Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, March 30, 2012

Arizona UPRISING -- Legislative Conflicts of Interest

Late in December 2009, reports began to surface about what would eventually become a major scandal involving the Fiesta Bowl and state lawmakers. In 2011, the... um, "confetti" hit the fan. Perhaps the most high profile legislative official to be caught up in the scandal, Russell Pearce, ended up -- for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he accepted substantial "gifts" from the Fiesta Bowl (as well as campaign contributions from Fiesta Bowl officials and employees) -- losing an historic recall election in November 2011.

The year 2011 also brought ALEC to the forefront of many people's awareness as a the most powerful and influential pro-business lobbying consortium in the nation.

Thanks to the research of Arizona State Professor Emeritus Robert Cialdini, we no longer need rely only on an intuitive sense -- that when a person (or group) "freely" gives away "scholarships" and other items of substantial value -- to know that there are strings attached.

As an aside, Arizona has had its share of scandals, notably the legislative bribery sting operation known as AZSCAM in the early 1990s.

ALEC (A Lawmaker for Every Corporation, aka American Legislative Exchange Council) has been honing its strategies and tactics since its inception in the 1970s to seduce and ensnare, as inconspicuously as possible state lawmakers, media and everyday citizens to advance its goals. From ALECs website:
For more than 35 years, ALEC has been the ideal means of creating and delivering public policy ideas aimed at protecting and expanding our free society. Thanks to ALEC’s membership, the duly elected leaders of their state legislatures, Jeffersonian principles advise and inform legislative action across the country. Literally hundreds of dedicated ALEC members have worked together to create, develop, introduce and guide to enactment many of the cutting-edge, conservative policies that have now become the law in the states. The strategic knowledge and training ALEC members have received over the years has been integral to these victories.
Since its founding, ALEC has amassed an unmatched record of achieving ground-breaking changes in public policy.   
ALECs terminology is rife with euphemisms intended to hide the effects of its public policy initiatives for the vast majority of Americans.

Ultimately, the point is that ALEC and other extreme special interest groups (like the Center for Arizona Policy, which aggressively fights to eliminate or hinder civil rights, especially for women and LGBT Americans) exhibit undue influence over public policy at the Arizona Capitol. Perhaps the most compelling way they co-opt the peoples' representatives is by schmoozing, wining and dining as well as providing copious amounts of cash for running re-election campaigns.

Given the high-profile nature of the Fiesta Bowl scandal, and that many GOP members of the Arizona Legislature had failed, last year, to disclose "scholarships" from ALEC (or huge amounts of travel and sporting event tickets provided by the Fiesta Bowl), one could reasonably expect the state legislature to try to do something to improve its tarnished image along these lines with legislation in the current legislative session.

But it just did not happen that way.

Sure, some tried. State Rep. Steve Farley introduced HB2665, known as the ALEC Accountability bill. Speaker Andy Tobin did not even allow Farley's bill to be first read or assigned to committees. Even one of the Republicans tried to get something done about the problem with lobbyist gifts. Rep. Steve Court introduced HB2761 which did not tighten language nearly as far as HB2665. Assigned to the House Judiciary committee, HB2761 languishes without being considered.

All of which brings me to the latest effort at transparency and accountability. Yesterday, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-LD16, Phoenix) proposed a change to House Rule 35 which defines conflicts of interest and spells out what lawmakers may and may not do with legislation in which they have a personal stake.

Gallego's proposal does not go after ALEC or CAP per se, but deals directly with the related issue of lawmakers introducing, promoting and voting on legislation to enrich themselves. There have been numerous examples through the (recent) years, most blatantly by Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler) who   (according to his member page on azleg.gov):
Since 1998 he has been the Executive Director of the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization which has provided scholarships to thousands of Arizona students to attend the school of their parent’s choice. 
Yarbrough's "charity" receives money that would otherwise be collected by the state for general fund revenue by way of state income tax credits that people take for school choice. Yarbrough has introduced, promoted and voted on related legislation, including expanding the limit on how much of the money received by his organization is allowed to keep (instead of providing tuition payments for students) to pay its executive director.

School privatization has provided lucrative opportunity for skimming money for other (former) state lawmakers also, like Tom Boone. Under investigation for self-enrichment, in 2011, former House Majority Leader Boone resigned his seat on the Deer Valley School District Governing Board.

House Rule 35 currently reads:


PERSONAL FINANCIAL INTEREST
A. A member who anticipates taking an action in the discharge of his official duties in which he may have a personal financial interest shall:
1. Prepare a written statement describing the matter to be acted upon and the nature of the potential interest; and
2. Deliver a copy of the statement to the Speaker, the chairman of the Ethics Committee and the Chief Clerk. Such statement shall be retained by the Chief Clerk as a public record.
B. A member shall report a potential personal financial interest pursuant to subsection A as soon as the member is aware of such potential interest. If, however, such awareness occurs when the House is convened on the floor or during a meeting of a committee, subcommittee or caucus, a member shall report a potential personal financial interest as soon after the adjournment of that body as is practicable.
C. A member may abstain from taking any action in which he has a personal financial interest. Upon declining to participate in any legislative action on the floor, in committee or in subcommittee, the member shall state his decision and such decision shall be recorded in the Journal or minutes of that body. Prior to declining to vote in any legislative action on the floor, a member must first prepare a written statement describing the nature of the personal financial interest or the reason why the member is declining to vote and deliver the statement to the Office of the Chief Clerk. If the member fails to file the statement prior to the member’s declaration on the floor, the member shall be subject to Rule 14 E.
D. A member in doubt as to the propriety of any action proposed to be taken by him and involving a potential personal financial interest under this Rule may request the Ethics Committee to render an advisory opinion on the facts. The advisory opinion shall be issued not later than 5 days from the date of receipt of that request and be filed with the Speaker, the chairman of the Ethics Committee and the Chief Clerk. Such opinion shall be retained by the Chief Clerk as a public record.
E. For the purposes of this Rule:
1. “An action in the discharge of his official duties" means introduction, sponsorship, debate, amendment, passage, defeat, approval, consideration or any other official action on any bill, resolution, memorial, amendment, confirmation, nomination, appointment, report or any other matter pending or proposed in a committee, subcommittee, caucus or on the floor of the House.
2. A personal financial interest exists if it is reasonably foreseeable that an action in the discharge of his official duties will have a material financial benefit or detriment either directly or indirectly on the member, his spouse or any minor child of whom he has legal custody, except that no personal financial interest exists if the legislator or such member of his household is a member of a class of persons and it reasonably appears that a majority of the total membership of that class is to be affected by such action. [emphasis added]
 
