WHO DARES TO CALL IT AMNESTY?
Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake joined a half-dozen other senators this week to unveil a bipartisan framework for immigration reform.
They rushed their proposal out on Monday, Jan. 28, to stay ahead of President Barack Obama, who revealed his own immigration-reform proposal on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
For McCain, it's a return to a position that he held before he abandoned it as he ran for president and then reelection to the U.S. Senate. So there's a chance he might flip-flop again and end up opposing the immigration-reform bill when it comes up for a vote.
Flake has also favored this kind of approach in the past as a member of Congress, but when he launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate, he started talking a lot more about fences and security and a lot less about helping undocumented workers get legal status.
Flake spokeswoman Genevieve Rozansky tells The Range via email: "Sen. Flake believes that now is the time to move forward with immigration reform that includes increased border security, a workable program to address future labor needs, and a plan to deal with those already in the country illegally without granting them amnesty."
Of course, that all depends on your definition of "amnesty." We've noted in the past that folks in the GOP base tend to have a very broad definition of the word—i.e., anything short of either rounding up the estimated 11 million undocumented workers in the United States or making life so miserable for them that they "self-deport" amounts to amnesty.
That particular attitude has made resolving the status of those undocumented workers the most difficult knot to untie in any immigration-reform plan, but it also had a lot to do with why more than 70 percent of Latinos voted for Obama in the presidential race. And that percentage has a lot to do with why Republicans are now pushing immigration reform.
GOP nativists are likely to be disappointed in this struggle. The Senate plan calls for allowing people who have entered the country through unlawful channels or overstayed their visas to apply for legal status and even allows a path to citizenship, provided they haven't been involved in serious criminal activity and pay fines and back taxes.
This is not good news to the likes of Jesse Kelly, the clownish Tea Partier who split town after losing two congressional races to take a job in Washington, despite all those protestations about how he hated politics. Kelly posted on his Facebook page that the Republican Party is now "officially the 'France Party' instead of the GOP. Just surrender continuously and hope for the best."
And Kelly's disenchanted post came before Buzzfeed broke the news that House Republicans are also preparing an immigration-reform package. What are true believers going to do after a betrayal like this?
MORE SEWAGE AT THE LEGISLATURE
The deadline has come and gone for lawmakers to file bills at the Arizona Legislature. That doesn't mean that we won't see new legislation emerge this session; it's easy enough to file a relatively uncontroversial bills that renames an alleyway and then turns it into a striker vehicle to put landmines along the border.
We'll be looking at more of the bills next week, but one that caught our eye is HB 2492, which repeals a law passed last session that gave Marana more legal backing for its effort to snatch a sewer plant away from Pima County.
HB 2492 is sponsored by a group of Southern Arizona lawmakers, including Republicans Adam Kwasman and Ethan Orr and Democrats Bruce Wheeler and Victoria Steele.
The fight over the sewer plant has been going on for years now. Marana has tried various ways to take the plant because they want to have the wastewater that's produced in order to have more water credits, which allows for more growth in the future; Pima County has fought back and frequently prevailed in court.
Last year, Marana did an end run around the courts and got a law passed that allows any municipality to take control of sewage treatment plants from a county government provided the municipality follows a few steps, including paying off any remaining debt on the facility and having a vote of the citizens to approve the grab.
Repealing that law was a condition of a settlement offer floated to Marana from Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry. The county has agreed to sell Marana the sewer plant for $18.2 million, which is the remaining principal and interest on the loan that built the plant via a bond measure. The settlement also establishes a fixed boundary for existing Marana homes, according to Huckelberry, which should prevent future squabbling over serving residents.
Huckelberry says he pushed for the settlement because "it ends this contentious debate that has gone on for too long. If the legislation, which was ill-advised in the first place, is repealed, then we're basically whole."
By repealing last year's law, Huckelberry also gets assurance that future communities won't try to seize other portions of the wastewater system, ensuring that it remains a regional system.
"We wanted to have that precedent erased from law permanently," Huckelberry says. "The most important component was basically not being threatened by this law 10 years down the road by somebody else who may or may not even be in existence today—for example, the community of Vail."
ELECTION 2013: INCUMBENT FEVER
Barring an unexpected change in state law, three seats on the Tucson City Council are up for grabs this year.
Newly minted Democrat Steve Kozachik, who jumped from the Republican Party earlier this month, filed last week to run for the midtown Ward 6 seat.
"There are a lot of really important things that are underway," says Kozachik, who wants to continue his work on water-policy issues, budget challenges, downtown redevelopment, the future of the Broadway widening and firearms regulation. "This isn't just about filling potholes."
Democrat Richard Fimbres, who is completing his first term in south-central Ward 5, filed to run back in early January. And in north-central Ward 3, Karin Uhlich filed her paperwork on Jan. 18.
"We're at a real crossroads in Tucson in terms of moving toward a better pattern for growth," says Uhlich, who wants to continue working on water policy, the issues related to infill development and improvements to the transit system.
So far, none of the Democrats has drawn a Republican opponent.
Kozachik made a few waves last week when he floated the idea that the city could save some money if it just skipped the election this year, given that the state passed a law last year that said that all city elections must occur in the fall of even-numbered years to coincide with presidential and gubernatorial elections.
"One way we could save about $2M this year has to do with the state and their consolidated elections bill—the one that places all elections in even numbered years," Kozachik wrote in his newsletter. "They have to go back and fix the language this session since we are due to have an election this fall. There are options they can consider, some of which include having us run for one- or three-year terms this fall, or skipping this year's election altogether and synchronizing us in a 2014 election. If left to me, I'd certainly opt for that. I believe people are just suffering election-cycle fatigue."
Kozachik walked back that proposal earlier this week, saying he didn't want to skip this year's election and was just trying to make the point that the Legislature had passed a law that left no direction to the cities about how to structure the elections this year. He told The Skinny that he fully expects to run for office this year.
The city of Tucson is fighting the new law in court, arguing that the city's charter authority allows it to schedule elections when it wants.