Thursday, February 24, 2011

Russell Pearce bringing Senate Judiciary to heel

Over the last couple of weeks, Senate President Russell Pearce and his "associates" have been thoroughly embarrassed by the failure of his Sen. Ron Gould's anti-birthright citizenship and other anti-immigrant bills to pass the Senate's Judiciary Committee.

In successive weeks, SB1308, SB1309 (anti-14th Amendment/birthright citizenship) and SB1405 (turning hospitals into immigration checkpoints) had to be pulled from the committee because it was evident that the measures didn't have enough support on the committee to pass.

Specifically, Republican Sens. Adam Driggs and John McComish joined the Democratic members of the committee, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Steve Gallardo, in questioning the legality of the measures.

As a result, all three bills were removed from Judiciary and given to the Appropriations Committee, which is a larger committee (13 instead of 8 members) and has only one Republican with a conscience (Sen. Rich Crandall of East Mesa).  Those bills, and more, were passed by Appropriations after a marathon system

Given that the committee had eight members, that meant the best possible outcome for the measures was failure on a 4 - 4 tie vote.  A measure needs five out of eight members to support it in order for it to go forward.

Note the use of the past tense "had" in the last sentence.

Pearce could have simply removed Driggs or McComish, or both, from the committee.  That's his privilege as Senate President.

However, internal politics make such a peremptory move problematical - McComish and Driggs are both incredibly conservative and cannot be attacked as "RINOs".  In addition, McComish was Pearce's chief rival for the Senate presidency, and arbitrarily removing him from a committee could smack of unwarranted retribution.  Pearce's position atop the Senate pecking order, while not exactly "tenuous," is based in no small part on a promise to complete the budget before pushing through his pet anti-immigrant bills.

A promise that he has thoroughly broken.

So he has now done the next best thing - he has simply added another, more pliable, member to the committee, bringing its membership count to nine.

Wednesday, he added Sen. Scott Bundgaard to the committee without removing anyone else.

By handling things in this manner, Pearce kept the number of votes necessary to pass a bill at "five" but also was able to add a fifth reliable vote to the committee.  He also was able to bring the committee back under control without appearing to be vindictive (he may, in fact, *be* vindictive, but this doesn't make him *look* that way).

With Judiciary (presumably) back with the program, look for more "bad" bills to be assigned to Judiciary and to actually gain the committee's approval.

Off to the meeting where the fifth member and chair of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) will be selected...

No comments: