Inside the Capitol

Saturday, March 26, 2011

3-21 Arizany

MON, 3-21-11

PHOENIX – If you've ever had misgivings about the New Mexico Legislature, here's a look at the Arizona Legislature that might make you feel better.
Arizona is a little over halfway through its legislative session – maybe. If they don't finish in time, they just keep going or they start calling special sessions. As in New Mexico, the budget hasn't been discussed much. It's just a matter of lining up the votes behind the scenes and getting it passed.
The budget is important, of course, but other matters are even more important – such as which federal laws to follow and which to ignore. Such a measure has passed the Arizona Senate and is being considered by the House. The bill would establish a Joint Committee on Nullification of Federal Laws to recommend which statutes, mandates and executive orders the state wants to not recognize.
Another approach to skirting federal law is to enter into compacts with other states on controversial issues. Interstate compacts do exist in the areas of water regulation, waste disposal and power use. The compacts require federal approval, which has been granted in over 200 instances but not in situations such as immigration and health care, which are Arizona's biggest concerns.
And while Arizona searches for ways to exert its state sovereignty over the federal government, it also looks for ways to take all power possible from local governments. I have just been perusing a weekly report from the Arizona League of Cities and Towns.
Almost all its legislative priorities involve fighting off efforts by the Legislature to take awa.y local powers. In contrast, reports from the New Mexico Municipal League are filled with proactive initiatives.
Some of those state mandates to local governments include a bill to require higher education institutions to allow guns on campus. The bill has passed the state Senate. Another measure would allow guns in public establishments and events, including ball games. It also has passed the Senate.
The Arizona Senate is making quite a name for itself; It also has passed a bill to make the Colt Single Action Revolver the official state gun. The bill was pushed hard by Colt lobbyists. It would make Arizona the first state with an official gun and possibly the first state to award a commercial enterprise official recognition.

Also passing the Arizona Senate is a bill proposing to create an official state Tea Party license plate. Arizona has over 80 state license plates to benefit charities. This would be the first plate to benefit an organization other than a charity.
The Arizona Senate is making a name for itself in the game of creative lawmaking. These bills still have to pass the House and be signed by the governor but since all of them are controlled by the same party, there is a chance some of them may become law.
The impetus for much of this creativity comes from Senate President Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican. In Arizona, the Senate president is not the lieutenant governor. Arizona doesn't have such an office. The Senate president has all the powers of a House speaker.
Sen. Pearce rules with an iron hand and sometimes is referred to as Gov. Pearce. He has, at least temporarily saved the political life of Scott Bundgaard, the majority leader of the state Senate. Bundgaard and his girlfriend got in a fist fight on the side of a downtown Phoenix freeway. The police arrived to find that both of them had landed some good punches.
The girl friend was arrested and taken to jail. Bundgaard invoked legislative immunity and went home. Many of his fellow lawmakers called for his ouster, at least as majority leader. A majority of Senate Republicans were said to want him to step down as their floor leader. But after a caucus presided over by Pearce, Bundgaard retained his leadership position, at least for now.


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