The state’s education system and the controversial SB 1062 dominated the discussion Friday at the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce public policy meeting.

District 18 State Reps. Jeff Dial and Bob Robson, both Chandler Republicans who joined the meeting as part of the chamber’s public policy speaker series, did their best to address chamber member’s concerns regarding both issues for nearly an hour in the community room of the Ahwatukee Urgent Care.

Robson admitted fault in helping SB 1062 — legislation that, among other things, allowed for individuals to use religious beliefs as a defense against a lawsuit while gay rights activists say it would have permitted outright discrimination — pass before Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it late last month.

“Nobody goes to the legislature to hurt people,” Robson said. “I made a mistake. But I was among those who asked the governor to veto it.”

Dial explained his vote in favor of the bill that drew unwanted national attention to the state as a by-product of the political system with primaries looming.

“Am I going to get beaten up for being against religion if I vote this bill down?” Dial said. “Sometime you don’t want to deal with it.”

Robson was part of the rules committee that vetted the bill before it reached the State Senate floor for discussion.

“The rules committee determined it didn’t really change anything and it wasn’t unconstitutional,” Robson said. “There wasn’t much reaction early on, a little trickle from the gay and lesbian community. All the reaction came after the bill passed.

“The news media puts a spotlight on a bill like this when there are a lot of good things going on at the Legislature.”

When asked to close the meeting with a positive, Dial pointed out he and Robson helped save the Super Bowl for Arizona when they urged Brewer to veto SB 1062. Glendale is scheduled to host the 2015 Super Bowl after next season and the NFL had said it is against discrimination and was closely watching the bill.

Regarding education, much of the discussion centered on charter schools and the discrepancy in funding between at-risk schools and those in more affluent areas.

“Education is trending toward critical thinking over reading, writing and arithmetic,” Robson said.

State Sen. Jon McComish was scheduled to appear with his district’s representatives at the meeting but had to back out the day before due to a scheduling conflict.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or cgabel@aahwhatukee.com.

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