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Budget crisis blessing: Bad laws’ chances dim

Citizen Staff Writer



It’s about this time every year that I’m documenting the silly laws coming out of Phoenix. This year, our loony Legislature has left me bereft of material.

God bless them!

Before the session started, Senate President Bob Burns, R-Peoria, announced a moratorium on hearing any bills until the budget is passed. Despite grumbling from the rank and file, Burns has held his ground on the issue. No budget, no bills.

Burns announced Monday that Republican legislative leaders have agreed on a tentative budget. But I’m putting my money on legislators debating it for days or even weeks, with the moratorium on other bills remaining mercifully in effect.

Earlier this month, Matthew Benson of the Arizona Republic reported that there “is a logjam of more than 1,000 bills, policy proposals and ballot measures awaiting consideration by the House, Senate or both.”

Let me just say, if our Legislature adjourns this year without passing any bill into the law other than those related to the budget, I would be perfectly content.

Regular readers won’t be surprised to hear that I’m scared to death at what this Republican-dominated legislature might be able to get signed by our new Republican governor as regards the expansion of gun rights and the restriction of reproductive rights.

But even setting aside those issues, much of what passes out of our Legislature is plain dumb. Let’s just consider one doozy awaiting action.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, is pushing a bill to allow Arizonans to legally purchase sparklers and fountain fireworks, both of which pose a risk of injury to the user and create a risk of sparking wildland fires.

Firefighters and others who don’t think it’s a good idea to play with fire oppose the measure, while Biggs has called his bill “a poke in they eye of those who have the nanny-state mentality.”

I call it a poke in the eye to those with common sense. Former Govs. Fife Symington and Jane Hull, both Republicans, vetoed similar bills during their time in office. At the time, Hull said she didn’t want to send the false message that fireworks are safe.

Some 9,000 people are treated each year in emergency departments for fireworks-related injuries. Sparklers account for up to one-third of the injuries to children under 5.

I don’t want to be unfair. Occasionally, a good piece of legislation is introduced and/or sneaks out of the Legislature.

Last year, Tucson lawmaker Jonathan Paton combined forces with Kirk Adams of Mesa to push through some significant reform of Child Protection Services.

The ongoing effort by Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, to ban texting while driving, if it ever succeeds, would go a long way toward improving public safety on our roads.

And who could argue against a bill introduced this session by Paton and Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson, to end a sick new trend of pitting dogs against hogs in staged fights?

But as often as not, our legislators do more harm than good.

One of the most infamous episodes of the last decade was a state law passed in 2000 giving scandalously huge tax credits to people who bought alternative-fuel vehicles. The loophole was the vehicles had to be capable of burning alterative fuels but also could run on gasoline. Many Arizonans used the credit to buy big trucks and luxury sport utility vehicles, getting up to half of the price of the vehicle back from the state.

The Legislature’s estimated cost of $10 million skyrocketed to a projected $680 million before lawmakers pulled the plug on the deal. The credit ended up costing the state about $140 million.

Think about it, folks. No new laws this session could save Arizona lives and money.

Anne T. Denogean can be reached at adenogean@tucsoncitizen.com and 573-4582. Address letters to P.O. Box 26767, Tucson, AZ 85726-6767. Her columns run Tuesdays and Fridays.

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