Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lesson for the day: always keep an eye on Jack Harper

You know, other than a letter to the editor published in the Arizona Capitol Times that displayed more than a little contempt for poor and working people who have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn in AZ, state Sen. Jack Harper (R-Surprise!) has been rather quiet this year.

However, as I've learned, "quiet" is not synonymous with "well-behaved."

On Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., Harper will chair a meeting of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee in SHR2. Part of the agenda for that meeting is a hearing on Harper's strike-everything amendment to SB1055. The striker would create a "homeland security force" of anti-immigrant vigilantes operating under the auspices of the state government.

As bad as that sounds (and I've made it clear before - I think this is a *really* bad idea), the part of Harper's proposal that caught my eye in this year of fiscal crisis is how he plans to pay for it.

From the striker (amended language in BLUE AND CAPITALIZED) -
Sec. 2. Section 26-152, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:


E. A camp Navajo fund is established for the operation, maintenance, capital improvements and personal services necessary for the national guard to operate a regional training site and storage facility at Bellemont. The fund consists of monies received from storage of commodities and services provided as approved by the adjutant general, EXCEPT THAT THE ADJUTANT GENERAL SHALL ACCEPT ANY NONNUCLEAR COMMODITIES OFFERED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR STORAGE. MONIES RECEIVED FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR STORAGE OF THESE COMMODITIES SHALL BE ACCOUNTED FOR SEPARATELY IN THE CAMP NAVAJO FUND AND SHALL BE TRANSFERRED FOR DEPOSIT IN THE HOMELAND SECURITY FORCE FUND ESTABLISHED BY SECTION 26-128.

As shown above in the unamended language, the current section of law (ARS 26-152) stipulates that all monies received for the storage of commodities Camp Navajo shall be used for the operation and maintenance of Camp Navajo.

Camp Navajo is a DOD facility located near Flagstaff that is designed for and used for the storage of various "commodities." Though specific items aren't listed, the list of their customers suggests that the site contains (but is not limited to) ammunition, rocket propellants, and missile components. Least bad: Toys for Tots.

Though something tells me that they wouldn't be so concerned for safety and security (it *is* a military base, after all :) ) if all that was stored there were excess Tickle Me Elmos and the like.

Harper's proposal begs a few questions -

Does his specific citing of *nonnuclear* commodities, which is not part of the current law, mean that he wants Camp Navajo to accept all commodities up to and including chemical and biological "commodities" to pay for his team of vigilantes?

Does the change in the language mean that Camp Navajo doesn't currently accept commodities of a nuclear, biological, or chemical nature, and this would now allow the Camp Navajo to do so?

If so, does Harper plan to hold public hearings in northern AZ so that the folks most likely to be exposed to danger from this scheme (in the event of an accident) can weigh in on the matter?

How much money would Harper's amendment siphon away from Camp Navajo's operations in order to subsidize his vigilantes?

Would the loss of that money impact the safety of operations at Camp Navajo? Safety is a concern here, because even if the commodities that are stored at the camp aren't of the nuclear, biological, or chemical variety, the items that are stored there tend to go "boom." Hell, most of them are *designed* to go boom.

Does Harper realize that, regardless of the nature of the commodities stored at Camp Navajo, most of us would never have heard of it until he decided to use it to funnel money to his vigilante force? And that any uproar from this is his own fault?

And does Harper want to start a statewide campaign as the guy who reduced funding for a National Guard operation to fund one of his pet projects?

Right now, I have more questions than answers.

Calls to Camp Navajo and an AZ National Guard PIO didn't clear up much in terms of these questions. I got the impression that the PIO had never been asked questions about the financing of operations. I also got the impression that he hates political questions (he wasn't rude or anything, but military officials have to tread a fine line when discussing the activities of the civilian authorities who oversee military operations.)

A message left at the office of Sen. Harper hasn't been returned yet.

Another lesson for the day - always read the fine print. I almost skipped the payment part of the striker after reading what I thought were the "guts" of the proposal.



testcase said...

One of the benefits of the budget fiasco has been to keep that twit Harper from introducing even more idiotic bills. I guess the floodgates are open now.

Jen said...

I just...I mean...what...this this is effing unbelievable. Vigalantes? Paid for by dumping trash and various toxic sundries? How about we park all of that nonnuclear waste in Harper's backyard? Better yet, why don't we see about shoving it up his--wherever.

cpmaz said...

testcase - Yup. The AZ monsoon season has started, but instead of water raining down on the AZ landscape, it's these bad bills from the legislature raining down on us.

Jen - Harper has proposed this for at least the last couple of sessions of the lege. This was the first time that I paid attention to the funding provision.

I don't think that Camp Navajo takes in toxic waste per se, just munitions and related materials.

Which are toxic in their own way, not just as waste.

Eli Blake said...

I've figured out that Jack Harper, Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, et al are in bed with the trial lawyers.

I mean, if this isn't lawsuit bait designed to funnel state money to trail lawyers then I don't know what is.

Jen said...

I think anything that might go "boom" is bad news for the environment. And where does the line get drawn? Munitions today, nuclear waste tomorrow. What's more, there are some in the leg who wouldn't mind seeing nuclear power plant built in the state. I'm not an expert on this, but isn't there spent waste from such a power plant?

cpmaz said...

Yup, there's waste from nuclear power plants (google "yucca mountain" and "nuclear waste" for more info).

I don't think Camp Navajo accepts waste, though the chemicals used in munitions and propellants are pretty toxic even when they aren't "waste."

And in case you hadn't noticed, most of the legislators behind schemes like this are from the state of Maricopa (the Scottsdale guy is hanging his head in shame right now :) ), yet the areas of the state that are most impacted by their schemes are somewhere other than Maricopa.