Lobbyist Cathi Herrod Gets Special Access at the Capitol, According to a Former Lawmaker
Well before the controversy over Senate Bill 1062, there were complaints that Center for Arizona Policy lobbyist Cathi Herrod's power at the Capitol essentially made her an unelected lawmaker.
In recent weeks, activists have protested at Herrod's office, complaining that it certainly appears that Herrod, an unelected lobbyist, has too much power. According to a former lawmaker, that's how it appears behind the scenes, too.
"Every time there was one of her bills on the floor of the Senate, she would be wandering around the second floor unescorted [where the entrance to the Senate floor is] -- which you never see," former Democratic Senator David Schapira tells New Times.
Schapira says not even former legislators-turned-lobbyists get that kind of access.
He adds that Herrod would wait outside the door leading to the offices, waiting for lawmakers to go in and out, so she could get inside. He says he complained about it, but nothing was done.
Schapira was the Senate Minority Leader from 2011 to 2013 but ended up making a run for U.S. Congress in 2012, placing second to now-Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema in the Democratic primary in Congressional District 9.
During his last term in the Legislature, Schapira got a good look at Herrod's power.
He proposed a bill that strengthened laws surrounding bullying reporting and policies in public schools, as well as charter schools. That bill was passed by the Senate, which is no easy task, especially for a Democrat up against a Republican majority.
However, the bill was held in the Senate, never getting a chance for a hearing or vote in the House, and thus killing the chances of the bill becoming a law.
Schapira would find out from his colleagues that Herrod had made the case for one Senator to use a rare procedure to hold the bill in the Senate, despite the bill being approved by a majority vote.
Schapira says a Republican lawmaker told him that Herrod said the bill was a "backdoor gay bill, no pun intended."
"She killed my bill by saying it was part of the, quote, gay agenda," he says.
That explanation came despite the fact that there was no mention of the word "gay" or "homosexual" or anything about sexual orientation in the bill. Note that last month, as Herrod was pushing SB 1062 -- a bill widely seen as an effort to discriminate against LGBT people -- she tried to assure everyone that it wasn't anti-gay, because there was no mention of the word "gay" in the bill. Hm.
Given Herrod's special access to legislators, and her apparent power to kill a bill, it might not be incredibly hard to believe that lawmakers quickly passed SB 1062 last month, despite heavy opposition by the public.
Or that last year, twelve of the bills she hustled were passed by the Legislature, three of which were ultimately vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer.
It apparently doesn't matter that some of the Center for Arizona Policy's bills make Arizona look like the land of morons, like Arizona's law banning human-animal hybrids, or that some end up costing the taxpayers big-time, like the four anti-abortion bills pushed by CAP that have been overturned by the courts.
Even when Governor Jan Brewer announced in a televised press conference that she was vetoing SB 1062, she firmly stated that the bill was not one of her policy priorities, like passing a budget, or passing one of her many proposed reforms of Child Protective Services.
How did lawmakers respond to that? Within 24 hours, the House had passed a Herrod-backed bill to create another tax break for "religious organizations," which is expected to cost the state up to $2.1 million in 2016.
Within a week, the House passed another one of Herrod's bills, allowing the state health department to do inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant. A very similar law pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy in the late '90s was overturned in court a decade ago, and a legislative attorney said he wasn't sure that this new version wasn't unconstitutional, too. A lawsuit is likely to come.
On Thursday, the day after the House passed that bill, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the state health department over another one of the 20 Arizona abortion laws pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy -- a law that was passed in 2012, limiting the time-frame in which women can seek abortions, among other things.
The legislators and activists who celebrated the defeat of SB 1062 may have won an important battle, but they're not doing so well in the war.
Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.