Money can’t buy you love, but it CAN buy you a legislator

In the last presidential race, a handful of billionaires handed over millions to their favored candidate to try and sway the outcome of the race. One such billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, gave $95 million to political committees supporting Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.

Imagine how many lives could have been improved, even saved with a $95 million contribution to charities in need.

I don’t think any of us are delusional enough to believe that a donation of that scope and size isn’t given without an expectation of something in return. Money buys power, and in politics, power means influence and influence means votes. Wealthy donors on both sides of the aisle are buying votes. It’s that simple.

In Arizona, our legislators are looking to lap up some of that money. With guidance from Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and the Goldwater Institute, Republican J.D. Mesnard sponsored a bill to increase individual contributions to legislators more than ten-fold. That’s TEN times the previous donation limit.

HB2593, signed into law by the Governor last week, does several things to ensure wealthy constituents and powerful PACs (Political Action Committees) have the power to buy legislators.

The revised law allows individuals to give $2500 to candidates for a primary election and another $2500 for the general election. The prior limit was $488 total. There was no distinction between primary and general.

Put another way, if it takes $50,000 to run a successful state legislative race, candidates need only appeal to 10 individual donors. In reality, that number could be even less because the bill also changes the limits on PAC money.

Before, PACs had a $2,000 limit. It was raised to $5,000.

But what’s even more insidious is that PACs no longer have a limit on the total number of dollars they can give in an election year. In other words, instead of being able to influence a handful of races, powerful PACs can now influence as many races as they want.

Limits on the total amounts given by individuals have also been eliminated, meaning an individual can give $5,000 to as many candidates he/she wants as well as many thousands of dollars to PACs, political parties and independent expenditures.

The Republicans who support this legislation say it’s a way to combat “dark money.” Please. Do they really think voters are gullible enough to believe that? This bill does nothing to shed light on the donors behind “dark money,” nothing to end the money laundering that occurred in the last election.

What the bill does is thwart the will of Arizonans who voted to make it more difficult for a handful of wealthy individuals to buy elections. Arizonans approved Clean Elections to try and remove money as the deciding factor in a race. Regardless of whether or not the bill is deemed constitutional, it is clearly NOT written in the interest of furthering the will of a voter-approved initiative.

This bill isn’t about the will of the voters. It’s about making life easier for legislators. They don’t need to appeal to a wide majority of citizens, just a small minority of wealthy donors with an agenda.

It’s a win-win for legislators and special interest groups and a lose-lose for representative democracy.

Posted in campaign contributions, elections, Featured Articles, Main Article | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bisbee is ‘Standing on the Side of Love’

The Unitarian Universalist Association started an advocacy campaign a while back called “Standing on the Side of Love.” They believe much of what’s happening in today’s world is predicated by hate and fear, and if we “harness the power of love,” we can overcome oppression, exclusion and violence.

Compare that message to the one given by the Center for Arizona Policy, the organization run by Cathi Herrod. On hearing about Bisbee’s ordinance to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, CAP threatened to bankrupt the small community by bringing litigation against them.

Herrod and team do not believe in the love shared by same-sex partners, often referring to it as “abnormal” and “against God’s law.”

But who’s God is Herrod referring to? There are many Christians and several Christian churches across this country that vehemently disagree with Herrod. They embrace not only LGBT members and civil unions but also gay marriage.

And if churches and congregations are open and willing to perform these marriage ceremonies, what right does the government have to deny them recognition under the law? What right does the state of Arizona have to deny a city the right to recognize civil unions within that city’s boundaries?

Take a moment to consider what the ordinance does. It allows same-sex couples the same rights as married individuals when dealing with certain issues related to inheritance, joint property, guardianship, and adoption.

In other words, in the eyes of the residents of Bisbee, Arizona, same-sex parents and their children are not seen as a “problem” but rather as a valuable part of their community with the same legal rights as other families. They want their families — all of them — to succeed.

Cathi Herrod and the Arizona legislators who bow to her authority want these families outlawed and ostracized.

Bisbee’s ordinance does not change state law. Arizona has no law on civil unions, meaning it neither allows nor denies them, and Bisbee’s ordinance does not force other cities or the state to recognize the civil unions granted within the town’s borders.

