If we're lucky, by the time you read this, the Arizona Legislature will have wrapped up all of its work for the 2011 session and gone home—meaning that for now, they can't do any more damage to the state.
And the damage has been extensive, as you can see by reading this week's feature story on the state budget, on Page 18. (Keep an eye out for an upcoming piece that will sum up many of the other bills and memorable moments that came out of this Tea Party Legislature.)
In the final days of the session, all sorts of bad bills were racing through the system, although a handful ran into trouble when they got to the governor's desk.
We've been plenty critical of Gov. Jan Brewer in the past, but there are moments when she deserves praise—and her decision to veto a number of these nutty bills is one of them.
Brewer spared the state more national humiliation with her rejection of the birther bill that was driven by the loony notion that President Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya and is a foreign national bent on corrupting our precious bodily fluids or whatever.
The bill was watered down from an original version that would have required documents that didn't exist in every state—which, of course, would have led to trouble for many presidential candidates down the line.
The final version of the bill was still off-the-charts absurd, listing various documents besides a birth certificate that would suffice in "proving" natural-born citizenship—including a circumcision certificate, which is not what most of us would consider to be a legal document.
While it would have been novel to discover whether our male presidential candidates were cut or uncut, Brewer said the bill was an invitation to mischief and would have "create(d) significant new problems while failing to do anything constructive for Arizona."
"As a former secretary of state, I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which would lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions," Brewer wrote in her veto letter. "In addition, I never imagined being presented with a bill that could require candidates for president of the greatest and most powerful nation on Earth to submit their 'early baptismal or circumcision certificates' among other records to the Arizona Secretary of State. This is a bridge too far."
Brewer also vetoed a bill allowing guns on college campuses, saying that the legislation was so "poorly written" that it also included K-12 schools. Yeah, we'd say that's a problem.
The third vetoed bill would have required Brewer to join a compact to allow states to begin their own health-care reform effort, which would have been aimed at allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines.
"By directing the governor to sign a compact, Senate Bill 1592 violates the separation of powers requirement established by Article 3 of the Arizona Constitution," Brewer wrote. "I am also concerned with the structure of the compact, which would result in additional fiscal challenges for our health-care system."
It was a good call by Brewer. We urge her to also veto SB 1593, another health-care insurance bill that allows the sale of health insurance across state lines.
Last week, as SB 1593 was making its way toward passage, it was amended to water down Arizona's insurance mandates—including removing requirements that insurance companies cover the treatment of autistic children.
That kind of provision gets to the heart of the problem with the sale of insurance across state lines: It's a race toward the worst of bad insurance policies, with limited recourse for those who buy them.
If the only way you can make the sale of insurance across state lines work is by taking insurance away from autistic kids, then the whole idea sucks.
It appears that Arizona voters will have a chance to decide whether to keep the state's Clean Elections program in place.
The Arizona Legislature has approved SCR 1025, which asks voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to block the use of public funds for political campaigns. The proposition will appear on the 2012 ballot.
Many on the left continue to believe that Clean Elections, which provides money to candidates for legislative and statewide office, is a great idea.
But as we've noted many times in the past, we're disenchanted with it, because its biggest accomplishment has been empowering the nutty social conservatives who are now running the state. (And we consider it no small irony that all of those social conservatives who hate the idea of helping out the downtrodden with government funds had no trouble helping themselves to political welfare in the form of campaign dollars.)
The Tucson City Council voted 6-1 last week to hike normal bus fares from $1.25 to $1.50, and approved a more modest increase in economy fares for low-income riders, who make up about half of Sun Tran's users.
The economy fare will increase from 40 cents to 50 cents, and a monthly pass for low-income residents will go from $12 to $15.
It was the first increase in economy fares in more than a decade, when the fares were increased from 35 cents to 40 cents.
The lone dissenter was Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, who wanted to increase economy fares to 60 cents, as recommended by city staff and the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee, in an effort to help close the city's budget deficit.
The increases will bring in an additional $1.3 million, but the decision to scale back the low-income fare hike will keep the city from bringing in another $260,000.
"We think we can fill the gap," said City Manager Mike Letcher, who was probably happy the council agreed to raise the fares at all.
Brian Flagg, who runs the Casa Maria soup kitchen, told us he was happy with the outcome, although he didn't think fares needed to be raised at all.
"Given the political realities, this was really good," Flagg said. "The mayor and council listened to the heartfelt pleas of the transit community. They acted like Democrats tonight, and that was heartening."
But Sami Hamed, who chairs the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee, said he was disappointed that the council didn't boost the economy fare by the full 20 cents.
"They didn't solve a problem," Hamed said. "They just slapped a Band-Aid on it. They're just going to have find more money somewhere else."
Ward 5 Councilman Richard Fimbres suggested that the city look into ways to bring in more dollars by expanding advertising on buses. The current City Council policy limits what kind of advertising the city can sell on the buses.
Kozachik was skeptical that the move would generate much revenue, but we think it's a move in the right direction. We do wish that some advertising on buses could be in the form of billboards on the side rather than the full wrap-around adverts that a handful of Sun Tran buses are now sporting.
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