Saturday, March 19, 2011

Arizona Legislature week in review -

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

OK, so that's a little overwrought, and more than a little unoriginal.  :)

It was definitely a "mixed bag" sort of week, with some genuinely horrible legislation moving forward while some equally horrible legislation was (surprisingly) defeated.

Oh, and the Senate majority leader lost his position as leader, though not his seat, due to a domestic violence incident. 

On the bad side, in fact, the UGLY side, of the ledger:

- The Republicans in the Arizona Senate, led by Senate President Russell Pearce, gathered behind closed doors and crafted a draconian budget proposal.  Once that was done, they suspended all rules regarding public notice and railroaded it through the entire Senate process in a single day.

The package of bills -

SB1612, general appropriations - passed by a party line vote, 21 - 9
SB1613, capital outlay - party line vote
SB1614, state budget procedures - party line vote
SB1615, consolidation of certain state agencies
SB1616, revenue budget reconciliation bill, or BRB (making changes to law to make the budget work) - party line vote
SB1617, K - 12 Education BRB - passed 20 - 10, 1 R crossing over
SB1618, higher education BRB - passed 20 - 10, 1 R crossing over
SB1619, health BRB - party line vote
SB1620, welfare BRB - party line vote
SB1621, criminal justice BRB - passed 19 - 11, 2 Rs crossing over
SB1622, general government BRB - party line vote
SB1623, regulation BRB - party line vote
SB1624, environment BRB - party line vote

The Democratic caucus of the Arizona Senate has a statement on the passage of the package of bills here.

All of the bills have been transmitted to the House for consideration, but they haven't been assigned for committee consideration as yet.

- Sen. Lori Klein (R-Anthem) infuriated and insulted people from all over the state when she read an "anonymous" letter, purportedly from a substitute teacher, stating that Hispanic students only want to be gang members and gangsters.

The letter was a mish-mash of various nativist propaganda and stereotypes, and both reads and sounds like a desperate attempt by Pearce and his fellow travelers to salvage the nastiest of this session's anti-immigrant measures from defeat.

Blogger Three Sonorans of the Tucson Citizen has the video of the bigoted speech here.

Note: Senator Klein gained some notoriety early in this year's legislative session when news broke that she carried a pistol in her purse on the floor of the House during the governor's state of the state address.

On the good side of the ledger:

- Five of Pearce's most stridently nativist measures went down to defeat on Thursday -

SB1308, an interstate compact/new Confederacy bill "birther" bill went down 12 - 18, with all nine Democrats joined by nine Republicans in opposition. One of the Republican "no" votes is Sen. Frank Antenori, and given his heretofore absolute adherence to the Pearce line, I'm guessing that he is the R designated to "move to reconsider" the measure on Monday. In addition to Antenori, Rs Barto, McComish, Driggs, Crandall, Yarbrough, Reagan,, (Steve) Pierce, and Nelson voted against the measure -
SB1309, a birther bill, went down 11 - 19. Same list of Rs against the bill, with the addition of Bundgaard. Another designated reconsiderer?

SB1405, turning Arizona's hospitals into immigration checkpoints, went down 12 - 18, with pretty much the same list of Rs voting no, except Antenori voted for it, while Linda Gray voted no.

SB1407, similar to SB1405 above, except it would have turned school teachers and administrators into immigration enforcement agents, went down 14 - 16, Gray remaining a "no" vote, but Barto, Yarbrough, and Antenori voting "yes."

SB1611, Pearce's attempt to out-SB1070 last year's SB1070, went down 11 - 19, with Sylvia Allen joining the same list of "no" votes as for SB1405, above. She could be the designated "reconsiderer," but I think her "no" might be legit - she voted against the measure in committee, too.

While some are trying to portray the defeat as a triumph of moral and legal sense over extremism, the fact is that the Chamber of Commerce finally weighed in on Pearce's agenda, coming out in opposition.

Having spent a significant amount of time watching the denizens of 1700 West Washington in action, I feel safe in saying that issues of morality and legality have no importance to the majority there.

