PHOENIX — Two weeks after Republican Arizona lawmakers narrowly approved a massive expansion of the state’s private school voucher program, the national group pushing the effort planned to host a free lunch at the State Capitol to thank lawmakers.
Then, Thursday’s food truck event sponsored by the American Federation for Children was abruptly cancelled by the speaker of the House.
Republican Speaker J.D. Mesnard said he called off the “Thank You to the Legislators” luncheon because it was ill-timed and emotions are still running high at the Capitol.
Democrats who opposed the voucher plan passed on April 6 continue to keep the issue in the forefront, reading letters from teachers nearly every day on the House floor. Earlier this week, Mesnard moved those floor speeches to the end of the day from the beginning because they were consuming hours of time. Thursday afternoon, he threatened to change House rules to limit vote explanations because Democrats were using that time to read the letters.
Groups regularly provide free lunches for lawmakers and staff during the legislation session. Just this month, unions, a privately-owned charter school company, the AARP and the state propane gas association have provided lunch for lawmakers.
Kim Martinez, communications director for the American Federal for Children’s Arizona branch, said the luncheon offer wasn’t intended to be political. Instead, it grew out of a visit to the Capitol by children with autism-spectrum disorders who benefit from the voucher program to lead the Pledge of Allegiance on the House floor. The group wanted to provide the students lunch, then decided to invite lawmakers and staff.
“That is honestly how this whole thing came about,” Martinez said. “It was never meant to be any kind of a political move.”
AFC spent more than $257,000 supporting candidates for the Arizona Legislature who backed vouchers or opposing those who did not support them. The voucher measure passed both the Senate and House by a single vote and was immediately signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. All Democrats were opposed, as was one Republican senator and four Republican representatives.
Democrats who opposed the measure said they weren’t aware that the luncheon had been scheduled, although usually all lawmakers get invitations. And the “thank you” usually isn’t so clear.
“Most invitations to legislative luncheons aren’t sent out thanking legislators,” Democratic Sen. Katie Hobbs said. “I think that’s a little bit blatant.”
Mesnard said he made the decision to nix the lunch because he wants to move beyond the voucher battle.
“We have other issues we need to focus on and so I’m trying to do my best to be a peacemaker,” he said.
- 7 common ways to get sued by your employees
- Why it might be time to upgrade your toilet
- Arizona teachers are building a better future by using technology in the classroom
- How to make summer reading fun for the whole family
- How to find relief for chronic joint pain
- Can the NBA Lottery save the Suns?
- Skip Urgent Care: 5 ailments you can treat with telemedicine
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Celebrate National Burger Day with best bacon burger in Arizona
- Walmart announces 4,400 veteran hires in Arizona since 2013
- Mother Road Brewing Co. named most underrated brewery in Arizona by Thrillist
- Bashas’ announces finalists for doughnut flavor contest
- Fans wait hours in line to get into Phoenix Comicon amid heightened security