The Farley Report from Phoenix #201: 2-24-14

The day after I sent out the last Farley Report, an Arizona bill starting with "SB10" once again put our state on an international stage in a negative light. This week I will share with you the inside story of the hurtful, regressive SB1062 -- what it says, what the proponents say, what it would really do, how it got here, how the floor action proceeded, how we have been damaged already, and the reaction. And I will tell you how you can contact the Governor and urge that she veto the bill ASAP. 

Feel free to pass this briefing to everyone you know around the country to help us stop this bill. I'm sending this report a day early due to the urgent need for action. Please go to my Facebook page for late breaking updates. The governor has until Friday to veto or sign, but I'm hoping she vetoes early to stop the bleeding.

But first, here's your Farley Pledge Break:

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It's that time again! If you'd like me to continue serving you in the Senate, I need to get re-elected. In order to get re-elected, I need two things from you tonight: Signatures and funding. 

1) Signatures: If you live in District 9, and you like the representation I have been providing you, you can now sign my nominating petition online by clicking on this link. It's really easy and will take no more than 30 seconds of your time, so please click and sign today, and urge your friends to do the same. It costs you nothing! Thank you!  

Please sign my nominating petition here.

2) Funding: I need to raise money to get the word out to voters on why I should be re-elected. The more you can give now, the less I will have to bother you later! 

My opponents (whoever they may be) may get more deep pockets in their corner (given the new maximum contribution of $4,000 per person!), but I feel confident I can match them stride for stride with your passion for good governance on my side. Please help me out in any way you can, starting today. Thank you!

You can securely give $20, $200, or even $2000 online right now!

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On to the news:

--> SB1062 -- what it says: The short title says: "exercise of religion: state action." The language itself defines a "person" as "any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity," and then extends to that "person" [actually business] a defense against any legal action -- criminal or civil -- brought by the government or anyone else against that "person" as long as that "person" asserts that their "action or refusal to act" was motivated by a sincerely held (but unspecified) religious belief.

--> SB1062 -- what the proponents say:  Sponsor Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) told us that this is simply a bill to protect all people's freedom of religious expression. He said that freedom was under threat and cited a case in New Mexico wherein a wedding photographer refused to take photos at a wedding between two women -- same-sex marriages are legal in New Mexico, and there is a statewide LGBTQ nondiscrimination law. The couple sued the photographer and won damages at every level of appeal -- the case is now at the U.S Supreme Court. He was unable to cite any similar case in Arizona, which does not have an LGBTQ nondiscrimination law, and was unable to cite any business owner calling for this law. And no proponent mentioned why they aim to allow people to deny service to LGBTQ people -- they always reverted to the argument that people's freedom to express religion reigns supreme over any other consideration.

--> SB1062 -- what it would really do: The law is sufficiently broad that it would allow virtually any form of discrimination as long as the person or group or company doing the discriminating claims to do otherwise would violate their religious belief. But most classes of people are protected from discrimination by federal law, which would offer protection for ethnic, racial, gender, and disability discrimination even if 1062 is signed. However, LGBTQ people are not federally protected, and thus are intentionally directly in the crosshairs of this legislation. 

--> SB1062 -- who got us here: This law whizzed through the legislature due to the actions of one person -- Cathi Herrod, the director of the far-right Center for Arizona Policy. Herrod's group has had a tremendous amount of power over the Legislature in recent years, and has been the force behind all of the attacks on reproductive rights we have seen here. She has been well-funded and plays aggressively in Republican campaigns. She appeals strongly to the extremist voters who dominate Republican primaries in the more conservative areas of the state. These folks are key to victory in those primaries, so Herrod holds sway over most Republican legislators. 

Herrod has already enacted nearly her entire legislative agenda of taking away reproductive rights from Arizona women, so her fundraising is slowing down given fewer battles on which to grandstand. She discovered the New Mexico case last fall, and decided it was fundraising gold for her. Herrod turned it into a bill, signed up support in the Senate, and, with the help of Senate President Andy Biggs and Speaker Andy Tobin, rammed it through both Senate and House over the course of only two days last week with only all Democrats plus three House Republicans against (Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek), Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix), and Ethan Orr (R-Tucson)).

--> SB1062 -- how Senate floor action proceeded: The Senate held our debate last Wednesday, February 19. You can view the entire two-hour debate here. It is actually pretty gripping viewing. Democrats -- led by Steve Gallardo (R-Phoenix), Ed Ableser (R-Tempe), and me -- relentlessly tear into arguments being proffered by the sponsor, throw up amendments that point out the flaws, and elucidate the implications of the bill's legalization of discrimination in the name of religion. 

Topics of exploration included: Might the bill protect Warren Jeffs, the convicted child rapist who is the self-proclaimed prophet of the polygamist cult in Colorado City, Arizona?  If not for federal civil rights laws, wouldn't this bill allow Ku Klux Klan members to open a lunch counter in Arizona and refuse service to African Americans?  Is satanic practice protected? And won't it protect a gay florist who wants to deny service to a straight wedding?

I spoke of the economic effect of yet another regressive bill demonstrating to the rest of the world that people who are different from us aren't welcome in Arizona, despite the basic goodness and hospitality of most Arizonans. We have been down this road before when certain legislators refused to recognize Martin Luther King day, and when we passed SB1070 -- which did nothing to secure the border but did devastate our economy as others around the world reacted negatively to a law that stated people of color would be considered suspicious in Arizona. Did we learn nothing?