But maybe, if we’re lucky, other cities will follow Bisbee’s example and civil unions will spread throughout the state. It’s only a matter of time before gay marriage is not only legalized but also normalized. Younger generations have already embraced it.

It’s only a matter of time until bans on gay marriage seem as antiquated as bans on interracial marriage. God willing, that time will come sooner rather than later.

Until then, Bisbee stands alone but on the right side of history, the law and love.

Posted in Bisbee, Featured Articles, LGBT, Main Article, religion | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Still smoldering in the ashes, Phoenix far from rising

The continuation of the food tax is the least of Phoenix’s worries. The Great Recession along with Arizona’s housing bust ensured we’d feel the pain of an economy dependant on growth for many, many years.

Though the Mayor is getting a lot of flack for a broken campaign promise, the reality is we were misled by many politicians as well as the media. Though it may not have been intentional, good news of a recovering economy seems to have clouded the fact that we are nowhere near the level of revenues we had prior to the recession.

Yes, the economy is growing again, and yes, housing prices are finally starting to climb. But take a moment to remember how far we fell just a few short years ago.

In 2010, the city was facing a $277 million budget shortfall. We needed the food tax. Residents had no desire to fire cops or close libraries.

Repealing the tax should not have been central to any mayoral or city council candidate’s campaign, and the media should have seriously questioned the reality of finding hundreds of millions of dollars in savings without substantial cuts to necessary services.

The Mayor is eating crow, and that’s not a bad thing. He needs to start an honest conversation with residents, letting them know we are not out of the woods yet. Not even close.

Sales taxes may be increasing, but property taxes are still woefully low as is state shared revenue (the money cities receive from the state). The city has yet to reinstate many of the services they cut as well as compensation levels for police, which were reduced by 3.2 percent.

This year’s proposed budget, with the food tax in place, only restores 1.6 percent of pay concessions and continues to cut other city employee positions. The real question here isn’t whether or not we need to keep the food tax through 2015. The real question is, what will happen after 2015?

Make no mistake about it, Phoenix has a pending public safety crisis. I’ve written about the city’s loss of police officers, the length of time it takes to replace those officers, and the fact that the city still has no definitive plans to begin recruiting or hiring.

Keeping the food tax two more years won’t result in additional police officers. The tax is filling a huge revenue hole, not creating room for growth. The fact is, if the city doesn’t drastically restructure its budget, the food tax won’t be going away in 2015 and will likely become permanent.

Residents should be asking the city manager and council some tough questions right now, like how the city will respond to public safety needs in the future if it cannot operate efficiently enough in the here and now, even with an additional revenue source in place.

Do those in the city manager’s office or on the council believe revenues will improve so dramatically after 2014 that the city will be able to both reinstate lost services and pay cuts AND hire additional officers?

Considering the city is currently dealing with a revenue projection shortfall of almost $20 million, I’m skeptical.

Phoenicians need to know how much services cost and more importantly, what they deliver. How do the city’s expenditures and revenues compare with other large cities nationwide? What services, if any, are residents willing to do without? And if we find we cannot or do not want to live without these services, are we willing to find additional revenue sources?

These are the tough questions that we have punted on for far too long. Though the city has made great progress in creating a smaller and more efficient government, economic realities have ensured we will not have the type of revenue streams we had in the past for a very long time to come.

Phoenix can rise from the ashes but only if we stop depending on mythical outcomes and start dealing in actuality.

Posted in Featured Articles, Main Article, Phoenix budget, public safety | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

‘Show Me Your Genitals’ bill more glamorous than crimes against kids

“While the legislature’s leadership ignores efforts to target pimps who sell children for sex, Kavanagh is worried about bathroom etiquette.”

This was a quote on my Facebook page from retired Mesa police officer Bill Richardson after I expressed my dismay over Representative John Kavanagh’s bill, SB1432, which would criminalize using the wrong bathroom.

Kavanagh is attempting to undo the City of Phoenix’s anti-discrimination ordinance that was recently expanded to include protections for the LGBT and disabled communities. Richardson speaks about the ridiculousness of Kavanagh’s bill while noting that the legislature has chosen to ignore valid public safety measures that would actually help children.

