Bills could make vaping at school illegal, loaded guns in cars on campus legal - AZEdNews
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Bills could make vaping at school illegal, loaded guns in cars on campus legal


Marcus Williams With Chandler Unified School District Talks About His Concerns About SB 1147 At The House Health And Human Services Meeting On March 28, 2019. Photo Courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

Arizona legislators are considering a bill that would make vaping at school illegal and raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21 years old and another bill that would make loaded guns in cars driven by adults on campus legal during school drop-off and pick-up times.

Rep. John Allen’s strike-everything amendment to Senate Bill 1147 would increase the age to buy or sell tobacco or tobacco related products from 18 to 21 years old and contains a pre-emption clause that says this new law overrides any previous rule, regulation or code adopted by any political subdivision such as a city, town, county or school board within the state.

“Vaping, e-cigarettes, etc. is an epidemic at our high school campuses,” said Marcus Williams, director of athletics and student discipline for Chandler Unified School District, about SB 1147 during a House Health and Human Services Committee meeting on March 28.

Bills could make vaping at school illegal, loaded guns in cars on campus legal Marcus-Williams-with-Chandler-Unified-School-District-on-SB-1147
Marcus Williams with Chandler Unified School District talks about his concerns about SB 1147 at the House Health and Human Services meeting on March 28, 2019. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

Williams noted that they have had over close to 500 drug, vaping  or tobacco incidents in the K-12 district, and that 311 of those were vaping.

“When a student does get caught with a vape or they’re vaping, we have to pull our student resource officer and our administration has to come to make sure the device actually is a non-THC device,” Williams said.

Williams said the district spends a lot of resources on suspension, vaping education and is looking into vaping sensors.

Yet, Williams said he is opposed to the bill because the pre-emption portion of the bill opens the gate to not allow school boards to control or enforce their policies on and off-campus during the school day and for before or after-school events.

Vaping and tobacco-free campuses

Gibson McKay, a lobbyist for Vapor Technology Association said he supports SB 1147 as he held a vaping device in his hand, “They want to call this right here tobacco. They say this is tobacco. That’s their definition in their bill, not our bill. This is a battery in here – this battery would be called tobacco in their language and we just disagree with that. We’re not tobacco.”

Nicole Olmstead, government relations director for the American Heart Association, said they opposed the bill, because “our concern is that the bill does not define tobacco correctly. We have offered other bills during the session that would define tobacco correctly and bring electronic products underneath the definition of tobacco.”

McKay said vaping technology is doing more to reduce smoking than just about anything else, noting that “In fact, studies in the New England Journal of Medicine indicate vapor technology is 100% more effective in reducing smoking than any other smoking cessation instrument.”

“We agree with 80% of Arizonans that were just polled recently that an increase in age to purchase all tobacco, vapor, nicotine products should be the age of 21,” McKay said. “The Attorney General suggested that we put this in the furnishing to youth statute, we did that under Title 13. We also include a definition of vapor and alternative products under Title 36.”

Amanda Wheeler, co-owner of Jvapes E-Liquid in Prescott and Prescott Valley, spoke in support of SB 1147, because it addresses the issue of youth access.

“As business owners we’ve tried to be responsible and proactive in preventing youth access to vapor products. We’ve done many things in our stores and on our website,” Wheeler said. “We’ve installed ID scanners, every purchase made in our retail locations requires a swipe of a person’s driver’s license or official ID through the ID scanners. We do ongoing training with all of our employees.”

Bills could make vaping at school illegal, loaded guns in cars on campus legal Amanda-Wheeler-2-on-SB-1147
Amanda Wheeler, co-owner of Jvapes E-Liquid in Prescott and Prescott Valley, speaks in support of SB1147 during the House Health and Human Services Committee meeting on March 28, 2019. Photo courtesy of Arizona Capitol Television

Olmstead said the bill “would undo the tobacco-free school grounds not only in private settings, but also in public school grounds that has been in place since 1999 with an amendment that happened in 2000.”

Pima County Superintendent of Schools Dustin Williams texted a statement to the committee that was read by Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley.

“This bill destroys our tobacco-free schools. I couldn’t imagine the message we would be sending to our students by allowing people 21 and older to smoke freely on campus. Students ingesting second-hand smoke while learning is disgusting and deadly. Please vote no,” Williams texted.

SB 1147 received a due pass recommendation by the House Health and Human Services Committee on March 28, and now awaits a hearing in the House Rules Committee.

Loaded weapons on campus?

