Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hardball week at the AZ lege: JD Mesnard tries to intimidate the House membership...

...and I don't mean that Chris Matthews is in town this week, either.

Last year, the Republicans in the legislature passed a bill, later signed into law by the governor, that raised limits on campaign contributions in Arizona by more than a factor of 10.  In an effort to not being seen as doing that (raising the limit so much), they cleverly raised the limit approximately five-fold, per election, and then made the primary and general elections separate elections for campaign finance purposes.

That has been interpreted by the AZSOS, county elections departments, and other agencies that oversee and conduct elections to mean that candidates must form separate campaign committees for the primary and general elections, and that campaign finance reporting requirements apply to both committees.

This year, a couple of prominent Republican candidates have run into issues with that ("Reporting?  Transparency?  Minor details!  Only for the little people!") and have convinced State Rep. JD Mesnard, (R-Chandler) to run a "fix" bill.  That bill is expected to pass, but it needs a 2/3 vote to be immediately enacted upon the governor's signature.

His bill, as introduced, had an "emergency" clause (immediate enactment), but it did not garner 2/3 support in the House, so while the bill passed, it passed without the emergency clause.

Without that clause, the bill won't become law until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, late enough for the affected candidates to not avoid more trouble.

The bill is now in the Senate, where the emergency clause has been reattached.  However, even if it passes the Senate with a 2/3 vote, the bill must return to the House for a re-vote.

Now, Mesnard is not just *any* member, he's the Speaker Pro Tempore.  He acts as Speaker when the actual Speaker, Rep. Andy Tobin, is out of town or otherwise unable to perform his duties.

And as Tobin is running for Congress and has been out of town a *lot*, Mesnard has been acting as speaker, a *lot*.

Many, possibly including Mesnard himself, view this period as his "apprenticeship", a preparation to become speaker next session.

Apparently, he's working on the "ruling with an iron fist covered by a velvet glove" part of his training course.

One problem: he forgot the velvet.

He sent out the following email regarding his measure:

From: "J.D. Mesnard" <JMesnard@azleg.gov>
Date: April 14, 2014 at 7:30:16 PM MST
To: ".All House Users" <AllHouseUsers@azleg.gov>, ".ALLSUSER" <ALLSUSER@azleg.gov>
Subject: RE: HB 2665 - two-committees issue / emergency clause
Dear Colleagues,

As you know HB 2593 from last session was interpreted to require separate committees for the Primary and General elections.  While that was never the intent of the bill (a point that is not really in dispute), we have nevertheless been dealing with that hassle ever since.  Subsequently many of you have come to me, from both chambers and both sides of the political aisle, asking me to move a clarification/fix bill through this body as quickly as possible.  I have done my best to oblige.  After soliciting input from many of you and incorporating feedback from earlier drafts of the bill from anyone who wished to provide it, I introduced HB 2665.

The bill resolves the two-committee issue moving forward while addressing the various scenarios that different people face because of the two-committee requirement we’ve had since last September.  At the same time, I have done my best to keep the “politics” out of the bill.  My goal was to have a clean bill that was bi-partisan or, really, non-partisan in nature.  After all, we all benefit from having this issue resolved as quickly as possible.  To that end, I included an emergency clause in the bill so that we would not have to continue dealing with two committees once the bill is (presumably) signed.  As you are probably well aware, there were not enough votes to preserve the emergency clause during the House vote.  Sadly, the bill passed largely along party line for reasons that I still don’t understand to this day.  It subsequently moved over to the Senate where an emergency clause was added back on in committee.  I am hopeful that the emergency clause stays on there as I would very much like to put this hassle behind us.  This is a sentiment that many of you have shared and expressed for the last several months (and I am certainly looking forward to the end of some of your pestering…er, I mean, pushing for this fix!).  If the emergency clause gets on the bill then we will have immediate closure.  If it does not, then we will continue to deal with this hassle for a few more months.  I do not see why we would choose the second option for ourselves.  The bill is good policy; it should not be controversial.  It is about one issue and one issue only: one committee or two.  The emergency clause is about whether we all want to continue dealing with the two-committee headache for months longer or to end it now.  I prefer the latter.  But it’s up to you.

I am sending this email because there have been a variety of rumors floating around about what is or isn’t happening with my bill.  Some even seem to think I have some sort of “nefarious” motives.  I find this perplexing given my openness and best efforts to be as fair as possible with what should be a non-controversial bill that we all want to see pass.  In addition, some outside entities have encouraged some of you to try to leverage the bill for something else.  As I have said from the beginning that I want this bill to be clean, and have tried to keep partisan issues out of it, I will, likewise, not allow it to be leveraged for something else.  HB 2665 will stand on its own merits.  I simply want to resolve the two-committee issue as quickly as possible, as I know you all do.

So it comes down to this:  If the emergency clause gets on in the Senate, and I have enough commitments on the House side to preserve it, you have my word that I will not allow anything else to be included/attached to the bill.  This has been my promise from the beginning and has not changed but I am reiterating it now so that it is crystal clear.  If, however, the bill moves forward as a “partisan” bill, with insufficient support in the Senate/House to preserve the emergency, then I will, regrettably, be forced to treat it as a partisan bill.  As such, I will no longer be concerned about keeping it clean of other partisan policies that some may be interested in adding to the bill.  The choice is yours.

Thank you for your time and consideration!  Please let me know if you have any questions…


Representative J.D. Mesnard
Arizona House of Representatives, District 17

In essence, his threat to the Democratic members of both chambers is that they make running for office easier for his allies or he will attach some of the voter suppression clauses from HB2305 to the bill, making voting more difficult for average Arizonans (apparently, he doesn't consider them to be his allies).

Since Mesnard is not the only R rumored to be angling to be the next speaker (Eddie Farnsworth, not exactly "Mr. Charm" either), this kind of move could come back to bite him in the ass.

Members, D or R, have their own bases of support, and egos, and generally don't respond positively to threats.  It could cost him some support for the speaker's post next year (assuming he wins reelection from his safe R district).

And voters, D or R (or something else) generally don't like having their ability to vote threatened by elected officials for the benefit of the electeds' allies.

And they may just take it out on members seen as supporters of Mesnard.

Stay tuned...

No comments: