The legislative session is winding down, and — yet again — the needs of our children and our citizens have been neglected. I had hoped, given the results of the 2018 elections, that there would be a more bipartisan spirit to the debate and the decisions made by this current legislature, but that is not what we’ve seen.
Our state’s economy continues to recover, but there is still no commitment evident at the state Capitol to restore funding to our public schools to pre-recession levels. Worse, perhaps, there has been a push this session to further an extreme, conservative agenda that takes away voting rights, reduces the minimum wage for students, and allows insurance companies to sell junk healthcare to unsuspecting customers.
Let’s focus on what should and could have been:
Clearly, there should have been a consensus to use the one billion in budget surplus to reduce class size, invest in public infrastructure, ensure more Arizonans have access to quality health care and increase staffing levels of our police and fire departments — which, like our schools, face shortages.
Respecting the decision-making authority of cities, expanding voting rights by automatically registering anyone who is eligible to vote who obtains a drivers license (Rep. Raquel Teran’s HB2215), implementing charter school reform that would actually hold the schools and their leaders accountable (Rep. Isela Blanc’s HB2220), and upholding workforce protections would have put Arizona on the right side of history, as we surely should be protecting, not limiting, freedom and liberty “for all.”
The legislature controls the dialogue, and there has been too much talk this session about making lemonade the state drink and about discriminating against our young people and about unconstitutional restrictions, and not nearly enough about policies that would empower the state’s citizens, particularly the next generation. We all depend on knowledge and education (both our own and others’), and we should expect our legislature to invest more in the civic functions and tasks that educate and empower everyone.