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Kimble: Legislature writes off speech, Napolitano

The eyes have it as state Sen. John Huppenthal (left), R-Chandler, greets Janet Napolitano before her final speech as governor. Lurking in the backgroud is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The eyes have it as state Sen. John Huppenthal (left), R-Chandler, greets Janet Napolitano before her final speech as governor. Lurking in the backgroud is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

PHOENIX – Even before the contretemps commenced, it was clear the two participants were not thinking alike.

Monday, Gov.-For-Now Janet Napolitano’s staff passed out a copy of her “State of the State Address.”

And on Monday, staffers in the Legislature passed out the day’s agenda including a “Farewell Address” by Napolitano.

So why was she here?

Was it, as Napolitano felt, to fulfill the state constitutional mandate that the governor “shall communicate, by message, to the Legislature at every session the condition of the state, and recommend such matters as he shall deem expedient.”? (It was written back when every governor was expected to be “he.”)

Or was it, as many legislators felt, no more meaningful than a stop at the Quik Mart to grab a bottle of water before heading to the airport?

They were bored and they showed it. Get it over with and hit the road for D.C. and the Obama administration, was the prevailing legislative sentiment.

Budget-fixing ideas? Thanks, not interested.

Forgive me if you’ve heard this, but Arizona has big money problems. There are 24 weeks left in fiscal 2009 and in that time, $1.6 billion in spending must be whacked.

How serious is that? Let’s say we close all state prisons and let everyone out for the rest of the fiscal year. And we stop paying all AHCCCS medical costs. And we shut down the huge Department of Economic Security.

That still wouldn’t save enough money.

You’d also have to close the Department of Environmental Quality, the Attorney General’s Office, the Arizona Corporation Commission, the Departments of Commerce and Public Safety, and all state parks.

That’s still not enough. So also close the Governor’s Office and both houses of the Legislature.

If we totally closed all those agencies from now until June 30, we’d save about $1.6 billion.

That probably won’t happen. So one would have thought legislators might have been interested in alternative ideas from Napolitano. One would have been wrong.

Things got off to a hopeful start when the pastor giving the invocation said, “My prayer for them would be that they lead with wisdom.” Thanks anyway, pastor.

The first departure from wisdom came during the introduction of guests – an event that annually is the most hilariously tedious event of the year.

Legislators announced they had brought “my favorite cousin,” the District 13 Democratic chair, members of the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local something, “a little 9-year-old girl who stood out on the street campaigning for me,” “my accountant, he kept me out of trouble,” a neighbor and “my fiancée, the most beautiful girl in the world.”

Thanks for sharing.

Then it was time for Napolitano, delivering her State of the State/Farewell/ Whatever Address.

After all the excitement caused by the introduction of guests, legislators understandably couldn’t maintain that energy level when the governor showed up.

Quite a few Republicans acted as if someone was reading a bus schedule. One fiddled with his BlackBerry, another sat with his arms crossed and stared vacantly into the distance.

There was a bit of semi-interest when Napolitano called for reforms to the initiative process.

Then in 26 minutes, it was over. In past years, Napolitano has talked for twice that long. She ended by asking that “you keep me in your thoughts and prayers, just as I will keep you in mine.”

And she added, “Thank you for your attention today” – which was either hopeful or a well-aimed sarcastic barb.

Later, state Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican, showed that he indeed had kept Napolitano in his thoughts. “I think she had a couple of ideas worth looking at,” Pearce said in a tone that made it clear he didn’t think that.

And Republican leaders, in a press conference, took the time to say Napolitano had wasted her time and theirs.

“It would be counterproductive of us to get into critiquing that speech,” said Senate President Bob Burns, a Peoria Republican.

“The substance of the governor’s speech is nothing but curiosity value at this point,” added House Speaker Kirk Adams, a Mesa Republican.

This weekend, Napolitano and her staff will vacate the Governor’s Office after six years. Her plans and vision for Arizona were gone even sooner.

Mark Kimble appears at 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Roundtable segment of “Arizona Illustrated” on KUAT-TV, Channel 6. Call him at 573-4662 or e-mail mkimble@tucsoncitizen.com.

House Speaker Kirk Adams (left) and Senate President Bob Burns yuck it up after Gov. Napolitano left the House.

House Speaker Kirk Adams (left) and Senate President Bob Burns yuck it up after Gov. Napolitano left the House.

Gov. Janet Napolitano asked legislators to

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