Gov. Jan Brewer returns to work Tuesday to face a rising chorus of Republican and business voices urging her to quickly quash SB 1062.
Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, who previously had been Senate president, told Capitol Media Services Sunday he now thinks the legislation, billed as providing protections for those of faith, is a bad idea. That is significant since Pierce provided one of the 17 votes that got it out of the Senate last week.
“I screwed up,” he told Capitol Media Services. “I’m trying to make it right.”
Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake joined the fray, sending a Tweet on Sunday urging Brewer to veto the measure, passed with only the votes of Republicans, that has the gay community in an uproar.
Existing laws allow businesses to claim exemption from a state statute or regulation because of “sincerely held” religious beliefs. SB 1062 would extend that to situations where a business owner is being sued civilly by someone denied service, including LGBT customers.
Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also said Sunday that Brewer should kill the bill as bad for business.
And Kristin Jarnagin, vice president of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, said just the fact that the Legislature approved the measure has resulted in canceled trips.
“We have already lost untold amounts of tax dollars due to the negative perception that this legislation attaches to our state’s image, and the bill hasn’t even been signed into law yet,” she said. Her organization wants Brewer to deep-six the measure “so that we can put this behind us swiftly and continue the business of welcoming visitors to Arizona.”
The fallout comes as Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy and the architect of the legislation, hopes to persuade Brewer to ignore all the protests, including much of that from within her own Republican Party. Herrod has gone on the offensive, lashing out at foes she says “have hijacked this discussion through lies, personal attacks and irresponsible reporting.”
“Simply put, the fear-mongering from opponents is unrelated to the language of the bill and proves that hostility towards people of faith is very real,” she said in an email to supporters.
But Herrod is finding the ground beneath her giving way: Even state Treasurer Doug Ducey, her chosen candidate for governor, said he would veto the measure, though he said he would try to bring all sides together to find some compromise.
And Pierce, who agreed to go along with the GOP tide last week, now thinks that was a mistake for all of them.
“I would be on board to get it repealed,” he said.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, acknowledged during last week’s debate SB1062 would permit businesses to turn away gays.
Farnsworth said, though, they already can do that now, as Arizona has no laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Hamer said that underscores his point that the measure may be trying to solve a problem that does not exist for Arizona businesses.
“The bigger issue here is it would send a signal that Arizona is not a place that is as welcoming as it really is for all people,” he said.
And Hamer said its passage could halt the headway the state has made in job creation.
Herrod, however, said the legislation is needed because of “the increasing use of government to threaten and punish its own citizens.”
But Jarnagin said the governor needs to see the legislation from a different perspective.
“We know of several large hotel projects and international events that were in the final stages of selecting Arizona,” she said.
“Now those potential job creators that would have injected millions into our economy are in jeopardy, if not already lost.”
Jarnagin said she should not have to be seeking a veto.
“We literally begged lawmakers to consider the unintended consequences not only on our tourism industry but on our ability to attract new businesses and jobs to our state,” she said. “Unfortunately, those pleas fell on deaf ears.”
Gubernatorial press aide Andrew Wilder said late Sunday he could not comment on how quickly his boss will act on the measure.
Brewer has the entire week to decide.