Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ten and ten

Sunday, the AZ Republic ran a story highlighting 10 of the more interesting bills before the Arizona Legislature. It was a decent enough story, if a little light on real substance or usable information.

The story, while it did have its good points, was also a very shallow one. 10 bills out of over 1100 filed? That's less than 1%, and the brief blurbs that the Rep wrote about the bills didn't even include basic info such as the name of the sponsor or whether or not the bill has been assigned to a committee.

So, with that serving as inspiration, here's my list of ten and ten - ten bad bills to watch, and ten good bills to watch. These aren't the only 10 bad bills, or the only 10 good bills; there's plenty more of both.

Note: in the interests of minimizing repetitiveness, no anti-immigrant or "let's balance the budget by cutting revenue" bills will be included. Those were covered pretty well in the Legislative Loon p0sts.

Ten bad bills -

...HB2096, a bill to create parental educational choice grants. Introduced by Reps. Biggs, Burges, and Murphy, and Sens. Gorman, Harper and Johnson.

After over 200 words rationalizing the need for such grants, and proclaiming that the bill's purposes are secular, the bill goes on to create a program that awards grants in the amounts of $3500 and $4500 per year payable to the "custodians" of pupils enrolled at private schools.

Undermining public education is bad enough to warrant inclusion on this list, but the language in the bill that states that schools "shall not be required to alter its creed, practices or curriculum in order to redeem grants issued pursuant to this article" is a very thinly-veiled way to funnel public funds to religious schools, notwithstanding the "secular" proclamation a the beginning of the bill.

...HB2477, a bill relating to employees of the state treasurer's office. Sponsored by Rep. Adams. Would authorize the state treasurer (currently Dean Martin) to randomly drug test employees and prospective employees, and to periodically snoop into employees' credit reports.

If Mr. Martin and his water-carrier Rep. Adams believe that there is a drug use problem in the treasurer's office, there are provisions in existing state law that would allow for drug testing in departments where there is evidence of a problem. Even if those provisions don't apply to the treasurer's office, why not change the law so that those provisions *do* apply?

Unless, of course, the underlying purpose of the program would be to control and intimidate office employees, some of whom may have spoken up over the crimes committed by previous treasurer David Petersen, who resigned in disgrace.

Something tells me that the ethically-challenged Martin wants to discourage whistle-blowers with this.

...SB1054, a bill relating to the state treasurer and independent legal counsel. Introduced by Sen. Chuck Gray. Would allow the State Treasurer's office to bypass the Attorney General and contract for outside legal counsel. The bill also exempts such contracts from the state's procurement code with its attendent oversights.

Related: SB1097, a bill from Sen. Burns to exempt the State Treasurer's office from the Government Information Technology Agency's (GITA) requirements.

Can you say "building an independent fiefdom"?

...HB2678, a bill related to welfare recipients and applicants, and drug testing. Sponsored or cosponsored by a cast of thousands (actually, a cast of 31, 30 of whom are Republicans.) Would mandate drug testing of all applicants and recipients of public assistance.

...HB2713, a bill relating to students' expression of religion. Sponsored by Reps. Clark and Anderson. Would bar a school from discriminating against a student or group of students on the basis of religion. The bill includes interesting phrasing - "If an assignment requires a student's viewpoint to be expressed in coursework, artwork or other written or oral assignments, A public educational institution shall not penalize or reward a student on the basis of religious content or a religious viewpoint." I'm not sure of this (I'm most definitely not a lawyer), but I think this might really mess up grading in science classes.

This bill may be related to conflicts like this one in the Deer Valley Unified School District, chronicled in the AZ Republic.

...HCR2041, an amendment to the state constitution barring preferential treatment based on "race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting." Sponsored by Reps. Pearce, Barnes, Mason, Murphy, and Nelson and Senators Harper and Johnson. Basically, this is Ward Connerly's scheme to end affirmative action policies.

...SB1064, a bill relating to presidential preference elections. Sponsored by Sens. Harper and Waring. This is the one that opens up presidential primaries for everyone but Democrats. I've written about this one before.

SB1332, a bill relating to DNA testing. Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Gray. The Senator was all people who are arrested to submit to DNA testing. Compliance would be a condition of bail or "own recognizance" release - failure to comply would result in revocation of bail.

