Legislative Update

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Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Capitol Times will give us the latest news from the State Capitol in our weekly legislative update.

Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon" -- the latest on Senate Bill in our weekly political update with the Arizona Capitol Times.

We'll also hear how folks in Tucson are reacting to Senate Bill in our monthly series southern exposure and look at plans to increase the efficiency of solar thermal projects. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon".

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons.
The fallout continues over Senate Bill 1062, which gives legal protection to those who deny services based on sincerely held religious beliefs. Here with the latest in our political update is Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Capitol Times. And Hank, we should note that we are live 5:30 at this afternoon, this evening, and we'll rebroadcast again at 10pm. By tonight, we may well know what the Governor is going to do. She's supposed to speak in 15 minutes.

Hank Stephenson: It looks like veto watch is coming to an end here. We've been teasing the public with some tweets and some, some kind of remarks that you cannot tell which way she's leaning, although most observers would be, would be shocked if she signed the bill into law today. But, in a couple of minutes we should know.

Ted Simons: Indeed, and again, you would think that if she acts this quickly, it would be to veto in order to keep the damage at a minimum. Every day that goes on, the damage is out there. Talk -- you wrote quite a piece on reality versus rhetoric. In the Senate 1062 Bill debate. Talk to us about that.

Hank Stephenson:Yeah. I mean, I've been watching a bit of, of MSNBC and CNN, and some of the national news networks to get a feel for what's happening outside our capitol sphere. And, and it's amazing, kind of, the takes on what this bill does, and you get the same thing kind of echoed at the legislature. You get Republicans saying this has nothing to do with gays. You have Democrats saying, this could, this could force discrimination of all sorts of people. And the truth is, somewhere, kind in between. This, this bill, obviously, is aimed at allowing some sort of discrimination against the gay population. There are Federal protections and state protections for that matter against other populations.

Ted Simons: There are also city protections for the lgbt community. And those city protections now are impacted by this.

Hank Stephenson: That's the one place that this bill will have an impact, is in Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff, and have anti-discrimination ordinances, which, which protect the lgbt community from certain types of discrimination. With this, if this bill were to become law, the effect would be to somewhat negate those anti-discrimination ordinances, not entirely, in order to discriminate or to say, I'm not going to, to serve a gay person in my business. You would have to prove that, that it does substantially burden your religious beliefs, in order to be able to deny them services. So, and those kinds of protections even, you know, if the bill were signed into law, don't, don't exist in the rest of the state outside of those specific municipalities.

Ted Simons: When this bill was being -- first of all, at the capitol, are folks surprised at the reaction?

Hank Stephenson: I think folks on both sides are surprised about the reaction. Certainly, Republicans didn't see it coming. Democrats were warning about this, but we debated almost the exact same bill last year. It was passed to Governor Brewer, and she vetoed it, but she vetoed it in a stack of bills that she had kind of warned the legislature, don't send me anything right now because you have not finished the budget and Medicaid expansion. And, and so, I think, I think everyone is kind of shocked at how much attention this has gotten. Especially since it was something that flew under the radar last year, and frankly it did until it was passed to the Governor's desk last week.

Ted Simons: So, what happened here? Why did this -- bills pass the legislature all the time. And, and eyebrows are raised almost constantly at these things. Why is this different?

Hank Stephenson: That's, that's a really good question. I mean, that's something that we're trying to get to the bottom of. This is just kind of caught the attention of national groups, to the point that we have not seen Senate Bill 1070. If you turn on the national news, any time in the last week, Arizona is, is usually starting the show, which is just fascinating. And these kinds of laws, or bills are being proposed in a lot of other state legislatures. It's, it's a trend that's kind of catching on, in other conservative states. But, the difference between last year and this year, I think it was, it was a very smooth P.R. operation. I think that the Democrats and the groups against this bill really just manage to, to grab, grab the issue by the horns and kind of, of handle it. They have done an impressive job on, on getting out their message, at least.

Ted Simons: And you have got -- you have got everyone in the business -- anyone of any stature in the business community here in Phoenix, and in Arizona, around the state, they are vigorously against this. They are vociferously against this. Where -- this passed the legislature, besides a co-sponsor, where are all the proponents? Are they making speeches somewhere that we're not hearing? Why are they not in front of this parade?

Hank Stephenson: I saw a good clip on CNN last night where, where there was a reporter chasing members of the legislature, Republicans back and forth from the house and the Senate, and trying to get them to, to defend the law, and it was three or four of the lawmakers, just flat shutting her out, and saying no, I don't want to talk about it. There's been a lot of misconceptions about this bill, but I don't care to clear the air on it. So, they are being very, very quiet right now, other than the center for Arizona policy, one of the Christian lobbies who is very powerful at the capitol, this was their bill, their bill this year, and they have come out supporting it, and basically, their message is read the law, it does not say anything about gays, for example. It does not need to say anything. It doesn't need the word "gay" in it to impact the gay community.

Ted Simons: And as we await the Governor. She's supposed to speak here in another ten minutes or so, and we'll try to get that for you as soon as she does make her announcement, whether she's going to veto or sign 1062 as we record here right now, but we'll replay it later on this evening. Is this the kind of thing that will stick with this legislature? Is this -- I mean, obviously the Medicaid fight stuck to its certain degree. You have factions down there. Can this be tearing the GOP caucus apart? What's the fallout from this?

Hank Stephenson: I am hoping that the fallout is they, the, they close up shop earlier, focus on the budget and get it done and passed and send it to Brewer and everyone goes home, you know, and bruised but happy. So, that's, that's my personal hope.

Ted Simons: All right, Hank, it's good to have you here, and when the Governor comes back, if we have time to talk to you, get a response from you and what you are hearing regarding Twitter and the social media regarding what she says, we would love to get you back. Thanks for joining us.

Hank Stephenson: Thanks for having me.

Hank Stephenson:Journalist, Arizona Capitol Times;

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