Saturday, February 26, 2011

Those wacky state senate Republicans... or at least one of them

News reports today indicate that Arizona state Senate Majority Leader Scott Bundgaard (R-LD4) was involved in a domestic violence incident in NE Phoenix on Friday night. 

Bundgaard was briefly taken into custody after Phoenix Police responded to calls of a man pulling a woman out of a gold vehicle stopped on Arizona highway 51 (Piestewa Freeway).  Officers reported that both Bundgaard and his female passenger, (Bundgaard's girlfriend) Aubry Ballard, 34, showed signs of having been in a physical altercation.

Ballard was arrested for assault but Bundgaard invoked immunity as a lawmaker with the state legislature in session and therefore was not arrested.

This is not Bundgaard's first run in with the law.  According to a report in the Phoenix New Times, he "served two years' probation for his part in a scheme to steal automotive equipment from a Smitty's he worked at in 1986. (His rights to vote and hold office have since been restored.)"

Is the beginning of the unraveling of state Republican lawmakers?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

When all was said and done, not all was said or done

Secretary of State Ken Bennett facilitated a reasonably smooth flowing meeting this afternoon. 

After the four redistricting commissioners -- Republicans Dick Stertz and Scott Day Freeman (no relation to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor) and Democrats Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty -- took the oath of office, they took turns posing questions to the five independent candidates hoping to become the fifth member, and chair of the commission.

After roughly two and a half hours of interviews, the commission went into executive session to confer with legal counsel.  Roughly a half hour later, they returned to the public meeting and announced their decision to wait before voting on the fifth commissioner. 

Therefore, the three women and two men, Kimber Lanning, Colleen Mathis, Margarita Silva, Paul Bender and Ray Bladine are all still in contention.

Each had a chance to show their strengths, and all did reasonably well.  I have my impressions, but nothing stands out drastically enough to expound on at this time.

This was also the first opportunity to observe how the commissioners would approach their duties as a public panel.  Each commissioner asked good questions, trying to probe into the substance of what would make each candidate a good choice.

My impression of the commissioners is, overall, favorable.  They are all personable and bright and thoughtful.  To me, the latent partisanship of Republican Dick Stertz stood out.  No doubt all four intend to do the very best they can in what they know will be a dramatically difficult task.  All of them realize they will be under a microscope the whole time.

Obviously, I will not be the only one watching.

Two things stood out from the public comment period.  Norris Norvold indicated that in discussions he had had with a budget analyst for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC), legislative leadership has said that if the chairman chosen is at all partisan (I'm paraphrasing), there will be dramatically less money appropriated for FY2012 (which begins July 1, 2011) for the commission to do its work.  That sounded very much like a threat.  Not that Norvold was threatening, but what he relayed did seem like a threat.  If this issue is explored by other reporters, I will update as necessary.

Former IRC commissioner James Huntwork spoke during the public comment period and launched into essentially the same nonsense he has spouted at other meetings -- about his concern that if Bender is chosen, then Arizona Indian Tribes will have a representative on the commission.  Huntwork's tiresome screed attempted to re-open or re-litigate an issue on which the Arizona Supreme Court already ruled.  The state's highest court said that Professor Bender's service as a part-time judge for two tribes does not conflict with the requirements of the Arizona Constitution as amended by voters regarding the IRC.

The commission will reconvene to take its vote at 1pm next Tuesday, March 1rst.  Bennett indicated to me that he does expect an additional opportunity for public comment will be available at that time. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Republican briefing on redistricting

The Arizona Eagletarian heard that a meetup took place yesterday (Feb 22) at the home of  Arizona Diamondbacks owner/general partner Ken Kendrick.  The purpose of the meetup was to discuss, from the rep'lican (extreme right-wing) perspective, the upcoming redistricting process and what to expect. 

I understand that this group is gearing up to do anything and everything it can to keep from having any more competitive political climate than currently exists in Arizona.
And given that Russell Pearce and Kirk Adams are aggressively pursuing an extremely partisan agenda in the current legislative session at the state capitol, this dramatically underscores the urgency for the rest of Arizona to mobilize to demand competitive districts in the process set to begin next week.

The next milestone in Arizona Redistricting takes place tomorrow afternoon, Feb 24.  The Independent Redistricting Commission will meet at 2:30 pm in the State Library Conference Room, at the capitol, for the purpose of selecting the fifth commissioner, who will become the new chairman.

I will report on that meeting tomorrow evening.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Redistricting Commission meeting to select chairman

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett yesterday announced that he will hold an open meeting on Thursday, February 24th at 2:30pm to swear in the first four commissioners.  The commissioners will also interview, take public comment and a vote on which of the five Independent candidates will be selected to chair the commission for the upcoming redistricting cycle.

The agenda, linked above, states, but may be technically incorrect, that the commission may go into executive session (not open to the public) for any item on the agenda.  However, Item V., the vote on the fifth member, must be conducted publicly.  I spoke with Jim Drake to verify that to be the case, but he doesn't think he needs to clarify the agenda to that effect.

