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Tied in Knots 

How to solve a financial crisis? Ban gay marriage!

Gov. Janet Napolitano offered her gloomiest economic forecast yet last week: The state treasury is likely to be at least $1.1 billion short when the final bills come due on June 30.

Napolitano has been the optimistic one in the budget negotiations; her original estimate of the current year's shortfall was $870 million, which was $100 million less than the legislative leadership's target of $970 million. Now both numbers have been eclipsed by a budget crunch that has topped the billion-dollar threshold.

Napolitano responded to the new numbers by doubling her proposed cuts in state spending--now in the neighborhood of $150 million--and dipping even deeper into the state's rainy-day fund. She's also looking to "sweep" more state accounts with a positive balance, which is kind of like making your kids give up their savings to help out their siblings who have spent their money.

Legislative leaders in both parties were continuing budget negotiations behind closed doors, to the evident frustration of the chairs of the appropriations committees in both chambers. Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, started making noises about resurrecting some of his slash-and-burn budget bills, while Peoria Sen. Bob Burns sent out a lengthy press release calling for deeper cuts in state spending and attacking Napolitano for letting the situation get as bad as it has.

Burns' memo touched on the issue that's dividing legislative leaders: Democrats want the state to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to build schools, while Republicans argue that the interest expenses of borrowing are too high.

Lawmakers have responded to the financial crisis by proposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages in Arizona.

The legislation, pushed by the Christian-based Center for Arizona Policy, was sponsored by House Speaker Jim Weiers and Senate President Tim Bee, who plans to challenge Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords later this year. Bee counts gay former congressman Jim Kolbe as one of his congressional campaign's co-chairs.

If lawmakers approve the Senate Concurrent Resolution 1038 or House Concurrent Resolution 2065, Arizona voters would have to ratify the amendment in November. A similar proposal was rejected by 52 percent of the voters in 2006, but this year's model does not include a ban on domestic partnerships or civil unions, which was a key point in the opposition campaign two years ago.

Other bills of note:

HB2791

PRIMARY SPONSOR: Rep. Bill Konopnicki.

WHAT IT DOES: Creates a statewide program in Arizona to allow employers to bring in foreign workers if they are suffering a labor shortage.

SUPPORTERS SAY: With the crackdown on illegal workers, the state has a responsibility to help businesses find labor.

OPPONENTS SAY: The bill will depress wages for U.S. workers; this is not unlike slavery, which the United States abolished more than 100 years ago; if we continue to allow Mexicans into the country, they will gain a toehold in their plans for conquest.

WHERE IT'S AT: Passed the House Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.

HCR2038

PRIMARY SPONSOR: Rep. Russell Pearce.

WHAT IT DOES: Lowers the state's constitutional spending limit from 7.41 percent of state personal income to 6.4 percent.

SUPPORTERS SAY: Government spending is out of control and needs to have a tighter cap.

OPPONENTS SAY: The state should be spending more on health care, education and other priorities; these kinds of formulaic limits take power away from lawmakers.

WHERE IT'S AT: Passed the House Appropriations Committee.

HB2833

PRIMARY SPONSOR: Rep. Martha Garcia.

WHAT IT DOES: Requires that all ammunition in the state be coded so it can be tracked.

SUPPORTERS SAY: Tracking ammunition will make it easier for cops to nail bad guys, just like on CSI.

OPPONENTS SAY: The gun grabbers are now going after your ammo!

WHERE IT'S AT: Still awaiting committee assignment.

HB2705

PRIMARY SPONSOR: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

WHAT IT DOES: Prohibits the state from contracting with or investing retirement funds in companies that do business with the government of Sudan.

SUPPORTERS SAY: This is a way to bring economic pressure on the Sudanese government in hopes of stopping the ongoing genocide in that nation.

OPPONENTS SAY: Long live the Janjaweed!

WHERE IT'S AT: Passed the House Public Institutions and Retirement Committee and the House Rules Committee.

HB2516

PRIMARY SPONSOR: Rep. Ed Ableser.

WHAT IT DOES: Requires dog and cat owners to spay or neuter their pets unless they get a permit saying the animals fit certain exemptions.

SUPPORTERS SAY: There are too many stray animals breeding out there.

OPPONENTS SAY: The government has no right to tell me to cut off my dog's nuts.

WHERE IT'S AT: Assigned to House CMMA and Government committees; not yet scheduled for a hearing.

More by Jim Nintzel

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