House Bill 2693, sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Warren Petersen, would allow an adult to possess a loaded firearm within a vehicle while on school grounds as an exception to the offense of misconduct.

Currently, it’s considered misconduct with weapons for a person to possess a deadly weapon on school grounds, but it’s not against the law if the gun is unloaded and carried within a means of transportation under the control of an adult. However, if the adult leaves the vehicle the firearm must not be visible from outside and the vehicle must be locked.

Bills could make vaping at school illegal, loaded guns in cars on campus legal Rep-Warren-Petersen-2
House Majority Leader Rep. Warren Petersen speaks in support of HB 2693 during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on March 14. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

“It’s not practical for people to have to stop before they drop their kids off at school, unload their gun, park at the school, leave the school, and reload their gun. There’s also safety concerns there as far as a discharge if you’re unloading and reloading your gun,” said Rep. Petersen during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on HB 2693 on March 14.

Daniel Reid, western regional director of the National Rifle Association, said “This is a great bill. It’s a simple fix to state law that allows for parents, people to go pick up and drop off without deviating their course. You’ve heard a lot of testimony on it, and we’re in strong support.”

But Judith Simons, a retired teacher said, “Please don’t risk public safety in public spaces where most of the people there are children. Please prioritize not the NRA but your local PTA.”

“Arizona has a long history of responsible and practical gun ownership, and this bill is neither responsible nor is it practical, said Kelley Ireland, a volunteer with the Tucson chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Bills could make vaping at school illegal, loaded guns in cars on campus legal Kelly-Ireland-Moms-Demand-Action
Kelley Ireland, a volunteer with the Tucson chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, tells why she opposes HB 2693 during a a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on March 14. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

“This bill ignores the fact that there are legitimate public safety concerns that drive schools to prohibit loaded firearms from being stored on their property, including the risk of guns being stolen from cars,” Ireland said.

Ireland also noted that HB 2693 could potentially conflict with the federal gun free zones act that act only allows unloaded guns in locked containers on school grounds.

“Beyond conflict with the federal law, this leaves far too much room for a curious child to access a loaded gun and inadvertently cause harm to themselves or others,” Ireland said.

Sen. Martin Quezada asked if HB 2693 would violate the gun-free school zone act and also asked “What are the implications of this in federal law?”

Bills could make vaping at school illegal, loaded guns in cars on campus legal Sen-Quezada
Sen. Martin Quezada asked if HB 2693 would violate the gun-free school zone act during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on March 14. Photo courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

Reid responded “I’ll have to look into that. Obviously, we’re not addressing federal law here. This has not been an issue so far in Arizona statutues so I can look into that and get back to you on it.”

“I’d appreciate that,” Sen. Quezada said.

Where the bills are at and what’s next

SB 1147 received a due pass recommendation by the House Health and Human Services Committee on March 28, and now awaits a hearing in the House Rules Committee.

HB 2693 received a due pass recommendation by the Senate Committee of the Whole during their meeting on April 11, but it failed during a third reading in the Senate on that same day.

While HB 2693 is dead, SB 1147 could go through rules, to the House floor, and then over for one final vote in the Senate within the next few weeks, said Leigh Jensen, governmental relations associate for Arizona School Boards Association.

There are three main concerns with SB 1147, said Chris Kotterman, director of governmental relations for Arizona School Boards Association.

They include:

  • Allowing the personal use of tobacco and vaping products on school campuses for people over 21 years old.
  • Pre-empting current policies or regulations that school boards, cities, towns, counties and political subdivisions already have on tobacco and vaping products with this state-wide law – which prohibits them from regulating these products any more strictly than this new law.
  • And potentially preventing cities, towns and counties from regulating the distance from schools to places where tobacco can be sold.

“As an association, we think it’s good to keep tobacco out of the hands of kids, but we don’t want to lose any of the tools we have to keep it off campus. That’s why we were concerned about some of the stuff in SB 1147,” Kotterman said. “We are working to try to resolve those issues, so we don’t lose the tools we have to regulate tobacco on campus.”

The sponsor has said he is willing to address these issues, and “there might be an amendment to get rid of the most egregious parts for school districts in SB 1147,” Kotterman said.

SB 1147 is one of three bills currently under consideration by Legislators that would  limit access to tobacco and vaping products to people 21 years of age and older and add vaping products to the definition of tobacco products.

“At the end of the day, we just want to make sure that school districts and school boards have the ability to make whatever rules, policies, regulations whatever they need to keep their campuses tobacco free,” Kotterman said.