Also of interest, the public comment period will take place after the interviews of the candidates.  That's different from how the screening panel handled the public comment.  Hopefully, it will make for lively contributions from the public in addition to discussion by and among the voting members of the commission.

Given that a 30 minute period is allotted to interview each of the five independent candidates, and that public comment will take place after the interviews, the meeting will likely last at least until 6pm.

The Independent candidates are (with their scheduled interview time):

3:00pm  Kimber Lanning

3:30pm  Colleen Mathis

4:00pm  Ray Bladine

4:30pm  Paul Bender

5:00pm  Margarita Silva

Rather than in Bennett's office or conference room, this meeting will take place in the State Library Conference Room, 1700 W. Washington, Ste. 200, in Phoenix.  However, getting there can be a bit tricky.  In the Capitol building, there is the executive tower on the west end (entrance on 18th avenue), the Capitol Museum on the east end (entrance between the state House and Senate buildings).  But to get to this conference room, you must take an elevator in the hallway between the executive tower and the museum.  However, there should be people at either entrance who can show you how to find this conference room.

I plan to be there.  I hope you do too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tucson attorney McNulty becomes the Fourth Redistricting Commissioner

This afternoon, Arizona Senate Minority Leader David Schapira (D-LD17) appointed Tucson attorney Linda McNulty, a Democrat, to be the fourth member of the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission for the 2011 cycle.

McNulty, a 1988 graduate of the University of Arizona Law School, is a partner in the law firm Lewis and Roca.  Much of her practice focuses on real estate and natural resources law.  She holds a rating of AV/Preeminent with the legal profession peer review firm Martindale Hubbell.   

She also graduated from the University of Rochester in 1971 with a B.S. in Nursing. 

Among her civic activities, McNulty has been on the board of directors of the Wilderness Land Trust since 2005 and since 2008 has served as a director of the Pima County Sports and Tourism Authority.

On being a redistricting commissioner, Ms. McNulty stated, “If citizen participation is the essence of democracy and voting and equal representation are among the core principles on which the United States was established, a fair and balanced process for determining voting districts is foundational to preserving and enhancing government of the people, by the people and for the people.  The absence of such a process may negatively impact meaningful campaigning, electoral competition, fair and equal representation, the quality of elected officials’ representation of their constituents, citizen confidence, voter participation and government accountability generally.”

Kudos to Sen. Schapira for appointing Linda McNulty.

Next up, the first four appointed commissioners will meet at Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s office to select the fifth commissioner, an Independent who will serve as chair of the commission during this cycle.  As of yesterday, Bennett’s office said that meeting is tentatively scheduled for next Thursday afternoon, February 24.

A question also remains as to whether a lawsuit will be filed to challenge the appointment of Tucson Republican Richard Stertz. Stertz was appointed last week by Senate President Russell Pearce in spite of evidence uncovered that Stertz falsified his application by omitting material facts related to tax liens, overdue taxes and court judgments.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Despite glaring Red Flags, Pearce appoints Richard Stertz

The Arizona Daily Star reports this morning that Senate President Russell Pearce appointed Tucson Republican Richard Stertz to the Independent Redistricting Commission.

This after reports (here and here also) surfaced detailing numerous omissions on Stertz' application. 

Speculation surfaced in December that Stertz and fellow applicant Christopher Gleason, both of whom cited involvement with the Tucson faith-based nonprofit Vision 360 when applying to become commissioners, had close ties to Tea Party GOP Congressional candidate Jesse Kelly.

In its story on Tuesday, the Daily Star reported that Stertz "is not seeking to serve on the commission to draw friendly lines for Jesse Kelly, who ran in Congressional District 8 against U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords last year. Kelly has a joint Saturday morning radio show with him. Kelly also volunteered to record a public service announcement for his company, Vision 360, earlier this year.

"Stertz, who is a voter in Congressional District 7, said he only got to know Kelly last year. He said they share a conservative ideology, and he finds Kelly a "nice young man," but they've only done one show together."

Pearce is on record, on camera, on numerous occasions lately rationalizing his viewpoints on immigration, the US Constitution (particularly the 14th amendment), on lax firearms laws, and on setting aside any and all laws that do not suit him at any given moment.

It should therefore surprise no one that Russell Pearce has no shame and despite several, very blatant red flags in Stertz' background, would appoint a manipulative partisan who is equally able to minimize and otherwise rationalize away his deception by omission.  

Alas, this is not the end of the story.  Two more commissioners must still be appointed to the IRC, one by Senate Minority Leader David Schapira and then the first four commissioners will get together at Secretary of State Ken Bennett's office to choose the fifth commissioner, who will become the chairman, presumably an Independent.

However, the question remains as to whether anyone will initiate a court action (lawsuit) seeking to remove Stertz based on the material omissions in his application.

