At a Starbucks on 43rd and Thunderbird avenues, the 42-year-old man wearing a blazer and two-day beard may be grading a paper on the Athenian senate, where philosophy met politics and birthed democracy.
Or, he may be marking up a report from the Arizona Senate, where the freshman senator struggles to marry practical politics and his deep-rooted beliefs.
Sen. Paul Boyer, a Republican represents District 20: including Glendale, parts of Peoria and North Phoenix.
In his first year as a senator, the former Ariz. Rep., Boyer still advocats for victims of child abuse and firefighters suffering from job-related cancer.
Although he had success in both, he said he has plenty of work to do on what he views as ongoing battles.
Last week at his Glendale coffee spot, Boyer was reviewing two reports. One was the Nov. 22 report of the Justice for Victims of Child Abuse Task Force, which Boyer co-chairs. The other report contained recommendations from a Dec. 5 ad hoc committee on “Minimizing Exposure and Contaminant Risks for First Responders.”
Boyer was asked why these two issues are his priorities.
“I was raised blue-collar,” he said. “I have massive respect for public servants.
“What inspired me to (sponsor) the firefighter cancer legislation is firefighters, especially with their awareness these days cancer is their number one killer, are willing to give their lives protecting the rest of us,” Boyer said.
“Anyone who is willing to run into a fire for perfect strangers or is willing to take a bullet for the same public deserves to be honored not just when they die but to be protected and supported while they’re alive. As I said in the last ad hoc committee hearing, no firefighter should have to mortgage their home simply to stay alive long enough to watch their children grow old.”
Boyer said he is outraged by cases like Glendale Fire Capt. Kevin Thompson, who had to battle for cancer treatment coverage from the city and the late Austin Peck, a Goodyear firefighter who had his workers compensation denied.
“It’s a travesty,” Boyer said.
Boyer said denial of a causal relation between firefighters who get cancer and their jobs is similar to the tobacco industry’s decades-long denial smoking was related to lung cancer. “It’s the same playbook,” Boyer said.
Boyer splits his days between pushing for the likes of firefighter protection in the senate and teaching eleventh-graders literature at North Phoenix Preparatory Academy.
Boyer said teaching high school students increased his concern over the mistreatment of youth. “I am pushing for stricter guidelines on how teachers should communicate with students including no private messaging and more funding so the Arizona Department of Education can hire more investigators who look into allegations of unprofessional or immoral behavior by teachers,” he said.
Boyer started thinking intensely about child abuse survivors after watching the Larry Nassar trial last year, the former athletic trainer is convicted of molesting many young athletes. “It got me wondering about Arizona’s statute of limitations for adult survivors of sexual assault,” Boyer said.
“I looked into it and realized we had the worst in the nation at two years from the age of 18 where a survivor could come forward - until the age of 20 to file a civil claim. Even worse, Arizona never had a separate statute for survivors of sexual assault, instead, child sexual assault previously fell under the personal injury statute.
“This means, Arizona used to consider a sexual assault victim in the law the same as a guy who slips on a banana peel at the mall.”
It changed when Gov. Doug Ducey recently signed Boyer-sponsored legislation to give those who were sexually assaulted or abused as children more time to sue. Previously, victims were required to sue before their 20th birthday or forfeit their legal rights. Now they will have until age 30.
Boyer wanted to give victims even more time and will try again next year.
West Valley roots
Paul Boyer is deeply rooted in the area he represents. Boyer, his wife Beth and their 8-month-old son live a few blocks from the Starbucks serving as his second office. His parents live in Glendale. Boyer’s father-in-law, Jamie Nowatzki, recently retired after 35 years with the Glendale Police Department. Jamie Nowatzki’s son Ty Nowatzki is a Glendale Police officer who was recently honored for his life-saving efforts during an apartment fire.
Since he was a boy living near the Phoenix-Glendale border, Boyer witnessed Glendale and Peoria’s massive growth.
Boyer stressed that issues like firefighter safety and helping victims of child abuse will help those beyond the area of his district.
After representing District 20 in the Arizona House of Representatives for six years, Boyer was elected to the Arizona State Senate, beginning a two-year term in January.
He has filed to run for re-election next year, yet claims politics is not his life.
“If I don’t get re-elected, I’ll just go back to teaching full time,” said a smiling Boyer.
For at least the next year, Boyer will attempt to put the Socratic method trying to sway fellow senators to his points of view.
Boyer said his priorities for 202 are increasing funding for firefighters, getting more funding for dyslexia screening and teaching methods and increasing funding for Department of Education investigators.
Boyer said more than 100 cases of staff and teacher misconduct is being handled by four investigators. “We need 20 to 30 investigators,” he said.
All of the above ideas involve funding, millions of dollars.
“The money is there,” Boyer said, stressing it is a matter of prioritizing.
As Socrates said, according to Plato, “I tell you virtue does not come from money, but from virtue comes money and all other good things to man, both the individual and to the state.”