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East Valley lawmaker drops a blizzard of bills in advance of upcoming legislative session

Posted at 1:52 PM, Dec 24, 2019

MESA, AZ — It's not unusual to find Representative John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction Dist. 16) doing the work of the people inside an east Mesa coffee shop.

"We got elected to do a job, let's do the job," Fillmore said. "We're only here for 100 days for crying out loud."

Fillmore represents Apache Junction and East Mesa, an evolving area of the southeast Valley where new homes, charter schools and parks are rising seemingly everywhere. Education is important to Fillmore, many of his bills are controversial, like a bill which repeals allowing schools to teach about equality. "We are spending so much for the department of education to focus on equality and transgendering and all that other stuff," Fillmore said.

Another of his proposals is consolidating school districts. Fillmore has long been a proponent. He believes consolidation will save tens of millions of dollars. His proposal would dedicate 25 percent of the savings to teacher salaries.

Fillmore says, "The way it's written right now at the low end that's an extra $50 million for those teachers, at the high end it's a couple hundred million more for teachers."

Fillmore thinks the savings are conservative, but it may not matter.

"We do need to find more ways to fund our schools," State Representative Jennifer Pawlik (D-Chandler Dist. 17) said. "I am not sure this is the way to do it."

Representative Pawlik says there is a reason school consolidation has failed every time it's been proposed since the (Janet) Napolitano administration.

"I think it comes back to local control," she said. "Parents want to be able to have contact with their school board members. They want to have a say at their school board meetings."

After spending the summer visiting Cochise, Yavapai and Yuma counties making his consolidation pitch, Representative Fillmore believes times and voter attitudes are changing.

"You know where these bills come from? When I went around the state I talked to parents, teachers and administrators. That's where these bills come from."

But first, Fillmore will need to convince members of his own party on many of the bills he is proposing. In an election year, that may be hard to do.