I have to admit that they had me fooled there for a while.
When the Arizona Legislature convened early this year, there was a different vibe. The Democrats had made a few modest gains in November's election, while the Republicans, aware of the whuppin' their party had taken across much of the country, were a tad more conciliatory. Things were initially cordial and the actions of some legislators even approached the long-untouched threshold of professionalism. Rhetoric was kept to a minimum, compromises were made, and noncontroversial bills were passed.
Ever the cynic, I wondered if, possibly, the reason for the change in tone of the GOP-dominated Legislature was due to the fact that, after the past few years of scorched earth, maybe the Republicans had run out of things to slash, dismantle or turn inside-out in their headlong rush to redefine our state from their jaundiced perspective. According to the Republicans, we Arizonans are supposed to take guns into church, take church into public-school science class, and take public-school science class out behind the woodshed and strip it of all its funding so that we can give more money to rich white folks who don't really need it.
But I have to admit that I was wrong. I misjudged the Republicans in the Legislature. They're not even close to being done messing with us.
• Education. If any Republican member of the Legislature claims to be a supporter of public education, it is your civic duty to smack him/her upside the head and scream, "Liar!" Fortunately, there won't be any physical violence anywhere because the Republicans have pretty much stopped even trying to make that claim. It's been all-out warfare on public education for several years now, but, cockeyed optimist that I am, I get the feeling that the tide is about to turn. They've taken their hatred a bit too far.
• Health care. The federal government is willing to pick up 100 percent of the cost of expanding Arizona's health care for poor people. After awhile, the feds will cut back to where they will only pay 90 percent of the cost, with the state picking up the other 10 percent. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me, but not to the Republicans.
There is certainly a valid argument to be made over whether the federal government is using tax revenue to expand its influence over people's lives. But that's not what this is about. This is about the fact that the guy who won the last two presidential elections doesn't look or sound like most Arizonans (or any Republicans). We can't let him get his way or Uh-murr-ca will change in ways we don't like or understand.
I hope they realize that if Arizona doesn't accept this money, it's not like the feds are going to just turn around and say, "Oh, OK, we'll just give you the money and you can use it for tax breaks for your buddies."
Yes, it is partly our taxes that they're "giving" us back, but if we don't take it, some other state will. We'd be cutting off our collective nose to spite our face. The Republicans might be able to claim that they took a principled stand, but they will have done so on the bodies of people for whom expanded health care—at very little cost—might have been lifesaving.
• Gun buybacks. The Legislature passed a bill that prevents municipalities from destroying weapons that have been obtained in gun buybacks. I would try to explain the logic in that move, but the bill was signed into law by Jan Brewer, so obviously, there's no logic involved whatsoever.
Cities buy guns to help get them off the street, but instead of being able to dispose of them, they are now forced to sell them, presumably to gun dealers, who will just turn around and, through commerce, put them right back out on the street. It's kinda like Bookmans except there's this 180-degree twist in there that turns the whole thing dark.
Having grown up in poverty, I've never spent time dreaming about being rich. I've got a fairly new Honda, a closet full of T-shirts and a couple of pairs of basketball shoes. I'm fine. I think if I were rich, I'd try to find creative ways to give it away. And before you think I'm trying to sign up for sainthood, I'm pretty sure that my generosity would be more along the lines of Elvis Presley buying a Cadillac for a window-shopping woman as opposed to Bill Gates wiping out diseases on entire continents.
However, if I did have a bunch of money, I would use some of it to purchase all of the guns that are obtained in gun buybacks and then pay to have them all shipped to the state Capitol. Let them stack up in the halls and in senators' offices. See how they like it.
Finally (this has nothing to do with the Legislature), my heart goes out to those kids on CDO's academic decathlon team who were originally told that they had won a national championship, only to be informed later—by email—that there had been a math error and they actually finished second. Jokes about math errors at an academic decathlon pretty much write themselves. This just sucks.