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AND THEY'RE OFF ... IN SO MANY WAYS

Ah, the opening day of the second session of the 47th Legislature: at least 1,000 Hispanic protesters marching on the Capitol lawn; newbie lobbyists in the overflow room debating the pros and cons of Myspace vs. Facebook; and the Legislature's sergeant-in-arms making the most flattering gaffe in the history of gubernatorial introductions: "Her majesty--err ... her excellency," Governor Janet Napolitano.

And, of course, the annual State of the State address, in which Napolitano demonstrated a feat of triangulation acute enough to make Dick Morris' nipples hard.

With House Speaker Jim Weiers behind her looking like a bored Chief Wiggum, Napolitano proposed spending $100 million to hunt down human-traffickers and document-forgers, to increase the National Guard presence at the border and to bark at Washington until they reimburse Arizona for the "broken system" that is U.S. immigration policy. Senate President Ken Bennett couldn't have asked for more, and in fact wasn't planning on it: $100 million was the figure he and Weiers had come up with last week. Nice cribbing, governor!

That tough-on-immigration talk is sure to go over well with all those Hispanic activists in the courtyard who were chanting, beating drums and waving signs with slogans ranging from "We need drivers license" to "Arizona: #1 For Discrimination and Racism" to "Free Daniel and Shanti," the two activists facing criminal charges for assisting illegal Mexican immigrants.

Napolitano also called for wage increases for teachers and state employees, money to provide shelter for every victim of domestic violence and tougher meth-production laws.

"Fiscal responsibility is Word 1 on my watch," Napolitano said, announcing her plan for $100 million in "smart tax relief," including a break in car-registration fees based on efficient gas mileage, and a gimmicky sales-tax holiday for parents whose kids are heading back to school.

This is where Republicans disagree: They're hoping for $250 million, though details are sketchy.

We'll see how much of the agenda will make it into law by the end of session, which Weiers and Bennett are vowing to limit to 88 days. Lotsa luck!

We were certainly amused by Napolitano's call for stiffer laws against child molestation, coming just as the East Valley Tribune was reporting that Weiers was pals with an accused pedophile who remains on the run from the law. The Democrats jumped all over the story, sending out a press release with the headline: "Is Speaker Weiers protecting former live-in friend turned suspected child molester?"

The release quoted Tucson Rep. Linda Lopez--misspelling her name as "Lopes"--as saying: "Clearly there are a lot of unanswered questions. A suspected child molester that used to live with the Speaker is on the lamb (sic). The Speaker's been providing one of the alleged molester's victims financial support for years. And now the alleged victim says the Speaker didn't want him to go to the police."

Guess Lopez didn't want to get any bills passed this year. Then again, as a Democrat, she probably wouldn't have, anyway.

A final aside: We had to agree with the Arizona Daily Star's heartfelt editorial decrying how people knew more about the Backstreet Boys than their own lawmakers. But the Legislature can certainly be more confusing than Nick Lachey's love life; why, during the last state election, we recall that the Star's crack editorial team got the number of legislative districts wrong, along with party affiliations of a couple of candidates. It appears that that civic lessons are needed all around.

But why dwell on such missteps? We're sure that the Star will dedicate itself to reporting on the activities of the Legislature--or at least run lots of stories from freelance contributor Howard Fischer.

Hey, we're not knocking Howie, who is undoubtedly the hardest-working man in show business. But we suspect people would know more about their lawmakers if the Star put more emphasis on actually having a couple of competent staff reporters covering them, as The Arizona Republic does.

But then again, who would read that boring stuff, anyway? Especially when there are juicy new reports about Kanye out there.


ABOUD TIME

The Pima County Board of Supervisors last week appointed Paula Aboud to the Arizona Senate to fill out the term of Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, who stepped down to run for the congressional seat of retiring Republican Jim Kolbe.

In appointing Aboud, a "life coach" who lost a 2001 bid for the Tucson City Council, the supes passed over both District 28 House members, Ted Downing and Dave Bradley.

Aboud had better make the most of this session, since Downing is eager to run for the Senate seat, and he's likely to clobber her in the Democratic primary, given his political base within the district and his capacity to grandstand.


MEMORY LOSS

It appears that Republican Kathleen Dunbar, who lost her Tucson City Council seat to Karin Uhlich last November, isn't going forward with Dunbar v. Everyone et al, a kooky plan to sue her Democratic opponent and a long list of others for slander/libel/hurting her feelings. Dunbar, you might recall, hired an attorney to write threatening letters after several schoolteachers signed an Uhlich campaign piece alleging that Dunbar had interceded in a deal between the Amphi School District and developer Chris Kemmerly to provide a quarter-million-dollar "donation" to pay for additional classroom space. The defendants have yet to be served.

Back when the mailer was hitting households, Uhlich told the press that she was making the charges late in the campaign not as a last-minute hit piece, but because she only learned about Dunbar's supposed interference when an unnamed resident told her about it while she was walking precincts.

Which is why it came as quite a surprise to us when Ken Scoville, who works with Amphi on negotiating the donation agreements, told us that he had told Uhlich about the Kemmerly blow-up months before the mailer went out.

Uhlich, who expressed surprise when we asked her about Scoville's comments, said that she had no recollection of talking to him about it.

Well, we can certainly understand why a story like that would have more of an impact when you hear it from a stranger than from a guy involved in the process.


HEY, HEY, HEY, GOODBYE

As The Skinny predicted back in November, Assistant City Manager Karen Thoreson, el jefe de Rio Nuevo, is on her way out of town. Thoreson announced her resignation last week to go to work on a short-term contract for the city of Glendale. We're sure she'll be missed by downtown merchants.

We don't know how City Manager Mike Hein could ever replace Thoreson. We bet he won't even try.


BAD CAREER MOVE

Republican Ron Drake inexplicably resigned as mayor of Avondale last week to launch a campaign for Democrat Raul Grijalva's congressional seat. Lotsa luck--the district is so heavily Democratic that Grijalva could come out as a member of al-Qaida and still win re-election.

But Drake could avoid a primary showdown with perennial candidate Joe Sweeney, who tells The Skinny that as long as Drake speaks out on his three most important issues--gas-tax equity, political corruption and, of course, illegal immigration--he'll probably stay out of the race.

"We'll see what happens," says Sweeney, who expressed doubts regarding Drake's chances against Grijalva.

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