BREAKING: Arizona Republicans ban public from attending controversial immigration bill vote, in possible violation of state law

capitol

The Arizona State seal seen from the inside of the Arizona House of Representatives, as police can be seen monitoring the Capitol grounds in the background. Photo by Camaron Stevenson

By Camaron Stevenson

June 4, 2024

Republican lawmakers barred the public from the Arizona House Tuesday ahead of a vote on a controversial proposal that would allow for warrantless arrests and could greenlight racial profiling by law enforcement.

The gallery, a section of the Arizona House where the public can watch legislators debate and vote on bills, was quietly closed hours before lawmakers were scheduled to vote on House Concurrent Resolution 2060.

“It is undemocratic to close the gallery to the public who are here to see how we vote on this bill,” said Democratic Rep. Nancy Guitierrez. “Because that does not serve democracy, that does not serve the state of Arizona.”

The rushed nature of the vote and limited access by the public could potentially violate the state’s Open Meeting Laws. State law requires public meetings be scheduled 24 hours in advance on a calendar available to the public, but Tuesday’s floor vote wasn’t on the Legislature calendar until late Monday afternoon. While the law does not allow members of the public to speak or disrupt meetings, it also clearly defines the ability to attend as a right and does not allow lawmakers to restrict access to future meetings as a result of past disruptions.

While the public is barred from attending publicly, they may watch the House vote via livestream, or access the recording through the Arizona Legislature’s video archive.

Avoiding confrontation

The decision to close the gallery partially resulted from a number of heated exchanges during previous discussions of HCR 2060—the most recent of which ended in a shouting match between two state senators and a member of the public who opposed the bill.

“My brown skin does not make me a criminal!” Someone shouted from the gallery, interrupting Republican Sen. TJ Shope as he spoke in support of HCR 2060.

“You should get the hell outta here,” Shope yelled back, which led to more yelling from the gallery.

Republican Sen. Warren Petersen then ordered the gallery to be cleared and was advised by Republican Sen. John Kavanagh to have everyone in the gallery arrested for “disrupting the legislature.” This only further incensed the crowd, who began to chant, “stop the hate!”

“Shame, shame on you, sir,” Petersen yelled as the gallery was emptied. He then repeated, “you have no self-control” seven times and continued to berate the public for several minutes as they were escorted out by law enforcement. Despite threats made by lawmakers, no arrests were made.

arizona house

The Rules of Decorum for the Arizona Legislature on display in the lobby of the Arizona House of Representatives. Photo by Camaron Stevenson.

After the vote

HCR 2060 is expected to pass along party lines, but instead of being sent to the governor, the measure will be added to the November 2024 ballot. If approved by a majority of voters, it would:

  • Give state law enforcement authority to arrest anyone they suspect has entered the country outside authorized ports of entry
  • Declares crossing the border anywhere outside a port of entry to be a state crime—and a felony
  • Creates stricter requirements and penalties for businesses that employ immigrants
  • Grants law enforcement and government bodies blanket immunity from civil lawsuits that might result from enforcement of the law, even in actions that result in injury or death
  • Requires harsher penalties against anyone convicted of knowingly selling fentanyl if that fentanyl causes someone’s death

Author

  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

CATEGORIES: STATE LEGISLATURE

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This