Eventually (probably sometime in March) the IRC will hire staff, including attorneys and demographic consultants, will receive official US Census data, and will begin holding hearings to compile input/suggestions from Arizona citizens on how to draw the Congressional and legislative districts for use until the year 2022.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Arizona's latest attack on gov't By, For and Of the PEOPLE

Prescott rancher and GOP state Sen. Steve Pierce has introduced SCR1025, a bill to again try to get Arizona voters to repeal, destroy or otherwise undermine Clean Elections.

1.  Article VII, Constitution of Arizona, is proposed to be amended by adding section 19 as follows if approved by the voters and on proclamation of the Governor:
START_STATUTE19.  Public funds prohibited for political campaigns; definition
A.  Notwithstanding any existing statute, ordinance, regulation or rule, this state and its political subdivisions shall not:
1.  Spend public funds to provide campaign support for candidates for public office.
2.  Provide any tax credit or deduction in connection with providing public funds to candidates for public office.
3.  Assess taxes, fees or surcharges of any kind, if any portion of the taxes, fees or surcharges are used to provide monies to candidates for public office.
B.  Any public funds that may have been designated to provide campaign support for candidates for public office before the effective date of this section shall be deposited in the state general fund on the effective date of this section.
C.  For the purposes of this section, "public funds" means any monies derived by this state or its political subdivisions from taxes, fees, penalties, surcharges, payments or receipts of any kind.

According to the All Over the Map study by the nonprofit Public Campaign, small donors are able to contribute at greater levels than ever before.  "This can only help engage more people in politics."  In other words, government more responsive to the people of Arizona.

On Monday afternoon, Feb 7, the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on SCR1025.

Don't let them get away with it. Make your voice heard.  Call AND email these lawmakers and tell them to vote NO on this bill.

Sen. Ron Gould, Chairman  602-926-4138
Sen. Andy Biggs, Vice Chairman   602-926-4371
Sen. Adam Driggs   602-926-3016
Sen. Steve Gallardo   602-926-5830
Sen. John McComish  602-926-5898
Sen. Rick Murphy  602-926-4444
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema  602-926-5058
Sen. Steve Yarbrough    602-

UPDATE Tuesday, Feb 8:

On Monday, Feb 7, SCR1025 received a Do Pass recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 6-2 vote along party lines.  The two NAY votes were cast by Sens. Steve Gallardo and Kyrsten Sinema. 

One reason this bill did not raise much outrage is because most of the attention by the media and protesters at that hearing was focused on the Birthright Citizenship bills.  Subterfuge by misdirection.

The bottom line for Arizona is that there are many bad bills being processed during this year's regular session of the state legislature.

Even though the Birthright Citizenship bills were not voted on in this hearing (after hours of discussion), the bills are not dead.  Senate President Pearce today assigned the bills to the Appropriations committee instead because he believes he has enough Republican support on that committee to get the bills approved.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pearce's IRC pick may be limited anyway!

Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who is on the clock for appointing a new commissioner to the Independent Redistricting Commission, may have been handcuffed by one of the candidates.

Mary Jo Pitzl of the Arizona Republic reports that Tucson Republican Richard Stertz, recently added to the list of candidates eligible for appointment failed to disclose material facts required of him when he applied to become a commissioner.  Tax lien records show that Stertz had owed money to the IRS.  He apparently also had judgments filed against him. 

Questions on the application to become a commissioner covered those issues but Stertz did not provide any indication that he had any tax lien issues or court judgments.

Pearce may still appoint Stertz, or he could opt for the other eligible Tucson Republican Bennie White.  But now, Stertz, who is closely tied to 2010 Tea Party GOP Congressional candidate Jesse Kelly, could be thrown off of the IRC if appointed.  That is, if someone were to file suit to challenge Stertz's credentials.  The Tucson Weekly has reported already that Jesse Kelly may want to try again to run for Congress.

Pearce has until Wednesday next week to decide how to proceed.  And we wait and watch and listen.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Congressman David Schweikert (R-5th District) will hold a listening session tomorrow

My new Congressman, David Schweikert (R -- AZ 5th District) will hold a listening session on Feb 3, Thursday morning, from 9 am to 11 am at the Granite Reef Senior Center, 1700 N Granite Reef Rd, Scottsdale.

AZ House Minority Leader Campbell appoints Jose Herrera

Marking the second appointment of the second cycle for Arizona's voter mandated Independent Redistricting Commission, House Democratic Leader Chad Campbell today announced selection of  Jose Herrera.  Mr. Herrera is a native Arizonan, born in San Luis, holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Northern Arizona University and is currently Director of Member Services for the Arizona Society of Certified Public Accountants.

In his statement marking the appointment, Rep. Campbell said, "Mr. Herrera will serve our state proudly.  He will fight for legislative and congressional maps that represent the great diversity of our state, provide fairness and transparency to both the urban and rural areas of our state, and, perhaps most importantly, allow the voters of Arizona to have real choices when they go to the ballot box over the next decade."

Next up, Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce, who now has one week to make his selection.