The Skinny


We mentioned last week that the initiative to restrict payday loans is in trouble, while the initiative to extend payday loans is likely to make the ballot.

But that's not the only pair of dueling initiatives out there; there's also Support Legal Arizona Workers vs. Stop Illegal Hiring. Support Legal Arizona Workers is the addled brainchild of Don Goldwater, the half-wit nephew of the late and legendary Barry Goldwater, and state Rep. Russell Pearce. It would permanently revoke the business license of any employer who is caught with an illegal immigrant on the payroll. The one-strike-and-you're-out initiative was launched when state lawmakers were considering Pearce's employer-sanctions bill last year. Even though they passed the bill, Russell and co. went ahead with their petition drive, mumbling something about how lawmakers could still amend the law if it didn't have voter protection. Yes, it's certainly a terrible notion that we would give the Legislature an option to change a law if it doesn't work as intended.

The business community, understandably concerned that a bunch of knotheads were writing regulations that could put them out of business, countered with their own initiative, Stop Illegal Hiring.

The biz gang is spinning their effort as a crackdown on under-the-table hiring, something the other initiative doesn't address. And to sweeten the pot, they use the fines from the initiative to help schools and hospitals. Stop Illegal Hiring would eventually strip an employer of a business license for knowingly having illegal immigrants on the payroll, but it includes a variety of loopholes and defenses that aren't in Pearce's initiative.

The game here is obvious: The biz boys figure that voters will support Pearce's plan if it makes the ballot, so they hope to get more votes so that their initiative will take precedence.

Ultimately, that's why the fixes to the employer-sanctions bill recently signed into law by Gov. Janet Napolitano may not make much of a difference. We suspect the issue will ultimately be decided by voters, though if Pearce and co. can't come through with the signatures, the fight will be over pretty early.


One initiative that won't be on the ballot: Fair Districts, Fair Elections, which would have tried to fix the failings of the previous redistricting initiative that voters passed in 2000.

A trip in the wayback machine will remind us that the Y2K initiative--funded primarily by Democratic sugar daddy Jim Pederson--was designed to ensure more competitive legislative and congressional districts. The logic: Allowing lawmakers to draw district boundaries meant that they would tilt them toward their own partisan advantage. Without competitive districts, Democrats would be locked into a permanent minority; extreme candidates would prevail in primaries and have a free ride in the general election; and political reporters would have little to do after the primaries were over.

The initiative stripped lawmakers of their redistricting authority and handed it over to an independent redistricting commission--whose members ended up drawing a map that had fewer competitive districts than lawmakers had created 10 years earlier.

So that went well.

A legal fight over the legislative map has been going on since the boundaries were drawn, but the redistricting commission has successfully argued that federal requirements--such as preserving communities of interest and protecting minority rights--took precedence over considering the competitive makeup of the districts.

The backers of Fair Districts, Fair Elections decided to fix that by launching a new initiative drive last year that specifically required the commission to give more consideration to creating districts that are "as competitive as practicable while respecting geography and community."

State Rep. Jonathan Paton countered the Fair Districts, Fair Elections initiative drive by proposing that the Legislature put an alternative proposition on the ballot that would have called for the statewide election of the redistricting commission. That seems to have scared Fair Districts, Fair Elections into shutting down. They called off the effort last week, leading Paton to kill the legislative referendum. Too bad for Pederson--he'd dumped at least $35,000 into the abandoned effort. But we suppose that's just pocket change to him.


The Arizona Republican Party had its statewide convention last weekend to pick delegates for the national convention this summer.

Arizona Sen. John McCain's crew kept a tight leash on the process, for a couple of reasons: One, they figured it was time to reward their friends and allies; and two, they didn't want what's left of the kooky right wing that hates McCain to cause any embarrassment when he claims the presidential nomination at the convention.

The delegates from Congressional District 8 were Mike Hellon, who has spearheaded McCain's Southern Arizona campaign; attorney John Munger, the former county chair; and Linda White, the former county director who is now working for the state party. State Rep. Jonathan Paton landed a spot as an alternate in case there's trouble with one of the three delegates.

One guy who had a bad day at the convention: Former state lawmaker Randy Graf, the conservative darling who was blown out in his effort to go to Congress in 2006 by Democrat Gabrielle Giffords after he managed to win a five-way primary.

Graf tried to land a spot as a delegate from CD8 and lost. Then he tried to win an alternate slot and lost. Then he tried to win a spot as a delegate-at-large and lost.

Looks like Randy's stock is on the decline these days.


Tom Jenney of the Arizona chapter of Americans for Prosperity is sending out a stupid oath that he wants politicians to sign: The Tax and Spending Pledge.

He's asking politicians to vow not to support increasing government spending at all--a generally absurd notion, given that inflation alone means that costs of providing services is on the rise, even before figuring in population growth and the additional demand for government services that comes along with hard times. Furthermore, the politicians are supposed to promise that they won't support any increases in impact fees or allow any increase in the overall amount of property taxes that are collected, even figuring in new growth. And they're asked to oppose any ballot initiative that would raise taxes.

It's bad enough that some spending hawks want budget growth strictly limited to inflation and population increases, with no regard for the possibility that there could be value in, say, infrastructure investment during the good times. For example, the state could have spent a couple hundred million more on widening highways or fixing up rundown university buildings instead of giving money away to the Arizona's wealthiest citizens with the last round of income-tax cuts.

But the idea that government shouldn't even account for inflation? Or that elected officials somehow lack principle if they support a voter-approved tax increase, no matter what the merits may be? That's utterly simpleminded.

Here's the problem of reducing government to a formula: Complex problems require complex and flexible decisions. When you put your brain on autopilot, you're not able to consider complex solutions.

Government shouldn't be reduced to a formula, and politicians shouldn't be reduced to robots. We're not electing computers to serve us in office; we're electing people who should be smart enough to consider a variety of options when faced with a variety of problems.

Voters should appreciate candidates who tell Jenney--or anyone else with a stupid pledge--to get lost.

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