On Monday, Gov. Jan Brewer set off an avalanche of Democratic discontent by vetoing legislation inspired by a student at Tempe’s McClintock High School that would encourage student volunteering.
“The reasons provided by the governor for her veto are not only invalid, they are disingenuous,” wrote Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in a news release. “There is more to this story than the governor’s office is willing to admit.”
SB 1066 was a bill that would create a special commendation for high school students who complete more than 200 hours of community service. It passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan approval, earning only three “nays” from the House.
The governor’s veto letter said that while she encouraged students to volunteer in honor of the state’s centennial, she felt that in SB 1066 “one branch of government is obligating another branch of government to do something it can already do — the bill is unnecessary.”
Brewer’s letter went on to say that by requiring the governor to issue these community service commendations, the legislation infringes on the separation of powers established by the Arizona Constitution.
Schapira disagreed with that logic.
“It doesn’t infringe on separation of powers because then every piece of legislation would infringe on the separation of powers,” he said.
The bill was sponsored by Schapira after Jevin Hodge, a McClintock senior and co-chair of the Governor’s Youth Council, met with him to discuss an idea to further high school students’ participation in community service.
“This is what happens when you have a governor that is hyper-partisan,” Schapira said.
The first year that Hodge was on the Youth Commission, there was only one chair, Hodge said. In his second year, they brought back the co-chair.
“In face, the governor is so partisan that when her staff learned their selection of Hodge as chair of the Youth Commission is a Democrat, they ordered the unprecedented creation of a commission co-chair,” Schapira wrote in a press release.
But the legislation has nothing to do with partisanship, both Hodge and Schapira said.
“I think it does two things,” Hodge said. “First, I hope that it will increase the number of hours of youth volunteering.”
Some students who already have community service hours might be encouraged to complete more if they have an incentive, Hodge said.
“And second, I hope it eliminates the negative stereotype of ‘community service,’” he said. “The first thing people ask when they hear you’re doing community service is, ‘What did you do wrong?’”
Hodge, who completes numerous hours of volunteering hours each week, said that achieving 200 hours could be done relatively easily in one school year.
“If you volunteer one hour every day, five days a week for a school year, you’ll have an excess of hours for this commendation,” he said.
With such broad appeal, the bill may come back next legislative session, if someone else is willing to sponsor it. Schapira will not be able to reintroduce it himself; he is running for Congress.
“It’s a really good policy that was broadly supported,” Schapira said. “It doesn’t just make a difference now; it will pay dividends for future generations on and on.”
While he is disappointed, Hodge hopes that there might be other ways to get legislation through.
“I would love to sit down with Gov. Brewer to talk and craft together a piece of legislation that would recognize students for their community service, and not as a punishment or a class,” Hodge said.
The governor was unavailable for additional comment.
The Governor’s Youth Commission originally began as a commission on substance abuse prevention in 1989, but has expanded over the years to include other youth-related concerns, such as volunteerism, service learning, leadership and civic engagement, according to the governor’s website.
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