Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Impressions from today's Senate Appropriations meeting

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.



Zelph said...

Somebody really needs to bring back the crAZyspace website, but this time with video. Voters need to see for themselves just what assholes they have representing them.

testcase said...

The CA initiative failed because there already were tax increases earlier this year in California. I think someone ought to tell them that. Oh, and also people were mad that the legislature in CA could not actually work on a solution but instead dumped it on the public.

testcase said...

Oh, If you want to understand what Harper's problem is look at comment 14 here:

Thane Eichenauer said...

I'll just remind everyone here that name calling and disparaging comments on the intelligence or lack of intelligence of state representatives and state senators isn't going to win you any points in the audience of independent voters of Arizona.

To me it says that those who oppose government budget limits can't make a valid case for their favorite government department. It says that you really don't care enough about your issue to make any sort of reasoned case as to why the voters and representatives should vote for higher taxes and further budget shenanigans to maintain current government staff levels and spending plans.

There are bits of sky falling on all of the people here in the United States, government didn't prevent it from happening and as far as TV and newspapers it is a pretty rare person in the public eye that has much more of a plan to address the current recession other than perservere and hope for the economic recession to end.

cpmaz said...

Thane - I can only speak for myself on this, but I am usually pretty good at recognizing legitimate disagreements over political issues (which is why the issues are "political") and contempt on the part of elected officials for the people that they were elected to represent.

Electeds who display the kind of disdain for a huge part of the population that the Reps on Appropriations did yesterday are worthy of a few names.

As for disparaging the intelligence of a couple of the members, watch the video of the meeting when it's posted.

I'm fair - I don't like John Kavanagh, chair of House Approps and find his politics repugnant, but I've never disparaged his intelligence, because one thing he is *not* is stupid.

The R's on Senate Approps have Kavanagh's repugnant politics, but not his intelligence.

As for cuts and defending programs, I (and pretty much everyone else) knows that cuts are coming and are unavoidable. The R's aren't trying to soften the blow or find where the cuts will do the least harm. In fact, they are deliberately trying to make it worse because while they look at programs for students, teachers, the poor, the disabled, and more, their answer is always the same - "We can't afford it."

However, when Pinnacle West or some other large corporation comes knocking, asking for a tax cut, the Rs reflexively bow and scrape before scurrying off to do the corps' bidding.