Engagement Beyond Voting Weekly Report to learn about bills on every issue that will be in committee this week and how to take action to support or oppose them. 
Highlights of Last Week
Monday with Survivors SpeakIt was so valuable listen to Alliance for Safety and Justice State Director John Bauters and crime survivors on Monday as they advocated for Trauma Recovery Centers to help both perpetrators and survivors of crime to help make our communities safer.  Bauters said, “We know that people who commit offenses go to jail, go to prison and they come back. IF they come back and nothing has changed in their life, there’s just going to be another victim. And the number one thing crime victims say is to have no one else experience what they experience. And there’s a lot of science and research that shows when you give people employment opportunities and income support they’re far less likely to commit a new offense.”
Tuesday’s Lunch was Provided by Canyon State Academy StudentsThe legislature was treated to a delicious lunch prepared by Canyon State Academy culinary arts students. Canyon State Academy, located in Queen Creek, offers at-risk young men opportunities to have a normalized high school experience and CTE training options to give them the environment and opportunities we all need for positive change. Thank you to the inspiring staff and students for your important – and delicious work!
Wednesday’s Water Wise LuncheonThis week it was especially valuable to hear from guest Kathy Ferris, who as director of the Arizona Groundwater Management Study Commission in 1977, was central to passage of the 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management Act. That act is still heralded as one of the nation’s most visionary laws for managing groundwater. Since then, she served as chief counsel of the newly formed Arizona Department of Water Resources and then was appointed by Gov Bruce Babbitt in 1985 to be the Department’s director. More recently she served as Executive Director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association. She urged us to continue ensuring we have the water we need before speeding ahead with skyrocketing growth.
Thursday We Got Info on the Housing CrisisWe had breakfast with numbers experts from Maricopa County who provided us with valuable information about the extent of the housing crisis in our Valley and who it is most affecting – lower income families who can least afford the increases. 
On Friday I Visited Quail Run Behavioral Health – AND Read to a Kindergarten Class at Ironwood Elementary
Thank you so much to Tracy Thomas for inviting me to tour Quail Run Behavioral Health and meet their wonderful staff.  Located along I-17 near Rose Garden Lane, they provide mental health treatment for teens, adults and seniors dealing with suicidal thoughts, depression and other issues. I’m so proud and grateful to have them in our district.  

It was Read Across America Week and I got to read “Giraffes Can’t Dance” to the special needs kindergarten class at Ironwood Elementary. Thank you to Principal Sallee and her inspiring staff, campus, and students for welcoming me. You were truly the highlight of my week! Thank you for your hugs and appreciation.

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