Today's meeting of House Appropriations was like a slow train ride across West Texas - hours of staring out the window looking at the same old scenery. Just when you think that change is just around the bend, you get around that bend and see...
Miles more of that same old scenery, stretching of to the horizon.
However, I jumped off the train at 2. Four hours on on this mind- and butt-numbing train was enough hell on my bladder.
Yeah, I know that's a TMI moment, but the legislators could get up and leave whenever they wanted to...something Rep. Vic "Walking Man" Williams did. Often. It seemed that *his* bladder got weak whenever there was a roll call vote.
Rep. Daniel Patterson (D - LD29) was there "tweeting" the meeting. That feed is here. He can confirm Williams' behavior, and pretty much everything else in this post.
Oh yeah - eventually the video of the meeting will be posted here, though it may be a couple of days.
Anyway, back to the meeting...
As with the passengers on most trains, confined to previously-laid tracks, everyone in attendance knew this one's destination. Nothing unexpected happened; still, the ride was eye-opening in stretches.
...It started late. The scheduled start time was 10 a.m., but in 'legislative time' 10 a.m. means "sometime after 10 and before lunch." Chairman John Kavanagh (R-Russell Pearce with a Noo Yawk accent) gavelled it into session at around 10:15.
...Early on during consideration of HB2533, the General Appropriations or "feeder" bill, LD17 State Rep. David Schapira proposed an amendment to change language in the bill so that the Democratic Attorney General's office was treated with the same amount of budgetary respect as the other, Republican-occupied, executive branch offices.
Kavanagh, Biggs, and the other R's haughtily took offense at the implication that there might have been partisan motivation behind the attack on the AG's office.
I admit - during this section of the meeting, I just wanted to stand up and say to the Rs "Go for it. Attract the attention of a group of people whose job it is to prosecute those who prey on Arizonans. What are you going to do for a second act, kick over a hornet's nest?"
I didn't though. :))
...The meeting was marked by a resounding contempt for Democrats, not just for their ideas, but for them personally.
The Democratic members of the committee were constantly interrupted when they spoke if they dared to utter something that the Republicans disagreed with. However, on those occasions when the Dems took issue with something an R said, the Dem objections were shouted down by Kavanagh and Andy Biggs, the vice-chair of the committee.
...At one point, Rich Crandall (R-Wants to be Superintendant of Public Ed) mocked Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema by fluttering his arms after she objected to the chair's call for a vote on an amendment that she offered before it had even been discussed.
...Another bit of partisanship that Kavanagh and the Republicans engaged in was the convenient and repeated "misplacing" of the paperwork associated with the amendments offered by Democratic members in order to avoid having to consider and discuss them on the record.
...Of the 41 members of the public who utilized the lege's comments system to weigh in on the first measure (most didn't sign in to actually speak), 40 opposed the Republican budget.
The member of the public who did sign in as supporting the Rep budget (in the form of the General Appropriations bill)??
Royce Flora, former chair of the LD8 Republicans. As in "LD8, home of John Kavanagh."
...During the vote on the bill, Rep. David Schapira took the opportunity to point out that the Reps' budget would cut the already-lean Arizona Department of Financial Institutions so much that they would have to lay off the one employee that currently covers regulating pay day loan operations (Should we call that one the "Jim Weiers' provision").
The vote on the underlying bill broke, as expected, along party lines - Republicans voting for cuts, deep cuts, and only cuts, and Democrats voting for some fiscal responsibility (responsible as in "you get what you pay for" and "better to pay for students now than prisoners later").
That pattern held true through the rest of the hearing - the committee defeated a Schapira amendment to strike language repealing state equalization property tax and its $250 million in funding for education.
Yes, the Reps spent the whole meeting (in fact they've spent the whole session) proclaiming loudly and proudly that cuts to education and services are needed because of shrinking state revenues while seeking to further cut those revenues.
The meeting droned on for hours after I left, but based on Rep. Patterson's tweets, nothing varied from the theme that was exhibited while I was there -
The Republicans wanted to gut education and human services, and the Democrats, while understanding that cuts are unavoidable given the state's dismal fiscal situation after years under the "guidance" of the Republicans in the lege, wanted to minimize the harm to both.
Because of the 2008 elections, the Reps had the votes to get their way.
If enough people who care about the future of Arizona are paying attention to what's happening on West Washington, the 2010 elections will change that fact.
BTW - If some readers think that my characterizations of the Republicans on the committee are too harshly partisan, I'd like to remind them of two things -
1. I am openly and unabashedly partisan in my blogging. Always have been. Always will be.
2. Having said that, I can and do understand that people who honestly care about the future of the state and the needs of its residents can have honest differences of opinions on how to best meet those needs. I also understand that there are people who would sacrifice the future of the state and the needs of its residents on the altar of craven ideology.
I have nothing but respect for those elected officials of any partisan affiliation who take seriously their responsibilities and duties toward those that they were elected to serve.
None of the Reps in the room were that kind of public servant. Even would-be statewide candidate Rich Crandall occasionally mouthed some platitudes of concern, but when it came time to vote, he marched in lockstep with the rest of his caucus.
On the other hand, he was better than the Walking Man, Vic Williams.
At least Crandall cast his votes on the record.
BTW2 – If I wanted to be really harsh, I would have characterized Rep. Williams as “Overactive Bladder Man.”