Ex-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano: State’s Legislature ‘Out of Touch’

Feb 26, 2014 6:17pm

If former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano were still governor, she’d veto the controversial bill now under consideration to let businesses refuse service to gay and lesbian customers, she said.

The bill will become law unless Napolitano’s Republican successor, Gov. Jan Brewer, blocks it. Brewer has until Saturday to make that move.

“If I had been the governor and this bill landed on my desk, it would be vetoed,” Napolitano told ABC News in a phone interview from California, where she’s now president of that state’s university system. “[The bill] offends a large segment of the population.”

Napolitano emphasized that in speaking against the bill, she was expressing her own views, not speaking on behalf of the University of California system.

Critics have argued the bill would legalize discrimination.

Arizona Senate Bill 1062 is “certainly a topic of conversation” throughout the University of California system, Napolitano said, with some students “informally” expressing sadness over the bill and others asking her about it at an unrelated event in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday.

“[I]n my view, knowing the state as well as I do, it just doesn’t represent what Arizona is,” said Napolitano, who was the state’s U.S. Attorney under the Clinton administration. “And it’s just an example, once again, of the legislature being out of touch with the state, overall.”

Napolitano said a prior example of the legislature being out of touch was Arizona Senate Bill 1070, the controversial state law passed in 2010 that tried to crack down on illegal immigration. As Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when the bill was passed, she opposed it.

So how does a bill pass through the state legislature if the citizens of the state don’t agree with it?

Most of the Republican lawmakers who pushed the anti-gay bill through are “in very non-competitive districts, Napolitano said, and very few people vote in primaries,” meaning the lawmakers’ “seats are pretty safe” as long as they heed the conservative line.

But, Napolitano added, the bill allowing Arizona businesses to pass over gay and lesbian customers “doesn’t help anything, doesn’t help anyone, doesn’t improve Arizona at all, and there’s no need for it.”

As for what Brewer will do about the bill, Napolitano believes the current governor likely already has a good idea.

“I suspect she already knows internally – and maybe some of her top staff know – where she’s leaning,” Napolitano said.

What’s more, “loud and uniform” opposition to the bill from major companies including Marriott International, Apple, American Airlines and Delta Airlines – which bring big business to Arizona – is “a helpful voice for the governor,” should she decide to veto it, Napolitano said.

As for the Republican lawmakers in Arizona who voted for the bill and are now telling media outlets they regret it, Napolitano said: “A little late.”

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