Saturday, November 14, 2009

Republicans behaving badly: STO meeting shenanigans

On Thursday, Rep. David Schapira (D-LD17) and the Bipartisan Task Force on the Private School Tuition Tax Credits Program held an open hearing on Thursday at the State Capitol to solicit public testimony on the state's troubled STO program.

A number of citizens, from all over the state, journeyed to Phoenix to hear a presentation from the Arizona Attorney General's Office as well as to give their input.

The meeting was well-attended and informative, but don't bother checking out the video archive on the lege's website - apparently, House Speaker Kirk Adams killed the lege's video coverage of the meeting. Perhaps he was trying to keep the AG's office from scoring any points ahead of next year's elections, perhaps he was trying to keep his own hand-picked sham committee from being overshadowed, or perhaps he was simply trying to protect his colleague Steve Yarbrough from some of the criticisms of the STO program (Yarbrough is the head of the largest and most lucrative STO, the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization).

Whatever the motivation however, Adams' heavy-handed tactics have been garnering notice, even in his hometown paper, the East Valley Tribune (at least it is until it shuts down completely at the end of the year.)

From Saturday's "Cactus Needles" column -
We knew House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, faced an uphill battle when he promised to inject more transparency into how his state chamber conducts business. But we certainly didn’t expect to see an Adams-run House turn off one of the best tools for outsiders to keep track of what the Legislature does.

House staff refused Thursday to use taxpayer-funded cameras during a meeting about tuition tax credits organized by legislative Democrats. Usually, far more people watch such meetings on the Legislature’s closed-circuit television, Web broadcasts and dedicated cable channels than attend in person.

Adams’ spokeswoman, Becky Blackburn, offered the lame excuse that the meeting was scheduled too late. But the lead organizer, Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe, says he filed proper notice more than two weeks before. Besides, we know from past experience it only takes a few minutes to get the House cameras working. So the public could have watched most of the two-hour meeting anyway if Adams had kept his word.
Further supporting Schapira and undercutting the Adams' Family party line story spin from Adams' flack are reports from meeting attendees. They document an interesting phenomenon.

Call it "The Case of The Disappearing Meeting."

When two of them went to sign up to speak at the meeting, the meeting appeared on the system's schedule when the first person signed in, but it disappeared, as if by magic, by the time the next person in line stepped up to sign in.


Lest one thinks that only the Trib noticed the games Adams was playing, Thursday's meeting has garnered notice in the AZ Republic here. It also made the Arizona Guardian's Guardian Angel column (subscription required) -
Capitol censorship: The Winged One never figured Republican leaders would rule the House like the politburo. But that’s what some Angelinos are saying these days about their Glorious GOP Leaders after they ordered Arizona Capitol Television not to broadcast a Democratic task force that was meeting in one of the House hearing rooms. The crews were ready to roll Thursday morning when word came down that they were forbidden to televise the show because the Democrats didn’t, umm, book the room – at least that’s the official version coming from the Ministry of Information. The GA hears the real story is Republican leaders didn’t want to give Attorney General Terry Goddard’s folks an avenue to score political points on the boob-tube...

While Adams was successful in preventing the lege's own cameras from providing coverage of the meeting for the members of the public who were unable to attend it in person, he wasn't able to completely block all coverage - video of Rep. Schapira's post-meeting comments is available on the website of the Guardian, and a full piece in the East Valley Trib is here.

In addition to those sources, David Safier at Blog for Arizona has some great in-depth coverage here, here, and here.

And since she was there, and addressed the committee (brave woman, she), Jen at Mindless Mumblings of a Martyr Mom should eventually post her take on the meeting. Once she calms down enough to press the keys on her keyboard, as opposed to punching them through the desk underneath that keyboard. :))


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