PHOENIX (Reuters) - Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer on Monday vetoed two controversial bills, one mandating proof of U.S. citizenship to run for president, the other allowing guns on college campuses, in a clear setback for conservatives who control the state legislature.
Brewer, who grabbed headlines a year ago when she signed a get-tough state law cracking down on illegal immigrants, vetoed the bills in an announcement late on Monday.
The so-called “birther bill,” would have made Arizona the first state in the nation to require presidential candidates prove U.S. citizenship by providing a long form birth certificate, and other forms of proof including baptismal or circumcision certificates, to be placed on the state ballot.
“I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on earth to submit their ‘early baptism or circumcision certificates’ ... This is a bridge too far,” she said..
A former Arizona secretary of state, Brewer said she did not support designating one person as “gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate,” as it “could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions.”
The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the measure at a time when some foes of President Barack Obama, a Democrat question whether he is a native-born U.S. citizen. Real estate mogul and television reality show host Donald Trump is among those questioning Obama’s birth in Hawaii.
Brewer also vetoed a bill that would have made Arizona the second state in the nation to allow an individual to carry a firearm — either concealed or not — in the public rights of way on higher education campuses, because it was “so poorly written.”
Brewer said shortcomings in the bill included a failure to define “public rights of way” and the inclusion of state schools, where firearms are prohibited by federal and state laws.
Neighboring Utah allows firearms inside campus buildings.
Last April, Brewer caused a national furor when she signed the state’s controversial crackdown on immigration, which required police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they detained and suspected of being in the country illegally.
Opponents of the law said it would lead to harassment of Hispanic-Americans, and the Obama administration argued the U.S. Constitution gave the federal government sole authority over immigration matters.
A U.S. federal judge blocked the most controversial parts of the law shortly before it came into effect last July. Arizona appealed the stay, but it was upheld by a federal appeals court in a ruling last week.
Arizona Sen. Steve Gallardo, an outspoken Democrat, said the governor realized that the bills would be bad for the state’s image and had nothing to do with the challenges it faces.
“She know that these bills are not going to help with Arizona’s image,” Gallardo told Reuters.
“All they do is put us in the national spotlight and make us look silly. She’s saying she doesn’t want that to happen any longer.”
Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Greg McCune