Why Gov. Doug Ducey won’t have to weigh Arizona’s controversial ‘protest’ bill

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey(Photo: Mark Henle/The Republic)

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Mary Jo Pitzl , The Republic | azcentral.com

Gov. Doug Ducey and the Republican leader of the Arizona House declared dead Monday a controversial bill that would punish organizers of public protests that turn violent with racketeering charges.

A spokesman for the Republican Speaker of the House, J.D. Mesnard, told The Arizona Republic Monday afternoon that he would not consider Senate Bill 1142.

The legislation, advanced by Senate Republicans last week, has gained national attention and been widely panned as an unconstitutional attempt to silence liberal groups protesting the agenda of Donald Trump and congressional Republicans.

“While we do not comment on pending legislation, we have been advised that SB1142 isn’t moving forward, which we are pleased to hear,” Ducey spokesman Daniel Ruiz told The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com in a text message on Monday. Asked to explain, Ruiz texted, “The bill is not moving forward. We’re pleased to hear that.”

Rioting is already illegal, but Senate Bill 1142 would have expanded Arizona’s racketeering laws to include rioting. It would allow protest organizers to be prosecuted if someone else were involved in rioting — even if that individual were not part of the organizing group. The measure also could let law enforcement prosecute organizers for planning an event that could result in rioting.

Arizona bill on protests, riots and racketeering: What you need to know

Ducey, who was in Washington, D.C., on Monday, has a self-imposed policy of not commenting on legislation until it reaches his desk.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu, defended the measure earlier Monday in an interview with The Republic. He said as far as he was concerned, the conversation about his bill’s merits would continue.

“If the governor doesn’t want to have the conversation, fine,” Borrelli said. He noted the governor’s office usually does not weigh in on legislation as it works its way through the Legislature.

Around the time Ducey’s office issued its statement on his bill, Borrelli exited the floor of the Arizona Senate.

Arizona has been a frequent target of late-night monologues mocking the state’s policies, politics and personalities including former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former Gov. Jan Brewer and legislation ranging from immigration to religious freedom. Ducey has pledged to avoid embarrassments that could damage the state’s reputation and potential for economic growth.

Arizona’s 17 Republican senators voted for SB 1142, pointing to last month’s violent riots in Washington, D.C., among the peaceful demonstrations after Trump took office, as well as the Berkley, Calif., riots sparked by a scheduled campus appearance of right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulous that was then canceled. Republican GOP senators claimed the paid protesters were to blame for some of the violence.

Borrelli has said the bill would target those who pay agitators who turn violent, but he did not provide examples of that having occurred.

Democrats, the minority party, voted against the measure, saying the state already has laws in place to address rioters. And, they said, the legislation would chill public speech.

Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl contributed to this report. Follow the reporter on Twitter @yvonnewingett and reach her at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com or 602–444–4712.

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This article was originally published on azcentral.com at 3:34 p.m. MT Feb. 27, 2017. Read it here.

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