Arizona Gov. Ducey signs bill banning critical race theory training in schools, governments

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a bill into law prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory in schools and in state and local governments.

The governor signed House Bill 2906 on Friday, which prevents government entities from requiring employees to undergo training that would suggest that they are "inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously," according to a statement.

The bill also bans schools from teaching students that any race, ethnic group or sex is superior to another, or that anyone should be discriminated against for those characteristics.

Critical race theory seeks to highlight how racist policies of the past manifest today. Critics say it pits races against each other and teaches white people that they are responsible for past injustices.

Breaking the law would result in a $5,000 fine.

"When I took office, I vowed to use taxpayer dollars responsibly, and funding training on political commentary is not responsible spending," Governor Ducey said in a statement. "I am not going to waste public dollars on lessons that imply the superiority of any race and hinder free speech. House Bill 2906 goes a long way towards protecting Arizonans against divisive and regressive lessons.

The Arizona Senate had voted May 27 to ban certain types of anti-racism training for government employees.

"We should be focused on bringing people together, not pushing people apart," Representative Michelle Udall said, a Republican. "Critical race theory will do nothing but increase divisiveness in our communities, which I think we can all agree we should try to prevent.

Sen. Martín Quezada, a Glendale Democrat, said in May that the legislation takes Arizona backwards at a time when people should be seeking better understanding of people of different races.

"These are uncomfortable conversations," Quezada said. "They aren’t supposed to make you feel good. That’s the point of these conversations."

Ducey is expected to sign another piece of legislation that would create a new workaround for small business income that could be hit by a new tax voters approved in November as Proposition 208. The bill by Chandler GOP Sen. J.D. Mesnard creates a new small business tax that is not subject to the 3.5% surcharge on income above $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for couples in the initiative.

Small business income is now taxed at the individual level and is subject to the surcharge. Mesnard said proponents of the tax said it would not affect small businesses and that some voters who backed the measure did not like how it might affect businesses but wanted the new revenue to fund education.

Backers of the measure say the Republican-controlled Legislature is thumbing its nose at voters who wanted the wealthy to pay more to fund education.

A massive tax cut included in the already-signed budget package reduces income taxes by about $1.9 billion and shields the wealthy from the new surcharge by keeping their top rate at the current 4.5%. The general fund would use hundreds of millions of dollars a year to directly fund the new education spending in Proposition 208.

Backers of Proposition 208 are collecting signatures to refer the tax cuts to the ballot and plan to do the same with Mesnard’s bill once it is signed into law.

Other bills awaiting action by the Republican governor include:

— A big increase in the daily expense money paid to lawmakers from outside metro Phoenix. Ducey vetoed similar legislation two years ago, which would have benefited all lawmakers, including those from Maricopa County. He said such an increase shouldn’t benefit Phoenix-area legislators who don’t have to maintain a second home, nor should it take effect without an election in between. This time, lawmakers targeted the benefits only at long-distance commuters but did not delay the start date. If Ducey signs off, it will take effect for the 2022 legislative session.

— New penalties for drivers caught street racing, which law-enforcement officials say is a growing problem. Drivers would face stiffer misdemeanor charges and an additional $1,000 fine that will help pay for anti-racing efforts. Officers would be able to immediately impound vehicles used in street races for seven days. The latter provision has drawn opposition from critics who say the government shouldn’t be able to take someone’s vehicle before they’ve been convicted in court.

— Power for people to ask a judge to seal court records of old arrests and convictions. Supporters say the new procedures would make it easier for people to get housing and a job without past legal troubles standing in their way. Old records would be eligible for sealing anywhere from two to 10 years after all fines are paid and other sentencing conditions are met, depending on the severity of the crime. Prosecutors and victims would be given a chance to object.

— Limits on the factors that hospitals can consider when rationing care during a future pandemic or other emergency that overwhelms health care providers. Policies for "crisis standards of care," which specify how to allocate supplies or staff when there aren’t enough to go around, will be limited to considering a patient’s short-term survival prospects. Doctors won’t be able to consider the person’s quality of life or life expectancy — a priority for advocates for people with disabilities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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