AZ Democratic caucus acting like a damn opposition party! Yay!

21 Jan 2016 03:12 am
Posted by: Donna

barbara mcguire
AZ Sen. Barbara McGuire

The Arizona legislative session began last week and, as has been the case for most of the past decade or five, the Democrats are in the minority. If you pay attention to the doings at 1700 W. Washington St. you know that being the opposition party means that Democratic lawmakers, armed with facts and logic, argue valiantly (and futilely) against atrocious harebrained GOP bills in committee hearings and make impassioned speeches against said bills and ever crueler budget cuts on the floors of the Senate or House. They are, of course, mostly ignored as the terrible bills and budgets pass.

But being the noble opposition does not mean simply resisting, it should also mean offering their own vision for how the state should be run, even if it, too, goes nowhere legislatively. It’s in that way that our Democratic caucus is really distinguishing itself this session. Democratic legislators have dropped several progressive bills and have grabbed media attention with them. They include bills to legalize marijuana, make voter registration and voting by mail automatic, end discrimination against LGBT persons in housing and employment, and require sex ed to be medically accurate. And a bill introduced by Senator Barbara McGuire, a moderate Dem from Pinal County, would allow terminally ill people to end their own lives with doctor-prescribed drugs (warning: link autoplays a video):

Sen. Barbara McGuire of Kearny says her bill lets patients with an incurable disease and six months left to live request medication to end their lives under the care of a physician.

As baby boomers enter their golden years, end-of-life care has become a greater priority with doctors in California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana already prescribing life-ending drugs. California Gov. Jerry Brown was the latest governor to sign a “right-to-die” proposal into law in October.

Senate Bill 1136 is likely to face several hurdles. Republicans who control the Legislature are unlikely to back the measure and Gov. Doug Ducey opposes physician-assisted suicide.

Good for McGuire and the Dem lawmakers who have joined her in sponsoring the bill. It will not pass, of course, not with this legislative majority and Governor, but it should spark a conversation. Governor Ducey should be forced to explain publicly why he objects to allowing people to choose their own path to dying and I think Arizonans may be shocked to learn what underlies that.

The 2014 Center for Arizona Theocracy Policy surveys are no longer searchable online but you can see then-candidate Doug Ducey’s answers in this Phoenix New Times article, wherein he indicated he was against physician assisted suicide. Ducey did not elaborate on that answer with a statement but another candidate did, none other than the “moderate” former Mayor of Mesa and great white hope of the centrist Valley business elites, Scott Smith. Again, no longer available at the CAP site but yours truly wrote a post about Smith’s appalling statement to the question:

Question 8: I believe God has a plan for each of us for which we must be strong, even when this includes trials to our end.

Smith is LDS and Ducey devout Catholic but I’m fairly certain he would say something similar. Uber-conservative Catholics take their cues on this from people like Mother Teresa, who was a big proponent of the nobility of suffering (for other people). I tend to think that most people, regardless of their religious faith or lack of it, don’t cotton to moralizing strangers denying them the prospect of euthanasia because God has a plan.

But cornering Governor Ducey into awkward interviews where he extols the virtue of suffering is not the only good reason to have a conversation about assisted suicide. There are also real concerns, often expressed by people with disabilities and advocates, that allowing it could lead to people being pressured or coerced into ending their lives by caregivers or relatives or believing that their lives are not worthwhile if they are not healthy and able-bodied. These are tough questions and they will likely lead to an ongoing debate akin to that over reproductive rights (though probably a more honest one since it’s not about ladies and sex). We need to have it.

Plus, it certainly beats the hell out of yet another tiresome row over where’s the next place Arizona is going to allow people to carry guns. So yay Democrats! Way to show us how grownups (try to) do policy.


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