Bill Banning Provisional College Districts Returns Feb. 23

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A bill that would repeal the state's provisional community college districts will be heard Feb. 23 by the Arizona House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

If House Bill 2105 becomes law, it would mean Gila Community College, the only provisional college in Arizona, would be dissolved as a self-governed post-secondary school.

Gila College President Barbara Ganz has called the bill "an open insult to the voters of Gila County who overwhelmingly went to the polls to request home rule for local higher education."

She is referring to November 2002, when county voters passed Proposition 400, which allowed GCC to become a provisional college district.

Prior to that, it was operated by Eastern Arizona College.

HB 2105 is Representative John Allen's (R, D-11) third attempt to pass a law that would repeal provisional college districts. His previous two bills failed.

Originally, HB 2105 was to be heard by the House Appropriations Committee Feb. 9 but the hearing was postponed the day before.

Last month, Ganz addressed members of the University Community Colleges Technical Committee, who were then hearing the bill, and pointedly asked why any legislator would want to destroy GCC "and overturn what the people voted for."

Ganz also chastised Allen, of Scottsdale, as a "man who has never spoken to me, or to our board or visited the beautiful campuses that the taxpayers have built."

In her address, Ganz appealed to the legislators not to pass the law, but "instead congratulate us and leave us to our own governance. Overturning what the people voted for is a rejection of the American Democratic process."

Despite Ganz's plea, the bill passed the UCCT committee by a 5-3 vote.

Rep. Jack Brown (D; D-5) told Citizens for Better Payson Government that he and others from District 5 would oppose the bill.

"Senator (Jake) Flake (R; D-5), Representative (Bill) Konopnicki (R; D-5) and myself are working as hard as we can to try to get HB 2105 defeated," he said "We are also working hard to see that we get Gila County in a position whereby they can have a strong community college system."

Allen did not return phone calls to comment on the proposed bill.

Sarah Nelson, the college's director of community and noncredit program, has organized a caravan that will travel from the Payson campus to Phoenix for the hearing. Those wanting to participate should be at the campus at 9:45 a.m for a 10 a.m. departure. The bill will be heard at 1:30 p.m. in Hearing Room 1.

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