Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, March 11, 2013

Republicans in AZ House attack student freedom of speech - UPDATED 10 pm MST 3-11-13

This afternoon, the Arizona House of Representatives, on a strictly party line vote, passed HB2169 to defund the Arizona Students' Association in a blatant attack on the free speech rights of university students in our state.

According to a fact sheet prepared by House staff,
The Arizona Students’ Association (ASA) is an organization directed and funded by Arizona’s public university students. According to its mission statement, ASA “works to make sure that higher education in Arizona is affordable and accessible by advocating to elected officials and running issue campaigns to engage students.” ASA receives funding through a $2 fee paid each semester from every Arizona university student’s tuition. On February 7, 2013 the Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved a proposal to make the $2 fee optional for students. (emphasis added)
HB2169, however, prohibits that funding altogether. It says:
Section 1.  Title 15, chapter 13, article 2, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 15-1626.01, to read:
15-1626.01.  Transfer of fees for student organizations; prohibition; supportA.  A university under the jurisdiction of the Arizona board of regents shall not transfer any portion of the tuition or fees collected from students pursuant to section 15‑1626 or use any university student billing process to collect monies on behalf of an organization not under the jurisdiction of the Arizona board of regents and not recognized as a university student organization.B.  A university under the jurisdiction of the Arizona board of regents may establish and support student government at the university and the university recognized student organizations and clubs, and provide support for these student groups from tuition and fees pursuant to section 15-1633. 

A.R.S. § 15-1633 says (in part):
A. A person acting on behalf of a university or a person who aids another person acting on behalf of a university shall not use university personnel, equipment, materials, buildings or other resources for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of elections or to advocate support for or opposition to pending or proposed legislation.  

So, if enacted into law (which is likely and will take place if the state senate also passes it and Brewer doesn't veto it), this bill effectively defunds the Arizona Students' Association efforts to advocate on behalf of university students.

Read about some of the history that resulted in the wrath of angry Republicans and spurred the introduction of HB2169.
In 2012, ASA engaged in financial and grassroots support for Prop. 204, a ballot proposition to extend a one-cent sales tax to fund education, because it sought to fund universities and student financial aid. The ASA Board of Directors voted unanimously to contribute more than $120,000 to Prop. 204 because it was well within the organization’s mission. On numerous occasions, Regents publically criticized ASA for its support of Prop. 204.
All of this because ASA has the audacity to advocate in favor of honoring the Arizona Constitution's provision in Article 11, Section 6:
The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible. (emphasis added)
Oh, I almost forgot, those big bad Republicans in the Arizona Legislature have a REALLY hard time when citizens try to "usurp their authority." Which is what they believe the exercise of direct democracy effectively does.


How silly of me to earlier forget to include an especially pertinent provision from the Arizona Constitution, Article 2, Section 2, which highlights the exquisite irony of the legislature even considering HB 2169:

Political power; purpose of government
Section 2. All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights. 

I don't know to what extent HB2169 could or would be ruled unconstitutional by Arizona courts, but it seems to be fundamentally at odds with the intent and purpose set forth in the founding document.

1 comment:

  1. Steve,

    When was the last time any Republican in the Arizona Legislature actually cared if one of their bills was Constitutional or not?