It's been tough finding a "winner" of this year's Legislative Loon Award. The problem hasn't been a dearth of candidates, because the rightward lurch of the GOP caucus in the lege has created a surfeit of them. (And so ends this blog's Thesaurus sentence of the year :) )
As in previous years, the likes of State Sens. Russell Pearce and Jack Harper were frontrunners for this award, as was Representative John Kavanagh. In addition to their nativist enthusiasms, Pearce and Kavanagh are the chairs of their respective chambers' Appropriations Committees, and have the influence to further the more radical parts of their ideology. Harper is, well, *Harper,* the man who never met a bill or utterance too outlandish or ignorant for him to put his name to it.
In a normal year, there would be no more than one or two others in serious contention (Trish Groe will be missed...OK, not really.)
But this year, a huge percentage of their colleagues have given free rein to their inner whackjob, in ways that go beyond the usual "appeal to the wingers back home" bills that go nowhere, and were never meant to.
Before we even enter into a discussion of some of the horrific bills proposed this session, there's the "colorful" utterances of some of the legislators to consider -
- Rep. Frank Antenori, a resident of Tucson and elected to represent part of Tucson, expressed objections to newspapers designating him as "R-Tucson." Apparently, he has a problem with the "hippies" that run the city.
- Sen. Pam Gorman, from her blog, on the prospect of devastating budget cuts for education and the rest of the state's budget (emphasis mine) - "Essentially, we will get to sit around in small groups brainstorming on ways to cut government spending instead of the normal nauseating disputes about how to spend more. Yippee! Now, where’s my party hat? "
- Sen. Jack Harper, responding to a story that Arizona, the rate of people applying for food stamps is rising at twice the pace of the U.S. as a whole (from Seeing Red AZ) - "One of the reasons so many people are signing up for welfare is due to so many welfare offices being opened up by the state and making it easy:," followed by a listing of all DES offices in the state.
No acknowledgement that maybe the reason that more people are applying for food stamps and other assistance is that more people *need* the assistance.
- Rep. John Kavanagh, speaking gleefully on the effects of cuts to the state's universities - "Since our cuts are going to send ASU back to the Middle Ages, the question is how many monks will they need?"
And that's just skimming the surface.
Then we move on to the transparency of the budget process (and balancing the state's budget in the face of the current fiscal crisis), something that the wingers complained about on an annual basis, when the moderate Republicans in the lege worked out a budget with then-Governor Napolitano and were able to garner enough support for it on both sides of the aisle to pass it. So what do the wingers do now that they've ousted most of the moderates in the Republican caucus and have fellow traveller Jan Brewer in the Governor's office?
Determine which programs to cut, and how savagely, behind closed doors.
They've even made their blog, Capitol Ideas (http://azhousegop.blogspot.com/), available to "invited readers" (i.e. - "true believers" in their view, "fellow Kool-Aid drinkers" in mine) only.
And then there are the bills.
In addition to their now-annual moves to repeal the state's equalization property tax, a dedicated funding source for education (SB1107, among others) or moves to repeal other taxes (HCR2034, et. al.), they've got the bills with the usual nativist pablum (with Russell Pearce lending his name to at least 16 of them), the anti-choice screeds (such as HB2564), and, of course, the gun fetish bills (SB1270, HB2171, and others).
But wait, there's more -
- The myriad bills against the use of photo radar, the most colorful of which may be Rep. Andy Biggs' HB2124, which won't allow photo radar to be used to issue tickets for going less than 35 mph in a school zone or less than 85 mph on a freeway. (Thanks to blogger Mike McClellan at AZCentral.com for the heads-up on HB2124)
You know, I can understand the 85 mph requirement in the rural portions of the state, where the speed limit is 75 mph, but 35 mph in a school zone? If there is one area that calls for strict enforcement of speed limits it's school zones.
- Sen. Ron Gould's SB1359, which would allow cities and towns to "construct, operate and finance the construction of toll roads within the corporate limits of the city or town."
- Sen. John Huppenthal's SB1393, a measure written so broadly that it would turn the public school system into a religious school system.
- Rep. Warde Nichols' scheme to disband the Arizona Board of Regents, HCR2002.
- SB1123, a Republican move to make Tucson's municipal elections non-partisan, mostly because Democrats win in Tucson.
- SB1147, which would bar state agencies from adopting any rules or policies regarding greenhouse gases or fuel economy without the express direction of the lege. The same lege that is run by Republicans who think that scientific evidence regarding global warming and human impact on the environment is a fraud.
There are more, but the point is made - Pearce, Kavanagh, and Harper have a LOT of company this year down on West Washington.
As such, the winner of this year's Legislative Loon Award is...
The entire Republican caucus of the Arizona Legislature.
God help us all.
Note: to be fair, I should note that there are still a few members of the Rep caucus who take the idea of public service seriously, however, most of them have to keep silent or face a primary challenge from hardliners. And in today's AZ Republican Party, the reality is that few of them are safe from such a challenge.