LEGISLATIVE SESSION 2020
Indian Nations and Tribal Day
Indian Nations and Tribal Day opened at theCapitol on Wednesday, Jan. 15, with a press conference with members of the Arizona Indigenous People's Caucus. Speakers included Senators Jamescita Peshlakai, Sally Ann Gonzales and Victoria Steele, and Representatives Arlando Teller, Jennifer Jermaine, and Myron Tsosie. Student and advocate Dylan Baca spoke about his travels across the state to convince cities to get rid of the "Christopher Columbus Day" holiday in favor of the more historically-conscious "Indigenous People's Day."
There were emotionally charged moments after the previous day's House Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee hearing, where Republicans voted to sunset the Governor's Archaeological Advisory Commission. This Commission provides vital guidance to the State Historic Preservation Officer to protect sacred indigenous antiquities and archeological sites from destruction, as well as educating the public about the cultural value of these sites.
Tsosie said, "As a member of the Natural Resources, Energy and Water committee, the vote by my colleagues across the aisle yesterday to sunset the Governor's Archaeological board deeply troubled me; what is at stake is our sacred sites, ancestor's burial grounds and ancient ruins." Tsosie immediately sponsored a bill to save the Commission.
Rep. Teller announced that education and infrastructure would be his top priorities for the session. He noted that decaying roads in tribal communities like the Navajo Nation he serves often prevent children from getting to school during bad weather.
"Infrastructure such as roads are key in tribal and rural communities because they improve the access kids have to schools in those areas," Teller said. Teller also announced he would introduce a state Violence Against Women Act. Violence against women is key focus of Rep. Jermaine as well. She updated tribal leaders on her efforts as Chairwoman of the newly created Study Committee on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls after last session. "While traveling to tribal communities throughout the state to prepare for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People's study, we have found that there is no statutory definition of 'missing' in the state of Arizona," Jermaine said. "Getting this defined in statute is essential to protecting women and children who are escaping domestic abuse."
The 2020 Legislative Session in Arizona started on Monday, Jan. 13 and Democrats have hit the ground running. Starting early Monday morning, a coalition of progressive organizations – including striking Asarco miners, Red for Ed and other education supporters, advocates for LGBTQ and women’s rights, voting rights, environmental and climate concerns and more -- rallied at the Capitol to be heard by their legislators. House and Senate Democratic Leaders Charlene Fernandez and David Bradley then took the podium to present a unified 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona.
While Gov. Ducey and Republicans outlined another backwards-looking status quo agenda with more unnecessary and fiscally irresponsible tax cuts while treading water on education investment, Democrats outlined a common-sense alternative that better reflects Arizona values.
As Rep. Fernandez stated in her fiery opening-day speech: “With the thinnest margins in decades and Democrats on the verge of a majority, we stand ready to lead – inclusively, as problem solvers --- to finally make the investments in education and infrastructure that Arizonans like you been demanding. We are ready to lead. We are ready to work with everybody. But we will not compromise our values. And those values are simple: Democrats believe in science, equal rights and the transformative power of education. We believe in building a strong economy from the ground up, where working families earning fair pay drive growth through demand and a belief in a secure future. A state that is good for workers is a state that is good for business!”