Republican Lawmakers Block Townsend Amendments To Protect Parents From Dishonest DCS Workers

Arizona capitol

On Monday, House Republicans beat back an effort by Rep. Kelly Townsend to protect Arizona’s parents’ constitutional rights by amending SB1003. Townsend’s amendments would have prohibited Department of Child Safety caseworkers from lying to the court or withholding exculpatory evidence.

SB1003, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Barto “establishes the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the Department of Child Safety (Committee) and outlines Committee membership and meeting requirements.” However, an amendment offered by Rep. John Allen would effectively codify the Department’s practice of denying parents their due process rights.

Townsend asked her fellow lawmakers how they could oppose the amendments as they appeared to be preoccupied with their laptops and cellphones.

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Although Republican lawmakers claimed later that they blocked Townsend’s amendments out of respect for the bill’s sponsor, moments later they later killed a sewer bill sponsored by fellow Republican Sen. David Farnsworth.

Farnsworth’s bill would have “prohibited a municipality from charging a wastewater fee for vacant land that does not have a wastewater connection or wastewater service.” Republicans said they opposed the bill on principle, but offered no explanation as to just what principle was at issue.

The principles behind Townsend’s amendments were clear; parents have a right to due process and social workers cannot lie to parents.

Townsend read from the Constitution as she pleaded with her fellow lawmakers to consider the rights of parents.

Townsend’s amendments:

Prohibits a DCS worker from knowingly influencing the outcome of a matter before a juvenile court or DCS by:

a. Lying about a matter

b. Withholding material information;

c. Fabricating evidence; or

d. Failing to disclose known exculpatory evidence

Classifies a violation as a Class 1m misdemeanor

Prohibits DCS from using covert or overt computer voice-stress analysis when investigating if abuse or neglect exists.

Specifies that overt or covert computer voice-stress analysis test results are not admissible in court.

Prohibits DCS from maintaining computer voice-stress analysis documentation in their case files.

Prohibits a peace officer, child welfare investigator or child safety worker from removing a child from their home or school unless one of the following apply:

a. A warrant is obtained;

b. Exigent circumstances exist;

c. A court order is obtained pursuant to statute; or

d. A child’s parent or guardian provides consent.

Permits the juvenile court to issue a warrant authorizing the removal of a child from their home or school if it appears to the court that there is probable cause to believe that a child meets statutorily prescribed conditions (A.R.S. § 8-821[B]).

Defines exigent circumstances.

Requires DCS to submit a quarterly report to the legislature regarding the number of court orders obtained prior to the removal of a child pursuant to statute.

After Townsend’s amendments passed with the help of a handful of Republicans and all Democrats, Rep. Regina Cobb offered a motion to once again retain the bill on the calendar. Cobb’s motion saved the bill for another day while making moot Townsend’s victory.

Last week, Allen faced tough questions about the bill. After Rep. Jesus Rubacalva asked Allen if he was aware how many warrants or court orders the Department had obtained before taking children this year, Allen abruptly ended the debate and the bill was retained on the calendar.