While we've known all along (since late in 2010) that Arizona's GOP elected officials would challenge the Independent Redistricting Commission, we've often been left to guess as to what their next tactic would be. On Tuesday, Senate President Russell Pearce and House Speaker Andy Tobin announced the formation of the Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting.
Members include Reps. Jim Weiers (Republican former House Speaker), Doris Goodale (R-LD3, Kingman) and Lynne Pancrazi (D-LD24, Yuma); and Sens. Steve Pierce (R-LD1, Prescott), Andy Biggs (R-22, previously of "drown the AIRC in paper" infamy) and Robert Meza (D-LD14, Phoenix). I've put in calls to all six committee members. When I hear from them, I will update this post. Someone familiar with the situation told me neither Meza nor Pancrazi asked to be appointed and speculated that it would be difficult for either to attend a hearing any time on Friday. I will not hold my breath waiting for the Republican committee members to call, so I hope you don't either. Meza returned my call, but as soon as he heard what I wanted to talk about, made an excuse and said he'd call me back in 20 minutes. That was an hour and a half ago.
In the meantime, both Senate Minority Leader David Schapira and House Minority Leader Chad Campbell told me they were not consulted on the appointments. Campbell issued the following this morning:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEOn the subject of Republicans efforts to undermine the AIRC, recently elected LD17 (Tempe/S. Scottsdale) GOP chair A.J. LaFaro spoke at last night's hearing in Chandler. He read a resolution he said had been unanimously approved by members of his group. The statement was so outrageous, I had to ask him for a copy. He sent me the resolution and a cover letter he sent with the resolution to people at the state Capitol.
Contact: Sarah Muench
Oct. 19, 2011
Campbell: ‘GOP partisan games undermine Arizona voters’ STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Minority Leader Chad Campbell released the following statement today on Republicans’ divisive partisan games with Arizona voters:
“Republicans’ move to form a committee to prevent a fair redistricting process for voters is another partisan stunt to undermine the Independent Redistricting Commission and the will of the voters.
“First, state Attorney General Tom Horne launches a bogus investigation on the IRC, then Congressional and state Republicans, along with Gov. Jan Brewer whine in chorus when the IRC attempts to level the playing field for Congress with four Republican districts, two Democratic districts and three as toss ups. Now Speaker Andy Tobin forms a committee to thwart the independent redistricting process.
“Clearly, Republicans are unreasonably threatened by a fair voting process after holding control for more than 40 years. They know Arizona voters want and deserve better, and they’re scared because they’ve produced partisan bickering, not results.
“Democrats also were never informed about this committee, and Tobin appointed the Democratic member without consultation from Democratic Leadership, a complete violation of protocol. This is the third time he has done this.
“I guess Arizonans shouldn’t be surprised by Tobin’s actions, given that in August he asked for citizens’ opinions on banning special interests’ gifts to legislators but then called their suggestions “silly.” (See story: Arizonans want legislators to reject gifts)
“Since when did protecting political parties become more important than protecting our Democratic principles that Arizona and our nation were founded upon? What a shame.” -30-
Mr. LaFaro is not new to Tempe politics. He tried his "blast them with BS" confrontational style of engagement on former Tempe mayor Neil Giuliano more than a decade ago. LaFaro previously led an unsuccessful effort to recall Giuliano. In an apparent case of "can dish it out but can't take it," LaFaro obtained an injunction against harassment on then Tempe councilman Dennis Cahill. Cahill apparently recognized LaFaro as a "bigot, fascist, homophobe, and Nazi" and told people so. Cahill successfully appealed the injunction with the Court saying Cahill was exercising protected political speech and had not directed his comments at, even though they were about, LaFaro.
Anyway, LaFaro's LD17 GOP resolution is, on its face, incredibly outrageous, but is also protected political speech. He declared that the AIRC "knowingly violated" applicable law and failed to demonstrate a "sincere commitment to performing its responsibilities in an honest, independent and impartial fashion." Thinking Arizonans would have to question how he (they) came to those conclusions. The language is that of a court finding. But court findings are generally accompanied by a statement spelling out on what basis the finding was made.
Then, LaFaro recommends: the governor remove ALL FIVE commissioners, that Atty Gen Horne aggressively pursue criminal investigations against them and that
...the Majority Leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives, State of Arizona, make written redistricting recommendations to the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in accordance with Article 4 of the Arizona Constitution that are in the best interest of the State of Arizona, not the Commission’s favored special interest groups...Of course, LaFaro's performance was entertaining but it's also a tragic reflection of the Arizona political climate that has us mocked throughout the country and to some extent throughout the civilized world.
There is much more to write about Arizona's latest super Tuesday, but I wanted to get this posted for your edification.
While it is very important to be vigilant about the legislature's obvious intention to interfere in the redistricting process, Pearce and Tobin appropriately invoked Prop 106 language giving the legislature the right to make recommendations on the district lines. The most troubling aspect of the press release, to me, was that there was no agenda and no time given for the committee meeting on Friday. That raises memories of the Alt-Fuels Debacle. The legislature at that time snuck the Alt-Fuels bill through hoping to pass it with no public scrutiny. They "succeeded" but it cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
There are likely very few things the new Joint Legislative Committee on Redistricting can do on Friday. One would hope that discussion by committee members would be more specific to the Constitutional language, rather than efforts, as we have come to expect, to undermine the commission altogether.
Can we view the testimony at the Bullhead City hearing (Weds evening) by Rep. Doris Goodale (a member of the new committee) as encouraging? Goodale's Bullhead City testimony was cheerful, as she gave specific guidance about 3,500 Mohave County residents north of the Grand Canyon. Rather than leave them a legislative district with the Navajo Nation (to the east), according to the draft map, the LD3 state rep. simply wants those people put back with the Mojave County legislative district.
Municipal leaders, like Sam Medrano of Bullhead City, speaking at the start of the public comment period expressed emphatic appreciation that the AIRC heard their requests for a rural Congressional district largely encompassing Arizona's Colorado River communities.
Only one man invoked the worn out tea party talking points, calling on Mathis to step down. Fortunately, the audience was not encouraging rude behavior.
Surprisingly, at 6:55pm, Commissioner Freeman adjourned after ALL people who had requested to speak had their opportunity.
More about yesterday's hearings by tomorrow afternoon.