He speaks about one measure in detail in his column this week for the East Valley Tribune, saying:

Sex crimes captivate the audience, but why not the Arizona legislature? I find it interesting the number of Arizona folks who are captivated and fascinated with sex crimes. It’s like they can’t get enough of it.

I hear constant talk about the media-created, soap-opera-like atmosphere surrounding the Jodi Arias murder trial. People are fascinated with the sex talk and titillating tales of what Arias and Travis Alexander did before she admittedly murdered him.

No doubt the media loves it. Sex sells and — media-driven voyeurism sells really big in Arizona!

In an opinion piece in last Saturday’s Arizona Republic, Cindy McCain – wife to Sen. John McCain and a highly successful business executive and known global humanitarian — stated that “Phoenix is a major hub for this activity and is often listed as one of the top spots in the U.S. for child sex trafficking.”

Imagine that, Arizona as a top spot for child sex trafficking.

When you consider Arizona’s continued lack of a strategic statewide plan and effective state agency to take on the organized crime elements that sell kids for sex, Arizona is a great spot trafficking in children.

I wrote in my March 5 Tribune column (“Recent Valley freeway snarls only part of the issue with DPS”) that “Without a centralized and coordinated effort like was once the case with DPS taking the lead in organized crime investigations, the public suffers and the criminal’s profit. No wonder organized crime loves Arizona.”

While the public’s anti-crime focus is kept on the border and billions and billions of dollars are spent to intercept illegal aliens and drugs — to questionable success — organized criminal activities continue to flourish on our city streets. Human trafficking whether it is for sweatshops or the sex trade has always been a major profit center for organized crime.

In Arizona, it’s no secret among law enforcement officials that the streets are controlled by gangs with ties to the Mexican mafia prison gang and Mexico based organized crime groups.

For whatever reasons, Arizona’s policy and lawmakers continue to ignore the threat these groups present to Arizona’s sustainability and quality of life. The legislature’s neglect of statewide law enforcement efforts is legendary.

When you look at its recent performance, it’s easy to see how Arizona went from being one of the best in attacking organized crime to being a state that’s a major destination and transshipment hub in organized crime’s North American supply chain.

McCain pointed out in her op-ed piece the legislature’s latest gift to crime and criminals was House Judiciary Chairman Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, refusing to schedule a hearing for a bill to help law enforcement target the growing problem of child prostitution. House Bill 2569 would have created “higher penalties for pimps and traffickers than for johns when the victim is 15, 16 or 17.

“This bill is relatively simple and straightforward, and just the start of legislation needed to address the larger problem of human trafficking in Arizona,” she added.

Kiddie pimps would be looking at up to 37 years in prison had this bill moved forward and become law.

McCain pointed out “Sex traffickers target children because of their vulnerability and gullibility, as well as the market ‘demand’ for young victims. Studies show pimps prey on victims as young as 12.”

Farnsworth’s refusal to hold a hearing killed anti-organized crime legislation that would help police and prosecutors attack Arizona’s flesh mongers.

But what else would you expect from our legislature’s leadership — a group that has made ignoring Arizona’s crime problems its usual way of doing business?

McCain is known for her courage. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty doing what’s right. It’s too bad our legislature doesn’t have the same commitment and courage to protect Arizona’s children and communities from organized crime and sexual predators.

People in Arizona need to understand that by prioritizing “bathroom ID” laws over things like child sex trafficking, our legislators are putting sensationalism above public safety. And it’s our children who pay the price for these legislators’ theatrics.

Posted in anti-discrimination, Featured Articles, LGBT, Main Article, sex crimes | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Holding schools accountable without punishing kids

Arizona’s first school accountability bill is working its way through the state legislature. SB1444 would base a portion of schools’ state funding on performance, starting at 1 percent the first year and incrementally increasing to a total of 5 percent after five years.

The ‘performance funding’ as it’s called, is based on two factors: overall test scores and school improvement (i.e. improving from a D to a C).

Many critics, particularly Democrats, are skeptical. They fear the plan will hurt students in poorer districts, particularly those districts with a high percentage of English Language Learners (ELL) and low-income students. These are the students most in need of a great education. Decreasing funding (if the schools fail to improve) seems counter to the needs of these students.

And yet, as a parent who has two school-aged children, I cannot subscribe to the same old argument that funding is the solution to our education crisis. Yes, funding is important, but there are many other factors that need to be taken into account as well, and parents with students at schools with D and F rankings understandably want better results and greater accountability.

