The Daily Agenda: A legislative onslaught against LGBTQ+ rights
Check out LOOKOUT for all the details ... Lots of "elections have consequences" examples ... And a freshman lawmaker to get to know.
We handed off the top of today’s newsletter to our friends at, a Phoenix-based queer-focused outlet on Substack, as they cover a protest and recent bills at the Arizona Legislature attacking LGBTQ+ rights. The following top story is written by LOOKOUT, and you can read their full post on the issue (and subscribe!) at this link.
In a show of force against the state’s far-right Republicans, drag kings and queens, trans men and women, nonbinary people, and the whole range of queer identities showed up outside the state Capitol yesterday to protest against a myriad of bills aimed to limit their rights.
The bills — seven, currently — make up only a handful of the hundreds that legislators have filed, but they have gathered enough national attention to place Arizona squarely in the center of the nation’s culture wars, particularly on LGBTQ+ rights.
Two Senate bills, SB1001 and SB1005, have passed committees: The first gives religious preference to school staff or contractors to not acknowledge students by their preferred names or pronoun if they hold a sincerely held religious belief, even if parents give permission; the second makes it easier for parents to sue school districts if they disagree with what their children are taught, such as queer issues. Neither bill is scheduled yet for a vote from the full Senate, and neither stands a chance of being signed into law by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs.
But that’s probably not the point. Organizers of the protest on Sunday say the bills are Trojan horses, creating hysteria meant to obfuscate from more important issues.
“This is to distract us from things that matter,” said Brianna Westbrook, one of the state’s more galvanizing trans voices who ran for the Arizona House this past election, but lost. “Every six months, I hear about more unsheltered community members dying in the streets. Their lives matter.”
Others, like Jeanne Woodbury, the interim executive director of Equality Arizona, spoke plainly.
“Fuck this,” she said. “I am a lobbyist. And my job is to sit down and have reasonable discussions with these people. But there’s no reasonable discussion over my right to be myself, or what surgeries I’ve had, or what hormones I take.”
But beyond the bills that address trans students, the march was organized primarily to confront rhetoric created by the nation’s religious right and embraced by Arizona Sens. Anthony Kern and John Kavanagh to try to limit drag queen performances.
The bills proposed by the two senators could relegate drag shows — even Broadway theatre — to performances that would require a license similar to adult clubs. Performers, themselves, would also need to be licensed.
Erica Connell, a drag performer who goes by the name The Weird Violet, said that the Legislature is playing games with their livelihood, but also with their existence.
“They are playing really disgusting politics,” she said. “And they are not going to stop.”
Why elections matter: Executions are on hold in Arizona as new Attorney General Kris Mayes seeks to withdraw a petition to execute Aaron Gunches, the only pending death penalty warrant, the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins reports. And Gov. Katie Hobbs created a new position for a Death Penalty Independent Review Commissioner via an executive order Friday, tasking the position with going over all parts of the death penalty process.
Why elections matter, part 2: Separately, Mayes said she will repurpose the AG’s “election integrity unit,” created a few years ago to prosecute election fraud cases under Republican former AG Mark Brnovich, to instead focus on voting rights, ballot access and election worker protection, Rachel writes in the Guardian.
Just win the publishers clearinghouse: Failed secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem is still fundraising off his bid for office, telling supporters he needs more money to pay off campaign debt, but his campaign finance filings show he still has money in the bank, Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer reports. Finchem didn’t respond to Fischer to clarify what he needs the money for, though he probably has some legal expenses still in need of paying.
About that surveillance program from last week: Oregon Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden wants the Justice Department to investigate the use of an Arizona nonprofit’s database of wire transfers by law enforcement, The Hill reports. Meanwhile, Mayes’ office defended the use of the Transaction Record Analysis Center database and says her office will continue to use it to investigate money laundering, sex trafficking and drug trafficking, 12News’ Joe Dana reports.
It’s always an election year: U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has long teased a run for U.S. Senate, plans to announce his bid for the office currently held by U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema this week, Newsweek reports. Another potential contender for the seat, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, said he won’t be running for the office.
Bigger than your average suburb: While some are already gaming out federal elections next year, the mayoral race in Mesa is heating up. Matt Salmon, who most recently ran for governor, and Scott Smith, a former mayor of Mesa, both are considering a run to lead the Phoenix suburb next year, Axios Phoenix’s Jessica Boehm and Jeremy Duda report. Mayor John Giles, a Republican who supported Hobbs and other Democrats in 2022 (whose photos were once used without permission on a dating site to catfish people), is termed out.
Slightly different: Hobbs is continuing the Ducey administration’s program to bus migrants away from Arizona, though with some tweaks. While Doug Ducey’s program bused people from the border to Washington, DC, Hobbs’ configuration of it could get them closer to their preferred destination. And in addition to buses, they’ll now have the option to take flights instead, AZFamily reports.
How Hobbs won: An analysis of voter data from the 2022 general election shows 33,000 Maricopa County voters chose Hobbs for governor while voting for Republicans lower on the ballot, and about 6,000 GOP-leaning voters didn’t pick either Hobbs or Republican candidate Kari Lake, the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl reports.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign: Two proposals that will likely collide with the First Amendment seek to limit campaign signs and restrict protests in front of homes. A bill from Republican Sen. Steve Kaiser would prohibit campaign signs in public rights of way, Fischer reports. And Republican Sen. John Kavanagh would expand laws that limit picketing at residences to make more home protests illegal, the Arizona Mirror’s Jerod MacDonald-Evoy reports.
Not a bad Q&A, if we do say so ourselves: For the Guardian, Rachel spoke with Maricopa County civil division chief Tom Liddy, who has defended many of the election lawsuits the county faced since 2020, about his background as a conservative, his work on elections and the death threats he’s encountered.
Campus safety fallout continues: The University of Arizona announced that it will now conduct background checks of graduate assistants, the thousands of grad students who teach or assist in teaching undergraduate classes, in the wake of professor Thomas Meixner’s murder by a grad student, the Arizona Daily Star’s Kathryn Palmer reports. The alleged murderer had a history of violent behavior that could have been caught by a background check before he was hired.
Personal becomes political: Republican Sen. David Farnsworth revealed that he had been homeless and slept on the streets in Seattle during a mental health crisis years ago while explaining why he was voting against a bill from Kavanagh that would make sleeping on sidewalks a crime, Fischer reports.
"As an adult with children, I ran away from home, so to speak, went up to Seattle, spent weeks up there sitting next to a park,'' he said. "During that time period, I was homeless even though I owned a home in Mesa.''
What could the canal be?: Phoenix wants to make the Grand Canal in central Phoenix into a destination, with places to eat, shop, look at public art and hang out, but the few plans in the works have run into trouble because the Salt River Project, which manages the canal, needs access to it, Axios Phoenix’s Jeremy Duda reports.
With a huge new crop of freshman lawmakers taking over the Capitol this year, we thought it would be helpful to introduce you to some of the fresh faces on campus. So, we’re adding a little “get to know a freshman” section to the newsletter for paid subscribers. We plan to run this extra section a few days per week and bring back our Bill of the Day section the other few days. Subscribe below to read our first installment.
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