Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Redistricting -- AZ Legislature defaults on Constitutional mandate UPDATED 3-16-12 1:40pm MST

Putting off taking action as long as he possibly could, Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission director Ray Bladine today delivered a letter to Senate President Steve Pierce and House Speaker Andy Tobin declaring his intention to have counsel file suit tomorrow seeking judicial relief from the financial squeeze imposed by the state legislature.

Bladine sounded the alarm more than six weeks ago and has cooperated with all requests for information, testifying at appropriation committee hearings, all to no avail.

As my letter of February 3, 2012 to Speaker Tobin pointed out, the Commission would not be able to complete its constitutionally mandated responsibilities without a supplemental appropriation for the current fiscal year, and most likely would run out of funding in the month of March. This financial crisis is now upon us and the Commission has no choice but to seek a judicial remedy. 
As of this posting, the only response Bladine has received to his letter was a call from Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs. Biggs tried to talk Bladine out of going to court tomorrow, saying that negotiations between (legislative) chambers was progressing and saying that filing suit will not help.

However, the only thing that seems to actually get the legislature "off the schneid" is when they are called out in the media, whether a blog or a regular newspaper.

By the way, one of the main reasons this situation has gone on as long as it has is that people like Andy (ANDYMANDERING) Tobin takes as much advantage of "he said, she said" reporting. It's a problematic variation on legitimate journalism that has been made all too common because of the old profit driven business model for news outlets. National Public Radio, NOT profit driven, has decided re-evaluate that strategy.
This is a fairly radical departure from NPR’s old model of allowing a right-wing flack and a left-wing flack to lie their butts off and forcing listeners to assume the truth is somewhere in the middle.

The bottom line is that it's time to put a halt to allowing Tobin to drag his feet complaining about the AIRC spending too much money on legal fees. If Tobin's UNfair Trust and GOP supermajority in the legislature had not put so much effort into subverting the will of the people of Arizona, he wouldn't need to be forking over more money to the commission.

UPDATE Friday 3-16-12 10:40am

House Appropriations chairman John Kavanagh told me this morning that he is confident -- that it is PROBABLE -- the House and Senate will be able to pass the supplemental funding bill for the AIRC by Wednesday, for an amount somewhere between $600K and $700K.

The Arizona Capitol Times last night quoted Senate Approps chair Don Shooter
“I know they think they’re the most important thing in the world … as personified by their arrogance. But the truth is they’re one of many things that need to be looked at as far as funding,” Shooter said, when asked why the Legislature didn’t push the funding bills this week.

Shooter, R-Yuma, criticized the IRC as an “illegitimate bunch” that has already spent too much money on attorneys and lawsuits.

“They love to give money to lawyers. As a matter of fact, that’s the only damn thing they’re good at,” he said.
One has to wonder if anybody in the senate knows what is really going on, but Kavanagh said his contact in the senate on this matter has been Majority Leader Andy Biggs. Which point underscores my hunch that Biggs is the one that acts like he's actually in charge in that chamber.

Nevertheless, Bladine may look for signs of assurance that the legislature will act on Wednesday and actually get the bill passed. If he gets something tangible, my hunch is that he might wait and not actually file suit today (Friday).

UPDATE 3-16-12 1:40pm 

Ray Bladine sent the following note to members of the AIRC today, and copied Capitol reporters:

Dear Commissioners,
As you know, we sent letters yesterday to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House informing them that we will be seeking judicial action today since we are out of funds and there has been no action to provide a supplemental appropriation.
Since yesterday afternoon we have had several informal contacts from members of the legislature.  There seems to be an effort by both the House and Senate leadership to provide a supplemental appropriation by next Wednesday.  However, the amounts being suggested which are around $600,000 are not enough to assure the commission of adequate resources. [emphasis added]
I am attaching a spreadsheet that was updated this week that estimates a deficit of approximately $663,000 by the end of the fiscal year.  Since the best information available is 10 years old, it is difficult to accurately project what our future appropriation needs will be.  This is one reason why we asked for a $600,000 reserve as a part of our supplemental appropriation request.  The reserve would provide about the same amount the last commission spent in April, May and June of 2002.
As you will also recall, the last commission, 10 years ago, spent $3,338,000 during their first full fiscal year.  We are estimating an expenditure of $3,663,000 which is not a large amount considering 10 years of inflation amounting to 25 percent.  On an inflation adjusted basis, we would need an appropriation of $4,220,000  to be comparable with what was spent by the last commission at this time.
For our commission to be provided adequate resources, it seems that the very minimum would be about $863,000.  This would provide a $200,000 set aside for additional costs related to adoption of the maps and other unforeseen costs. However, this level of funding would diminish the independence of the commission  since it is probable that we would have to go back to the legislature for funds on a regular basis. The last commission had supplemental appropriations of $1,700,000 and $2,500,000 in the same fiscal year.
While I am very concerned about receiving adequate resources, I do believe that the good faith efforts of legislative leadership requires us to postpone any litigation until they have a chance to provide a reasonable supplemental appropriation.  Therefore, I have talked to our legal counsel and we will complete all the paperwork necessary to file a legal action, but will not file it.  After Wednesday we will reassess what needs to be done, if anything. [emphasis added]
If you have any questions, please let me know.
Ray

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