Gallego's proposal changes the language of the last paragraph thus:

2. A personal financial interest exists if it is reasonably foreseeable that an action in the discharge of his official duties will have a material financial benefit or detriment either directly or indirectly on the member, his spouse or any minor child of whom he has legal custody, except that no personal financial interest exists if the legislator or such member of his household is a member of a class of persons and it reasonably appears that a majority of the total membership of that class is affected by such action CONSISTING OF AT LEAST 50 MEMBERS, THE LEGISLATOR'S INTEREST IS NO GREATER THAN THE INTERESTS OF THE OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CLASS AND THE LEGISLATOR'S INTEREST IS DE MINIMIS.

 [emphasis in bold added]

The House did NOT consider Gallego's proposal but did refer it to the Judiciary committee where, especially since Jud chair Eddie Farnsworth has openly expressed his disagreement with the proposal, it will not be heard.

Arizona voters CAN do something about this, even if not until August (primary elections) and November (general election).

The Center for Public Integrity recently published a report card on the risk of corruption in each of the 50 states. Arizona (state government) earned an overall "D+". The state legislature earned grades of "F" in lobbying disclosure and ethics enforcement. The only bright spots on that report, Redistricting ("A") and Judicial Accountability ("B-") are notable in that the loudest controversy in 2011 dealt with the legislature trying to subvert independent redistricting AND during the 2012 regular session a plethora of bitter rhetoric claiming the "courts violated the constitution" on a number of issues.

So, the goofballs that run the legislature now, if they get their way, will ONLY worsen the corruption risk.

It IS time for an ArizonaUPRISING.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Redistricting -- Can't Pay the Bills Yet -- UPDATED 3-27-12 7:45pm MST

Last Thursday, March 22, the Arizona Legislature forwarded HB2862, a supplemental appropriation bill for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to pay bills incurred in the current fiscal year, to Governor Brewer.

On that same day, Brewer's co-chief of staff and director of the Dept. of Administration Scott Smith replied to Ray Bladine's letter (dated March 9) to Smith and state Treasurer Doug Ducey. Smith's reply -- that ADOA would refuse to issue checks to pay AIRC bills without a legislative appropriation -- represents the Brewer administration thumbing its nose at the AIRC. So, it should come as no surprise that even after the legislature grudgingly appropriated $700,000 to comply with the Arizona Constitution, that Brewer has yet to sign the bill into law.

In fact, Brewer only has to drag her feet for two more days in order to completely get out of having to put her name on the legislation at all. From the book, From Idea..... to Bill..... to Law, on page 66,
The governor has three options for each bill presented : 1) He can sign the bill within five days (10 days if the legislature is adjourned). 2) He can refrain from signing the bill, in which case it becomes law without his signature after the five or ten day period. 3) He can veto the bill.
Of course, if Brewer were to veto the bill, it would be tantamount to taking a baseball bat to a hornet's nest. So, that's very unlikely to happen. Therefore, the most likely outcome is for her to just ignore it and let it become law without her signature.


The text of HB2862:
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:
Section 1.  Supplemental appropriation; independent redistricting commission; exemption; report
A.  In addition to the appropriation made by Laws 2011, chapter 24, section 50, the sum of $700,000 is appropriated from the state general fund in fiscal year 2011-2012 to the independent redistricting commission for the operating expenses of the commission.
B.  The appropriation made in subsection A of this section is exempt from the provisions of section 35-190, Arizona Revised Statutes, relating to lapsing of appropriations, except that any monies remaining unspent on June 30, 2013 shall revert to the state general fund.
C.  Within ninety days after the effective date of this section, the auditor general shall report on the fiscal years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 revenues and all paid and accrued expenditures incurred by the independent redistricting commission, including a description of and the purpose for professional and outside services, travel, other operating expenses, capital equipment and noncapital equipment.  On completion, the auditor general shall submit the report to the governor, the president of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives, and the secretary of state.
D.  The department of administration, consistent with its constitutional fiscal oversight authority of the independent redistricting commission, shall report at least monthly to the appropriations chairpersons of the senate and the house of representatives as to whether the expenditures made by the independent redistricting commission established in 2011 are necessary and lawful.
There are other questions about the effective date for this appropriation.

Normally, unless there is an emergency clause included in the bill, the effective date is 90 days after the end of the legislative session. Even if there is an emergency clause, it would not be effective immediately unless the bill passed by a supermajority margin. At this time, I do not recollect whether that is 2/3 or 3/4. However, since the language of the bill (above) specifically spells out that the $700K is appropriated in the current fiscal year, it is possible the amount would be available immediately (on Wednesday).

Again, it's an open question. To me, anyway.

If (when) I find out the answer, I'll update this post.

UPDATE 3-27-12 3:15pm MST

According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, in general, for a supplemental appropriation in the current fiscal year, if there is no specified effective date (which is the case on this bill), the bill is effective immediately upon the signature of the governor or when the governor's five days has elapsed if she does not sign or veto the bill. So, the AIRC will be able to resume paying the bills tomorrow.

UPDATE 3-27-12 7:45pm MST

The Associated Press reports tonight that Governor Brewer signed HB2862 today. AIRC director Bladine confirms that he received an email notification of the governor having signed the bill. So, tomorrow the AIRC will be able to resume paying bills. However, it's almost certain that the $700K in this appropriation will come up short, and likely do so prior to the end of the current fiscal year (June 30).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Arizona UPRISING -- Antenori's drive to lead



According to a report on KPHO Channel 5 (Phoenix), on January 17, photo radar at the intersection of Scottsdale and Thomas Roads caught state Sen. Frank Antenori (R-Tea Party, Tucson) committing what one of his Republican colleagues recently characterized as a FLAGRANT RED LIGHT VIOLATION.

