KJZZ is a service of Rio Salado College,
and Maricopa Community Colleges

Copyright © 2024 KJZZ/Rio Salado College/MCCCD
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Arizona SB 1694 targets diversity, equity and inclusion programs

Two years after banning the use of public funds for so-called “critical race theory,” a Queen Creek Republican lawmaker is now going after programs that promote diversity, equity and inclusion.

SB 1694 would make the use of public funds for such programs illegal. That covers not just state and local governments but also universities and community colleges.

Also forbidden under the proposal by Sen. Jake Hoffman would be requiring workers for any of these entities to participate.

But the implications of the legislation, awaiting a final roll-call vote, go beyond the government and its workers. It also would preclude any requirement that companies that contract with the government have such diversity programs. An earlier version of the bill said the state could not “enter into or renew a contract with a company that participates in a diversity, equity and inclusion program.”

Hoffman said his measure to outlaw diversity, equity and inclusion training is simply an extension of a bill he got the Republican-controlled Legislature to approve and then-Gov. Doug Ducey to sign two years ago banning training, orientation or therapy “that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.” He said SB 1694 is necessary to pick up where that 2021 legislation left off.

“These have become a prevalent tactic of the Left to shame employees and to shame folks within the trainings,” Hoffman said in pushing his measure through the Senate Government Committee earlier this year. He said that eliminating such training “gets us back to doing the job that they’ve been hired to on behalf of the people.”

As crafted, what SB 1694 would prohibit is comprehensive.

It would cover any description of methods to identify, dismantle or oppose systems, privilege or subordination on the basis of race, sex, color, gender, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation.

But it’s even broader than that.

Also barred would be “advancing theories of unconscious or implicit bias, cultural appropriation, allyship, transgenderism, microaggressions, microinvalidation, group marginalization anti-racism, system oppression, ethnocentrism, structural racism or inequality, social justice, intersectionality, neopronouns, inclusive language, heteronormality, disparity impact, gender identity or theory, racial or sexual privilege or any concept substantially related to any of these theories.”

For the record, an article in the Harvard Business Review describes “allyship” as “a lifelong process of building and nurturing supportive relationships with underrepresented, marginalized, or discriminated individuals or groups with the aim of advancing inclusion.”

The legislation also would specifically bar public entities from adopting policies designed to influence the composition of its workforce on the basis of race, sex or color — except as required by federal law. And public agencies also could employ licensed attorneys and legal support staff whose sole purpose to ensuring compliance with federal law or a court order.

But agencies could offer training to preclude sexual harassment.

Hoffman chairs the Government Committee that approved the measure earlier this year. And at that time he agreed to hear only limited testimony, with each speaker — and all who sought to testify were opposed to the bill — given only 60 seconds to express concerns.

Erica Keppler, who has lobbied for years on transgender and related issues, said the measure is just another example of antipathy to “wokeness,” which she said is “a term created by the right-wing media for the purpose of being derogatory to something that, is in fact, good.”

“Woke is to be kind, woke is to be respectful, woke is to wish well of others,” Keppler said.

“Woke is to recognize the hurt and pain of others and want it to stop,” she continued. “Woke is to believe in justice. Woke is to believe that all men are created equal.”

Anthony Sheedy told lawmakers about his experience with inclusion and diversity training while in the Army. And he said it works.

For example, Sheedy said, when someone gets promoted their photo is excluded from the process.

“So there is no more issue of looking at a photo and making some sort of opinion based on the picture that you see,” he explained.

Sen. Priya Sundareshan (D-Tucson) called the measure “incredibly hurtful.”

“Diversity inclusion training is what helps people and employees and students feel comfortable where they are,” she said.

For more on what’s happening at the Legislature this week, The Show spoke to Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been modified to provide additional information and reflect updates to the legislation. 

More stories from KJZZ

Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.