Monday, April 27, 2009

Fun and games - a day at the lege

Went to the lege today for a few hours, and I have to say - more people should.

In addition to the value of "citizen involvement in the political process" (Yawwwn) and the like, it's easily the best unscripted floor show in the state. No popcorn allowed, but that's a small price to pay...

Among the stuff that I learned...

- At last Thursday's faith-based budget briefing with Valley Interfaith and members of the lege from both parties, Senator John Huppenthal (R-beats up elderly women) stormed out of the meeting because the panel members were asked if they would support a tax increase to help balance the state's budget while preserving basic services.

The MSM coverage of the event (linked to "stormed" above) was actually pretty mild, even tactful, even though it was an editorial criticizing Huppenthal for his behavior.

Huppenthal's story was the he objected to the time limit established by the forum organizers.

According to witnesses from the event, however, as he was exiting the event, he was arguing with the organizers and audience members that the question was unfair because he wasn't given advance notice.

The problem with that? The organizers sent copies of the questions to the invited panel members a week ahead of time, and even if the US Postal Service lost Huppenthal's copy, he had another copy on the table at the forum for over an hour before his blowup.

During the Senate's floor session (such as it was) on Monday, Huppenthal reiterated the story that he objected to the time limit and said that he "respectfully" left the meeting on Thursday.

My witness/source described Huppenthal's exit as "storming out" and even the sedate EV Tribune described it as "bolted." Either way, it doesn't sound too "respectful," does it?

Anyway, during his Senate floor speech, he criticized all-day kindergarten as ineffective, said that studies show that removal of children from abusive or dangerous by CPS hurts the kids so the state can save money spent on CPS by not removing as many children from abusive or dangerous situations and that government workers are paid too much because an unnamed study shows that government workers make more than private sector workers in equivalent positions.

Senator Huppenthal -

All day K ineffective? The U.S. Department of Education disagrees.

CPS? I don't know what study(s) you are citing, but since the kids' lives were already jacked up before CPS' involvement, perhaps that was the more significant factor in future issues (he mentioned teen pregnancy and involvement with the justice system). And leaving at-risk kids in dangerous situations in order to balance the state's budget is just soulless.

As for public v. private sector pay? I think the study he was citing is from the Cato Institute. The Cato Institute is a libertarian "think tank" less interested in actual research than in conducting studies that support big business. Think "Tobacco Institute" but for all big businesses, not just Big Tobacco.

There's a credibility gap there.

Anyway, Huppenthal's speech was pure party dogma. He wasn't the only member of the Rep caucus to take up floor time with a little ideological indoctrination.

- Sen. Sylvia Allen spoke about how wonderful mining companies are and how they are responsible members of the communities they are in.

- Sen. Pam Gorman made sure that everyone present understood that the Rep leadership of the Senate doesn't support a tax increase.

- Sen. Thayer Verschoor backed up Allen's adoration of corporations.

- Sen. Ron Gould said something about "over-regulation" and how a hole in the planet's ozone was discovered in the 1930s well before the now-banned Freon12 went into widespread production and use. Ergo, it couldn't contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer, no matter what some scientific studies might say. Background on Freon 12, with info on the impacts of it and other CFCs, here.

As you might have guessed, Gould operates a refrigeration business in his non-legislator life.

It wasn't an uncontested Republican walkover, however -

Sen. Leah Landrum-Taylor defended CPS and the necessity of its work with at-risk children.

Sen. Meg Burton-Cahill spoke on how her husband (long-time Tempe Councilman Dennis Cahill) spent his younger days working in an unregulated mine as a bricklayer. He now needs a respirator to get through the day and cannot go out to events and such unless they can get a respirator into whatever venue those events are in.

Sen. Albert Hale spoke about some of the bigoted attitudes and words (my words, not his) from the members of the Senate when they speak about Native Americans and some of the items that affect the NA community in AZ that flit across Senate agendas from time to time.

In short, it's an uphill battle, but the Senate Dems are stepping up.

Now if only we can do our part in 2010, and step up to consign some of the Reps to electoral history.

Note: Huppenthal's assault case related to the incident linked above is scheduled to go to trial on June 24 in the San Marcos Justice Court.

Note2: It seems that the man who would be in charge of educating AZ's children has something of an anger management problem.

...In other matters, Tuesday's meeting of Senate Appropriations has been cancelled (no budget this week) in favor of a meeting of Joint Appropriations at 2 p.m. in HHR1.

The subject of that meeting is "Discussion of Municipal Rebate to General Fund."

...Also on Tuesday will be a meeting of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee at 8 a.m. in HHR4.

While it doesn't seem likely that there will be a vote on the FY2010 budget this week, it does appear that things are starting to break loose in that area.

The AZ Senate Democrats have a blog post up with a link to a draft of the current Rep budget proposal. I haven't had time to read the entire proposal, but apparently the Republicans are proposing to use deep cuts in programs and sweeping the funds generated by municipal impact fees to pay for things like roads and other infrastructure in new developments (hence the need for a JLBC meeting early Tuesday) to balance the budget. They're also going after any school district funds with remaining balances.

In short, the Reps' way of "not raising taxes" is to siphon money from entities like cities and school districts that *can* raise taxes, and then sit back and let those entities take the heat for raising taxes to help meet their own obligations.

Obligations that they cannot meet without raising taxes because the lege swiped the money.

...One other thing that I learned it that the Capitol Museum Store has some cool stuff in it, and was probably the highlight of the trip.


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