By Jim Nintzel & Sidney Philips
THAT ZANY CFC bill took another step toward becoming law last week as state senators debated the measure on the floor.
The Demos did their level best to derail the legislation, including adding an amendment which would have sealed the state inside a big biosphere-like bubble, but to no avail. Sen. Tom Patterson (R-Phoenix) was miffed at the Demos' efforts, griping they were out to make the state look ridiculous. We don't imagine the GOP needs any help in that department.
There's no doubt the CFC bill is blatantly unconstitutional, since a state law cannot supersede federal legislation. The House Rules Committee attorney, the Senate Rules Committee attorney and the Legislative Council have all pointed out this slight legal problem, but that didn't stop the Senate Rules Committee from allowing it onto the Senate floor. Sen. Austin Turner (R-Waddell), the chair of the Rules Committee, felt the Senate should have a chance to vote on it, which raises the question: Why have a Rules Committee at all, if it's not going to ensure bills are constitutional?
Meanwhile, the dreaded Environmental Audit Bill (SB 1290), which would give polluters immunity from prosecution if they voluntarily report violations to the Department of Environmental Quality, was headed for the House floor this week.
Rep. Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) seems determined to see the environmental audit bill pass. In a caucus with fellow Republicans, Bowers announced the bill wouldn't affect the attorney general's office one bit, even though AG staffers had testified at length against the legislation.
Asked how county attorneys felt about the bill, Bowers said he couldn't remember. Guess he wasn't paying much attention when their lobbyists had appeared before his committee to oppose the bill.
Bowers defended the immunity portion of the bill--and the provision which makes reports secret--as a "Fifth Amendment kind of thing." Hmmm--we hadn't realized Motorola had become an individual citizen.
Bowers requested fellow legislators talk only to him about the bill, since he's the ultimate authority on it. But when a lawmaker asked him if the bill requires polluters to notify their neighbors if adjoining property is affected by a spill, Bowers could only answer, "I don't know."
Well, we checked it out, Rusty--and guess what? It doesn't require any such thing.
But, hey, if Rep. Marilyn Jarrett (R-Phoenix) has her way, Bowers could be getting a raise, along with his fellow legislators. During a discussion of the bill that would increase per diem payments for lawmakers from outside Maricopa County, Jarrett (whom we suspect couldn't make a motion without a script and a baby sitter) offered a floor amendment increasing the per diem for herself and other Phoenix-area members.
Jarrett added a provision that would allow the Maricopa lawmakers to turn down her proposed increase. Guess she hadn't read the bill too carefully--that's something they can already do.
Speaking of people who haven't done their homework, Rep. Jeff Groscost "didn't have the bill in front of him" and thus couldn't answer questions about the testimony his States' Rights and Mandates Committee had heard about the proposed Arizona presidential primary. You might remember we talked about this last week--it's a $2.5 million election that doesn't select delegates and doesn't include Democrats. Gov. J. Fife Symington III is pushing it to boost the presidential stock of his pal Phil Gramm. Maybe you can just consider it a campaign contribution to the lovable Texas senator.
Symington's tough talk against the federal government has finally paid off, by the way. House members are taking him at his word that he doesn't want any more federal involvement or money in Arizona, so they won't vote for his proposal to increase AHCCCS eligiblity levels to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. It's a plan that would save both money and lives by making more federal dollars available for health care, but it also means "expanding the welfare rolls," so the proposal is most likely dead.
"This kind of bill will destroy America!" exclaimed Rep. Jean McGrath, the Glendale granny who sponsored the aforementioned CFC bill, as she argued against the compassionate health care legislation.
It wasn't the only time House Republicans turned on Symington. During a caucus last week, GOP representatives had some unflattering remarks about his administration. While discussing a bill that would fund a telecommunications office to the tune of $250,000, the Republicans questioned whether that would be enough money to cover the salary of one of Fife's high-paid staffers.
But our favorite moment came when the caucus was discussing Fife's proposed Arizona Military Academy, which would be an alternative education program for troublemaking students.
When Rep. Becky Jordan (R-Glendale) asked if the school was a glorified reform school for boys, Rep. Dan Schottel (R-Tucson) stood up to clarify matters.
"It'll be bisexual," he assured her.
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