The Five Dumbest Ideas by Arizona Politicians in 2018

Peoria lawmaker David Livingston seemingly wanted to enshrine corruption into Arizona law this year with his bill to give enrollment preferences to the corporate sponsors of publicly funded charter schools. He later withdrew the proposal.
Peoria lawmaker David Livingston seemingly wanted to enshrine corruption into Arizona law this year with his bill to give enrollment preferences to the corporate sponsors of publicly funded charter schools. He later withdrew the proposal. Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons
Last year, the geniuses of Arizona’s political world suggested we ban masks at protests, criminalize panhandling, and bar college students from voting. That’s to say 2017 set a high bar for legislators who want to make Arizona’s laws stupider. Did they clear that lofty hurdle in 2018? Read our selections for the worst ideas this year and decide for yourself.

Telling the socialist youth who’s boss

New Times illustration
Arizona’s state bird is the cactus wren. Our state firearm is the Colt single action army revolver. You’ll find no shortage of symbolic proclamations if you leaf through the Capitol archives, but Representative Bob Thorpe this year proposed what might be the most pointless of them all.

Thorpe, the Flagstaff Republican known for being a wellspring of dumb ideas, wanted to make free-market capitalism the official political-economic system of Arizona. His bill explicitly warned that young people these days don’t understand the history of “non-American” systems like socialism. Read: The Youths are Stalin! Thorpe’s bill, HB2277, died in committee.

Forcing women to say why they’re getting an abortion

Another legislative session, another puritanical waging of culture war. The original version of SB1394 would’ve required women to choose from a list of reasons why they are getting an abortion, as if it were anyone’s business. Among those choices: “Relationship issues, including abuse, separation, divorce, and extramarital affairs.”

State Senator Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, introduced the bill, but it was really the brainchild of the ultraconservative Center for Arizona Policy. No mainstream medical organization supported the legislation. Governor Doug Ducey eventually signed a watered-down version of the bill that solely requires doctors to ask women whether they’re seeking an abortion due to rape or incest.

Giving enrollment preference to the kids of corporate donors of public charter schools

It’s no secret that politicians and corporations get along swimmingly, but every once in a while someone has a pay-to-play idea so blatant, it’s hard to believe. Take, for instance, Representative David Livingston, R-Peoria, who introduced a proposal that would’ve allowed charter schools to give enrollment preference to the children of a school’s corporate sponsors. Keep in mind that charter schools are public entities.

Livingston apparently didn’t want to draw attention to his bill, as he added it to legislation (SB1196) originally drafted as a technical correction to standards before it became a proposal to allow monitoring systems in group homes. Politics, man. Livingston eventually withdrew his pro-corruption proposal.

New mandatory minimums

Remember in the ’80s, when the U.S. government passed mandatory minimum sentencing laws that exploded our prison population, disproportionately incarcerated African-Americans, and did little to reduce crime?

Representative Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, apparently does not. He introduced a bill that would have implemented a mandatory 10-year prison sentence for people convicted of selling heroin or fentanyl for the first time. While Democrats and Republicans from multiple states are starting to realize that the nation’s punitive approach to drugs was a mistake, Farnsworth and the prosecutors who supported HB2241 are running in the other direction. The bill died in the state Senate.

Letting a creationist review how Arizona public schools teach students about evolution

Joseph Kezele believes the Earth is 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs rode on Noah’s ark. At the behest of outgoing Superintendent of State Education Diane Douglas, he also served on a committee to review her proposed changes to Arizona’s science standards. Okay.

Douglas lost her fight to implement a curriculum — provided by a private conservative college in Michigan — that would have edited out numerous references to evolution. Then she lost her primary race.
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Steven Hsieh was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from August 2018 to April 2020.
Contact: Steven Hsieh