Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have officially commended high school students who have made it a point to be active in volunteering. Senate Bill 1066 would have applied to students who accumulated 200 hours of community service before graduating and was passed through the Senate and House of Representatives before being vetoed by Brewer on May 14.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, who also happens to be on the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board. The timing for passing such a bill seemed perfect just because Brewer has made a concentrated effort to encourage volunteerism throughout the state in conjunction with Arizona’s Centennial.

In her veto letter, Brewer wrote, “I have encouraged everyone, including high school students, to volunteer 100 hours of community service to celebrate Arizona’s Centennial. My Commission on Service and Volunteerism has tracked more than 35,000 volunteers having served 2.3 million hours of community service because of the Centennial Volunteer Challenge.”

Ultimately, Brewer writes that she vetoed the bill because it was a would create a conflict between two branches of the Arizona government.

“In this bill, one branch of government is obligating another branch of government to do something it already can do — the bill is unnecessary,” Brewer writes. “However, by implicitly requiring the governor to issues these commendations, Senate Bill 1066 infringes on the separation of powers requirement established by Article 3 of the Arizona Constitution. This concern is among the primary reasons I have vetoed Senate Bill 1066.”

Brewer mentions in her veto letter that she and the Governor’s Youth Commission have been discussing ways to promote volunteerism to teenagers since 2009, and on the surface it would appear that the possibility of receiving an official commendation from the governor would have a positive effect on achieving that goal.

It seems only positive outcomes could come from such commendations, but Brewer calls it unnecessary. We can infer from that first line that she can give a commendation to a student if she chooses to. Wouldn’t it make more sense just to have something more concrete? People like to shoot for numbers and set goals for themselves. You can say that people should volunteer just to volunteer and to help others and that is true, but this could have been a win-win for high school students and for a high school district who could have promoted volunteerism under this guideline.

For one thing, it would look great on college applications, and we all know how much more selective four-year universities have become.

So you can say volunteerism just feels good and you would be right, but if the possibility of a commendation from the governor would have swayed just a single high school student to put in at least 200 hours of community service, it would be a benefit not just to that student, but to whatever organization(s) they help for all those hours.

While I admire what Brewer has done in pushing for all Arizona residents to volunteer 100 hours in honor of our state’s centennial (and 2.3 million hours is pretty amazing), I think this bill was a chance for her to not only push it farther, but also give a positive tally to education. With cuts to public education funding over the past few years, it could definitely have used something positive.

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