Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Legislating by grudge -- Rick Murphy takes aim at CPS again

Tomorrow afternoon, in the Senate Judiciary committee, chairman Rick Murphy (R-LD21/Glendale) apparently intends to introduce a strike all amendment to HB2093. The current subject of HB2093 is more or less immaterial because of Murphy's intention to change the subject entirely.

Here's what Murphy wants to enact:
Strike everything after the enacting clause and insert:
“Section 1. Title 41, chapter 7, article 8.1, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 41-1234, to read:
41-1234. False or unauthorized information; prohibition
A. A LOBBYIST, A DESIGNATED PUBLIC LOBBYIST OR AN AUTHORIZED PUBLIC LOBBYIST SHALL NOT PROVIDE INFORMATION TO ANY PUBLIC OFFICIAL AS TO ANY MATERIAL FACT PERTAINING TO ANY LEGISLATIVE OR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION KNOWING OR HAVING REASON TO KNOW THAT THE INFORMATION IS FALSE.
B. A LOBBYIST, A DESIGNATED PUBLIC LOBBYIST OR AN AUTHORIZED PUBLIC LOBBYIST THAT REPRESENTS A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE SHALL NOT PROVIDE INFORMATION TO ANY PUBLIC OFFICIAL OR STATE EMPLOYEE IN SUPPORT OF OR IN OPPOSITION TO ANY LEGISLATIVE OR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION WITHOUT RECEIVING PRIOR APPROVAL FROM THE POLITICAL SUBDIVISION'S GOVERNING BODY BY MAJORITY VOTE IN A PUBLIC MEETING.”
The notion of prohibiting lobbyists from lying, especially on the record in legislative committee hearings is a great idea, right?

But just how could this possibly be enforced?

Wouldn't you like to have confidence that public officials' annual financial disclosure statements are accurate and complete? Arizona public officials are required to file annual financial disclosures, to allow the general public to identify and understand who pulls the strings that guide those elected officials, the decisions they make and the votes they cast.

We know, however (as a result of the Fiesta Bowl controversy in 2011) that those disclosures often omit important information. But all the lawmakers did, for the most part, is say, "oops, sorry."

What makes ANYone think it would be possible to do a better job enforcing this lobbyist restriction? There's no penalty for a violation. The requirement is broad and vague, just like for the financial disclosure reports.

There can be little question that subsection A was included as a shiny object to distract away from what has to be Murphy's primary objective with this amendment.

Subsection B, on the other hand, takes primary aim at lobbyists for government agencies and government bodies of political subdivisions. The distraction (shiny object) in this case is the proposed requirement to prohibit such public body lobbyists from providing information to the legislature without prior approval from the governing body by majority vote in a public meeting.

Lobbyists for the Arizona League of Cities and Towns will undoubtedly argue the burdensome nature of that provision. They will point out that city and town councils have already delegated to administrators the responsibility for carrying out the responsibilities of that municipality.

Murphy will be forced to either further amend the bill (the strike all amendment) to eliminate the prior approval requirement or forget about the bill (and therefore kill it) altogether. Further amending the bill would then leave state agencies as the sole target of the new restriction on public lobbyists. And we all know about Murphy's personal entanglements with Child Protective Services (now known as the Division of Child Safety and Family Services). From Murphy's personal campaign website:
I know first-hand of multiple cases where a case worker intentionally lied in documents or in court and kept their job, even after they were caught. This climate of mediocrity is bad for everyone except the bad workers who just want to keep their guaranteed paycheck.
Additionally, just last Thursday, the Senate passed, and sent to the House, Murphy's SB1365, a "CPS accountability" measure that appears even more directly a result of that "first-hand" knowledge. SB1365 reads, in part:
F. IF AN EMPLOYEE OF THE DEPARTMENT FAILS TO COMPLY WITH A COURT ORDER ISSUED PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION, THE EMPLOYEE IS SUBJECT TO:
1. DISCIPLINE BY SUSPENSION OR TERMINATION.
2. CIVIL DAMAGES CAUSED TO ANY PERSON AGGRIEVED BY THE FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE COURT ORDER.
G. THE COURT'S DETERMINATION THAT THE DEPARTMENT FAILED TO COMPLY WITH A STATUTE OR RULE IN A SPECIFIC CASE MAY BE ADMITTED IN ANY ACTION THAT EXAMINES THE MERITS OF THE SPECIFIC CASE AS EVIDENCE OF BAD FAITH BY THE DEPARTMENT.
It's not easy to determine with any degree of certainty that "a caseworker intentionally lied in documents or in court." But that this is a personal, grudge-related issue for Murphy is hard to deny.

I'm ALL for accountability in government actions and regulation. It's difficult for me to believe, however, that this gets at the real issues and problems in Arizona's Child Protective Services. Firing an overworked, overly stressed case worker and giving Rick Murphy standing to sue for civil damages just because he can passionately argue the agency acted in bad faith in its investigation of his family is not going to solve anything.

The problems at CPS are deeply financial and agency policy related. This appears to do NOTHING to address those concerns.

No comments:

Post a Comment