However, there is more to this story.

On Sunday, the Arizona Daily Star reported:

PHOENIX - State Sen. Frank Antenori's driver's license should be suspended because of his failure two years ago to resolve a photo radar citation he received for speeding in Tucson.
It's clear that Antenori, a Republican candidate for the Congressional District 8 seat vacated by Gabrielle Giffords, should have been aware that he needed to clear up the ticket for going 57 in a 45 mph zone on South Alvernon Way on Aug. 13, 2009.
What isn't clear, though, is why Pima County Justice Court records show his license is suspended, while the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division said there's no indication that it ever received a notice of suspension from the county and therefore the state considers Antenori's license to be in good standing...
{snip}
Antenori, who also has a photo enforcement citation pending in Scottsdale for running a red light, has been a perennial foe of photo enforcement.
He tried, unsuccessfully, to get lawmakers to put a question on the November ballot to let voters decide whether the practice should remain legal in Arizona.
He also has waged a multiyear battle specifically against red-light cameras. He has a May 12 hearing in the Scottsdale case. (emphasis added)
The KPHO story cites SB1313, Antenori's bill to redefine "intersection." This bill, apparently intended to give more leeway to "technical violators," was first read in the senate on January 26, nine days after the senator sailed through the Scottsdale intersection at 19 miles per hour facing a red light -- a FLAGRANT violation.

In addition to SB1313, Antenori also introduced SCR1029, a proposed ballot measure to prohibit cities and towns from using photo radar for traffic enforcement. SCR1029 failed on third reading in the senate on March 5 and again, on reconsideration, on the day I observed the third read vote from the senate gallery, March 6. Watch video from that floor session here

At the 16:40 mark, Tucson Democratic Sen. Paula Aboud (D-Tucson) explains how photo radar has saved lives and that it's the job of the legislature to promote public safety. Aboud said that for the legislature to prohibit "from on [here] high" communities from using photo radar is just wrong. She rightly noted that issues like this have become personal for those who promote them. The fact is, she said, people are dying while we're trying to hold personal opinions.

I don't know if she knew then just how personal it apparently really is for Antenori. 

From the 19:49 mark, Glendale Republican Rick Murphy makes a distinction between technical violators (those caught by photo radar "just barely" in violation) and FLAGRANT violators. Murphy said, "flagrant violators definitely cause a public safety problem. No doubt about it. And they are a very small percentage of the people who are flagged with the photo radar. And they are not stopped by the photo radar."   

No Rick, obviously they are not stopped. Just ask your buddy Frank. Photo radar certainly did NOT stop him. But it DID CATCH him.

Murphy emphasized, however, that the technical violators do NOT (he claims) put anyone in danger. My guess is that he has never personally witnessed a driver turning left at an intersection get rammed by one of his benign technical violators. Well, I have seen it. It's a travesty to let reckless (but not wreckless) drivers feel a false sense of confidence that no one will get hurt if I just push the envelope.

Nevertheless, it was those Republicans who departed from the pack who killed Antenori's resolution. They are Nancy Barto (R-NE Phoenix), Rich Crandall (R-Mesa), Adam Driggs (R-Central/East Phoenix), Linda Gray (R-N Phoenix), Jerry Lewis (R-Mesa) and John McComish (R-Ahwatukee). 

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Frank Antenori wants to be a Congressman. Voters in Arizona must ask themselves WHY he wants to do that. Who does Frank Antenori want to serve? Himself or the voters in the district he hopes will elect him? 

Who would have benefited from these two pieces of legislation (SB1313 and SCR1029)?

Does Frank Antenori shows himself to have what it takes to be a servant-leader

Redistricting -- Supplemental Appropriation passed

With quite a bit of grousing, the Arizona Senate passed the supplemental appropriation yesterday; $700K, just enough to keep the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission from going to court to compel the GOP supermajority to comply with the state constitution.

Sen. Steve Yarbrough, a Republican from Chandler, said he would have liked to vote no in protest. “(But) I understand the constitution requires us to fund them. I care more about the constitution than the IRC or the Supreme Court,” Yarbrough said. (emphasis added)


There is no word yet on whether the bill has been yet sent to the governor, or whether she will sign it.

The next problem facing the AIRC is responding to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's appeal of Judge Dean Fink's ruling on the Open Meeting issue. The AIRC response (or rather, that of Commissioners Mathis, McNulty and Herrera) is due by April 12.

The potential for a lawsuit initiated by Andy Tobin against the legislative map is also on the horizon. However, since Tobin declared his intent to use taxpayer funds for this partisan political purpose, that potential appears to be small at this time. That is, because it is very likely NOT a lawful use of taxpayer funds.

Digressing to Yarbrough's comment above, the phrase I highlighted goes to the intent (ALEC-driven) to politicize the Arizona court system. Look for this issue to heat up this fall with out-of-state (i.e. US Chamber of Commerce) money being used to promote passage of the ballot measure on Judicial Selection.

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Note: The troublesome aspects of the Judicial Selection ballot measure include changes to the screening committees for judicial nominations and for requiring the Supreme Court to publicize controversial rulings.

The documentary movie HOT COFFEE powerfully explores the overall issue of politicizing state court systems. I plan to follow this issue and write more on the campaign for passage between now and November.  At this time, I believe the strategy of the ALEC-owned Arizona state lawmakers is to push this issue as the public's "right to know." After all, isn't more information good for everybody involved?

In this case, the plan apparently is to introduce the next increment, direct election of state judges and justices, in a subsequent legislative session. You want to talk about slippery slopes? This WILL open the door for the Ron Goulds, Rick Murphys, Steve Yarbroughs and Andy Tobins and their cohorts to revive the UNfair Trust model of advocacy (precluding donor disclosure) to bring in Big Money to more directly influence the election of judicial officers in Arizona. So, watch for coverage of this issue over the next nine months or so.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Redistricting -- Supplemental Appropriation, Theatre of the Absurd

Yes, it was streamed live online yesterday, but the replay video only late this afternoon was posted to allow others to see the truly ludicrous ramblings of some of the Republicans who "grace" our House of Representatives.

