Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, February 24, 2012

Redistricting -- financial showdown looms

In developments foreseen to a degree since February 2011, the GOP supermajority in the Arizona Legislature, and the governor's budget director appear to be putting the financial screws to the Independent Redistricting Commission.

The Yellow Sheet reported on the situation thusly:
OSPB Director John Arnold gave IRC Executive Director Ray Bladine a bit of bad news and some advice late last week. In a Feb. 17 letter, Arnold told Bladine that he will not approve any additional changes to the commission’s quarterly financial disbursements, and, “in light” of the IRC’s FY12 budget problems, Arnold reminded Bladine that state law (ARS 35-211) puts state employees and recipients on the hook for the unauthorized spending of state agencies. 
“As you contemplate an expenditure plan in excess of your current appropriation, please consider seeking legal advice on how this provision pertains to you, other individuals affiliated with the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, and any recipients,” wrote Arnold. 
Bladine was in a meeting and could not be reached for comment. Bladine has asked the Legislature for an additional $600,000 to cover FY12 costs, and the commission has already been allowed to spend its fourth quarter allotment on existing expenses and debts, the majority of which consists of legal bills.
IRC Commissioner Freeman told our reporter today that it is likely the commission will meet next week to discuss the latest chapter of its financial predicament. In addition, Freeman said he is also asking Bladine to include several additional items on the agenda. First, Freeman said he will repeat his demand for more information about a November chain of emails that may have violated state open meeting laws.
“We were all trained in open meeting laws, we took the course and we had to take the little test,” said Freeman. (NOTE: In December, as part of the Horne/Montgomery lawsuit against the IRC, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink ruled the commission wasn’t bound by open meeting laws.) Also on Freeman’s agenda wish list is a measure to create what he called “internal transparency.” He is seeking communications made by IRC attorneys, Strategic Telemetry and the IRC’s hired Voting Rights Act experts. “I feel like, as a commissioner, I was in the dark. I want to know what was going on,” he said.
Last but not least, Freeman said he wants to see another vote by the commission – the first failed last year – to release executive session transcripts with redactions for legal advice, and a vote to release IRC commissioners’ emails. For the latter request, he said, commissioners could waive their legislative privilege in the interest of being open with the public: “I’ve heard commissioners give grand, eloquent speeches about transparency, which was supposed to be the hallmark of our commission. Well, here’s our chance.” 
I expect to receive more information on the situation over the next few days and will post when I do.

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Changing the subject entirely, yesterday (Thursday) was a VERY big day, as the Arizona Advocacy Network hosted a fundraising dinner with Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaking and providing tremendous inspiration for a very important election year in Arizona. With Sam Wercinski and John Loredo in this pic.


More to come!

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