Arizona SB 1062 Is Dead But Arizona HB 2379 Is Very Much Alive

Arizona SB 1062 is dead and that is a very, very good thing for everyone, both in Arizona and the other states in the Union who were considering their own versions of this bill. It’s even good for the people who were supporting the bill, although they’ll never admit it.

But although the “Gays Stay Away” bill is dead on arrival, the other piece of legislation that has my ire raised is still very much alive. Despite reports to the contrary, Arizona HB 2379 is still very much alive.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that:

A major change to House Bill 2379, written by Rep. Justin Olson, removes language limiting how much the secondary property taxes levied by county free library, county jail and public-health-service districts can be increased.

A strike everything amendment, passed by the House Ways and Means Committee, replaces the original text with new language requiring the taxing entity to annually disclose tax-rate information.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said the bill has essentially been neutralized and the county does not oppose the current version of the bill.

On the one hand, hooray for us, we get to keep our libraries, the state government doesn’t get to arbitrarily tell us what to do with our communities and I get to keep my job for at least another year. But to celebrate in the streets à la the protesters of SB 1062? Not so fast.

This is where an understanding of language in politics comes in handy. Politicians choose words very carefully and words don’t always mean the same thing in a political context as they do in others. Sure, “neutralized” might mean “killed” in a military context, but in a political one, it means exactly what it says; the bill is neutral now. It’s not moving forward . . . but it’s also not dead. It’s “gutted” . . . but a gutted beast can recover. It can still inflict harm.

Neutralized is a good thing, but it’s not a great thing for fans of public libraries in Arizona.

Maya Castillo, president of SEIU Arizona had this to say about the neutralization in a Facebook post:

HB 2379, despite Joe’s [Arizona Daily Star] article, is not dead. The striker does gut it to an extent. But I hate this striker too! Why? First, there shouldn’t be any additional restrictions on how library increases happen. It’s our money and any additional requirements are designed to hinder increases– we shouldn’t be hindered, especially when it comes to our library.

Second, it’s a legislative trap. So here’s what happens: we choose through our elected to raise the rate 3%, have public hearings, etc. The next year we do the same but say 4%. Year three, the state leg[sic] comes back and says “See! We told you they needed more oversight! 7% in two years?!” And then we’re back where we started!

Consider the fact that Justin Olson, the sponsor of this bill, has been trying to pass a version of this legislation since 2009. Consider that it seems like Republicans were trying to fast track this bill before anyone could raise an outcry. With that in mind, I don’t think that anything short of a resounding defeat in the state House or state Senate or a veto from the Governor will fully kill this odious bit of legislation.

There’s some lobbying muscle behind this bill and I doubt we’ve seen the last of it. I’d rather not have to worry about half the libraries in Pima County suddenly vanishing every single year and I don’t think members of the public (who have been overwhelmingly supportive of us) want that, either.

I hope the momentum keeps up against this bill. We saw the power of political pressure against SB 1062. Hopefully that power will kill HB 2379. If not, the library’s collective neck will certainly come up on the chopping block again, perhaps even from the next version of the same bill.

HB 2379 isn’t dead. Until it is, it’s too early to let our guard down.

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