What can one say when state Rep. John Kavanagh comes off as the adult in what plays as a school yard spat? Kavanagh, just last week proposed making "passive resistance" the most serious crime in Arizona just shy of a felony.

Carl Seel, notorious for his birther bills, along with David Burnell Smith (who was  kicked out of the legislature for campaign finance violations during his 2004 primary election campaign) railed on the Independent Redistricting Commission and chairwoman Colleen Mathis.

Smith opened the discussion wondering incredulously if Kavanagh had received an audit report on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Smith said that the additional funding should NOT be provided unless the the AIRC can prove where all of the money has gone.

NONE of these elected representatives of the people of Arizona seemed to have a clue that all money spent by any state agency is traceable and reports are EASILY available from the ADOA (Department of Administration) accounting system. And NONE of them referenced AT ALL that AIRC executive director Ray Bladine had provided a full accounting, seperate and specifically on request of House Speaker Andy Tobin.

The two actual adults in the floor debate, Reps. Tom Chabin (D-Flagstaff) and Minority Leader Chad Campbell made valiant efforts to bring the discussion back to rationality.

Nevertheless, Smith and Seel as well as Doris Goodale (R-Kingman) and Chester Crandell (R-LD5, Eastern Arizona) took the opportunity to rant for the benefit of their egos and for tea party voters. Kavanagh then made it clear that if the supplemental appropriation (now set for $700,000) is not provided, the AIRC will go to court and win in a "quick slam dunk."

For a wrap up of this situation, the Arizona Capitol Times' Evan Wyloge reported:

The Arizona House of Representatives today gave preliminary approval to a plan that would give the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission $700,000 to get through the rest of the fiscal year, after a series of costly court battles drained the commission’s $3.5 million in yearly operating money.
Though far less than the $1.1 million the AIRC requested, the $700,000 supplemental appropriation can still avert a lawsuit – if both legislative chambers approve it and Gov. Jan Brewer signs it by Wednesday.
The IRC has said for weeks that it is prepared to sue to force the Legislature to give it the money. Executive Director Ray Bladine said that the lawsuit would likely be filed if the funding isn’t approved by Wednesday.
Bladine told the Arizona Eagletarian that the Commission would certainly need $863K to provide for operations through the end of the current fiscal year (June 30, 2012). But if the $700K is actually provided this week, he would keep the leash on his legal beagles and not file the lawsuit at this time.

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On another significant issue before the Arizona Legislature, Gov. Brewer's Spoils System bill apparently advanced another step today. Jeremy Duda reports on it here.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Arizona UPRISING -- Shooter's (and Kavanagh's) shenanigans or, HOW LONG will you tolerate the attack on your civil liberty? UPDATED 3-19-12 3pm MST

Early in the current session, House Appropriations chair John Kavanagh introduced HB2071 to end the legislative sweep from the State Parks Board Reservation Surcharge fund into the general fund. It passed the House unanimously.

When the bill was heard in the Senate Appropriations committee on March 13, chairman Don Shooter had the bill completely rewritten (a strike everything amendment).

Due to be heard in the Senate Rules committee on Monday, HB2071 now makes "passive resistance" a class 1 misdemeanor (the most serious offense short of a felony) and carries a potential imprisonment for up to six months. It's worth noting that the term "passive resistance" is not defined in Arizona Revised Statutes Title 13 (Criminal Code).

There are a couple of ways this could play out. If the Senate passes the bill as it now reads, it would have to go back to the House for a vote on whether that chamber would concur with the changed language.  It clearly would NOT be approved unanimously in that event. However, because both chambers have a GOP supermajority, it is possible (not certain) that the rewritten bill could pass and be sent to the governor.

Another possibility is that the amendment was adopted solely for the purpose of thwarting the original purpose which had been approved unanimously by the House. Even if that were the intent, it is completely outrageous for a committee chairman to authorize an amendment to place such a constraint on exercise of civil liberties. Outrageous, but tragically, not surprising.

This from a legislature that in January rewrote rules limiting the exercising of the right of dissent at the Capitol thus:

Activity on the State Capitol Grounds (including protesting, picketing, speechmaking, marching or conducting a vigil, religious service, press conference, luncheon, celebration, entertainment, exhibition, parade, fair, pageant or any other activity that involves the expression or communication of views or ideas engaged in by one or more persons) may be conducted only between the hours of 5 am and 10 pm, and is subject to the following conditions:
1.       The activity must be conducted in a manner that minimizes damage to State property and facilities, protects members of the general public and minimizes disruption to government operations. Ten (10) feet of undisturbed space around all buildings must be maintained to allow for ingress and egress.  Sound may be amplified only on the House lawn or Senate lawn and only pursuant to an approved Event Application.  If the official responsible for the House of Representatives wing, the Senate wing or the Legislative Services wing determines that the volume of sound from any Activity on the State Capitol Grounds is disruptive to the conduct of government business, the volume must be reduced to a reasonable level.
2.       A person seeking to reserve space for an Activity or conduct an Activity that requires equipment set-up may do so pursuant to an approved Event Application on a form prescribed by the Executive Director of the Arizona Legislative Council [1700 West Washington Street/ Legislative Services Wing/ Suite 100]. The applicant must complete an Event Application at least ten (10) days in advance of the proposed Activity.  The Executive Director may waive the ten (10) requirement if all of the following apply:
     (a) The applicant can demonstrate the impracticality of submitting an Event Application at least ten (10) days in advance of the proposed Activity.
     (b) An Event Application is submitted before the Activity begins.
     (c) The Executive Director determines that all other relevant and appropriate conditions, limitations and requirements contained herein are or will be met.
3.       Equipment, props, banners, signs, tents, etc. used in conjunction with an Activity may not be staked into the ground nor affixed or drawn on the trees, vegetation, landscaping, poles, monuments, sidewalks or buildings. The official responsible for the House of Representatives wing, the Senate wing or the Legislative Services wing may at any time remove or cause to be removed any item that would damage State property or inhibit the safe operation thereof, or movement into or away from the State Capitol Grounds and the surrounding buildings.
4.       An Activity must  be performed in compliance with federal, state and local laws, ordinances, rules and regulations.
5.       The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate may jointly approve an exception to these Regulations for an inauguration, funeral or other ceremonial event of statewide significance taking place on the State Capitol Grounds if the Speaker and the President determine that the exception furthers a substantial security or historical purpose.

