Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Day of Common Sense in a Place Not Known for it By Mark R. Kerr

Arizonans, young and old, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) and straight supportive, HIV negative and positive converged on Arizona’s State Capital complex, 1700 West Washington in Phoenix for the 2009 Progressive Lobby Day held Tuesday, February 3.

This event is billed as to teach people to learn how Arizona state lawmakers work and themselves can make a difference in creating a just and compassionate Arizona and is sponsored by many statewide partnerships, groups and organizations, including the:

Anti-Defamation League, Arizona Advocacy Network, Arizona Women's Political Caucus, Business and Professional Women/Arizona, Center for Progressive Leadership, Democracy for America-Maricopa County, Equality Arizona, Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network (GLSEN) Phoenix, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona, Planned Parenthood Arizona, Phoenix Pride, Fair Trade CafĂ© and Wingspan - Southern Arizona’s LGBT Community Center.

In addition to attending committee meetings and hearings and hearing speeches about the issues from the various groups, organizations and elected officials, including Arizona’s Attorney General, Terry Goddard, those present had an opportunity to lobby their Legislators on issues of concern to them but the question posed was “will they listen?”

On Monday, February 2, the deadline passed for proposals to be introduced in their respective chambers in the Arizona Legislature and by the close of the legislative day, 1,010 bills, mandates, resolutions, concurrent, joint or otherwise had been filed, dealing with the usual inanity, such as creating more license plates, catalytic converters (new and used), regulations for releasing dogs and cats from a local pound, prohibiting horse tripping, the amount one can load in their truck to more tax cuts for the rich to satisfy the Republican’s “thirst.”

After the GOP-controlled Legislature gutted the Fiscal Year 2009 budget to deal with the financial crisis, the attention turned to the state budget for the next Fiscal Year (2010) which starts on July 1. With that looming budgetary crisis, some Arizona House Committees will be holding hearings on some of the 1,010 proposals.

At the deadline, several positive bills of note were introduced.

HB 2455, entitled “nondiscrimination; accommodation; employment; housing,” this bill sponsored by Democratic state Representative Cloves Campbell of Phoenix, Daniel Patterson of Tucson and the openly Gay, state Representative Matt Heinz of Tucson, would expand current, state statutes on discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

Openly Lesbian state Senator, Paula Aboud (D-Tucson), has filed several pieces of legislation for consideration during this session, those of note:

SB 1367, “sentencing; aggravating factors; misdemeanors,” would expand Arizona’s laws on hate crimes on felonious offenses to cover misdemeanor ones as well.

Entitled “employment discrimination; prohibition ,” SB 1368 is a state version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and protect the rights of employees from discrimination in their workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Democratic State Senators Ken Cheuvront of Phoenix, Linda Lopez of Tucson and Meg Burton Cahill of Tempe have introduced SB 1397 “unmarried couples; responsibilities,” which would create a statewide, domestic partnership registry, giving rights to an unmarried couple that had registered with the state in the following: hospital visitation, emergency medical decision-making, inheritance, burial and cremation duties.

State Senator Linda Lopez, Democrat of Tucsonand strong supporter of LGBT Arizonans has introduced SB 1410 “schools; harassment; bullying; protected classes,” along with 21 other Democratic state Senators and Representatives as cosponsors. Lopez’ proposal would protect LGBT students from harassment in Arizona’s public school system.

Online, Arizona’s Legislature can be found at or for those without Internet access, to reach their Legislators call (800) 352-8404.

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