Michael: This Week In Arizona PoliticsSo much punditry needed, so little time…
The Golden Rule
The legislature passed a bill authorizing special license plates sporting the Golden Rule, or “do unto other as you have others do unto you.” This seems to me the test case for an eventual “Choose Life” plate, which has been ruled unconstitutional in other jurisdictions. My favorite comment on this topic came from Rep. Tom Prezelski of District 29 who said, “If we’re going to [put] the Golden Rule on our license plates… then we better start living the Golden Rule in the legislation we pass.” The hypocrisy of many Republicans is such a fat target than Tom couldn’t help but hit the target.
The 8.1 billion dollar budget the Republicans passed (the Democrats were merely observers, not participants in the budget process according to House Minority Leader Phil Lopes) was vetoed by the Governor. She wants more resources spent on kids and education. Specifically, she looking to expand all-day Kindergarten by 10,000 kids, provide more low-income families with the KidsCare health insurance program and child care subsidies, hire 184 additional staff members for Child Protective Services to meet national caseload standards, and build a new medical school in Phoenix to meet demand for physicians in Arizona. Those are fairly modest goals, frankly. I hope the Governor also demands more money for higher education. This year’s budget increase for the University of Arizona is less than 400K, which is really just a slap in the face of higher education.
More Immigrant Bashing
The Senate passed a measure to proscribe many government services for illegal immigrants and the House approved putting an Official English law on the 2006 ballot. A persistent hostility toward all immigrants, both legal and illegal, has pervaded this session of the legislature, and increasingly poisoned Arizona politics for years. The behavior of the majority party in dealing with the problem of illegal immigration and demographic change is yet another example of how popularly elected officials too often exploit their constituents’ fears and hatred, rather than modeling compassion and tolerance. The result is a nascent anti-immigrant militia in Arizona and a wave of hysterical legislative grandstanding.
The Governor’s veto stamp will prevent the worst of it from becoming law, likely until 2010 if the polling holds up. But even the Governor cannot resist scoring a few points off immigration concerns, albeit in a tasteful way, by sending bills to the Justice Department for the jailing of illegal immigrants every month – with interest. I begin to wonder if the Bush Administration is purposefully dragging its feet on addressing immigration matters as way of strengthening the hand of the racist kooks in border states such as California, New Mexico, and Arizona, making Republicans look reasonable by comparison? (not that some Republicans aren’t also racist kooks, mind you)
Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater
The Senate has passed a Concurrent Resolution on a party-line vote to place a measure on the ballot doing away with the single topic constitutional amendment rule that killed the Dirtier Elections initiative last year. The result would likely be 100 page opuses on our ballots that could introduce all sorts of harmful related constitutional changes by riding on one very popular idea. The Resolution’s sponsor, the redoubtable Senator John Huppenthal of District 20, who apparently wants to ensure that sloppy drafting doesn’t kill any more of his pet projects, is facing a recall petition by constituents in his district, making my headline a double-entendre.
Horne’s AIMS Off?
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is coming under fire for a possible misappropriation of $10 million, intended for tax-payer relief, to fund an emergency AIMS tutoring program. It was prudent for Horne to have taken steps to help kids with the tests in light of the inaction of the legislature on the AIMS issue; Senate President Bennett is even blocking any definitive vote to eliminate the AIMS test. Though it will likely die in committee anyhow, I like the Democrat sponsored Senate Resolution that would put on the 2006 ballot a requirement that legislative candidates must pass the AIMS tests before they can take office.
There is a law authorizing the Superintendent to transfer funds between programs in some circumstances, and Horne got the approval of both the Department of Administration and Governor Napolitano, but the legislature did not have a chance to have a say, and that has some feathers ruffled at the Capitol. In the end, the result will likely be more explicit requirements for consultation with the legislature to reprogram money so radically in the future, and Horne will emerge from the stink smelling like a rose to many parents for his initiative.
Senate Flops on DEQ
Senate Republicans thought they were carrying the water of the business community when they decided not to renew the charter of the Department of Environmental Quality, citing abusive and arbitrary enforcement by the agency. My, imagine that, regulated industries complaining about a regulatory agency. Sounds like they might be doing their job. We can’t have that.
In the end, the Senate backed off its plan to eliminate the agency when regulated industry representatives made it plain that no matter how much they complained, they would rather deal with a State agency than have to run everything through the under-funded, under-staffed, and over-worked Federal EPA. How very like out-of-touch ideologues to wildly over-react, pretextually using a few complaints to try to kill an agency that enables Arizona to keep control over our environment in the hands of Arizonans, only to be reined in by leveler, and more realistic heads from the business world. The poor Republicans can't even do a decent hatchet job on behalf of those they are wetting themselves to please.
’Drug War’ Turns Hot South of the Arizona Border
Mexican military units are moving in to support Mexican civilian law enforcement officials unable to control the rampant violence created by drug gangs struggling for territory in Sonora. This is just one more example of the increasing pressure drug prohibition puts on the civil resources of governments, and on the freedoms of citizens, both here and abroad. How long until there is a full-scale Colombian-style insurgency raging just miles from Arizona’s border? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live like Israel, behind a 30ft. concrete and steel fence vainly trying to keep out the chaos our domestic policies have created.