February 8, 2019

Ratifying the ERA; Texting While Driving; Aviation Tech at PCC

A look at early initiatives in the Arizona Legislature.

Arizona 360 explores the latest push at the Arizona Legislature to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Congress approved the ERA nearly 50 years ago. It would guarantee protection from discrimination based on sex. Arizona could be the 38th state to ratify the ERA, which would push it at the necessary threshold to get it into the U.S. Constitution. Democratic state Sen. Victoria Steele discussed her support for the amendment and why she is optimistic about a concurrent resolution in the Arizona Senate that would ratify the ERA.

"I think the time is right and it's been long enough," Steele said. "If we do this, this goes down in the history books, Arizona goes down in the history books."

Steele said the ERA would help resolve pay inequity issues between men and women.

"If someone feels that they have been discriminated against, they'll be able to go to a court and know that they will be treated equally," Steele said.

The Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative lobbying group, is one of the most vocal critics of the Equal Rights Amendment in Arizona. A statement from the group called the ERA unnecessary because of protections offered to women elsewhere in the U.S. Constitution, along with state and federal statutes. Briana Johnson with the Center for Arizona Policy spoke to Arizona 360 about the group's opposition.

"It conflates what it means to be same with what it means to be equal," Johnson said. She disputed the argument that the ERA would resolve pay inequity issues between men and women, adding that different career decisions made by each group should also be taken into account.

"Women make a lot of different decisions on education and in training. We typically work fewer hours. And we value a lot of different opportunities like working from home or taking time off over compensation," Johnson said.

An attempt to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment with a continuing resolution in the Arizona Senate follows a similar attempt in 2018 when a measure was introduced in the Arizona House. The effort was ultimately blocked and will likely face a similar fate this year. Christopher Conover joined Lorraine Rivera in studio to discuss the ERA's chances of being ratified by Arizona this legislative session.

Conover said the same lawmaker that held up a similar bill in the Arizona House last year is now a state senator. Another sign the current bill may be in jeopardy is a lawmaker who initially signed on to the measure pulled his sponsorship from the bill.

"Now there are not enough co-sponsors to guarantee passage," Conover said. "There are many Republican women who are involved in trying to pass this, but you still need the votes."

Arizona legislators are once again taking up a bill to create a statewide ban on texting while driving. More than 20 communities in Arizona currently ban the use of mobile devices while driving, including the Town of Oro Valley. Oro Valley police have issued more than 200 citations since the town's ordinance took effect in 2017.

Lorraine Rivera rode with the department's traffic unit to see how officers enforce the rule. Within half an hour, the officer she joined stopped three drivers suspected of violating the ban. He issued one citation and two warnings.

Oro Valley Police Chief Daniel Sharp has been a vocal supporter of a statewide law banning texting while driving. "We know studies have shown that you aren’t safer, that you are endangering other people’s lives," Sharp said. "There are other people on the roadways that would like to be able to get where they’re going without somebody running into them because they’re distracted."

Pima Community College could see a major boost in state funding in next year's budget. Gov. Doug Ducey proposed $20 million to help the college expand its Aviation Technology Program. It allows students to earn their associate degree in aviation technology or certifications in structural repair, airframe mechanics and power plant mechanics among others. Arizona 360 visited its facility near the Tucson International Airport and learned more about the growing demand for this type of skilled labor.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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