- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - A Republican lawmaker has apologized for attempting to have a Democratic legislator thrown out of a committee, but Democrats say the incident shows a pattern of bullying and sexism in the Arizona House of Representatives.

Rep. Isela Blanc, of Tempe, said on Tuesday that Republican Rep. Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff threatened to call security to remove her from a hearing room.

“As a representative, I thought my job is to sit in a committee and to ask questions,” Blanc said. She added that she felt Thorpe was trying to silence her because she has not followed decorum in past meetings.

Thorpe apologized for his actions on Wednesday.

“Yesterday, I exceeded my authority when I tried to have a colleague removed from my committee. I know that I was wrong. I now know that. I’m very sorry for any angst it might have caused,” Thorpe said.

However, Democratic Minority Leader Rebecca Rios of Phoenix said Thorpe’s behavior is just one of many outbursts with sexist undertones in which Republicans attempt to silence members of her caucus.

“The problem, really, is this disrespect, cutting people off, scoffing, making faces when people stand up to speak. It’s existed throughout my whole tenure here, but this session is particularly noticeable,” she said.

Rios said she understand that arguments in the Legislature aren’t necessarily based on sexism.

“How much of it is majority-minority party, and just being treated poorly because you’re in the minority? How much of it is just being completely disrespectful to a handful of freshmen who are still trying to learn the rules?” Rios said. “I think at the crux of all of it, it’s about mutual respect. And some of those instances have just been rude and disrespectful regardless of gender, age, party,” she said.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said he wants to continue discussions with Democrats about their complaints of sexism and bullying.

“What they’re suggesting is an underlying factor is a serious accusation, so I’m not going to dismiss it. We need to look at it,” Mesnard said.

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