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Arizona GOP lawmakers file ethics complaint against Democrats over abortion protest

Republicans in the Arizona House of Representatives filed ethics complaints against Democrats who engaged in a protest on the House floor two weeks ago after GOP lawmakers blocked a vote to repeal the state’s near-total abortion ban.

On April 10, Republicans used procedural moves to block that vote. In response, Assistant Minority Leader Oscar De Los Santos (D-Laveen) and Rep. Analise Ortiz (D-Phoenix) chanted “shame on you” and “blood on your hands” towards Republicans.

De Los Santos and Ortiz then confronted reporters interviewing Rep. Matt Gress (R-Phoenix), who initially joined Republicans in a voice vote to shut down debate over the repeal before voting with Democrats later in the day.

Ethics complaints filed by Reps. Barbara Parker (R-Mesa), David Marshall (R-Snowflake) and Rachel Jones (R-Tucson) allege De Los Santos and Ortiz’s actions violated House rules against disorderly behavior. 

The complaint claims that, as a result of that behavior, “several members felt threatened and intimidated.”

The complaint against De Los Santos also accused him of violating rules barring lawmakers from speaking while the House in session if they are not recognized by the chair. Specifically, the complaints alleges he began yelling at Republicans before the House adjourned. It also argued his comments violated a rule that says lawmakers can’t “use language personally offensive, arraign motives of members, charge deliberate misrepresentation or use language tending to hold a member of the House or Senate up to contempt.” 

In a joint statement, De Los Santos and Ortiz said their protest did not violate House rules.

“Demanding a vote, demanding that the majority let the people’s work be done, and calling shame in the presence of shameful action is not disorderly behavior, it is not a violation of decorum and is not so-called impermissible debate,” they said. “It is the people’s work, and we are proud to have done it.”

In the ethics complaints, Republican lawmakers repeatedly used the terms “riot” and “insurrection” to describe the protest, though videos of the incident contradict that characterization. Ortiz and De Los Santos loudly shouted at Republicans, but videos show only a few other Democrats joined the chants while most other lawmakers exited the House chamber. 

“It’s a complete mischaracterization,” Ortiz said. “We were exercising our freedom of expression during a recess.”

Riot or not, House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria) criticized their behavior and cited the protest after removing De Los Santos from the House Rules and Appropriations committees.

“What he did and what he led two weeks ago on the floor was unacceptable,” Toma told KJZZ’s The Show.

The complaint was sent to the House Ethics Committee. Rep. Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale), who chairs the committee, will decide whether to convene a hearing to consider the allegations.

According to a letter sent to committee members, De Los Santos and Ortiz have until May 1 to respond in writing to the complaint. 

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.