By Sidney Philips
THE LEGISLATURE'S states' rights campaign took yet another wacky turn last week, when the Arizona House of Representatives voted to secede from the union.
The secession was the result of legislation sponsored by Rep. Sue Gerard (R-Phoenix), who attached an amendment to Glendale Republican Jean McGrath's wacky CFC bill, which would allow Arizonans to continue to produce and use chlorofluorocarbons in defiance of the federal government and the rest of the world.
Our sovereign status lasted only an hour, until Speaker Mark Killian (R-Mesa) convinced lawmakers to strike the amendment cutting all ties between the federal government and the state.
You'd almost think common sense prevailed--until you stop to realize that the CFC legislation passed the House.
While debating the bill on the House floor, sponsor McGrath argued all that ozone hole balderdash environmentalists are always whining about was just a theory, leading one cynical onlooker in the gallery to comment that "gravity's a theory, too, but my butt's sticking in this chair!"
Elsewhere in the states' rights struggle, the Constitutional Defense Council got together to battle the feds last Monday, February 27. As usual, however, most of the council's public time was spent attacking not the federal government but the state's own attorney general's office.
CDC Chair Michael Block, an economist with the UA, started off the meeting with an exercise in revisionism. Block instructed the CDC's substitute secretary to change--that is, soften--his remarks from the last meeting railing against the attorney general's office, which he had accused of delaying the contract between the CDC and the private attorney it plans to use to sue the feds.
CDC member Ralph Pew also apologized for not doing his homework in drafting a scathing letter to Attorney General Grant Woods.
Representatives from the attorney general's office denied holding up any contracts. They also suggested the CDC might consider occasionally consulting with AG staffers, since they are already representing the state in a number of cases against the federal government and they might have privileged information that might prove useful to the CDC's private attorney.
Pew wasn't terribly warm to the idea, expressing in no uncertain terms his desire that the AG not have a right of approval of any settlements or compromises the CDC won in federal court. Block echoed the sentiment, adding that he "doesn't concur the AG's office knows the interest of Arizona better than the CDC does."
Yes--after all, the attorney general was merely elected by an overwhelming majority of the voters. He wasn't a hand-picked toady appointed by the Republican leadership, so he must be out of touch.
The council spent a little more time bitching about the "extremely ignorant" and "slanderous" comments of Mesa Tribune columnist Pat Murphy before asking the public to leave the room so members could begin a closed executive session and discuss their legal strategies in private.
In other legislative action:
The Senate voted to kill its proposed school voucher plan, despite the support of Gov. J. Fife Symington III. Voucher supporters haven't lost hope yet, though; they hope to see Tucson Rep. Dan Schottel's voucher bill pass in the House, or the Senate bill resurrected.
The Senate easily passed a bill establishing a 3.15 percent flat income tax.
The House narrowly passed HB 2196, which removes the citizen's right to sue the state if the Department of Environmental Quality fails to do its job and enforce its own regulations. Voting in favor of the measure, Mesa Republican Rusty Bowers said, "The business community would rather deal with the director of ADEQ or the AG's office and not with four million vigilantes." Vigilantes, citizens--what's the difference?
The House killed HB 2425, which would have forced state officials to sell endangered species habitat acquired with Heritage Fund money once the species was no longer endangered. The bill also would have allowed Heritage Fund money to be used for maintenance and operations of state parks. Rumor has it this bill could resurface before the end of the session.
The House passed a resolution calling for a ballot proposition which would allow voters to decide if legislators should have four-year terms. Bill sponsor Andy Nichols (D-Tucson) said that the plan was "kind to the environment" because it meant fewer of those unsightly campaign signs.
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