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Late night hearing at the Arizona Capitol turns into shouting match

Arizona capitol
Posted at 7:09 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 22:26:19-05

PHOENIX — Not wanting a repeat of last week's heated hearing in the Senate Judiciary committee over a sanctuary city bill, House Elections Committee Chair Kelly Townsend laid down the law early during Tuesday's hearing.

"I'm not going to entertain any accusations of any of these members as to their motives." At issue a provision in a bill by Townsend prohibiting more than one person in a voting booth.

There are exceptions for voters who bring their children to the polls and when a voter is disabled. But the proposal does not allow translators.

Opponents, some of them, newly naturalized U.S. citizens waited up to seven hours to speak. They argue the bill will suppress an immigrant's right to vote.

The hearing started late and it lasted nearly 5 hours.

When it was time to hear HB 2304 LUCHA-Arizona Democracy Director Randy Perez was warned by Townsend to keep his comments to the bill after he made reference to President Trump.

"It's so indicative of the process that is being laid out in this bill," Perez said, "because just like that it establishes the presumption that people of color are undergoing an illegal or illicit activity and other folks are not."

The comment led to a rebuke by Committee member Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert) who said Perez was being disrespectful, "What set the precedent for the meeting was the behavior of certain people," Petersen said, "you and others who are disrespecting the process."

Republican lawmakers view Perez as a provocateur, he was ordered out of the sanctuary city hearing by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth.

Townsend then called a recess, confronted Perez, words were exchanged and Perez was escorted out of the room.

When Representative Townsend called the meeting back to order, she announced, "let the record show, that I did not recess because anybody was brown. " With that Townsend ended debate.

When people who had spent hours waiting to speak complained, Townsend blamed her decision on them, "You should have kept your folks under control, we're moving the bill," she said. Many of the people who were not allowed to talk had nothing to do with Perez or LUCHA.

As a woman pleaded for a chance to speak, Republicans on committee ignored her. Democrats were outraged.

"Madam Chair I'm not going to be part of legitimizing the process," Representative Diego Rodriguez (D-Laveen) said before walking out.

"I have family who speak Spanish and I have family members who speak Arabic and your bill takes away their right to bring a translator to that ballot box, why?" asked Representative Athena Salman (D-Tempe).

Salman never got an answer.

By Townsend's own admission she had lost control of the meeting, "I hate having to act like a parent."