These new rules were approved in January but are NOT posted on any of the State's websites (to my knowledge). If they were, people could monitor whether or not the frequent lobbyist bribery luncheons, featuring tents are actually staked into the ground or if any other of the rules are routinely ignored. The point is that in order to determine if the rules are only ARBITRARILY enforced, they may NOT be enforceable.

Are you like the frog that's in the water before it gets too hot to tolerate?

UPDATE 3PM MST 3-19-12

An interested citizen who observed the Senate Appropriations hearing at which the bill to make passive resistance a class 1 misdemeanor informed me that the rewrite of HB2071 was undertaken at House Appropriations chair John Kavanagh's behest.

Besides being approps chair, Kavanagh's educational and professional experience is in law enforcement (in New York and New Jersey). Apparently, he testified that LEOs (law enforcement officers) are at risk of harm from Occupy protesters who passively resist.

Nevertheless, observers still wonder if this attack on civil liberties would fly (pass either chamber).

And on the question of arbitrary enforcement of State Capitol Grounds event rules, every year, Salt River Project puts on what many believe is the best luncheon and lobby day. This year, SRPs event is scheduled for Wednesday, March 28, beginning at 11am.

Somebody should take pictures of the tents to determine whether they are staked into the ground.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Arizona Democratic Party elects new chair

Because the Arizona Democratic Party chair elected in January 2011 resigned recently to run for Congress, the Party met today at the Church of the Beatitudes in Phoenix and elected long time environmental activist, and my friend, Bill Roe to be the new chairman.

In 2010, Bill applied to become a member of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and took an active interest, closely following the redistricting process throughout the last year. He joked from time to time about being thankful he was not selected as a member, reflecting on the contentiousness that engulfed the process.

The ADP released the following statement:
PHOENIX, AZ--Bill Roe, the noted Tucson conservationist who has spent over 35 years fighting to advance progressive causes in Arizona, was elected by acclamation as Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party today at a meeting of the Arizona Democratic State Committee at the Church of the Beatitudes in Phoenix. Roe ran on a platform seeking to empower grassroots leaders by building strong, resilient county party organizations, which he contends are the backbone of a robust statewide organization.
"I'm honored and respectfully accept the State Committee's decision to elect me as the new Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party.  I look forward to hitting the ground running; we don't have a moment to waste.  After historic victories in last year's local elections, we have momentum on our side--I am confident that with a lot of hard work, we can carry our message to the voters of Arizona and make substantial gains in 2012," Roe said on Saturday.  "More and more, Arizonans are rejecting the Tea Party extremism of the Republican Party, putting Arizona in play as a competitive state for Democrats. From re-electing the President to making gains at the Legislature, I'm optimistic about our chances in 2012," Roe added.
"Our party stands united behind Chairman Roe," said Luis Heredia, Executive Director of the Arizona Democratic Party.  "From his service on the State Parks Board, his public service on a number of citizen boards in Pima County and throughout the state, to his current service on the Democratic National Committee, Bill Roe has demonstrated that he has both the skills as a leader and the passion to steward our Party towards a new Arizona," Heredia added.
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For more than 35 years, since his arrival in the state in 1975, Bill Roe has dedicated himself to improving Arizona’s environment and championing land conservation efforts. Bill has served on the boards of directors of the Arizona League of Conservation Voters and AZLCV Education Fund for more than a decade and is the groups’ longest serving board member. He has also served two six-year terms on the Arizona State Parks Board, served on the Arizona Land and Water Trust Board, and dedicated years to long-term service as a leader in developing the Nature Conservancy in Arizona. A Tucson resident, Bill is chairman of the Pima County Conservation Acquisition Commission and is involved in land and watershed protection in southeastern Arizona.
More recently, Bill was elected Arizona's Democratic National Committeeman with 77% of the vote.  In this role, Bill was able to take his skills as an advocate and Party Leader to the national level, advocating for Arizona's interests in the national Democratic Party.
As a proud Tucsonan, Bill is the first Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party to come from outside Maricopa County in a generation.
Bill graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio and received his law degree from Columbia University. He and his wife, Alice, have been married for 45 years and have two children and three grandchildren.
###  
Congratulations Bill Roe, but even more so, I am excited for the upcoming election year for Democratic activists, candidates and voters throughout Arizona.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Redistricting -- more money drama

As you know, on Friday, Redistricting Commission director Ray Bladine sent a letter to state Treasurer Doug Ducey and Dept. of Administration director Scott Smith pointing out the legal issues surrounding the game of chicken the legislature is playing in the IRC funding saga.

The Yellow Sheet Reports that Ducey says:
My first responsibility as treasurer is to safeguard taxpayer money. If I cut a check every time someone sent me a letter, Arizona would have no money in the bank. The Treasurer's Office, just like your bank, can only access funds when instructed by the account owner. As it relates to the IRC, the Constitution designates the legislature as that account owner. Only when and if the legislature approves an additional appropriation will I make those funds available.
Of course, a case can be made that the PEOPLE of ARIZONA are the account owners and it is perhaps reasonable to characterize Ducey's response (given to a reporter, not to the IRC, by the way) as flippant. However, it's likely Ducey figures he would get sued either way, so why not just stay out of it and let the IRC duke it out with the legislature.

Regardless, the current status of the supplemental appropriation bills, according to the legislature's website, is that SB 1533 has not been voted in the Senate Rules committee, which must take place before it is heard in the Committee of the Whole (COW). The House version, HB2862 has been heard in both the minority and majority caucuses, which is the step immediately before COW.

Apparently, tomorrow (Wednesday) is a key day in this game of chicken. We'll see where it goes from there.

Arizona UPRISING -- Anatomy of a Stone Wall or Doomed to Repeat History?

Once upon a time, in the great and progressive land of AZ, lived an ugly, wicked governor. Central casting, looking for someone who had already played the role, apparently took one of the characters from the Wizard of OZ and installed her on the Ninth Floor of the Arizona State Capitol. Her name was Jan.

