Monday, August 09, 2010

9th Special Session: proceeding according to the script

I thought about doing some live-blogging from the lege today, but that thought was dispelled rather quickly, once I realized that was more effort than this "special" session merits.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was Rep. David Schapira's (D-Tempe) introduction of his and his wife Rosemary's new baby daughter, Elliot (9 lbs 15 oz, 22 inches).  At the pre-session press conference, she commanded the most attention from the reporters in attendance, and on the House floor, at least half of the Representatives stopped by Schapira to meet the state's newest Democrat.  At one point, Rep. Schapira joked that he and Rosemary would name their next baby "Kyrene" and the one after that "Broadway."

If you are familiar with Tempe, you'll understand the references.  Yes, the line was funnier in person than here, and even there it was more "cute" than "funny,"

It was still part of the highlight of the day.

Otherwise, the day was relatively uneventful.

Labor, in the person of Rebekah Friend, Executive Director of the Arizona AFL-CIO, weighed in on the "misplaced priorities" of the Governor and the ultimate ineffectiveness of the measure. 

From an emailed press release -
“As the state faces historic levels of unemployment and crowded classrooms, I find it unbelievable that Governor Brewer would call a special session simply to take a swipe at unions,” said Rebekah Friend, Executive Director of the Arizona AFL-CIO. “The top concern of Arizonans right now is putting food on the table and having a good job, and this special session will do nothing to address those needs. This whole charade shows the truly misplaced priorities of Governor Brewer and Republican leadership.

“This referendum, even with the ‘fix’ proposed, is still clearly superseded by federal law and will have no effect whatsoever. The truth is, this referendum is not about what’s best for the citizens of Arizona. Rather, Governor Brewer is carrying the water of big business groups who want to promote some national political agenda. Unfortunately for Arizona’s taxpayers, this special session and the inevitable court challenge to this unnecessary referendum will only cost the state at a time of limited resources.”
The Democrats, led by House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell, zeroed in on the fact that Governor Jan Brewer called the special session to attack workers and their ability to organize their workplaces, all while ignoring the widening budget deficit, failing schools, rising unemployment rate in Arizona, or the immediate threat to public safety posed by the lax oversite of privately-run prisons.

From the House Dems' press release -
“Arizona is at risk, and we want Gov. Brewer to use this special session to call an investigation into how three murderers were able to escape from a private prison in our state, then reportedly kill a couple in New Mexico over the weekend,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “These security breakdowns resulted in people dying, and we need to do something now to ensure public safety and that no others are killed because of the irresponsible decisions of the administration.”
Rep. Eric Meyer noted that in all of the walking and knocking he has done this year, none of his constituents have expressed their belief in a pressing need to inhibit the ability of workers to join unions.

That point was proven by the Republicans themselves -

- A "rally" put on by the North Phoenix Tea Party had maybe 20 people in attendance, including 4 or 5 candidates speaking and 2 or 3 more who walked by to see what was going on (like me).  Pic below.

- Before the House Commerce Committee met to rubberstamp HCR2001, Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Russell Pearce with a Noo Yawk accent), looked at the nearly empty gallery in the meeting room and joked sarcastically about the large amount of public interest in the anti-card check amendment.
Rep. Chad Campbell kept up his criticism of the special session during the committee meeting, questioning whether all of the energy could go for naught, as federal law will trump anything the state implements.
He actually got committee staff and Clint Bolick of the industry front group "non-partisan research and advocacy group" Goldwater Institute to admit that yes, federal law will trump anything that the state enacts, but only after litigation.  In addition, even if they get totally smoked in a court battle (something AZ should be used to by now), the amendment will still impact those who aren't covered by the National Labor Relations Act.
Like public sector and agricultural employees.
Like cops, teachers, firefighters, and farm workers.
The meeting and its counterpart in the Senate (Judiciary) were both marked by one thing in common -
The Republicans on both committees proudly proclaimed that they were there to protect business, and the only people there who talked about protecting *people* were the Democratic members.
Of course, the Rs could have been pandering to their audience.
Prodded by the Democratic members of the committee, Senate Judiciary chair Chuck Gray (R-East Mesa) read the complete list of those who had signed in to the lege's system in support of/opposition to the new language.
EVERY single person who signed in in support was a lobbyist representing a large corporation or industry association.
And every single person who signed in in opposition was either an individual (like me) or represented a group of working men and women.  And in an unusual development, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, aka  PLEA, normally as thick as thieves with the likes of nativist Senator Russell Pearce, came out in opposition.  They support the secret ballot part of the language, but have reservations about other parts of the language that may require them to have union organizing elections for every contract cycle, which is every two years.
Hypocrisy alert:  The aforementioned Russell Pearce pontificated from the dais during the Judiciary meeting that they were simply referring the measure to ballot to let the "people" speak on the matter, and that nothing was more important than the "will of the people."
Funny, but he doesn't have much respect for the "will of the people" - when they approve programs that he doesn't approve of himself.
BTW - Assuming that the new ballot language is, in fact, passed by the Republicans in the lege and placed on the ballot, the Secretary of State's office will accept pro/con arguments on the question from the moment the lege adjourns the special session sine die (expected to be sometime Wednesday) until 5 p.m. Monday.  There is a fee of $100 per argument submitted.  Any arguments submitted for the previous language cannot be transferred to the new language, but can be resubmitted for the new ballot language.  A new fee must be submitted at the same time as the new argument.
The SOS' office will not return the fees for those arguments submitted for the previous ballot language, but expressed gratitude for the money.  Ken Bennett's crew - what nice folks.  Really.
BTW2 - In case anyone is wondering why appointed SOS Bennett has so enthusiastically held open the ballot for the special session - the absolute, final, no exceptions, drop dead date for ballot question language was supposed to be tomorrow.
He needs to repay the largesse of various industry lobbyists and corporations.  Even though he has run as a "Clean" candidate, most of his "seed money" (max: $140/contributor) and many of his qualifying 5s came from lobbyists and CEOs.  (Check out his most recent campaign finance report here)
Not exactly in keeping with the Clean Elections goal of candidates having to get out and meet voters.
Only in AZ can the Rs find a way to make "Clean" look a little "dirty."
Anyway, I'll be busy tomorrow, so I will miss the Committee of the Whole "discussion", but I will try to be down at the lege on Wednesday.

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