Money does.

Any or all of these bills could come back via a "move to reconsider" or as a strike-everything amendment to a previously harmless measure, so don't exhale yet.

- Glenn Spencer, the leader of a hate group who had been publicly invited to speak before a Senate committee was "uninvited" when the planned visit started to garner some harsh attention.  However, the "powers-that-be" in the Senate seem to be aiming for "clever" and "sneaky" - next week's agenda for the same committee includes an uncredited item -
4.  Presentation
Border Security
Other bills of interest that went before the Senate ("party line vote" means that all members of a party voted the same way on a given measure, number not casting a vote noted only when there were crossovers):

SB1322, requring cities with a population greater than 500K (read: Phoenix and Tucson) to put out to private bid any service that costs more than $75K, passed 18 - 10, 2 Rs crossing over, and 2 Ds not voting

SB1339, repealing ALL agency rules and requring that future rules be enacted as statutes by the legislature, FAILED 11 - 17, 10 Rs crossing over, 2 Ds not voting

SB1345, limiting the number of employees that Phoenix and Tucson may have, and how much they may conpensate those employees, FAILED 12 - 16, 9 Rs crossing over, 2 Ds not voting

SB1380, mandatory "random" drug testing for recipients of public assistance, party line vote (even if this one goes nowhere in the House, its clauses are part of the Senate's budget package)

SB1453, granting parents the right to pre-censor any school course material that they feel is objectionable or possibly "harmful" to their children, passed 22 - 6, 1 D crossing over, 2 Ds not voting

SB1467, barring educational institutions from enacting or enforcing a policy or rule against carrying a firearm in a "public right of way" (aka - most any place other than a building), party line vote

SCR1028, a proposed amendment to the Arizona constitution barring payroll deductions for political purposes without an annual written authorization, passed 22 - 6, 1 D crossing over and 2 Ds not voting.  The one D crossover, Sen. Steve Gallardo, did so as part of a deal to gain support for his amendment to the measure adding "corporations" to the list of organizations barred from taking payroll deductions for political purposes.

SB1222, requiring that applicants for public housing present proof of citizenship before public housing assistance can be offered to them, and requiring the public housing authorities evict any residents who allow any undocumented persons to live in their units, party line vote

SB1538, prohibiting texting while driving, PASSED 18 - 12, 9 Rs crossing over

SB1589, privatizing most ADOT/MVD functions, party line vote

SCR1035, a proposed amendment to the Arizona constitution expanding Arizona's "English is the official language" law. party line vote

SCR1016, calling for a constitutional convention to amend the US Constitution to require that Congress gain the approval of a majority of state legislatures before raising the federal debt limit, failed on a 15 - 15 tie, on reconsideration (it had failed once before).  6 very conservative Rs crossed over on this one

Other bills of interest that went before the House:

HB2154, relating to the privatization of correctional health services, passed with 3 Ds crossing overr

HB2636, creating a flat income tax rate for Arizona, including the repeal of certain "normal" exemptions and deductions for things like being blind, over 65, or a dependent, while permanently enacting certain deductions and exemptions for business and the wealthy (summary prepared by lege staff here), party line vote

HB2706, school vouchers, under the name "Arizona empowerment accounts," party line vote

HB2301, placing restrictions on the way that school districts can spend their budgets, but "makes up" for it by allowing districts to take money from "soft capital" (books, desks, etc.), party line

HB2313, stating that the state can use eminent domain to take federally-controlled land, party line vote

HB2070, creating an "Arizona State Guard" military force whose activation isn't contingent on the AZ National Guard being busy first.  Rep. Ruben Gallego amended the measure to include a provision that members of the state guard take an "oath to uphold the United States' Constitution," party line vote

HB2089, banning, with certain exceptions transporting minors (<18 years old) in the open bed of a pickup truck, PASSED with 16 Rs crossing over to vote with all of the Ds

A preview of next week coming up tomorrow...

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