A House Committee Hearing on Education was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on Monday, January 28. It did not start at 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m.
Instead, the people who gathered to attend the hearing (many of whom were members of Save Our Schools Arizona) were treated to a different educational experience by either watching the House of Representatives session on ACTV or taking the elevator to see the proceedings on the third-floor gallery.
They were able to witness the Arizona House Republicans demonstrate what tyranny of the majority looks like by attempting to ram through new rules (some of them changed for the first time in 72 years) for the legislative session, some of them designed to stifle and reduce debate.
Democratic members, energized by their electoral victory in 2018 which reduced the Republican Majority to two seats, were astonished by this maneuver, complaining that they had no input into the drawing and revisions of these rules and were only given days (after protesting the wish of Republicans to vote on them the day of their release) to review them.
According to State Representative Pamela Powers Hannley (also a contributor to this blog) who was on the floor during this session, “The House Democrats were flabbergasted a week ago when the Republicans wanted to vote a week ago– with NO notice– on these extensive changes. After out leadership protested, Speaker Bowers let our caucus look at the changes for a few days. The two leadership teams met. We thought that there might be a compromise, but their caucus voted not to compromise on anything. When the rules came back to the floor for a vote on Monday, we wanted it to be clear to the people in the gallery and on TV what the majority was doing. That is why Dr. Friese asked for a roll call vote on each change. In past years, rules votes were routine because there weren’t significant changes. Former Speaker Mesnard made a few positive changes to the rules– like requiring that strikers be germane to the bill. The Republicans threw that good change out on Monday. We will go back to the Wild West of strikers. When strikers can be anything, it is significantly harder to figure out what is going on, and that is by design.”
“Native American and Latino members talked about how their constituents historically don’t have a voice in government, and suppressing their voice in the House was wrong. Voters expect us to speak out. Now we must be more concise, but they won’t shut us up with this.”
“Several Republicans said that the Legislators should ask questions in their offices when they meet with lobbyists and come to the floor prepared to vote. The former Senators, who are now back at the House, would like the House to vote in silence like the Senate does. One Republican even alluded to the multiple bills that were killed in the 53rd Legislature thanks to the Democrats debate skills, as a reason for limiting debate. They don’t want us to change anyone’s minds when we peel back the onion on bad bills on live TV.”
Democratic members like Isela Blanc, Mitzi Epstein, Minority Whip Reginald Bolding, Assistant Minority Leader Randall Friese, and Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez chastized the Republicans for their methods. Mr. Friese actually asked Speaker of the House Bowers if he was “Speaker of the House or Speaker of the Republicans.” Mr. Bolding took the opportunity to make a separate motion to start the procedure of expelling Representative David Stringer for his racist comments and past accusations of indecent/sexual misconduct behavior in Maryland. He was ruled out of order.
The Tyranny of the Majority is a term that political philosophers, including this nation’s founders, popularized partially as a worry that the rights of the minority would be trampled on. This is partially why checks and balances like needing 60 votes to cut off debate in the United States Senate were designed so compromises between differing factions would have to be forged.
When the legislative session began on January 14, speakers ranging from guest speaker Luis Gonzalez (of Arizona Diamondbacks Fame) to Governor Doug Ducey in his State of the State Address emphasized the need for teamwork and bipartisanship. Republicans, who lost legislative and state office seats in the last election, need to learn that the teamwork does not mean that they are the only ones to write the rules, set the agenda, and pass Republican only bills. The people will not tolerate that anymore. They want teamwork, bipartisanship, and compromise that moves the state forward. They will not sanction the majority party ruling as tyrants and bullies or the minority acting like obstructionists. They want a good productive government that addresses the needs of the state and its citizens and will reward the legislators and party that best fulfills that promise.