The next session of the Arizona Legislature is shaping up to be a lot like the last session, only more so.
...One of the harbingers of the discord took form last December, even before the session started. In a major surprise, the House Republican caucus deposed Jim Weiers as Speaker, installing Mesa Republican Kirk Adams in his place. According to the R blog Sonoran Alliance, there's a possibility that Weiers is going to try to return the favor, but don't hold your breath. It will probably be a year, and by then, the Democrats will be in charge. (Hey, I freely admit I put the "partisan" in "partisan hack." :) )
...Adams pledged to have a "transparent" process. Yet by the end of his first few weeks in his new position, the pattern had already been set - GOP leadership (Adams, Senate President Burns, Governor Brewer) would nestle themselves behind closed doors and negotiate budget packages that catered to the whims of their own caucus' membership while ignoring the input and ideas of Democratic legislators and even average constituents. Then they would present those packages for a public vote, passing them with only Republican votes and no real public hearings (Approps committee hearings with minimal notice don't qualify a "real." No matter how loudly the Rs claim that they do.)
By the time the Fifth Special Session of the lege rolled around in December of this year, they weren't even bothering with the pretense.
And still not getting the job done.
Anyway, to sum up the 2009 legislative session: Things started off badly, and went straight downhill from there.
First, some summaries of the 2009 session of the lege that are more neutral and dispassionate than mine -
Arizona School Boards Association
Arizona Capitol Times
Arizona Catholic Conference (OK, these folks are less "dispassionate" and more "really, really, really conservative)
Arizona Municipal Water Users Association
(State of) Arizona Land Management Department
A tax law firm's summary for CPAs
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Arizona Department of Health Services
Arizona Department of Revenue
Arizona Department of Insurance
Arizona Department of Transportation
Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club
Now that the "neutral" part of the post is over, on to the more partisan part - the 2010 predictions...
2009 Legislator of the Year, Arizona Capitol Times version: Rep. Ray Barnes (R-LD7)
2009 Legislator of the Year, County Supervisors Association of Arizona version: Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-LD5)
2010 Legislators of the Year, Random Musings version, or "Legislators who should stay away from cameras if they want a chance at being repeat winners of more mainstream awards" - Ray "Bisexual Principals" Barnes and Sylvia "5000 Years" Allen.
Not to be confused with the Legislative Loon Award, which is based on bill filings, this one is based on crazy utterances. While other contenders are certain to step up (Russell Pearce, John Kavanagh, Jack Harper, et al,) those two seem to have a lock on the award.
Most likely area of contention: What else? The budget. They haven't finished the current year's budget, which will take up the first few weeks of the new session, and hopefully no more than that. After that, they will start work on the FY2011 budget, which looks to have a deficit that's even larger than this year's. And most of the one-time fixes will have been used up already.
Bad bill most likely to make a comeback, non-revenue category: Guns in schools. A version directed at universities and community colleges has already been filed for next year's session, so a K-12 version can't be far behind.
Bad bill most likely to make a comeback, revenue category: Repeal of the equalization tax. The Rs have made it clear that they want to destroy public education in Arizona; getting rid of a dedicated revenue source for public education is a step in that direction.
Good bill most likely to pass: None. There may be a few "harmless" bills ("technical corrections" and the like), but nothing good is expected to come out of next year's legislative session...making it a lot like this year's session.
Institutional memory, elected/insider category: Rep. Jack Brown (D-LD5). First entered the lege in 1963, before many of his colleagues were potty-trained (and in more than a few cases, before they were born) and has served continuously since 1987. Has more knowledge and wisdom than most of the rest of the lege combined. Norman Moore, Chief Clerk of the House, was in contention for this one, but after three decades of service, he has retired to go into the private sector as a lobbyist.
Institutional memory, "outsider" category: Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. He *is* Capitol Media Services, working as its sole employee. Every media outlet in the state uses his stories. Has been covering the Capitol for more than a quarter century. "Outsider" is in quotes because with his longevity, he isn't really an outsider, but he doesn't work for the lege, so he falls into this category.
Legislator most likely to piss off his own caucus: Who else could it be, but Sen. Ron Gould? With his stomping out of his own party's Governor's speech and spending the spring, summer, and fall working to scuttle any balanced budget deals, he's had this one sewn up for months. The runner up, and the House's "winner": Rep. Sam Crump. A second-termer, he was briefly stripped of a committee chairmanship early in the 2009 session for trying to out-harsh his own Speaker, Kirk Adams. He had been "exploring" a run for AG, challenging State Superintendent of Public of Instruction Tom Horne and (rumored) Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. He has announced that he is seeking reelection to the House, however. Democrat Jack Brown could gain some traction in this category because he is easily the most conservative Democrat in the legislature, but there is so much respect and affection for him that no one really objects when his votes don't always gibe with his caucus-mates'.
Legislator most likely to piss on the other caucus: One could make a case for most (though not all) of the Rs in this category, but the hands-down winner in this category is our old friend, Sen. Jack Harper. A complete list of his credentials for this award would take up the rest of the post, but the highlight of his year was when he equated legislative Democrats with a pre-Iraq War Saddam Hussein and the ruling Sunnis in Iraq.
Legislator most likely to claim at one point to only follow the "will of the voters" while at another point to claim that the "will of the voters" is meaningless: Russell Pearce. Basically, it all matters if he agrees with the "will of the voters." If the matters under discussion are nativist measures approved via referendum, he believes that the voters are brilliant; if the matters under discussion are voter-mandated social spending, he thinks they are misguided, or worse, and seeks to overturn the Voter Protection Act so that he can kill all social spending in AZ.