Just think - if this was in force when Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas tried to intimidate the New Times into silence, not only would the two journalists they arrested have had to submit DNA samples, it would now be incumbent on them to petition a court to have their DNA info removed from the state's database (as opposed to Arpaio and Thomas having to justify keeping it.)

If the esteemed members of the lege think bills like this one and the 'drug tests for welfare' one from above are such great ideas that would benefit the public, why don't they ever propose bills mandating drug and DNA testing for elected officials?

...SB1400, a bill relating to 'gun-free' zones. Sponsored by Sen. Johnson and Reps. Barnes, Burges, and Pearce. The State or "any agency or political subdivision of this state or any person, organization or entity that establishes a gun-free zone" would be held liable for damages if someone is injured or otherwise hurt as a result of criminal conduct in that 'gun-free' zone and that possession of a gun would have helped the victim defend him/herself.

Brought to you by some of the same crew responsible for the 'guns in schools' bill (and the 'guns in bars' bill before it.)

...SB1493, a bill related to early ballots and voter identification. Sponsored by Sens. Gorman and Blendu and Reps. Clark and Pearce. Would mandate that when returning an early ballot, voters must include "a legible photocopy of identification."

How does a photocopy prove anything? Also, what about the expense incurred by voters, as most folks don't have copy machines at home?

Ten good bills...

...HB2114, a bill relating to unattended children in motor vehicles. Introduced by Rep. McClure. Makes the act of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle (subject to a few criteria, such as age) a Class 3 misdemeanor. Repeat offenses are Class 2 misdemeanors.

...HB2141, a bill relating to the disclosure of water supply status during the sale of residential property. Introduced by Rep. Ableser. The bill requires that licensed real estate brokers to "notice of the water supply status of that property as designated by the director of water resources." Related: HB2142, which provides for similar requirements for general sellers (i.e. - non-licensed types.)

...HB2145, a bill related to health insurance and mental health coverage parity. Sponsored by Rep. Ableser, Chabin, Farley, Desimone, and Chad Campbell. Requires that health insurance providers not place greater limitations on mental health services and coverage than they do on physical health services and coverage.

...HB2217, a bill relating to yearly limitations on tuition and fee increases at the state's public universities. Introduced by Reps. Ableser and Schapira. Mandates that any approved fee and tuition hikes not take effect until the academic year following approval.

...HB2293, a bill relating to the sentence imposed on juveniles convicted of first-degree murder. Introduced by Rep. Sinema. Bars imposition of capital punishment upon juveniles. Capital punishment should be abandoned; this bill would be a good first step.

...HB2396, a bill relating to text messaging while driving. Introduced by Reps. Farley, Pancrazi, and Nelson, and Sens. Aboud and Aguirre. Bans the sending or receiving of text messages while operating a motor vehicle. Related: HB2397, banning the use of cell phones while driving, except with a hands-free device and HB2398, banning the use of cell phones while driving, specific to Class G-licensed drivers (aka - under 18 years old).

...HB2651, a bill relating to independent voters and presidential preference primary elections. Introduced by Reps. DeSimone, Farley, Thrasher and Sen. Rios. Would allow independent voters to cast a ballot in the presidential primary of their choice. This is the bill that Sen. Harper should have written, instead of SB1064.

...SB1046, a bill relating to the enactment date of the state's education budget. Sponsored by Sen. Pesquiera. Would mandate that the lege pass the following fiscal year budget for the Arizona Department of Education by April 15th.

So simple it's brilliant. Now to get them to pass the rest of the budget before it hits 100 in Phoenix...

...SB1247, a bill relating to employer communications regarding religion or politics. Sponsored by Sen. Burton-Cahill. Bars an employer from compelling an employee to participate in an activity or communication that has the "primary purpose of communicating the employer's opinion about religious or political matters." The bill has appropriate exemptions for activities mandated by law and also for religious, political, and educational organizations.

This is how a religious liberty bill *should* be written.

SB1010, a bill relating a cell phone users' bill of rights. Sponsored by Sen. Waring. This one was a good idea when Waring introduced it in November; it's a good idea now.


Desert Beacon said...

I find it truly remarkable that the party (GOP) that's campaigned on "good government" and "eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse" would be the self-same one to discourage whistleblowers and attempt to circumvent contracting oversight.

cpmaz said...

The GOP seems to have problems with a lot of things - abortion, immigrants, gays and lesbians, etc., but they definitely don't have a problem with one thing -