Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, December 13, 2013

How much of a bet did the legislature take passing HB2317?

When I blogged a few days ago about the latest redistricting update, a series of comments ensued, including a few made by state Rep. John Kavanagh. Those comments bear more consideration by readers of the Arizona Eagletarian.

Firstly, I appreciate (and have received reader feedback that others also appreciate) the banter John and I have had in these exchanges. John quite apparently took the post very seriously. It elicited significant defensiveness, but nevertheless, he responded.

So, thank you John.

Now, to address your latest comment.
I will close out this string of communications by pasting the response I received from DPS on the authority for and frequency of the background checks. The response was:
"We check the names of everyone with a card every 24 hours against in-state arrest records, and the statute generally allows us to do this check. Below is the specific language from ARS 41-1758.03(J) (similar language also in 41-1758.07). Note where it states "periodic" checks are permitted. If a person with a card is arrested for a disqualifying offense, the card is immediately suspended and we notify the employer (or licensing entity). I don't believe these real-time checks are a federal requirement, but I will double check on that."
Here's the language from 41-1758.03 (J)
The division may conduct periodic state criminal history records checks for the purpose of updating the clearance status of current fingerprint clearance card holders and may notify the board of fingerprinting and the agency employing the person of the results of the records check.
Here's the similar language from 41-1758.07 (also subsection J),
The fingerprinting division may conduct periodic state criminal history records checks for the purpose of updating the clearance status of current level I fingerprint clearance cardholders pursuant to this section and may notify the board of fingerprinting and the agency of the results of the records check. 
Now, public policy advocates, political reporters and lawmakers (and many others) know the difference between the words "may" and "shall." The "others" who would pay the most attention to these two words might be the lawyers. So, let's think about them a bit.

Of course, "may" represents permission. "Shall" represents obligation. Does the information John provided in his comment below actually answer the question he claims to have addressed? His first comment included this claim,
And most importantly, everyone with a card, active or extended, who is in contact with kids has their name run daily to insure that they were not arrested for an offense that would not allow them to be in contact kids.
In other words, while we extended the licenses, the holders were still being monitored to insure that they were not arrested for a crime that would preclude school employment. 
To which, I replied,
Is that process of cross checking the names of everyone with a card with arrest reports codified in statute? How do we know THAT has been adequately funded and that whatever IT programming written to accomplish that task actually works? How do we know it's actually being carried out daily?
Well, apparently statutes give permission for DPS to conduct that cross check. 

As to the other questions, consider a role reversal scenario. John is committee chairman. He doesn't like the bill but for some reason agreed to hear it anyway. He didn't agree to support the bill, just to give it a hearing. Do you think he would let it slide without demanding satisfactory answers to the other questions? 

So, pardon me, John, that I remain skeptical. The legislature doesn't adequately fund DPS to prevent or adequately clear backlogs on requests for fingerprint clearance cards. So, what assurance do you have that law enforcement officials tell you the WHOLE truth in this situation? We know that law enforcement officials are never evasive, right?

Look, it's no secret that John Kavanagh and I have very little common ground on policy positions. But he's a smart guy who is obviously tenacious. He can come up with all sorts of questions to find a way to justify killing a bill he doesn't like. HB2317, if he wanted to kill it, would have been no different.

John finished his comment with this:
Finally, the ethics of journalism and I assume you consider yourself a journalist, dictate that a journalist have verified information before leveling a serious charge against another. I should not have had to prove the legislature innocent. The assumption of guilt is bad policy in both law and journalism.
To which, I replied, on that post. It's important to note that John is neither a publisher, nor a journalism instructor. How any one filling those roles would assess this blog is a different question altogether, but he is, in this situation, a consumer. A reader. As such, he is certainly entitled to his highly subjective opinion about the contents.

I will note that assumption of guilt was very clearly NOT something I put forth, at least not to the charge he claimed that I had made. His words, not mine, "the legislature endangering children." I had set forth that I believed HB2317 was the legislature placing a bet, taking a risk. I believe it is clear that is STILL the case. However, the information DPS provided to him gives the appearance the legislature may have tried to minimize the risk associated with that bet.

As to his suggestion that no one should assume THIS legislature guilty when it comes to any question of public policy, I can only laugh.

This legislature does NOT make it a practice to thoroughly vet ideas for implementing good public policy. Rather, they actually simply decide what they think might be a good idea and they look only as far as they need to look in order to justify implementation. I challenge anyone to refute that assessment.

Here's an additional inference I made about John's comments on the December 7 post. It appears John found it disturbing I called him on the bet he and his colleagues made in passing HB2317. Is that not, in fact, what the institution of a FREE PRESS is supposed to do?

More than a century ago, humorist and observer of humanity Finley Peter Dunne wrote [see page 240] that,
Th' newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward. (emphasis mine)
If today, as Mr. Dunne observed in 1903, "Th' newspaper... controls th' ligislachure" the entire December 7th blog post would be moot. There is, however, no newspaper in Arizona controlling the legislature. It's doubtful they even influence lawmaking in our state much.

In today's Arizona, and throughout the United States, newspapers and broadcast media have most definitely been not only co-opted, but bought out and consolidated by corporatists. Just whose interests have those media corporations been watching out for?

Is it a wonder people like John Kavanagh find it disturbing when a humble blogger catches them in the act of taking risks they might later regret?


By the way, the day before yesterday, (December 11) was the third anniversary of the start of the Arizona Eagletarian.


