AZ bill to add transit workers to protections list under aggravated assault laws advances

Published: Friday, March 22, 2024 - 4:10pm
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2024 - 4:11pm
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The state Senate’s judiciary committee approved a bill this week that would add transit workers to the list of protections under existing aggravated assault laws. Supporters say it’s necessary to keep people in the workforce and keep statewide transportation functioning.

Former state lawmaker Mark Cardenas spoke to the state Senate’s judiciary committee this week on behalf of Sun Tran bus drivers.

“In the city of Phoenix’s light rail system alone,” said Cardenas, “the number of assaults on train operators and their passengers has risen from 1,335 in 2020 to 2,482 in 2022.”

Cardenas said that as is, the law doesn’t do enough when someone attacks a transit worker.

“Many of these people return and board the exact same bus where they are free to commit more assaults,” he told the committee.

Critics worry that expanding the list too much will reduce its power — including Democrat Anna Hernandez.

“I also am not a big fan of expanding the criminal code,” she said, explaining her ‘no’ vote. “But I do hear the concerns of the transit workers.”

The committee’s chair, Republican Anthony Kern, agreed, saying that while he appreciates the bill’s intent, his "yes" vote may change when it moves to the full Senate.

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