Gov. Jan Brewer slowed down the rampage of legislative Republicans last week with her veto pen, reversing the flow of some fetid right-wing sewage.
By the end of the day last Friday, April 29, Brewer had rejected 29 of the 386 bills passed by the Grand Old Tea Party Legislature.
Brewer looked pretty sharp on one veto in particular: the birther bill that would have given presidential candidates a chance to file their circumcision certificates with the state to prove that they were born in the country. Given that just a few days after the veto, President Barack Obama released that long-sought long-form birth certificate, Arizona would have looked even sillier had that bill been signed.
BTW, state Rep. Carl Seel, one of the primary sponsors of the birther bill, told ArizonaGuardian.com last week that he wants a forensic examination of Obama's birth certificate. And he's wondering if Obama's father's nationality somehow disqualifies him from being a natural-born citizen. Yes, it really is that crazy up there.
And if we may digress a bit: While Seel was flying to New York City to meet with Donald Trump and making up nonsense, Obama was overseeing a mission that put bullets into the head of Osama bin Laden. We think Obama was onto something last week when he released his birth certificate and said: "We're not going to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers. ... We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We've got better stuff to do. I've got better stuff to do."
Just about everyone has better stuff to do, except for maybe Carl Seel and his fellow travelers.
But back to Brewer's vetoes: Among other actions, she knocked down two laws that would have allowed guns onto college campuses and into public buildings; saved University Medical Center from legislative tampering; blocked a ridiculously restrictive spending limit from being locked into place; rejected a clumsy effort to strip county employees of job protections; and reaffirmed the authority of cities and towns to regulate fireworks.
One bill that we were especially happy to see rejected: Frank Antenori's Senate Bill 1322, would have required Tucson and Phoenix to ask for bids for any service that costs the city more than $500,000 to provide, whether it's taking care of parks or ensuring that the water is safe.
SB 1322, which was backed by the anti-government Goldwater Institute, would have had one certain outcome: an expensive bureaucracy to manage the astronomical number of procurement contracts that would have been required. Even if you think the city should outsource more of its work, creating more red tape does not seem like the best way to get there. It's exactly the type of decision that should be left to the discretion of the people who are elected and hired to run the city.
As Brewer put it in her veto letter: "While I can agree that all levels of government must continue to find ways to cut costs, I am becoming increasingly concerned that many bills introduced this session micromanage decisions best made at the local level. What happened to the conservative belief that the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people? The citizens of Phoenix and Tucson formed their government and adopted a charter to guide it. This legislation erodes the ability of voters to receive services from the government that they themselves formed with a responsiveness and accountability from the officials they themselves elected at the local level."
Gov. Jan Brewer also vetoed SB 1593, which would have allowed the sale of health insurance across state lines. That's a popular proposal in Republican circles, but SB 1593 showed why it's not as simple as it sounds.
The argument in favor of allowing the sale of insurance across state lines goes something like this: If you have more companies selling insurance policies, it will generate competition and drive down prices.
Right now, insurance companies are regulated by individual states, so if you have a problem with your health insurer, you can go to your attorney general or another government official to complain if you have a problem. But if you've bought a health insurance policy from Delaware, why would an elected official there care much about your problem? Plus, needing to file complaints in Delaware presents logistical challenges, especially if you're in a hospital bed.
Those state regulations also include certain mandates, such as the requirement that health-care plans offered in Arizona provide coverage for treatment of autistic children. If an out-of-state insurance company starts selling policies here that don't cover autism, then they can offer lower rates—and thereby have an unfair financial advantage over Arizona-based insurance companies.
SB 1593 "fixed" that problem by saying that if an out-of-state insurer offered a policy that didn't cover a treatment mandated by Arizona, then Arizona insurance companies would no longer have to cover that treatment, either.
You see where this is going: Pretty soon, Arizona insurance mandates would be meaningless.
That's a point that Brewer—who also stressed her support for the private insurance industry and her dislike of federal health-insurance mandates—made in her veto letter when she complained that the provision was added to the bill with almost zero public input as an amendment as bills were being rushed through.
"Over the years, the Legislature has carefully weighed the priorities of Arizonans when determining what should be included in a standard health-benefit package," Brewer said. "The same level of public scrutiny should be applied whenever the Legislature attempts to remove a mandate."
Brewer also pointed out that Arizona citizens would have little recourse with out-of-state insurance companies.
"Senate Bill 1993 limits the jurisdiction of the Arizona Department of Insurance over out-of-state companies, potentially putting Arizona policyholders at risk," she wrote.
Attorneys Paul Eckerstrom, Peter Hormel, David Euchner and a merry band of insurrectionists have gotten the green light to launch Start Our State, a new political committee that's running a petition drive to make Pima County the 51st state.
Pima County officials have given the go-ahead to Start Our State to collect the necessary 47,339 signatures by July 5, 2012, to get the question of Pima County statehood on the November 2012 ballot.
Eckerstrom has plenty of reasons for wanting to split from Phoenix: cuts in education and health-care funding, the push to nullify federal laws, and the ongoing war against Tucson and Pima County—led by local Republican lawmakers who aren't sticking up for Southern Arizona.
Republicans in the Legislature are "all about nihilism," Eckerstrom says. "They're all about, 'We don't want any taxes, and we don't want any government.' It's gotten to the point where that's all they care about, and that's kind of weird."
He hopes the Start Our State effort will give people an alternative vision of Arizona.
"At the very least, maybe if we make enough noise, people around the country will listen and realize that in Southern Arizona, we're not all crazy," Eckerstrom says.
Start Our State should get a boost in a few weeks, when a segment recently taped in Tucson airs on The Daily Show.
If you want to learn more about the effort, head down to The Shanty, 401 E. Ninth St., at Fourth Avenue, between 5 and 7 p.m. this Thursday, May 5. Organizers will be having a Cinco de Mayo happy hour and celebrating Free Baja Arizona Day, which—coincidentally enough—was declared a Pima County holiday decades ago.