Legislative Landslide

Russell Pearce unveils his new immigration bill. Plus: guns on campus, stripping health care from the poor and a challenge to birthright citizenship

Senate President Russell Pearce, who ignited a national controversy with SB 1070 last year, unveiled his new immigration bill last week.

The bill does just about everything that Pearce could dream up to make the lives of undocumented workers and their families a living hell.

Police would throw illegal immigrants who drive cars in jail. Police would be obligated to seize their vehicles for auction, with the proceeds swallowed by the state. School officials would be required to see proof of legal residency before students could register for elementary schools, and anyone who entered the country illegally would be banned from attending universities or community colleges. Anyone who allows an undocumented worker to live with them in public housing would be subject to eviction. Businesses that don't use E-Verify would be shut down. And some federal regulations would not be recognized.

Senate Bill 1611 passed the Senate Appropri-ations Committee during a session that started last Tuesday, Feb. 22, and ran past midnight.

Among the other bills passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee during that session:

• SB 1308 and SB 1309 are two bills that would challenge birthright citizenship, as established by the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, by creating a new form of Arizona citizenship.

• SB 1519 would eliminate the state's entire Medicare program. Tom Betlach, director of AHCCCS for the Brewer administration, warned that the state stood to lose $7 billion in federal matching funds that support the entire health-care system in Arizona.

"The economic devastation that would result from the sudden elimination of $7 billion in federal participation would be crippling," Betlach said in written testimony. "Unemployment would skyrocket. The demand for other government services would drain resources. And Arizona's health-care network—hospitals, pharmacies, doctor's offices and so many other ancillary services—would be irreparably damaged."

Betlach added that the state now provides $2 billion to AHCCCS, which doesn't even cover the $2.2 billion that's needed to care for 50,000 elderly, physically disabled and developmentally disabled individuals. He warned that SB 1519 would leave 1.3 million Arizonans without coverage.

"This bill does not even provide sufficient funding for our most frail citizens," Betlach said. "How would we care for these citizens? Where would they go? ... The level of uncompensated care Arizona's health-care system would have to absorb would be untenable. Talented doctors, nurses and others in the health-care field would flee the state, and Arizonans would be left with a health-care system inadequate to meet our needs."

• SB 1405 would require hospitals to check the immigration status of patients before admitting them in non-emergency situations.

• SCR 1014 would ask voters to eliminate the Arizona Board of Regents.

• SB 1380 is a striker sponsored by Sen. Frank Antenori of Tucson that would require the random drug-testing of welfare recipients.

• SB 1610 would make the Colt Army revolver the official handgun of Arizona.

State Sen. Al Melvin, a member of the committee who represents the Catalina foothills and Oro Valley areas, voted in favor of all the bills.

At the Tucson Weekly's online Blogislature feature, we also noted these bills were on the move in recent days:

• SB 1393, which prohibits federal regulations of greenhouse gases in Arizona, moved closer to passage with a vote of the Senate Committee of the Whole last week. SB 1393 is called the "Freedom to Breathe Act" by sponsor Sen. Sylvia Allen and the "License to Pollute Act" by Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr.

• House Bill 2443, which would require women to sign affidavits saying that they weren't terminating their pregnancies based on the fetus' race or sex, passed through the House of Representatives on a 41-18 vote last week. Republican sponsor Rep. Steve Montenegro of Surprise said the bill was necessary to prevent discrimination against the unborn, while Democratic opponents said there's no evidence that women are seeking abortions because of race or sex, and argued that the proposed law was another way to harass women who seek to terminate a pregnancy.

• SB 1201, which loosens regulations prohibiting firearms in public buildings and at public gatherings, passed the Rules Committee on Monday, Feb. 28.

• SB 1467, which permits concealed weapons on college campuses, passed the Rules Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 23.

UA President Robert Shelton issued a statement opposing firearms on campus earlier this week.

"The notion that having faculty, staff or students toting weapons across campus would somehow make everyone safer is staggeringly naïve," Shelton said. "Bringing guns into classrooms creates enormous problems for law enforcement, which is why all the university police chiefs in Arizona have spoken vigorously against this idea. The danger posed by guns is real, and well-documented. Bringing guns into classrooms simply increases the threat to those on campus. That is unacceptable.

"Universities provide a unique environment that is dependent on open and vigorous debate," Shelton continued. "Introducing guns into classrooms would dramatically and negatively impact the ability to engage in the exchange of ideas. Instead, we would see the intimidation inherent when guns are present—something that is antithetical to the very idea of a university."

• The "No Taxpayer Subsidies for Political Campaigns Act," which would ask voters to ban the spending of public money on political campaigns, passed the Senate on a 20-9 vote. SCR 1025, which is now headed for consideration by the House of Representatives, is a back-door way of killing Clean Elections by blocking the distribution of dollars to candidates and sweeping the funds back into the general fund.

Clean Elections Executive Director Todd Lang urged lawmakers who had used the program to launch their careers to spare the program.

Todd, you probably shouldn't take credit for creating the current crop of clowns masquerading as lawmakers. It's Exhibit A of why we think Clean Elections has been an utter disaster for the state.