Melinda Iyer, Editor of the AZ Legislature Weekly Update newsletter, discussed the raw power of the Request to Speak system for voters to kill bad legislation and upvote progressive bills. She spoke at the February 23, 2021 meeting of the LD9 Democrats.
Iyer reads the short title and sponsor name of bills introduced in the Arizona legislature, including the 40 voter suppression bills introduced by Republicans. She also notes the bill sponsor — so if it’s rightwing Sen. Michelle Ugenti Rita (R-LD23), Iyer knows “it’s up to no good at all.”
She closely tracks “striker” bills, where a defeated bill is revived as a “Zombie bill,” and completely new language is inserted, often completely unrelated to the original bill. That is how a vanquished bill to eliminate Arizona’s popular vote-by-mail system was revived in a different committee. Iyer called Zombie bills “a garbage dump of every random idea.”
Then she sends the AZ Legislature Weekly Update newsletter to some 8,000 Request to Speak (RTS) users with recommendations on which bills to oppose with a thumbs-down, or to support with a thumbs-up. So many people used the RTS system on February 14 that it crashed the system. One bill got 1,000 downvotes, which doomed it.
“The fact that all of you are watching the Legislature like other people are watching football makes me very happy,” she said. The Weekly Update is published by Civic Engagement Beyond Voting, which is a small group of women working to empower Arizona’s citizens to exercise their voices at the state level. All CEBV workers are volunteers, and Democrats can make a donation to support them.
Volunteers update the group’s Facebook page, where CEBV holds training sessions on how to use RTS, updates about legislation, and a highly-popular Open House and Happy Hour every Sunday at 4 pm, where legislators are invited to share their views.
Iyer is also a founder of Save Our Schools Arizona and also writes an Education Weekly Update.
Cathy Sigmon of Civic Engagement beyond voting is buoyed by the prospects for a blue wave in 2024. “The next couple of years are going to be amazing,” she said. “The state is morphing.”