Looking to out do her triumphant rise to glory, when she signed SB 1070 into law in 2010, Jan set her sights on an even bigger prize, re-instituting the Spoils System of state employee personnel management.

Jan, in her "wisdom" thought she could also out do Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Tea Party and Koch brothers' darling. Mr. Walker, had concocted a scheme almost immediately upon taking office in January 2011 to eliminate the right of state employees to collective bargaining.

But Scott Walker misunderestimated the resolve of the people of his state, who had a rich tradition of organized labor. To make a long story short, in order for the people of Wisconsin to hold the arrogant new governor accountable, they rallied around the clock for weeks at at time -- literally. (To review the history of the last year in Wisconsin, I urge you to read UPRISING by John Nichols).

The Wicked Witch of AZ, er, Governor Jan, thinks she can out do Scott Walker. Perhaps because she thinks the people of Arizona have less regard for organized labor. Perhaps her SB1070 victory in 2010 made her think she was invincible. Whatever her reasons, Jan has embarked on a journey to undo one of Arizona's progressive political traditions* by eliminating the Merit System of Personnel Management for state employees.

But I digress.

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In December 2010, Brewer offered the proposal citing a Goldwater Institute report as proof the current system is broken.

In 2011, interested parties began making Public Records Requests (the Arizona version of FOIA or Freedom of Information Act requests) to find out what Brewer had up her sleeve.

Not wanting to tip her hand, Brewer's lackeys refused to disclose. Those interested parties eventually sought the intervention of the Arizona State Ombudsman.

Our role is to help people who are having a problem with an agency of Arizona state government or a public access dispute with a state or local governmental agency.
We help by first listening to the person's complaint. We then discuss their rights, options and explain the programs/procedures that may already be in place to resolve the problem. In some cases that may be all the help the person needs.
In other cases we work with the agency on a citizen's behalf to find a remedy that is fair and appropriate.
We also have the authority to conduct a formal investigation if the seriousness of the case warrants.

In a 14-page report culminating a nearly year long investigation, the Ombudsman concluded that the Arizona Department of Administration and the Governor's Office both improperly refused to comply with the records requests on this subject.

Ironically, ADOA and the Governor cited Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission v Fields, 206 Ariz. 130 (App. Div. 1, 2003), claiming Legislative Privilege as justification for refusing to disclose.  I will not now get into why this is ironic. Rather I will refer you to Arizona Eagletarian posts from October and November 2011 for background.

If you want more detail on Jan Brewer's stonewalling on this public records request, read the Ombudsman's report.

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* In my initial research, I found reference to the Arizona Legislature, in 1969 passing a law authorizing and on January 1, 1970 Maricopa County enacting a Merit System.
The purpose of the Merit System is to provide a uniform and equitable system of personnel administration for employees in the Maricopa County classified service that is based on merit principles and free from political patronage.
Excerpt from a legal dictionary on Patronage:

The patronage system thrived in the U.S. federal government until 1883. In 1820 Congress limited federal administrators to four-year terms, leading to constant turnover. By the 1860s and the Civil War, patronage had led to widespread inefficiency and political corruption. Where patronage had once been confined to the cabinet, department heads, and foreign ambassadorships, by the 1860s low-level government positions were subject to patronage. (emphasis added) 
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Now, about the notion of being doomed to repeat the lessons of history...
Let me recite just a lesson or two that Arizonans should consider when deciding whether to allow Brewer to succeed in her insidious quest to make all state employees "at-will:"


  • In the 1990s (which is also when this (ALEC-related) notion of eliminating the merit system was talked about with increasing frequency), Wall Street was wooing Congress with talk of how antiquated Glass-Steagall was. Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999. George W Bush was installed as President as a result of the 2000 election. By the end of Bush's second term, the ramifications of the Glass-Steagall repeal were unavoidable and Wall Street suffered a catastrophic meltdown.
  • AZSCAM, an outgrowth of hubris and lack of accountability in the Arizona Legislature is but one scandal highlighted in this story on azcentral.com.
  • Arizona in 2011, especially from June 30 until December was one humongous melodrama of GOP abuse and power grabs regarding Independent Redistricting.
If you think that Jan Brewer has ANY concept of moderation or "self-control" when it comes to exercise of political power then I have some Pacific Ocean front property in the West Valley that I'd love for you to consider buying.

Jan Brewer CAN be held accountable to the people of Arizona but only by way of judicial decisions or threat of citizens organizing to exercise civil liberties. John Nichols was not just whistlin' Dixie when he wrote that:

It is certainly true that nothing so horrifies today's false constitutionalists as the actual exercise of civil liberties. -- UPRISING, page 19
In Wisconsin, more than ONE MILLION voters signed recall petitions demanding removal of Scott Walker from the governorship.

Jan Brewer KNOWS that she stirred up a lot of discontent last fall when she tried to decapitate the AIRC. She also knows that had she not decided to cool her jets (rather than continue trying to usurp the AIRC) she would have galvanized voters here. Just weeks after Russell Pearce was successfully recalled, by the way. A Brewer recall is still a possibility. If she overreaches, it becomes even more likely.

How many Arizonans rallied at the Capitol for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday a couple of decades ago?

How many Arizonans rallied at the Capitol to protest SB 1070?

Jan Brewer does not think very many people will be upset if she succeeds in re-instituting the Spoils System.

She might want to play chicken with Arizona's working class, just like the GOP supermajority is doing with the AIRC this week.

Will you let her get away with it?

