On Friday, the Arizona legislature was supposed to meet to make a change to Arizona law that would allow nearly 15,000 of Arizona's long-term unemployed to collect an additional 20 weeks of jobless benefits.
They could have done this during the regular session in March or April, as asked by the Democrats, but instead chose to work on more important things, like naming an official state gun and passing a bill aimed to help a particular rancher in southern Arizona escape from paying for his abuse of some undocumented immigrants.
Still, better late than never, right?
Well, forget the "late" part - Senate President Russell Pearce, House Speaker Andy Tobin, and the rest of the Rs doubled down on "never."
From a story published in the Yuma Sun, written by Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services -
Republican legislators balked Friday at a proposal by Gov. Jan Brewer to keep extended jobless benefits flowing, leaving nearly 15,000 Arizonans unsure if the unemployment checks they get this coming week will be their last.
Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, said a majority of his caucus could not support making the change necessary to have the federal government continue funding benefits for those who have been out of work for more than 79 weeks. Some lawmakers said the plan by the Republican governor was little better than the liberal policies they say got the country’s economy where it is today.
Pearce said there still is a chance lawmakers could approve the plan on Monday — but only if the governor agrees to add provisions he said would prevent fraud. And House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, wants the package to also include tax breaks for business he said are needed to stimulate job growth.
“The real issue is we have destroyed thousands of jobs in Arizona and also in America because of progressive socialist principles that have been used in the last 20 years that has changed our country,” said Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake.
It wasn't just Pearce, Tobin, and Allen, either. Other Rs made their contempt for their unemployed constituents pretty clear -
- Sen. Don Shooter (R-Yuma) showed up for the session in a costume - a sombrero, serape, and a half-filled bottle of tequila in a holster.
- Rep. Jack Harper (R-Surprise), always a favorite here, didn't even bother to show up, Tweeting from home that the Senate should remove Democratic Sen. Steve Gallardo, apparently for the crime of failing to kiss up to Republicans.
Harper's Twitter feed is here. Be warned: He *really* dislikes Sen. Gallardo. And apparently he believes that good spelling is a communist plot to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
The relevant bills are here - Senate and House - and they were written and sponsored by Democrats, because no Republican would put his or her name on any measure to help Arizonans.
Even if the measure would cost Arizona nothing.
Andrei Cherny, chair of the Arizona Democratic Party -
"Today, legislative Republicans once again put an extreme ideology ahead of what was good for Arizona. To refuse to make a one-word change to statute that doesn't cost the state a dime is mean spirited, short sighted and wrong. Because of what they've done, our Arizona economy will take another hit and families will be pushed into poverty. The Russell Pearce Republicans showed once again that they are the ones driving the state -- into a ditch."Rebekah Friend, Executive Director and Secretary-Treasurer of the Arizona AFL-CIO:
"The legislature had a simple job to do today. Just a one-word change to state law would preserve unemployment benefits for 15,000 Arizonans who need a lifeline. But Republican leadership in the legislature and Governor Brewer failed to do even the most basic things we ask of our elected officials. The Governor failed to produce a proposal, and many legislators didn’t even bother to appear. After these same politicians gave away millions in tax breaks to large corporations, their adjournment of this special session without action is simply a dereliction of duty.There have been hints that the Rs may be willing to try again Monday, but those hints are likely just for show - a number of legislators from both sides of the aisle will be unable to attend next week (hence the really unusual Friday special session). Reports are that after today, it will be at least a couple of weeks before there are enough available legislators to try again.
"I thank the legislators who showed up today so that our state could extend unemployment benefits. We need more heroes for the working class, like Senator Steve Gallardo, who introduced a bill to help 15,000 families immediately; like Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who rushed back to the state to cast her vote; and like Senator David Schapira and five others who sponsored a bill to withhold pay from legislators during this special session. I hope that all of our legislators will have the heart and the common sense to extend benefits on Monday so that the lapse in this lifeline will only be brief."
On Wednesday, I wrote a post describing the Republicans in the AZ legislature as "soulless".
At the time, I thought it may have been a little harsh, but given their long history of disdain for their constituents, I thought it was merited, at least as a metaphor..
However, even I, cynical lege-watcher of long experience that I am, didn't expect them to prove me to be understating the situation.