The Skinny


Is the Tucson City Council's recent rush to restrict the sale of non-drowsy cold medicine legal? Not according to state Sen. Barbara Leff, who sponsored a successful bill creating mild restrictions on the sales of medicine containing pseudoephedrine during the last legislative session.

Pseudoephedrine, found in medicine that helps perk up cold sufferers, is also a key ingredient for tweakers who cook up methamphetamine in the home. Meth's connection to crime--TPD says half of all local property crime is meth-related--has elected officials scrambling to come up with new ways to restrict home production. (In the case of Republicans Kathleen Dunbar and Fred Ronstadt, they're also trying to cover their butts as Democrats Karin Uhlich and Nina Trasoff accuse them of being soft on meth.)

Leff told the Arizona Capitol Times that cities and towns can't impose restrictions tougher than the new state regs, which require stores that sell medicine in which pseudoephedrine is the sole active ingredient to keep the pills in a locked case or behind the counter.

The retail and pharmaceutical lobby shot down a tougher bill, which would have required medicine that contained any pseudoephedrine to be kept behind the counter and established a log book for anyone who purchased the drug.

Now some cities, including Phoenix and Tucson, are working on ordinances that include stricter restrictions, including keeping pills with any trace of pseudoephedrine behind the counter or locked up in a glass case. But Leff told the Capitol Times that municipalities that impose stricter rules are "breaking the law," because her bill also included a pre-emption clause that stated jurisdictions "shall not enact an ordinance that is more restrictive than the requirements of this section."

It looks like the whole thing is headed for court. Our advice: Switch to gel caps.


Rep. Jim Kolbe wandered into the abortion fray last week, teaming up with House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland to sponsor the Late Term Abortion Restriction Act, which would prohibit abortions after fetuses were viable unless the life or health of the mother is at stake. That's generally 22 to 24 weeks into pregnancy, according to Kolbe's office.

"The Late Term Abortion Restriction Act is a real attempt to ban partial-birth abortions and other late-term abortions by recognizing the realities of the courts and respecting the doctor-patient relationship," Kolbe said in a prepared statement.

Kolbe argues that his bill, unlike the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed a couple years back by Congress, will be found constitutional, because it bans when an abortion can take place, not the method by which an abortion is performed.

Kolbe generally works issues like free trade, Social Security and immigration reform. But he's also facing a rematch from Randy Graf, the former state representative who lost last year's GOP primary by 15 percentage points.

Is the abortion legislation an attempt to quiet opposition from pro-life conservatives? With his otherwise pro-choice voting record, we don't think he's going to suddenly win over Arizona Right to Life. One anti-Kolbe flier in last year's election had Kolbe giving a big thumb's up while a baby's skull was being crushed.

We suspect the pro-lifers are going to stick with Graf, who favors banning abortions even in cases of rape and incest. Graf only supports terminating a pregnancy if the life of the mother is at stake.


You know how it's been kinda quiet on the initiative front at the ballot box lately? Well, that looks to be coming to an end.

There are already nine petition drives afloat for the 2006 election, although it's a safe bet that a few of them--like Taxation of Decriminalized Marijuana, for example--are going to fall a bit short of the minimum number of required signature. New laws require 122,612 valid signatures from voters; constitutional amendments need 183,917.

Another sure loser: No More Plea Bargains, brought to you by Joel K. Barr, the same fella who is pushing the decriminalized marijuana effort. Under the initiative, plea bargains would be outlawed: "Every person accused of violating any law of the State of Arizona shall stand trial on every charge. No information, complaint or indictment may be withdrawn or dismissed prior to trial." Has Barbara LaWall contributed to this campaign yet?

The hottest of the hot buttons is Protect Marriage Arizona, the constitutional amendment that would both ban gay marriage and prevent the state or local jurisdictions from "creating or recognizing any legal status for unmarried persons that is similar to that of marriage." If this makes the ballot, it's probably gonna win. Added bonus: It brings conservatives to the polls when Gov. Janet Napolitano is running for re-election, although the Republican field looks like a bunch of weak sisters to us so far.

Frustrated by a lack of action at the Legislature, backers of state land reform have finally decided to take their issue to the ballot. Conserving Arizona's Future would change the rules for planning and disposal of state land, which benefits various beneficiaries, including education. As much as 690,000 acres of sensitive land would be set aside for conservation.

We're guessing this will reach the ballot, but its final fate rests on whether any of the special interests involved--educators, ranchers, builders and environmentalists--decide to run a hard negative campaign.

Dr. Mark Osterloh has resurrected his idea of getting more voters to the polls by an old-fashioned appeal to self-interest. Arizonans for Voter Rewards would allow one lucky voter to win $1 million by creating an Election Day lottery. Osterloh, who has experience working on the Healthy Arizona and Clean Elections initiatives, thinks it will increase voter participation. We're sure it will, at least among compulsive gamblers. And we're sure all those new voters will spend plenty of time studying up on the candidates and issues so they can make a wise choice when they cast their ballots.

It's just like how an independent redistricting committee will lead to competitive legislative districts. And Clean Elections will lead to contests decided by rousing debates on the real issues.

The Humane Society is running Arizonans for Humane Farms, which would require that the pregnant pigs and calves destined to become veal have pens large enough to turn around in.

Health nuts are pushing Smoke-Free Arizona, which would ban smoking in all enclosed public places and job sites. Yes, that means your favorite cocktail lounge. A boosted cigarette tax would pay for enforcement.

Filed under long shots:

· The No Taxpayer Money for Lobbyists Act, which would ban government agencies from having staffers who lobby lawmakers.

· The AZ Minimum Wage Amendment, which would increase the minimum wage from the federally mandated $5.15 per hour to $5.95 as of July 1, 2007, and to $6.75 an hour on July 1, 2008 (with annual inflation adjustments in future years).


County Attorney Barbara LaWall and her number crunchers are sure to be happy that the LaWall operation, which is spending $27 million this year, will be one of 12 Pima County departments to undergo the intense scrutiny of zero-based budgeting for 2006-07.

LaWall, a Democrat in her third term, will squirm when budget analysts and later the Board of Supervisors put her spending under the microscope and essentially force her to justify every dollar. This zero-based biz is a departure from the standard government budgeting of: "Oh, we'll just give you an inflation increase from this year's budget."

Of particular concern is LaWall's use--or misuse?--of RICO funds seized from criminals and criminal enterprises.

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