The revolt in Wisconsin... had its truest roots in the long hot constitutional summer of 1787 and the even longer striving to form a republic where citizens would have the authority to check and balance the factions that might turn the governing process into a tool of the economic elites.
America is still occupied with the great struggle between the Madisonian faithful, operating on the founding premise that the people are the only certain defenders of the republic, and those who would consolidate power for political and financial gain.   UPRISING, page 23

Monday, March 12, 2012

Redistricting -- Paying the Bills

On Friday, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission sent a letter to State Treasurer Doug Ducey and Department of Administration director Scott Smith regarding the continued need to pay bills even if they exceed the amount appropriated by the legislature. An excerpt of the letter:


Like other constitutional officers and entities, we have made an effort to work with the legislature and governor on the Commission’s budget and to obtain a supplemental appropriation.  However, we do not believe that your offices have legal authority to refuse to approve expenditures by the Commission on the grounds that they exceed the Commission’s legislative appropriation. 
Because the Constitution requires the Commission to perform its duties and the provisions are self-executing, the Treasurer’s payment of the necessary expenses in carrying out these duties is a constitutional appropriation.  I’ve enclosed a copy of Crozier v. Frohmiller, 65 Ariz. 296, 179P.2d 445 (1947), which establishes this principal. 
Here, the Commission’s ability to carry out the will of the people as expressed in Proposition 106 is in jeopardy if you refuse to pay bills associated with the Commission’s work.  Any action or inaction by the Legislature and the Governor through the appropriations process cannot be used to shut down the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and render it defenseless any more than the Legislature could pass a law, signed by the Governor, to eliminate the Commission or deprive any other constitutional office, officer or entity of adequate funding for that matter.
Given the independent status of the Commission and the steps taken to remove it from the control of the legislative and executive branches of government, it is critical that the appropriations process not be used as a means for interference with the Commission’s constitutional duties. 
Time is of the essence.  The Commission will most likely exhaust its current appropriation in mid-March and our work will not yet be completed.  Therefore, I am requesting that you notify me by March 14, 2012, whether the Department of Administration will continue to review bills approved by me, the Commission’s Executive Director, and whether your offices will authorize and pay bills as proper expenditures even if they exceed the Commission’s legislative appropriation.
If the Commission is not provided this assurance, then I may have no choice but to seek judicial relief.  This could have the unfortunate consequence of accruing additional legal fees. 
Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Redistricting -- Supplemental Appropriation or go to court?

Saturday's Arizona Republic reports that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will wait a few more business days before heading to court. On the off chance the legislature gets a stroke of conscience and actually appropriates additional funding to allow the AIRC to continue operation, that is.

On Friday, Bladine said he would wait at least until Wednesday to sue, since he's received some assurances from lawmakers that the panel might get some extra funding.
In a letter to the five members of Commission, Bladine explained the current state of affairs, what he has done to brief the legislature this week and give them his best insight. From Bladine's note to members, 
A letter will be sent today or Monday to Arizona State Treasurer Doug Ducey indicating the need for the continued payment of our bills if a supplemental appropriation is not forthcoming.
We will continue to work with the legislature to avoid litigation and additional taxpayer expense regarding this matter.
On Arizona Horizon's Friday Journalists' Roundtable, Howie Fischer noted the irony of the AIRC perhaps having to sue for funding, which they would, of course, win -- but that it would, in doing so, rack up additional legal fees that the hostile legislature would refuse to pay.

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And so the drama that is the INSANE, GROTESQUE and PATHETIC display of elected despotism at the Arizona State Capitol goes on another day, or week, or season. Until the people of Arizona RISE UP and reclaim the state by vigorous exercise of civil liberties. (FIRST Amendment remedies, that is).

So brazen are these despots, like Andy Biggs, that they dare put their own voice on record during official floor proceedings of the senate declaring that, pursuant to the US Constitution, it is -- he says -- the Arizona State Government which is sovereign.

Biggs is conveniently oblivious to the purpose of James Madison's (Founding Father and principal author of the US Constitution) extensive writings. 
He was the principal author of the US Constitution, and is often called the “Father of the Constitution”. In 1788, he wrote over a third of the Federalist Papers, the most influential commentary on the Constitution. The first president to have served in the United States Congress, he was a leader in the 1st United States Congress, drafting many basic laws, and was responsible for the first ten amendments to the Constitution and thus is also known as the “Father of the Bill of Rights”. As a political theorist, Madison’s most distinctive belief was that the new republic needed checks and balances to protect individual rights from the tyranny of the majority. (emphasis mine)
Think about that. States rights -- in the US Constitution -- as envisioned by Madison, was a mechanism to keep in check the tyranny of the majority. Yet, on the state level, Andy Biggs is ALL ABOUT tyranny of the (manipulated) majority. The context of Biggs' remarks on this very subject, last Tuesday, was that the state legislature had THE RIGHT, codified and justified by the US Constitution, to tyrannically impose its will on the political subdivisions (cities, towns and counties) of Arizona.

Biggs made his comments in explaining his vote in favor of a measure to prohibit political subdivisions from using photo radar (SCR1029). He had the audacity to verbally thumb his nose at Arizona cities, towns and counties -- all in the name of states rights. And fourteen of his senate colleagues agreed with him. This time, a couple of Republicans dared to disagree. Since sixteen votes are needed to pass anything out of the senate, the measure was defeated. But no bill is truly dead before the session ends.

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Excerpts from John Nichols' UPRISING

Constraints on leaders, both structural and political, were necessary because, as Madison observed, "Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations. -- page 25 
The revolt that swept Wisconsin... had its truest roots in the long hot constitutional summer of 1787 and the even longer striving to form a republic where citizens would have the authority to check and balance the factions that might turn the governing process into a tool of the economic elites.
America is still occupied with the great struggle between the Madisonian faithful, operating on the founding premise that the people are the only certain defenders of the republic, and those who would consolidate power for political and financial gain... "Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass." -- page 23
But the truest accomplishment of the protests in Madison and cities across Wisconsin was that they renewed an understanding of citizens not merely as voters in elections but as active censors of an elected despotism that can never be allowed to go unchallenged.  -- page 39
It is certainly true that nothing so horrifies today's false constitutionalists as the actual exercise of civil liberties. -- page 19
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The funding crisis facing Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission is a fundamental struggle between the will of the people and the elected despots of the GOP supermajority fighting to keep the power of which they have grown accustomed. 

This supplemental appropriation and the reluctance of those elected despots like Andy Biggs to provide it represents the same struggle and tension that Madison foresaw more than two centuries ago.

Today's civil rights struggles -- on the issues of gay rights, women's reproductive health care and providing affordable health care to all Americans -- are simply a continuation of the struggles and tensions that have faced our country from the very start. The Founders were wise in crafting the Constitution. But the bonds of tyranny carried over from the entirety of human civilization were not immediately broken when the new nation was born. 

