House Committee Passes Proxy Bill To Empower Grassroots

Kathy Petsas

On Thursday, the Government Committee of the House of Representatives gave HB2012 a due pass on a party line 5-3 vote. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita was sought by members of the Arizona Republican Party, who have been disenfranchised through the abuse of proxies at official Party events.

Only one member of the Republican establishment, Kathy Petsas, appeared to speak out against the bill. Petsas tipped her hand and that of her fellow well-off establishment colleagues when she referred to the bill as “political welfare.”

For years, the Republican establishment has been able to use their vast financial resources to recruit uninvolved Republicans to serve as precinct committeemen (PCs). Those uninvolved members are then encouraged to turn over their votes, through proxies, to be cast in favor of establishment policies and candidates. Members of the grassroots have been unable to compete with the establishment’s well-oiled machine. Also, those who recruit real PCs to do real work have a disadvantage because they are recruited on the basis that they are expected to participate. The people who want to game the system have the advantage because they recruit on the basis that all they have to do is sign up and provide proxies without being expected to attend meetings or participate in any other way.

Two objections were raised that were not adequately addressed. One is that the legislature should not be meddling in the internal affairs of political parties. But the fact is that they already do in a big way. Under AZ Revised Statutes, the whole Chapter 5 of Title 16 is devoted to dictating to political parties how they must behave. That includes 28 statutes, A.R.S. 16-801 through 16-828.

The other objection is that the Republican Party should address this via their own by-laws. But the problem is that any vote to limit or eliminate the use of proxies would be voted on by members carrying enough proxies to defeat the effort.

Marianne Ferrari, a member of the grassroots testified before the Committee that the problem is not isolated to the Republican Party; citing the disenfranchisement of Sen. Bernie Sanders supporters during the 2016 Democratic Party Presidential Primary. That argument made democrats, reps. Ken Clarke and Athena Salman bristle. Now that they are incumbents, and part of the Democratic Party establishment which is currently trying to steer the Party right in an effort to gain a handful of Republican seats, the two appeared to favor the bill until Clarke received a message on his phone to oppose it.

The vast majority of speakers who appeared before the Committee spoke in favor of the bill.

HOW DID THEY VOTE?
COLEMAN Y   THORPE Y   CLODFELTER Y   JOHN Y
UGENTI-RITA Y   CLARK N   MARTINEZ N   SALMAN N

“We are very thankful that the Republican members of the Committee on Government have allowed HB2012 to advance so that we may continue the debate on this important issue. If we were to adhere to Roberts Rules of Order and be in tune with the common practices of every other political body, this bill would have called for zero proxies allowed, and that would have been a valid, common sense request. However, by calling for two proxies, the drafters of HB2012 have bent over backwards to accommodate the wishes of the very few political party members who for religious or economic reasons are not able to travel to Phoenix once a year for a meeting,” said Jose Borrajero, a popular conservative activist and Republican Party member.

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