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NO-BUDGE BUDGET: The action remained frozen at the Arizona Legislature earlier this week, with committee hearings canceled during a showdown over fixing this fiscal year's $200 million shortfall. The Senate wants to preserve some of the pay raise for state employees, or at least the low-paid ones, while the House has cancelled the raises completely to balance the book this year and, more importantly, make it easier to figure out how to fix next year's shortfall.

And that shortfall, for the fiscal year that starts July 1, got a lot worse last week. Lawmakers, who were already looking at a billion-buck gap, got some ugly news when the state worked out a legal settlement in a lawsuit over taxation policy back in the late '80s. Because Arizona taxed out-of-state corporate dividends at a higher rate than in-state ones, the state now owes roughly 600,000 taxpayers refunds of an estimated $1,000 each. Do the math: that's a $600 million bill, raising that budget shortfall to $1.6 billion.

So, if and when lawmakers end the current standoff, the budget bloodbath ain't over. With all that work ahead, much of all the other legislation up there is DOA, particularly since legislators will want to wrap the session so they can start campaigning. Why they'd want to come back after this session is anybody's guess.

One bit of legislation that's not going to even make an appearance is a bill to make it easier for the City of Tucson to annex the Catalina Foothills and Casas Adobes. Mayor Bob Walkup would like to see the rules loosened so he could capture those folks living in the unincorporated areas, but he recently told The Skinny that there's no political will to push the bill through this session.


AND THEN THERE WERE TWO: State Rep. Marion Pickens has dropped out of the hunt for a Senate seat in the midtown Democratic district created through the state's redistricting process. That leaves two Democrats seeking the seat, both from what's currently District 13: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who won her House seat in 2000, and Sen. Virginia Yrun, the former Planned Parenthood honcho who was appointed to her seat after the death of Democrat Andy Nichols.

Giffords has already rented a home in the Sam Hughes neighborhood, while Yrun will have to relocate south of the Rillito if she sticks with the race.


TOUGH SALE: Longtime local developer Stan Abrams is continuing to emerge as the political muscle behind Mayor Bob Walkup's push for a half-cent sales-tax hike to boost transportation spending.

Abrams, a Democrat who campaigned on behalf of Republican Walkup in 1999, was the mayor's appointee to the citizen panel that put together the transportation plan that voters will decide in May. He's now part of the brain trust behind the Let's Go Tucson campaign chaired by former Pima County Supervisor Katie Dusenberry.

Last week, Abrams accompanied Walkup to a meeting with developers at the headquarters of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association. Walkup made his pitch, but we hear the builders might be too cheap to cough up what the mayor is looking for.

The Growth Lobby will be good for a few pesos, though. After all, if voters shoot down this plan, the city might have to start talking about impact fees or some other horrible mechanisms for growth to pay for itself.


SEVEN CANDIDATES FOR THE SEVENTH DISTRICT? Luis Gonzales made it official last Thursday afternoon in front of the Old County Courthouse: the former state senator is in the running for Congress in the new District 7. He's in a crowded Democratic primary that includes Raúl Grijalva, who recently stepped down from the Pima County Board of Supervisors; Jamie Gutierrez, another former state senator; Elaine Richardson, a sitting state senator; Jesus Romo, a civil rights attorney; and Lisa Otondo, a flight attendant from Yuma making her first bid for public office.

Gonzales got a little pre-announcement ink with the announcement that a lawsuit spurred by the nasty politics at the Pascua Yaqui hamlet was being dismissed with prejudice. Always nice to resolve those matters before running for Congress.

It's not the first time Gonzales has sought a congressional seat; he screwed up with his challenge to Mo Udall in 1986. Two years later, he got clobbered by Dan Eckstrom in a run for the Pima County Board of Supervisors, and then derailed by fake petitions put together by some of his workers during a campaign against Grijalva in 1992.


OUT OF BOUNDS: Brian J. Pedersen, who covers some (but certainly not all) local high-school sports for the Arizona Daily Star, recently reported a serious rules violation by a local prep basketball team as it prepared for a state tournament game. The problem was that, judging by Pedersen's rah-rah approach to the story, he apparently didn't know what he had done and might not have written it if he had known.

Pedersen, a Salpointe Catholic alum and shameless booster for his alma mater, wrote in the February 21 edition of the Star that Salpointe girls coach Mary Hauser brought in players from other schools to scrimmage against her team as the Lancers prepared for a semi-finals game in the state tourney. Pedersen even went so far as to name some of the players from the other schools, at least three of whom play on a summer "All-Star" team coached by Hauser.

This appears to be illegal, not for the players from the other schools (since their basketball seasons were over), but for Salpointe. Rule 14.2.2 of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Constitution and Bylaws states: "AIA member schools may only practice with or scrimmage against their own school team during the interscholastic season of that sport." It then goes on to define the "season" as being the time from the first official practice to the last game played.

A couple of the athletes involved have made clumsy attempts to distance themselves from the story, claiming that Pedersen got the facts wrong. But independent confirmation shows that the violation(s) did occur and Pedersen did get the facts right.

The case has been forwarded to the AIA. It will be interesting to see if the rules apply to everyone.


HIGH CALORIE, LOW NOURISHMENT: Does anyone else wonder why a fine reporter like Jeannine Reilly is reduced to writing about doughnuts (on the front page, no less) and Albuquerque turkey sandwiches for the morning rag?


BATTY: When vandals broke into a shed on the Amphi High School campus and stole virtually all of the softball team's equipment, a quick effort by local media and others turned a potential heartbreak into a feel-good story. Local TV and radio stations jumped on the story and donations of money and equipment poured in.

Arizona Diamondback star Luis Gonzalez, in town for spring training, saw the story and had his sponsoring company, Easton, donate $1,000 worth of equipment. A local Golden Corral restaurant kicked in a hefty donation of $2,000. Many other Tucsonans donated money to the program. (For some reason, the equipment, although on school property, wasn't covered by insurance.)

Now the uplifting story has turned south. The bureaucrats at Amphitheater School District have decided that all monetary donations must be turned over to the district, where they will go into a special fund. The monies can be earmarked for the Amphi High girls softball program, but they will only be doled out after running through a gauntlet of red tape.

Each expenditure that the team will try to make will require the coach to get three bids. (Amphi High doesn't have an athletic director, the position having been eliminated in a ham-fisted cost-saving frenzy late last school year.)

At press time, the team had already completed about 20 percent of its schedule and had done so at a decided disadvantage in the area of equipment. Said one disgruntled player, "The District doesn't care about (Amphi High) or girls sports. By the time we get the equipment, it'll be football season."


FLYING COACH: The national champion UA women's softball team flies to Washington, D.C., this week for one of those cheesy photo shoots with the president, the kind where the athletes assemble on the White House lawn and the Prez holds up a team jersey with his name on the back. Oddly enough, the trip comes with a bit of controversy from an unlikely source.

Coach Mike Candrea, far and away the most successful coach on the UA campus, committed a rare faux pas when he said that he hadn't wanted his team (which has won multiple national championships) to visit the White House while former President Bill Clinton was in office. He added that he likes George W. Bush. The letters rolled in to McKale.

It's a fact of life that coaches have to keep their politics private, because they're certain to offend some players or fans. Lute Olson is rumored to be a heavy-duty Republican, but after 20 years in Tucson, it's still only a rumor.

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