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The centennial legislature

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By state senator David Lujan

Earlier this month, I was sworn in to the Arizona Senate. Ever since then, a lot of people have asked me, “Why would you possibly want to return to the Arizona Legislature?” It’s certainly true that after having served in the legislature for six years, I was enjoying my respite away from politics, and I don’t have to tell you that our legislature has earned a national reputation for extremism and eccentricity. However, I took on this new challenge because the fight to give Arizona the leadership it deserves is a cause worth taking up. I firmly believe that Arizona is a great place to live, and that the only way that it will stay that way is if our policy makers are not afraid to also be leaders.  The way the centennial legislature can do that is simple: by embracing an inclusive vision for Arizona where every family is valued, and providing world-class schools so those families can raise the second century of Arizona’s engineers, teachers, firefighters and entrepreneurs.

The legislature is going to take up any number of issues this year, and all of them have the potential to have a real impact on the everyday lives of Arizona families. I would like to draw your attention to a few issues in particular that Central Phoenicians and all Arizonans should especially follow:

SB 1070/immigration

SB 1070 and its aftermath had a disastrous impact on Arizona, the extent of which will take us many years to comprehend. The damage that its Republican proponents did to Arizona will not be healed quickly or easily, but that process must begin now. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of SB 1218, which would repeal SB 1070 and send a message of inclusion to our families at home, as well as to investors from abroad.  

Jobs/economy

A few years ago, Arizona’s economy suffered a spectacular collapse of historic proportions. Rather than try and bring relief to our suffering families, the Republican legislature chose not only to pursue many of the same policies that led to the collapse, but further sought to aggravate the situation by voting in Russell Pearce’s job-killing agenda. If we want to jump start our business climate, the first place to start is reforming our tax code so that it is simpler, fairer and prioritizes the risk-takers and dreamers who are otherwise known as Arizona’s small business owners. It is our entrepreneurs who are providing the leadership that will bring Arizona back, not the cynical Republicans who champion their cause one moment and then kill jobs by embarrassing us on the national stage the next. If there is any hope for a recovery, we need to pursue inclusive policies that prioritize investment, not radicalism. 

Education

The linchpin of any plan to strengthen Arizona’s families is to strengthen Arizona’s schools. I am sick and tired of always hearing stories about how our schools are in crisis or on the brink of collapse; we, as legislators, have the power to put a stop to this, and if we want to demonstrate true leadership, then we have no other choice. Right now, Arizona has a budget surplus that was largely achieved by gutting our public schools. The legislature took that money away from the classroom, and now that money should return to the classroom. As the principal of ASU Preparatory Academy, I know firsthand that Arizona’s kids are the best and the brightest this country has to offer, and I will not rest until the legislature gives them the tools they need to thrive.  

This year, 2012, is Arizona’s centennial year. When I reflect on just how far we have come in those 100 years, it excites me to think about the possibilities and opportunities the next 100 years can produce. However, in order to have a bountiful yield in our second century, we need to lay the groundwork by investing now in our families and schools.  By showing the same foresight and leadership that our forebears afforded us, the future of Arizona is as bright as the desert sun.  

Senator Lujan (D-15)  is a native Arizonan and a graduate of Arizona State University’s School of Law. From 1999 to 2002, he served as Assistant Attorney General. He was first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2004; he served three terms representing Central Phoenix and was the House Minority Leader. 

He is a former member of the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board. His work in education and child advocacy has earned him awards from organizations such as the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the National Association of Social Workers, the Greater Phoenix Child Abuse Prevention Council, and AZ Parents for Education, among others.

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