State Senator Victoria Steele, a staunch advocate for the environment and children, will hit the ground running January 13 when the Legislature opens next month, introducing four bills to combat climate change in Arizona.
Steele, a Democrat representing Tucson’s Legislative District 9, spoke to a supportive audience at a recent Democrats of Greater Tucson meeting. It is Arizona’s only weekly forum for Democrats. Every meeting has speakers addressing subjects of political interest. Frequently, Democratic candidates announce their candidacies and present their platforms at our meetings.
She also plans legislation on sex education, rapist parental rights, and the clergy-penitent privilege loophole.
“Scientists all over the globe say we are facing a climate emergency — it’s not in the future — it’s now,” she said. “In the last 10 years, Arizona has faced 12 climate emergencies, including extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and severe storms. Our summers are hotter, and long monsoons might be a thing of the past.”
Steele said 155 people in 2017 died from extreme heat-related causes. She intends to introduce four bills that will grow electric vehicle (“EV”) markets:
- All new homes to be built with 240-volt electric vehicle-ready hookups. “Sales of EV’s increased by 80% last year,” Steele said. “Arizona has to be ready to take advantage of this opportunity.”
- Rebates for homeowners who retrofit their existing homes for electric vehicles.
- Installing EV charging stations at the state capitol and all three state universities. “This is so that they will be the norm, especially for our state legislators,” she says.
- Phasing out gas guzzlers in the state’s fleet of vehicles, and replacing them with electric vehicles.
Steele is also writing a bill to mandate comprehensive medically-accurate sex education. “This will teach kids about relationships, sexuality, how to protect their bodies and talk about consent. It is so important to know that if a woman is passed out drunk – she can’t consent. Kids should know this before they start dating and have sex — way before graduation.
In Arizona, sex education is optional. Parents, according to state law, have the right to opt their child into the sex-ed program if their district or charter school offers one, but the instruction is not required.
“Would you rather have kids taught about sex education by a highly qualified teacher or by Pornhub?” she asked.
Steele said it’s time to repeal rapist parental rights. “If someone rapes your granddaughter, she’s pregnant and decides to have the baby — the rapist can file for custody, and he can prevent her from moving out of state so he can see his child,” Steel says.
Closing the loophole on the clergy-penitent privilege will be the target of another bill. She recalled the horrendous case of a man in Bisbee who confessed to a Mormon bishop that he was raping his 5 children. The bishop, who was a medical doctor, never reported it to criminal authorities. The man had a 6th child and posted pictures of him having sex with his baby.
“If someone is telling you that a child is being hurt, neglected, or sexually abused — you have to report it. You should not be able to get out of it because you are a minister, particularly because so many people are hurt by someone in their church. I want to repeal that privilege. In our legislature, won’t be a slam dunk,” Steele said.
Steele said her very first bill to be introduced will call for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Virginia may become the requisite 38th state to ratify the ERA after the November elections gave the Democratic Party majority control of both houses of the Virginia legislature. The incoming leaders expressed their intent to hold a vote on ratification.
“In Arizona, we think if we can get a vote, it will pass. I don’t think we should stop; we’ll do everything we can to get a vote,” Steele said. “Let’s say Virginia will be 38th state. This is untrodden constitutional ground, there will be lawsuits, and some states have rescinded their ratification. We may need to be the 39th or 40th state. Women’s right to vote were not ratified by Mississippi until 1984, and we don’t want to be on the shortlist of states that don’t ratify the ERA.”
Steele said she will support the Senate Democratic caucus priorities:
- Fully restoring education funding to 2010 levels.
- Increasing funding for JTED (Joint Technical Education Districts) and community colleges.
- Restoring money to the state trust fund to help people who are homeless.
- Increasing the subsidy for child care.
- Increasing the kinship care stipend from $75 to $250. This program is available to all families who have children placed in their care by the Arizona Department of Child Safety. The kinship stipend compares with the $800 stipend for an unrelated foster parent.
Sen. Steele was one of only eight Democrats in the state Legislature to get a bill passed during the last session.