A state lawmaker wants to remove the age limit of 45 for serving in the state militia, allowing older Arizonans to volunteer for the force designed to be mustered in emergencies but never used in modern memory.
But Rep. Carl Seel is leaving in archaic language that specifically bars idiots, lunatics and "preachers of the gospel" from being militia members. The blind, judges, elected officials and members of the Legislature also are prohibited under the early 20th century law that Seel wants to update.
The militia provision is included in the Arizona Constitution that was adopted in 1910 and ratified by the state's voters the following year, leading to statehood. The measure names all able-bodied citizens ages 18 to 45 as members, with few exemptions.
Seel added an amendment in a House committee Monday making those above age 45 eligible to serve in the militia on a voluntary basis so voters won't have to be asked to amend the state Constitution. That law hasn't been updated since at least 1939.
Seel said Monday all he's doing is bringing the age provision in the Arizona Constitution into modern times. He said that was the only provision requiring an update.
"It's kind of like, you know, 55 or 65 is the new 45," Seel said. "Like Sheriff's Joe's posses, for example, there are a great many people over the age of 45 in rural Arizona that are very patriotic and love this state and want to have the capacity to volunteer should something arise."
Seel's effort is far less expansive than a failed effort last year that would have created a volunteer, armed militia force for the state. Proponents said the so-called "special missions unit" of 300 volunteers would be a valuable tool to assist other law enforcement efforts to combat smugglers and traffickers and to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border.
It would have been funded with $1.5 million a year, but died in the House after passing the Senate. The unit also could be deployed to respond to disasters, conduct search and rescue missions and assist law enforcement agencies.
"Policies need to be realistic in their application, and this language is very realistic in its application," Seel said. The bill was approved in the Rules Committee Monday and now moves on to the full House.