Yeah, I know I was there for only one bill (and it is still going strong as I type this), but they delivered a *lot* of subject material...
...A number of Democratic Representatives were in attendance at the Senate hearing, at least until they had to leave to attend a House floor session. Reps. Schapira, Heinz, Patterson, and Cloves Campbell Jr. observed at least of the goings-on, probably in preparation for the coming fights.
...Russell Pearce was the one designated to jump in front of the bullet today, generally being the one and only Republican to give voice to his party's objections to Democratic amendments. Generally his comments followed the form " 'I love' children, developmentally disabled people, corrections officers, etc. (or whoever the Democratic amendments tried to support)" before throwing that group under the bus.
...Jack Harper is very likely an idiot. To most regular readers of this blog, that I have a low opinion of his intelligence won't come as a surprise, he was in rare form today. Early in the meeting, Democratic Senators proposed an amendment to try to put the cuts in the Democratic-held Attorney General's office (deep) on par with those cuts in the other, Republican-held, statewide offices (virtually nonexistent). There were a couple of sarcastic comments from Democratic senators, including one by Rebecca Rios, that they were *certain* that there was no partisan vindictiveness at work. (This elicited at least one stifled guffaw from a certain LD17 blogger :)) )
Later in the meeting, a spokeswoman for the AZ Corporation Commission expressed reservations about the nature of some of the cuts to the ACC.
Harper jumped on this. He noted that only two of the five members of the ACC are Democrats and that this is proof that the Republicans made their budget cuts without regard to partisan affiliation.
What he didn't note is that the ACC is a distinct branch of government with its own powers, powers that many in the lege would like to accrue to themselves. In addition, while Republicans hold a majority of seats on the Commission, one of them is held by Kris Mayes.
As Commissioner Mayes will occasionally vote in the public interest instead of the corporate interest, she is considered a RINO who is hated by by the Pearce/Kavanagh/Gould wing of the GOP.
...I've been told by people who know him and don't like him that Harper isn't particularly dumb. Perhaps not, but he talks like someone who wants people to think he is smarter than he is, and he does a poor job of it. He spouted off a few times, but I had trouble taking notes because what he said made so little sense.
When the video archive of today's meeting is posted, I recommend watching it.
...Pearce's nativism doesn't extend to a respect for Native Americans. Sen. Albert Hale proposed an amendment to move money ($3 million) from the House of Representatives own budget to re-fund the Commission on Indian Affairs (the commission is zero-funded in the Republican budget proposal).
Pearce suggested that if they really wanted the commission, tribes could fund it out of gaming revenue.
Hale replied that gaming revenue is already shared with the state.
Hale's amendment failed anyway.
...The Republicans were ecstatic over the defeat in California of a number of referenda to help balance that state's budget, including some proposed tax hikes. They're using that defeat as carte blanche to ignore the possibility of a small tax increase in favor of balancing the state's budget on the back of AZ's children.
..."Cap'n Al" Melvin may not be quite on the same level of idiocy as Jack Harper, but he hasn't met a name that he couldn't massacre.
...The Reps were on message, even when that message was no more than ignorant BS. Their favorite talking point during the meeting was that not repealing the county equalization tax (the property tax that even though it's call a "county" tax is actually for education) counts as a tax increase.
...In keeping with the "on message" vibe, at one point during the debate, Pearce transitioned from the state needing to help abused children to needing to implement tort reform.
Other impressions -
...I was fortunate to meet Kit Filbey, former vice chair of the MCDP and current vice chair of the GEMDEMS. She's intelligent and articulate, and was absolutely outraged at what she witnessed at the hearing.
And if you don't think my words here adequately convey the ugliness of the meeting (and they don't; I just don't have the vocabulary to fully express my own outrage at this mess), talk to her. She took copious notes during the meeting and will be able to fill in a lot of what I've missed here.
...Most of the Democratic senators of the committee were unyielding in their defense of AZ's most vulnerable. Senators Aboud, Aguirre, and Rios fought the Reps at every turn. Sen. Hale was skillful in his use of the "quiet" support technique. :))
...The Reps are *really* pissed over the criticisms they've been taking from the education community, moaning about AEA and union "lies" and "phony" pink slips, saying that after all is said and done, few or no teachers will be laid off.
...Pearce doesn't have a soul. During an amendment ot restore $167K to DES for food bank funding, he recited a story of how family was so poor when he was growing up that his mother had to work "two or three" jobs, strongly hinting that the people who have lost their jobs should just go out and get another.
Even if there are fewer jobs to get.
...Gould doesn't have a soul either. During debate on an amendment to restore funding for domestic violence services, he chimed in with "The best cure for poverty is a job."
As Kit Filbey pointed out, a job has nothing to do with domestic violence.
...Gould also protested that most of the proposed Democratic amendments were crafted to make Republicans look bad.
Senator Aboud retorted that it isn't amendments that are making Republicans look bad.
That one earned more than a few grins.
...And I am really glad that I left the meeting when I did. I've had the stream of the meeting going in the background as I type this, and more than once I've flipped off my computer screen at something that was said by a Rep, usually Gould or Pearce.
Lest you think that Jack Harper mellowed out during the course of the meeting, I have to tell you - he left even before I did. Apparently his daughter is graduating from something tonight.
Anyway, time to go and decompress so I can get to sleep at a reasonable hour.