Just when you thought Arizona couldn’t get any nuttier, the roof blew off the nut house last week.
In a marathon Senate Appropriations Committee meeting Tuesday, Republican senators advanced their wars on illegal immigrants, the federal government and the poor with a raft of bills that earned them rapturous cheers in the conservative echo chambers they inhabit and stunned gasps from everyone else.
Among the bills passed Tuesday include one that picks a fight with the federal government over who gets to be a U.S. citizen, an immigration omnibus bill that is so encompassing it practically makes it a crime to even know an illegal immigrant, and the nuttiest of all is one that would eliminate the state’s Medicaid program.
That’s right, under a bill sponsored by the Appropriations Committee’s chairman, Sen. Andy Biggs, R-Phoenix, about 1.2 million poor Arizonans would no longer receive state-funded medical care.
Biggs said later he was just trying to make a point and may or may not be serious about it, considering that it would devastate Arizona’s health care industry and ruin the state’s economy that is just starting to show signs of rebounding from a four-year recession, yet it managed to pass out of the committee and will now be considered by the larger Senate.
But wait, there’s more.
In response to the insanity coming from the state Capitol, a few disaffected Pima County Democrats filed a political action committee last week that seeks to separate Pima County from Arizona and form a new state.
It would be funny if they weren’t serious and if nearly 2,000 people hadn’t signed on to their Facebook page promoting the idea in less than week.
It will never happen. The obstacles to carving out a new state from another are enormous. Overcoming those obstacles will require tens of millions of dollars that would be better spent in a statewide effort to reform Arizona’s broken political system.
This band of extremists took over the Legislature because our political process is broken thanks to term limits, Clean Elections and the mostly closed primary system. True reform won’t come from within, especially reform of the primary system, which is the prime enabler of the party Puritanism that has infected the Republican and Democratic parties, causing only the most liberal or the most conservative candidates to advance to a general election.
There is no such thing as a moderate anymore. We need to bring the moderates back so that crazy legislation dies in committee and strident legislation gets softened through compromise, which is the way the Legislature used to work before our efforts in the 1990s to fix it screwed it up.
It will take a concerted, cooperative statewide voter initiative effort to force reform.
The seeds of this effort have already been planted through Lattie Coor’s Center for the Future of Arizona, Sandra Day O’Connor’s O’Connor House Project, Arizona Town Hall and a new group called The Arizona Education Commitment.
All of the people, businesses, associations and groups, including lobbyists, who are stunned at the actions of this legislature need to band together to draft a measure of state constitutional reforms that repeals Clean Elections and term limits, eliminates or replaces the primary election process and considerably raises legislative salaries. Then they need to gather the signatures necessary to put all the measures on the 2012 ballot.
It will take an enormous effort of time, people and money to explain the measures to Arizonans and why it’s good for them in the long run to gather enough signatures. This secession silliness would only distract and detract from that effort (assuming everyone who keeps talking about doing it stops talking about and starts doing something about it).
The disaffected Baja Arizonans, as the proposed new state would be called, should join with these more reasonable, more likely to succeed statewide reform efforts rather than waste time and money on an effort that’s as nutty as what happened last week in the Senate.