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Capitol Chatter

So what's your favorite bit of illegal-immigration legislation up at the Capitol? Knocking undocumented migrants out of adult-ed courses? Banning landlords from renting shelter to illegal immigrants? The proposed constitutional amendment to make English the official language of the state?

Our pick: the idiot scheme to build a wall along the border, mostly because it's both extraordinarily expensive and will do nothing meaningful to slow illegal immigration. How much will it cost? Sponsor Russell Pearce tells Howie Fischer of Capitol News Services that he doesn't know. Nonetheless, the bill, which would ask voters to approve construction of the wall on the November ballot, passed out of Pearce's Appropriations Committee last week.

Speaking of building walls: Gov. Janet Napolitano and Republicans lawmakers had not, as of press time, resolved the ongoing debate over funding a program for English-language learners. A federal judge is now fining the state a million dollars a day until an education plan meets his approval. We'd figure out how much the state has already paid in fines, but we never did pass the math portion of the AIMS test.

Elsewhere at the Capitol:

· The House Health Committee voted 6-3 to advance a bill that would require parental consent before teens could get any kind of medication from a doctor--which, let's face it, is primarily aimed at birth-control pills and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

· A variety of tax breaks--including a business-property tax cut, a back-to-school sales-tax holiday and an exemption for seniors who register their cars--got preliminary and/or final approval in the state Senate.

· Pearce's plan to plant Old Glory in every Arizona classroom from kindergarten right up to college campuses advanced out of committee.


Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

The Regional Transportation Authority formally kicked off a campaign to convince voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase in May to fund road, mass-transit and pedestrian improvements. Committee chair Rick Myers channeled, of all possible role models, Forrest Gump, comparing the road plan to, yes, "a box of chocolates. There really is something for everyone. And even if every candy isn't exactly your favorite, you still aren't going to throw away the whole box."

Myers swiftly brushed off a challenge for a series of debates from neighborhood activist Ken O'Day.

"After yesterday's official kickoff event and with the support of the largest and most diverse group of community organizations ever united on a regional issue, we are getting even more requests to come present to organizations," Myers wrote to O'Day. "We are very pleased with this response. We are working hard to meet this demand and do not feel we need to initiate separate events."

Myers helpfully added: "You're welcome to review our Web site, www.yes1and2.org, for more information about the organizations and the private citizens who are supporting our efforts."


Drying Out

Tucson Water Director Dave Modeer has delivered a dire warning to the Tucson City Council: If we don't start using more CAP water soon, we could find ourselves cut off from a big chunk of our allotment for decades.

It seems that when the feds and the states divvied up the Colorado River more than a half-century ago, there was plenty of water to go around. But with our nasty ongoing drought and increasing demand, there's not so much these days.

In the next couple of years, the federal government is going to set new regs under which it would legally declare a shortage along the Colorado River--and once that's declared, the states will face a percentage cut based on how much CAP water they used in the last year, not based on their total legal allotment.

The city is currently using about 60,000 acre-feet of CAP water a year and isn't scheduled to buy the full annual allotment of 144,000 acre-feet until 2015. Modeer suggested the city start storing all that CAP water in the Avra Valley recharge facility by 2009. The downside: higher rates for Tucson Water customers.

Council members said they'd look into Modeer's proposal and get back to him next month.


Learning Curves

Democrat Slade Mead, a former GOP state senator, formally launched his campaign against Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.

"The superintendent of public instruction needs to be a cheerleader for public education, not an enforcer of ideology," Mead said in a speech.

Mead also announced he had collected enough contributions to qualify for Clean Elections funding.

Elsewhere on the education beat: The Arizona Board of Education decided to include science on the AIMS test beginning next year. No word yet on whether than will include questions on intelligent design.

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