Earlier that day, Phoenix had announced they had been selected as a finalist city to receive Google Fiber, a revolutionary high-speed internet service that would attract tech companies from all over the US to Arizona. I openly wondered how competitive we would be if we indicated with this bill that LGBTQ people were not welcome here, given the justified abhorrence with which young high-tech entrepreneurs hold such bigotry. Why would we hurt our competitiveness in the 21st century global tech economy with hatefully medieval exclusion?

I talked of my own religious beliefs, nurtured at my church -- Grace St. Paul's Episcopal -- that embrace the power of Jesus Christ as being fundamentally rooted in his concept of radical inclusivity -- he never turned anyone away. All were welcome at his table, even those rejected by most people of his time. I talked of my beliefs that the American story is also one of radical inclusiveness. Even those once rejected as aliens -- Irish, Italians, Jews, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and so many others, have overcome prejudice and become deeply embedded in the American fabric, adding to our strength. Discrimination weakens us. Radical inclusion strengthens us. 

You can view a 5-minute video of my closing arguments against 1062 here.

I received two congratulatory text messages from Republicans telling me how much they liked my closing speech, but sadly it did not change their votes. In the end, all 17 republicans voted for the bill, and all 13 Democrats voted against. 

It appeared to me that the primary motivation for supporting 1062 (and for many other similar bills) was plain and simple -- fear. Fear of those different from us. Fear of the way the world is changing. Fear of what Tea Party Republican voters will do to a Republican senator who votes "the wrong way" (according to Cathi Herrod) and is challenged by someone further right in a primary.  

My views were backed up when, right after the vote, a Republican senator approached me in the parking lot and profoundly apologized for his vote. He told me that there had been five senators who had discussed all voting No, but they decided the risk of empowering their primary challengers was too high. He knew they could have killed the bill, and felt terrible about the decision -- as did his colleagues -- but fear ruled the day. Once they regretted their votes it was too late to turn back the clock.

--> SB1062 -- how we have been damaged already: Since Thursday afternoon, when Speaker Tobin rushed the bill through the House and readied it for the Governor's desk -- with all Democrats and the three Republicans (Carter, Brophy McGee, Orr) against -- the response has been swift and devastating from around the globe. Not only were we once again the poster state for backward thinking, the economic effect snowballed. In my office I have received several emails from city councilmembers in different parts of the country calling for boycotts of Arizona, people who said they were canceling their plans to go to an Arizona convention, folks who stated they would change their vacation plans to avoid Arizona, and others who would avoid all Arizona-based businesses. I did damage control on the Canadian national CBC broadcast today and emphasized that all Arizonans are not like this -- we are a welcoming people and we would love them to keep visiting!

By Friday afternoon, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council sent a letter to the Governor asking for  a veto in which they stated that the 2015 Super Bowl was at risk, and four major companies who had intended to move to Arizona "will look to locate elsewhere if this legislation is signed." Apple, which had just moved to Mesa, sent a letter warning of dire consequences if the bill is not vetoed.  

--> SB1062 -- the reaction: Business leaders and groups from around the state have been united in asking for a veto, and even all Republican candidates for Governor (except Al Melvin) issued press releases opposing 1062. Senators Flake and McCain have called for a veto, as have the Arizona Chamber, the Tucson Chamber, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Greater Phoenix Leadership, and the Arizona Bioindustry Association. I appreciate their doing the right thing now, but it would have been nice if they had registered their opposition before the vote, too -- perhaps we wouldn't be in this perilous position right now. 

On the lighter side, Rocco's Pizza on Broadway in Tucson responded by posting a sign that said "We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona Legislators." I dined there on Saturday night, but I brought along my voting record so they could check my papers and see that I voted No.

In the face of the massive local and international response, this morning, three Republican senators who voted in favor (Whip Adam Driggs (R-Paradise Valley) Steve Pierce (R-Prescott), and Bob Worsley (R-Mesa)) held a press conference to recant their votes and urge a Gubernatorial veto. They asked President Biggs to reconsider the bill, but he refused.

Interestingly, even Cathi Herrod seems to be facing a massive blowback from her own base. Check out her Facebook page here. You will see plenty of comments from religious people outraged that Herrod is advocating for discrimination cloaked in religion. One person said to Herrod, "My savior does not discriminate." I am hoping that the mean-spirited, twisted theology of Cathi Herrod may finally be rejected by the people she claims to represent, and her fall from legislative grace may be near. It's about time.

--> SB1062 -- what you can do: Call or email the Governor NOW. Urge her to veto 1062 before it does any more damage to Arizona's economy and reputation.

Call her Phoenix office here: (602) 542-4331

or her Tucson office here: (520) 628-6580

or write your opinion on her website here

Once you have done that, you might consider joining Arizona Voices, a new online public opinion website that just rolled out last week, that is aimed at increasing a broader citizen involvement and more moderation in the legislative process. Check it out and state your opinion on the 1062 page: azvoices.gov

Calls are coming into the Governor's office at a rate of 1000 to 1 against the SB1062. I have great faith that Governor Brewer will veto this terrible bill that is threatening what she calls her Arizona Comeback, and make a clear statement to the world that we in Arizona welcome everyone, regardless of whom they love.

Governor, we are not small-minded here in Arizona. We do great things, and it takes everyone from all backgrounds to pull together to get them done. It's time to honor all our citizens and act from a place of hope, not of fear. Veto SB1062.

--> One additional bit of news: My bill to reduce sales tax reporting requirements and increase cash flow to small retail businesses at no cost to the state SB1134 passed unanimously out of the House Ways & Means Committee this afternoon, and now heads to House Rules and the floor, hopefully soon!

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

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