Friday, March 06, 2015

The age of the smoke-filled rooms may be past, but all that means is that the lege isn't under the influence of nicotine right now

 ...of course, the lack of smoke doesn't increase visibility...and while they may not be under the influence of nicotine, they may be under the influence of something more harmful - a special kind of Kool-Aid...

This week has seen a serious uproar in Arizona politics as the governor and the leadership of the legislature unveiled a "deal" on a state budget that proposes massive cuts to Arizona's education system, both higher ed and K-12 (to be fair, they state that more money is being budgeted for AZ's K-12 classrooms, which sounds good, until you see that they are counting money taken away from school operations and given to classrooms as an "increase").

This has caused a round of protests at the Capitol from different pro-education groups, protests that seem to have some good effect - as of this writing, the governor and the R leadership of the lege don't have quite enough votes to pass the budget (lots of horse trading and arm twisting going on at the Capitol right now).

What also upset a lot of people, including some of those who would probably support the budget under most other circumstances, is the almost complete lack of transparency of the budget process.

Essentially, many of the Rs were told "Oh, we have a budget deal now.  Vote for it."

For some reason, many people, including many of the Rs in the legislature, find that attitude, and the lack of transparency that goes with it, to be utterly unacceptable.

They also find the lack of transparency to be a surprise, but they shouldn't - if there is one thing that this legislature, the 52nd Arizona Legislature will be known for, it is its unrelenting attacks on government transparency.

Some examples from the current legislature:

HB2016, requiring the Arizona Corporation Commission to post certain corporate filings in an online database for 90 days instead of requiring that notices of the filings be published in a newspaper (passed House committee consideration on a party-line vote and House COW [Committee of the Whole] on a voice vote; awaiting final approval in the House)

HB2071, allowing candidates to conceal their residential address, even if that is their campaign address (dead for now, but with strikers and BRBs, it isn't dead until Sine Die)

SB1047, keeping the names of winners of the various state lottery games secret for 90 days (passed the Senate, passed committee consideration in the House, awaiting floor action in the House)

SB1073, allowing former judges to have their personal information removed from public records (passed the Senate, passed committee consideration in the House, awaiting floor action in the House)

SB1098, quadrupling the revenue threshold for public service corporation below which they can seek a rate hike without a public hearing (passed the Senate; awaiting House consideration)

SB1300, making any recordings made by police body cameras non-public records (passed the Senate; awaiting House consideration)

SB1435, gutting the state's Open Meeting law (dead, but with the usual "nothing is dead until Sine Die" caveat)

SB1445, keeping secret for 90 days the names of peace officers who use deadly force (passed the Senate; passed committee in the House; awaiting floor action in the House)

This list isn't comprehensive, and it doesn't include cases where the lege isn't creating more opaqueness but is just blocking increase transparency (i.e. - campaign finance stuff) or is trying to require more openness on the part of anyone that they don't like (poor people, the federal government, etc.).

As I write this (at approximately 10:25 at night), the lege is in recess as the leadership tries to gather support for their budget so that they can pass it in the dark of night.

Maybe because the lege figures darkness is better concealment than smoke...because there is no other conceivable justification for this.

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