Arizona lawmakers reject bill allowing protests outside of school board meetings | Government and politics

Several dozen people confronted a Pima County Sheriff’s lieutenant in the lobby of the Vail Education Center in April 2021 after they were repeatedly asked to leave the facility after a meeting was canceled of the Vail School District Board of Trustees. The meeting was canceled before it officially started when most members of the crowd refused to wear masks or accept limits on the number of people allowed to enter the building imposed due to COVID-19.

Arizona Daily Star Kelly Presnell

Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX — State senators have struck down legislation to ensure parents and others can protest outside school board meetings without fear of arrest.

SB 1010 was killed Tuesday in a 4-4 vote as Sen. Tyler Pace, R-Mesa, sided with three Democrats on the Senate Education Committee who opposed the measure.

But what apparently doomed the proposal was not so much questions about protest rights, but an offer from its sponsor, Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, to also convert all future school board races to partisan affairs. She said this was designed to fix a problem she sees with the current system.

“I’m not sure parents know exactly what these school board members believe, what they’re thinking,” Ugenti-Rita said. Her candidates having an R or a D, or whatever, behind their name would make a difference.

“Having to identify yourself to your party helps communicate to a potential voter where you stand,” she said. “And this voter can ask questions.”

Pace, who has at times been reluctant to toe the party line, said the proposal was based on a faulty assumption that those registered as Republicans, like him, will all vote the same.

Tuesday’s vote, however, may not be the end of the issue of protecting protest rights.

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