To celebrate the first Anniversary of Democratic Perspective, all of our members gathered in the studio to share information about the craziest bills in the Arizona State legislature. With so many from which to choose, we could have filled a day long program. But since our program is a half hour, we had to limit our choices to the most bizarre.
Put on your tin foil hat and get ready for some eye-popping craziness.
The first example of extremism is SB 1083 which would create the Arizona Special Missions Unit, a volunteer militia to be directed by the legislature and the governor. After 5 whole days of training, they would be given the power to apprehend and arrest and to seize property. The bill would also grant immunity to Unit members while “on duty.” In truth, this is little more than an armed group of vigilantes. The bill provides a budget of $1.4 million. But the potential cost to the state’s image is many times more.
HB 2563 mandates that public schools offer courses on the influence of the Bible. As Bill Timberman points out, it would seem in direct conflict with the Constitution’s establishment clause guaranteeing separation of church and state. “Schools are now going to be required to show the importance of the Bible in the US,” said Bill. “But this is a very diverse country, so what about the Book of Mormon? And with all the people of Chinese descent, why not the Analects of Confucious?”
SB 1507 is a Tea Party authored bill which would shut down any government initiative to reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency in cities, counties and the state. “It’s a bill being pushed by Arizona “Tea Party” members,” says Mike Cosentino. The bill is based on a conspiracy theory about the 1992 United Nations Rio Declaration on Evironment and Development which House Minority Leader Chad Campbell calls “the most ludicrous bill I’ve ever seen in six years in the Legislature.” Campbell says, “With this legislation, you could pretty much shut down any form of government sustainability.”
The bill stems from the so-called Agenda 21 Conspiracy, a Tea Party theory that the Rio conference represents an attempted UN takeover of our country.
Yet another anti-federal government bill would give Arizona the power to seize 25 million acres of federal land around the Grand Canyon for mining and exploitation of other resources.
Expanding on the anti-federal government theme, Steve Williamson focused on HB 2815 which would allow taxpayers to apply for tax credits equivalent to the cost of adhering to laws imposing excessive regulation. In other words, if you have to comply with a federal law regulating pollution, you presumably could apply for tax credits to repay you for the compliance. This bill is one of the conservative Goldwater Institute’s contributions to the legislative agenda.
Chuck Williamson addressed the bills that would further cut into education by saying, “If you look at states that have the best business, they are all high-tax states that have seed money available, good education, and applicable expertise. That’s why they often locate near college campuses. Good businesses don’t move for a low tax rate. The businesses that do are like call centers that cause you to compete with countries like India. That’s the exact opposite of what’s needed. We need to create small businesses that grow and create good jobs. The way to help business is to have well-educated people for them to hire.”
Dick Searle chose to talk about bills which would allow more mining in the Grand Canyon. “There is no real ban on mining in the Grand Canyon now,” said Dick. “There are already 2,000 mining claims in the area. Thanks to an 1872 mining law, foreign companies are extracting the resources and paying virtually nothing in return. I’m really concerned about the future of the environment.”
Bill pointed out that many of these bills are intended to reinterpret clauses in the Constitution that conservatives don’t like. “They want to give states supremacy over the federal government,” he said. “If I were a judge looking at the Bible bill, the intent seems to mandate religious instruction that’s useful for only a portion of the population.”
Of course, there are self-serving bills such as HB 2557 which redefines intersections. The bill was pushed by Republican Senator Frank Antenori after he received a ticket for deliberately running a red light.
SB 1231 sponsored by Senate President Steve Pierce, appropriates $250,000 to allow the state Attorney General to sue the US Forest Service for the lack of forest thinning.
And, in a new development, the legislature has passed HB 2729 to allow guns in all public buildings unless the building owner provides a guard, metal detector and gun lockers at each entrance. Looking at the consequences for just one county, if Maricopa wants to keep guns out of its buildings, it will cost $11.3 million for equipment and $19.5 million in ongoing costs.
Also, Gov. Jan Brewer has signed legislation making it a crime for a doctor to perform an abortion at or beyond 20 weeks. Doctors who violate the law could not only lose their medical licenses but also be sent to jail for up to six months.
For all of the sordid details about this legislative session, visit www.azleg.gov/bills.asp.