Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Arizona legislators need to quit clowning around and fix budget (UPDATED)

So this is what limited government looks like?

The deadline for introducing a bill in the Arizona House of Representatives is today. The Senate’s was Jan. 31.

Though only a third of Arizona voters are registered Republicans, they comprise 67 percent of state legislators, 40 out of 60 representatives and 21 of 30 senators.

All avow the primacy of low taxes (or no taxes) and small government and worship at the altars of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater, who both saw government as the enemy of the people.

So we should expect a legislative session with very few bills and just a month or two to wrap up, right?

Um, no.

As of Friday, 640 bills had been “dropped” in the House along with 37 concurrent resolutions, which are bills that require voter approval or that are merely grandstanding position papers, such as the one that asks the federal government to take the gray wolf off the endangered species list.

In the Senate, 608 bills were introduced by the deadline along with 68 resolutions.

So that’s 1,248 bills and 105 resolutions this legislature has to wade through by May, the usual month of “sine die,” the end of the session.

Among the matters of pressing concern to this state that require new laws or rules is a bill in the Senate requiring the Arizona Historical Society to start a fund-raising effort to erect a statue of Barry Goldwater. (Democrats also have statuary on their mind, there’s another Senate bill that requires the erection of a statue of Cesar Chavez in Wesley Bolin Plaza.)

Also in the Senate there are bills that: would allow you to drive in the carpool lane if you pay a hefty annual fee; would allow the Arizona Rangers  – a volunteer police auxillary group most commonly seen blocking traffic for funeral processions – to have red and blue lights on their cars; would establish a state poet; and that would, among other things, require students applying to massage therapy schools speak, read and write English.

Apparently there’s a scourge of non-English-speaking massage therapists in Arizona that needs squashing.

The House, likewise, has its bills of limited government, such as the one that allows counties and cities to issue up to 25 beer festival liquor licenses a year; that allow schools to hold eighth grade promotion ceremonies; and a citizen’s gold star bill that rewards citizens who come up with good ideas to save the state money.

Isn’t that what we elected legislators to do?

To be fair, dozens of the introduced bills are ministerial language corrections to existing laws, fixing typos and the like. But the rest are an enormous meddling in our lives. There are bills that require “medically accurate” sex education, that allow charter schools in retirement communities, that give preference to married couples in adoptions or that require lengthy waiting periods before you can get a divorce.

Other bills are futile attempts to pick fights with the federal government, such as the one that prohibits the EPA from regulating the quality of Arizona’s air, or the one that says who gets to be a citizen of the country, or the one that determines who can run for president in Arizona or the one that attempts to seize federal land through eminent domain.

Meanwhile, Arizona faces its fourth consecutive year of a budget crisis in which we spend more than we take in because the budgeting system is fundamentally broken. We’ve known since 2008 that massive reform of state tax laws, budgeting processes and voter mandated spending requirements are required to get Arizona back on track.

Instead, year after year we’ve gotten ridiculous, frivolous tinkering of the budget creating a perpetual state of crisis requiring brutal cuts to social services, parks, roads, schools and universities.

Governing requires serious people to do a serious job.

Too bad we’ve elected a bunch of clowns who just want to fool around.

A sampling of bills of a dubious nature

(and my snarky comments about them):

Senate bills:

SB1053 – Would create a license plate to fund “character education” in public schools. (Aren’t parents supposed to teach their children character?)

SB1249 – Regulates massage therapy schools and among its provisions is one that requires students read, write and speak English. (Shouldn’t the market decide if massage therapists should speak English. If a customer could care less that his or her masseuse only speaks Latvian why should the Legislature?).

SB1325 – Prohibits unions from using their dues for political purposes unless union members can earmark their dues for particular candidates or parties. (Fair’s fair, where’s the bill that prohibits corporations from using their profits for political purpose unless stockholders can earmark their share of the profits for particular candidates or parties?)

SB1352 – Bans photo radar in municipalities or counties. (What happened to democracy? If a city or county wants photo radar, what business is it of the state’s? Legislators don’t want the feds meddling in state affairs, perhaps the state should stop meddling in city and county affairs).

SB1360 – Arizona Rangers can have red and blue lights on their cars. One of several Arizona Rangers bills. One of the others makes it a crime to impersonate a Ranger. (Sounds like one of the legislators is an Arizona Ranger and wants to pretend he’s a cop but not let others pretend they’re a Ranger).

SB1606 – Allows you to drive in a HOV lane if you pay an annual $2,500 fee. (Kinda defeats the purpose of having an HOV lane, doesn’t it? Sounds like a legislator doesn’t like to carpool but is envious of all those in carpools whizzing past him on the freeway).

SB1500 – Would extend the time for placing election signs before an election to 60 days from 45 days. (Please God, let this bill be defeated. We don’t need to see these stupid signs for two months).

SB1506 – Forces the Arizona Historical Society to raise money for a Barry Goldwater statue. (If you want a Barry Goldwater statue, pay for one. This, and the Cesar Chavez statue bill, SB1109,  are the stupidest bills dropped so far this session).

SB1530 – Requires the creation of a state poet laureate. (Cap’n’ Al Melvin’s white whale. He drops this bill every year.)

House Bills:

HB2104 – Allows private trash haulers to compete with municipal trash haulers at the expense of municipal exclusivity. (More state meddling in local affairs. If citizens of Tucson or wherever want an end to municipal trash monopolies, they can vote in a council that will make it happen or pass a citizen initiative/charter change.)

HB2181 – Allows governor to deploy the National Guard to the border if a state of emergency is declared. (And who’s going to pay for it?)

HB2186 – Requires counties to tell the state if they’re collecting more money than they’re spending. (Why is it the state’s business how much tax money the counties are collecting?)

HB2197 – Allows charter schools to locate in exclusive, age-restricted retirement communities. (Because we all know how all those kids in age-restricted retirement communities have too few schools to attend.)

HB2215 – Establishes an award program for citizens who suggest ways for the state to save money. (Unnecessary, it already exists, it’s called the legislators’ salaries.)

HB2251 – Allows schools to hold eighth grade promotion ceremonies. (Oh, come on!)

HB2252 – Allows children to register to vote at 16 but prevents them from voting until they’re 18. (And the point is?)

HB2265 – Requires the state mineral museum to collect an entrance fee and mandates the operation of a gift shop. (I love the mineral museum. Used to go all the time when I was kid growing up in Phoenix. Why do we need a law for the common sense operation of a museum?)

HB2273 – Allows each city and county to issue up to 25 beer festival liquor licenses a year. (OK, this one’s not so bad … mmmmmm … beer.)

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