Arizona Capitol

The Five Dumbest Ideas From Arizona Politicians in 2017

Arizona lawmakers made multiple attempts to criminalize protests this year.
Arizona lawmakers made multiple attempts to criminalize protests this year. Ray Stern
Last weekend, our sister paper Miami New Times published their annual roundup of Florida politicians' five worst ideas. It's pretty brutal — but if there's one state that consistently gives Florida a run for its money when it comes to batshit crazy legislation, it's Arizona.

In fact, it's extremely tough to choose only five terrible ideas that came out of the state legislature this year.

So here's a suggestion if you're looking for a fun game to play over the holidays: Read their list, then take a look at our picks from Arizona. Then, decide for yourself which state had the worse year.

1. Let the government seize of the property of people who plan protests.

Claiming that anarchists were getting paid to go out and destroy private property, state Senator Sonny Borrelli, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, introduced legislation designed to "allow law enforcement to target the money source." 

The bill would have allowed protest organizers to be held liable if an event got out of hand, as Phoenix New Times explained at the time. It also would have expanded the definition of the word "riot" to encompass any instance where people caused damage to private property.

Legal experts quickly pointed out how easily this could go wrong: If, for instance, someone else started a fire at a protest that you'd organized, prosecutors could then put a lien on your house.

2. Make it illegal to panhandle on the side of the road.

If there's one thing we know about state Senator John Kavanagh, it's that he really doesn't like panhandlers. Scarcely a year goes by without him trying to introduce potentially unconstitutional legislation aimed at cracking down on people who beg for money.

The latest installment: This year, the Fountain Hills Republican suggested charging people with a petty offense if they approached cars stopped at traffic lights and asked for money.

According to the Arizona Republic, Kavanagh "told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee the legislation was needed to protect people 'trapped' in their vehicles, unable to drive away when a light is red."

3. Ban social justice classes.

HB 2120, introduced by state representative Bob Thorpe, a Republican from Flagstaff, would have banned classes and campus events that "promote division, resentment, or social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class, or other class of people."

That would have included any courses or activities that "are designed primarily for a particular ethnic group,” "promote social justice toward a race,” or “advocate solidarity based on ethnicity.” Thorpe even singled out two specific examples: a “privilege walk” exercise that took place at the the University of Arizona, and a class called “Whiteness and Race Theory” at Arizona State University.

Because irony isn't dead, Thorpe described it as his "Martin Luther King, Jr. bill."

4. Keep college students from voting.

Bob Thorpe — the only legislator insane enough to have two bills on this list — was up for re-election in 2016. And students at Northern Arizona University overwhelmingly rejected him.

Thorpe won anyway. After that, he did what any self-respecting politician would do: He tried to pass a law that would prevent students from using their campus addresses to register to vote. (College students "unfairly influence" local elections, he has said.)

HB 2260 was definitely illegal, according to the Coconino County Recorder, and the bill went nowhere. But this summer, Thorpe announced that he would try to pass similar legislation again next year.

5. Ban masks at protests.

State Representative Jay Lawrence's main takeaway from the chaos after August's Trump rally: Masks are bad.

Seriously. Two days after the rally, Lawrence, a Republican from Scottsdale, announced that he was planning on introducing legislation next year that would make it a felony to wear masks or costumes to protests, political gatherings, or, in fact, any public event at all.

According to Lawrence, the only times when it's acceptable to wear a costume is "for a business-related purpose” or in situations where “a disguise may generally be viewed as part of acceptable attire.” 

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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.