Sunday, May 08, 2011

New sneaky bad Arizona laws to keep an eye on

People have heard about the high profile laws recently enacted (the anti-abortion measures, school vouchers, attacks on unions, etc.) and even the surprisingly vetoed (loosening the state's already lax gun laws, the scheme by Sal DiCiccio/Frank Antenori to privatize city services in Tucson and Phoenix), but there are a few new laws that have escaped wide notice that have the potential for abuse.

The worst of these, in my opinion, is SB1282, a measure from Sen. Steve Yarbrough, the legislator who has made a fortune from his tuition tax credits law.

The new measure exempts religious entities that engage in political activities from having to file reports as poltical committees.

Pardon my cynicism, but while I don't believe that legitimate churches and other religion-focused entities will abuse the law, I fully expect that certain less-than-scrupulous folks will gleefully form paper churches to launder political expenditures/bribe money through. 

Think "Sheriff's Command Association (SCA) run by Captain Joel Fox," only now calling it "Sheriff's Hallelujah Association run by Pastor Joel Fox."

They didn't get in trouble for what they did with the SCA money, they got in trouble for trying to hide it.

This law sets up a potential shield for like-minded political operatives.

Other laws to watch, in no particular order:

SB1471 from Sen. Ron Gould.  It contains a number of changes to election and ballot laws, many of which I don't fully understand.  One is clear however - it bars anyone who has been "employed by or volunteered for a candidate, campaign, political campaign or political party" in an election from assisting a voter at a polling place.

SB1472 and SB1482, also from Gould.  Under the guise of "increased publicity," erodes the "merit" aspect of the retention of judges.

SB1453, Sen. Rich Crandall's measure to create a "right" for parents to exempt their children from any school material that they don't approve of.  Interestingly, while the restriction applies to public schools absolutely, Crandall's measure carves out an exception for charter schools - they can just seek a waiver from parents.

HB2565, from Rep. Steve Court.  Similar to SB1453 above, this one creates a religious exemption from secondary school and class policies.

SB1412, from Sen. Don Shooter.  Creates a number of new felonies related to early ballots.  Aimed at unions and Democratic candidates and campaigns that collect and deliver early ballots for voters.  Softened by the House, but still ripe with opportunities for mischief by unscrupulous prosecutors and elections officials...not that I'm implying that there have ever been any such in Arizona.

SB1333, Sen. Frank Antenori's (R-I Hate Tucson, Even Though It's The Biggest Part Of My District) scheme to force the deannexation of the part of Tucson in which he resides so it can incorporate as a separate town.  He really hates Tucson.

SB1187, the Center for Arizona Theocracy Policy's measure, via Sen. Linda Gray, to lengthen the amount of time it takes to get a divorce.

SB1167, Yarbrough's measure to restrict people's ability to challenge ballot questions referred to the ballot by the legislature.  Probably not entirely Yarbrough's measure, as this one was the subject of a "strike-everything" amendment in the House, with the amendment fronted by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, who cited legislative "leadership" as behind his amendment.  Enacted with an emergency clause so it went into effect immediately upon the governor's signature and the new restrictions apply to ballot measures moved by this year's legislature.

HB2303, Rep. JD Mesnard's move to allow counties to establish centralized "voting centers" in place of precinct polling places.  There isn't any provision regarding the placement of such voting centers, rendering it quite easy for those voting centers to be situated in a way to inhibit voting in predominantly minority (presumably Democratic-leaning) areas or to ease voting in affluent (presumably Republican-leaning) areas.  The U.S. Attorney/Department of Justice *could* step in on this one, but I don't expect them to until there has been a stolen election or two.

This list isn't complete by any stretch, but the list of bills signed into law can be found here.  Just select the radio button next to "Signed" and click on "Search."

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