  1. Let me first address the central question that started this epic exchange, which is whether the legislature endangered children by extending the expiration date of the clearance cards for teachers. I find it interesting that your discerning eye picks up the valid and powerful distinction between “may” and “shall” but gives so little credence to the agency’s statement that they check the cardholders’ criminal records every 24 hours.

    Let me tell you why I give that check claim credence and I also concede that you were not privy to this information. Several years ago when a Scottsdale high school student was raped on campus by an illegal immigrant contract employee, I asked DPS how an illegal immigrant got past the fingerprint check. I was informed that contract employees were exempt from the fingerprint clearance requirement because they were not school employees. I corrected that with a bill and in the process learned that it was neither costly nor time consuming to run these clearance card checks daily. They simply program the computer to do so and check each morning for results. They are already running that computer for all sorts of other checks. Consequently, cost and budgets are not an issue here. I also doubt that DPS would outright lie to me about doing the checks. Consequently, I believe them.

    Regarding the semantics of the term “at risk” as it applies to the question of whether the legislature put children at risk by extending the expiration date of teacher clearance cards. You said, “I will note that assumption of guilt was very clearly NOT something I put forth, at least not to the charge he claimed that I had made. His words, not mine, ‘the legislature endangering children.’ I had set forth that I believed HB2317 was the legislature placing a bet, taking a risk.” Steve, my response to that statement is that I believe that it is a distinction without a difference.

    The definition of “endanger” is “To expose to harm or danger,” which includes taking a risk because that is an exposure to harm. Let me offer an example. Using your interpretation, playing Russian roulette does no endanger the players because they are just betting that they do not happen upon the loaded chamber or as you say, “taking a risk.” Steve, at best, you are hair splitting.

    As to your dismissal of my criticism that your unverified charge that the legislature put children at risk was a violation of journalistic ethics, it was evasive. Let me quote you here, “It's important to note that John is neither a publisher, nor a journalism instructor. How any one filling those roles would assess this blog is a different question altogether, but he is, in this situation, a consumer…” That is a great dodge.

    First, you do not have to be a journalist to know about journalistic ethics. In fact, anyone who read the book or watched the movie “All the President’s Men” knows about verification. Most of the movie was the journalists running around trying to satisfy the verification demands of their ethical editor. On a more populist level, didn’t you ever watch the TV show “Lou Grant?” It had the same theme and liberal icon Ed Asner to boot!

    Since you need to hear about verification ethics from journalists, go to this journalism blog at the University of Iowa: My favorite quote from this university source is “Journalism is not about simply asserting something is true (or not). It is about following particular methods to verify the truth (or falsity) of information.” You should tattoo that on the top of your left hand, so you remember it when you blog. On your right hand, put a reference from the book “Elements of Journalism,” which states, “The essence of journalism is a discipline of verification.”

    Finally and at long last, as to the quote from Finley Peter Dunne, patron saint of left wing activist writers, he never said “afflicts th’ innocent.”

    That’s all for now.

  2. Interesting read, John. Thanks again.

    In reply, you did a fine job of explaining how and why you made the inference that I accused you of placing children in danger. You too seem to have done a fine job of splitting hairs. However, I sincerely appreciate you approaching this discussion by addressing the inference as you made it.

    I also appreciate the additional background on closing a loophole that permitted contract employees (immigrant status, by the way, is clearly not a relevant detail) to work in schools. I don't remember the date, but do remember the news coverage. Saguaro HS, if I remember correctly.

    You are correct that I did not address your red herring about journalistic ethics.

    My point had been and remains now that you are flat out wrong on whether you should have to "prove the innocence" of the legislature. Indeed, the main point is that when you have the gavel, you get to cut off debate when you find it uncomfortable and inconvenient.

    That is NOT how OF the People, BY the People and especially FOR the People works.

    Your persistence in badgering corporate media (by you, I mean the collective you -- lawmakers that have learned how to avoid the accountability the Founders intended when they enshrined the Free Press -- not simply John Kavanagh) has enabled you to make arrogant claims that you should not have to prove the innocence of the legislature.

    So, cite all the reference material about journalistic ethics you want, but when there's even the most minute degree of ambiguity in what has been put in the record of what the Arizona Legislature has done, it is incumbent upon me and others like me to expose it.

    I certainly don't count on corporate media to get the job done.

  3. When I have the gavel, I do not cut off debate. I relish it, unlike my Democrat colleagues who refused to debate the budget they crafted behind closed doors with the governor and a handful or Republicans.
    Ask Chad Campbell, if he gets cut off in appropriations committee. Ask the transgendered
    community who gave them more time to express their views on legislation, Mayor
    Gordon or me. You need to stop making stuff up or making false assumptions.

  4. Just more evidence that you feel compelled to badger people who call you out.

    Do I even need to remind you of YOUR words which, after you posted them to one of my blog posts, were picked up by Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic indicating the GOP controlled legislature is NOT a debating society?

  5. You should try debating instead of deflecting.

  6. "You should..." as should you, my friend.

    The key here, I remind you once more, is that you don't have the gavel. Translated, that means you don't get to define what constitutes debate. But your subjective opinion is duly noted.

    Cheers :)

  7. In the past, protester has stated their case one by one during the call to the audience portion of Arizona Board of Regents meetings. This time, however, University of Arizona students and community members stood up on chairs and yelled out in the middle of a presentation. Others chanted “CCA Go Away” and were escort out.