Legislative Roundup: Minimum Wage, Campus Free Speech, Egg De-reg

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX — This week the House of Representatives quickly filled the vacant seat left by former Representative Don Shooter from Yuma. His replacement is Tim Dunn, who was sworn in Tuesday afternoon.

Rep. Tim Dunn is sworn in to replace Don Shooter, who was expelled in early Feb. from his seat in District 13. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Dunn is a farmer from Yuma and will represent District 13 as a Republican.

Shooter was expelled on Feb. 1 following the release of a report that detailed allegations of sexual harassment made against Shooter and a fellow legislator, Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale). The independent investigators found that many of the allegations were not credible or were impossible to verify.

Other than that, the Legislature took a look at a number of important bills that will have an immediate effect on college campuses, as well as egg producers. Confused? Read on.

Minimum to Hit a Maximum

Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) has introduced a resolution to cap the yearly minimum wage increase and repeal paid sick leave. SCR1016 would provide a maximum minimum wage of $10.50, which is what the unaltered law set for 2018. Last year’s minimum was $10 per hour.

At the end of 2016, a citizen’s initiative called Prop 206 increased the Arizona minimum wage up to $10 an hour, with provisions to ensure that it would increase every year up to $12 an hour in 2019. This represented a big jump from the previous minimum wage of $8.05 in 2016. The initiative was popular with workers and less so with business owners.

The resolution passed through the Senate Committee on Commerce and Public Safety with a 5-3 vote. If the resolution passes through the rest of the Legislature it would then go to the voters as another initiative.

“That’s why these things are written on paper and not stone, so we can go back and change things,” Committee member Sen. Borrelli said. “This should go back to the voters.”

Keeping Campus Free Speech Free

The ability to shout at passersby, protest the government and make a scene — otherwise known as exercising First Amendment rights — will be especially protected on colleges across the state, according to a bill introduced in the House of Representatives this week.

Rep. Paul Boyer (R-Phoenix) brought HB 2563 to the House Committee on Education, which voted 8-3 in favor of a “Do Pass” recommendation. The bill restricts university administrations from barring someone from exercising their right to free speech in most cases (violence or acts that infringe on others’ rights to free speech being the biggest no-no’s) and regulates what actions administrations can take with guest speakers.

Boyer’s bill allows higher education institutions to take a position on “the public controversies of the day” but encourages them to remain neutral and bars them from acting upon these public controversies unless required to keep the institution functioning.

One of the most visible “free speakers”in Arizona is notoriously offensive “Brother” Dean Saxton, who has been a fixture on the University of Arizona and Arizona State University campuses for several years.

“Brother” Dean Saxton holds up signs protesting the Black Lives Matter movement in 2016. (Photo by: Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News)

Brother Dean received a one-year ban from the UA campus in 2016 for assaulting a student on campus. He returned in September of 2017 to resume his often-vitriolic campus preaching, for which he was featured in a VICE documentary in 2014.

Nationally, the conversation on free speech on campuses has swirled around whether  hate speech should be silenced and riots over guest speakers. Last year Milo Yiannopoulos, a firebrand alt-right speaker, was scheduled to speak at University of California-Berkeley when a riot broke out over what leftist groups claimed to be an event dedicated to outing undocumented students.

HB 2563 will next go to the House Committee on Rules, where if it passes, goes to the next step in becoming a law on the House floor.

“De-Reg the Egg”

Rep. Jill Norgaard (R-Phoenix) has hatched a plan to keep your eggs in the fridge for longer.

Norgaard has introduced HB 2464, which would more than double the expiration date on packaged eggs from 24 days to 45. She claims that there’s been broad support among producers, grocers and others in the industry to get this bill into law.

“We have an agreement to ‘de-reg the egg,'”Norgaard said.

Her colleagues on the House Committee on Commerce seemed to agree that the current expiration date isn’t all it’s been cracked up to be — they voted unanimously in favor of offering a “Do Pass” recommendation. The egg bill will then move on to the Committee on Rules before going to the floor.

Erik Kolsrud is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the school of journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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