But I digress. And unfortunately, the elected despotism of the GOP supermajority in Arizona, and the John Boehner led Congress seek to cause our society to digress.

We must not let that happen.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Redistricting -- Supplemental Appropriation UPDATED 5pm 3-7-12

Yesterday afternoon, the Senate Appropriations committee met to whine about the need to provide additional funding to the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Arizona Senate Republicans complained Tuesday about the state redistricting commission but reluctantly voted for more funding for the nearly broke panel.
With a 10-3 vote, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill calling for a supplemental appropriation so the panel can remain in existence while federal voting-rights enforcers review new congressional and legislative district maps.
At stake is whether the redistricting commission can keep operating past mid-March and if it can defend and explain its maps during consideration by the Department of Justice and possibly in court.
If the maps don't pass the reviews, the state election calendar could be thrown into turmoil.
This afternoon, the House Appropriations committee is scheduled to meet and consider HB2862, a similar measure, to provide supplemental funding for the AIRC.  The catch with the House is that HB2862 has not been formally read into the record or assigned to committees. That may seem like a formality (and technically, it is), but in this case it appears to be just another tactic by the House Speaker Andy Tobin, architect of ANDYMANDERING, to stir up trouble.

Just after the close the Senate Appropriations hearing, I heard Andy Biggs(hot) tell Bladine he does not believe the situation will get to where the AIRC will have to sue to compel the legislature to provide the additional funding. But given that House Appropriations generally does not meet more than one time each week, it would seem that if the House does not go through the formality of reading and assigning HB2862 prior to this afternoon's committee hearing, it delay's the bill at least another week.

From the perspective of the AIRC, Bladine has said that in order to ensure he can continue to pay bills (and make payroll for staff), if the legislature stalls this week, he will have to give legal counsel the green light to prepare and file the Special Action in Arizona Supreme Court. Recall that the Commission voted last Friday (March 2nd), 3-2 to authorize the lawsuit in the event legislature does not act (this week).

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There is such a dramatic disconnect between what lawmakers say on the official record of proceedings and what they might say when the microphones are not live. Further, even though Don Shooter is chairman of Senate Appropriations Committee, he seemed not to be the one in charge. In the committee, he sits between Ron Gould, the HVAC technician by trade who happens to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee and Andy Biggs(hot), the former lawyer whose claim to fame and fortune is having won a multi-million dollar publisher's sweepstakes. Biggs, of course, was the prime instigator of the effort to drown the IRC in paper last summer.

The House floor session is set to begin momentarily. Watch live here.

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More on this situation later, including a sampling of the comments and questions posed during yesterday's Approps hearing.

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UPDATE 4:30pm, 3-7-12

To illustrate the atmosphere and tone of inquiry on the question of SB 1533 during the Senate hearing, I give you the following reflections:

Senate Appropriations chairman Don Shooter uttered the following:

  • "What the heck does a bunch of attorneys have to do with preparing the maps?"
  • "This commission has used the courts to do its dirty work."
  • Regarding the racially polarized voting analysis, "we spent $50,000 to talk to a Harvard professor on the phone?!"
  • Regarding the DOJ Voting Rights Act consultant, "How much did this Adelson guy cost us?"
Sen. Ron Gould, R-NRA, who is running for Congress in the new CD4, used aggressive, harsh language declaring that the courts have overstepped their bounds (by reinstating Mathis to the IRC and regarding the Open Meeting Law ruling by Judge Fink). After the vote had been taken to recommend the supplemental appropriation bill be passed by the senate, Gould said the courts violated the state constitution and the AIRC violated the constitution. He said the only power he has left is that of pursestrings and he intends to use it.

Sen. Lori Klein, R-Pink Handgun, asked,"What in the world are you using lawyers for if the work has already been done?" Klein also made it a point to complain that Flagstaff Mayor Sara Presler being responsible for Anthem not being listened to by the AIRC.

Captain Al Melvin declared that "a cruel hoax has been played on the voters of Arizona." And that he is convinced a legitimate DOJ review would NOT preclear the maps that the IRC approved.

Andy Biggs(hot) erroneously insisted, in banter with his fellow Republicans, that Colleen Mathis' attorney in the removal action, Thomas Zlaket, had NOT been Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. In what can reasonably be inferred to be a cheap shot, Biggs asked Bladine if the attorneys had been retained on a "value billing" basis.

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The House Appropriations committee did hear HB 2862 this afternoon. Bladine testified prior to the vote and faced more aggressive questioning yesterday in the senate. Yet the questions today took a more intellectual and less flippant tone than yesterday's senate committee hearing.

Chandler Republican Rep. Tom Forese chastised Bladine for using colored paper given the terrible economic condition state government faces these days.  Really, he did that and did cite the need to sacrifice and save money. 

I don't know this fellow's background, but really? Colored paper is more material in magnitude for saving money than partisan attacks by the governor and GOP supermajority in the legislature? Forese also strongly implied that Strategic Telemetry should be willing to work for free, or for dramatically lowered costs because of the current budget situation facing state government. Give me a break. 

House Approps chair John Kavanagh's questioning was a very clear effort to micro-manage the AIRC, pointedly demanding to know why four community outreach specialists were still on staff and trying to get Bladine to contradict himself in questioning about attorneys retained to defend individual commission members.

Eventually, Minority Leader Chad Campbell spoke up, challenging Kavanagh's questioning and citing that individual members facing legal action in the course of carrying out their duties lawfully warrants legal representation being provided out of state funds.

In the end, the bill received a "Do Pass as Amended" recommendation from the committee by an 11-0 vote. Kavanagh said that, unlike Sen. Gould, he IS comfortable moving the bill out of committee with a blank amount, indicating the final dollar figure will be worked out in conference committee anyway. Conference committee being the mechanism for reconciling the differences between versions passed in each chamber.

My impression, from the tone of Kavanagh's questioning, is that the House and Senate will agree on a number that they figure will represent the lowest amount that will prevent them from losing in court, should the AIRC decide to sue.