As other countries continue to make strides in education, the United States remains stagnant. We are losing because we refuse to change. We seem attached to a system that may have worked fine many decades ago but is clearly not working so great anymore. And as a mom and someone who values education, I don’t want to wait around anymore for the system to magically repair itself. It won’t.

Performance funding is one just idea, and while this alone will not fix our schools, it will force them to think outside the box. And that, I believe, is exactly what we need if we’re going to reform education. Bold ideas! Continuing the status quo should not be an option.

While I would prefer the majority of the performance funding be based on yearly academic improvement instead of a split between improvement and test scores, the bill is at least a good start in the accountability conversation. A conversation that was, by the way, spearheaded by the Arizona Ready Education Council, which includes education professionals as well as business leaders.

Another bill working its way through the legislature is HB2488, which would provide an 8 percent increase in funding for schools who switch to a 200-day calendar. This is the type of targeted, increased funding that makes sense, but like all education bills, this one has its enemies as well.

Tea partiers in the House have voted against this, saying it would result in the state raising children, which I believe is code for “we don’t want to spend money on education even if it’s targeted funding.”

A 200-day calendar would be most beneficial for low-income students. These are the very students who do not have the means to afford summer enrichment programs and tend to be most at risk for “summer brain drain.” This is one way to help bridge the achievement gap between low and high-income students. The bill passed the House (with 14 nays) and is now with the Senate Education Committee. It needs to pass.

Another bill receiving all kinds of negative attention is HB2047, which would make the transition from AIMS to Common Core. Many of the same legislators who were opposed to funding a 200-day calendar are also opposed to this bill but for a very curious reason. They believe it supports the Agenda 21 conspiracy theory.

Not familiar with that one? Basically, it’s the belief that Agenda 21, which is a NON-BINDING plan created by the United Nations to help governments implement sustainable development, is actually a plan to create a one-world government. It was signed by the first President Bush and has since helped many local governments, those run by both Republicans and Democrats, devise ways to conserve natural resources.

The conspiracy folks even have a list of key words they deem are traceable to the Agenda 21 takeover. These words include: sustainable, international baccalaureate, affordable housing, walkable communities, and Common Core Curriculum (to name just a few – click here for a complete link).

Apparently, if we hold our students to a higher standard or do anything that promotes sustainability (the biggest swear word), we will be subjecting ourselves to a takeover by the United Nations.

While that sounds incredibly silly to most of us, it is a huge part of the tea party’s philosophy, and a huge part of what makes our legislature the object of ridicule. It is also an unfortunate reason many good bills fail to see the light of day, even when those bills have Republican sponsors.

School accountability can and should happen in conjunction with a hand up for those students most in need of support. But it won’t happen if we keep electing legislators who quash education reform because of some asinine idea that “outcome based education” (naughty key word) will result in a UN takeover. Nor will it happen if we continue to cling to an outdated system that has failed many of our students and put us in a race to the bottom.

Posted in conspiracy theories, education, Featured Articles, Main Article | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

From gun buybacks to gay rights, City of Phoenix making headlines

On this week’s Sunday Square Off, host Brahm Resnik asks, “Who’s school safety plan is better? Mayor Stanton’s or Sheriff Arpaio’s?”

 

In the race for Arizona’s Attorney General, will Terry Goddard challenge Felecia Rotellini in the Democratic primary? Will anyone in the Republican party challenge Tom Horne?

 

LGBT Ordinance… good or bad for Phoenix?

 

The roundtable makes political predictions.

 

Posted in anti-discrimination, elections, Featured Articles, guns, LGBT, Main Article, Sunday Squareoff | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Journalism 101: Reporters inform, columnists persuade

Twenty years ago when I was in journalism school – before smart phones and iPads and Twitter — I was taught that reporters report the news while columnists editorialize. In other words if you’re a reporter or a news anchor, your goal is to inform your audience, and you should never infuse your personal beliefs into the news you cover. This, I was told, would ruin your credibility.

These days, the line between reporter and commentator is murky, at best. The advent of cable news and social media has confused viewers (and apparently journalists) about these differing roles.

I’ve been criticized by readers of this blog for expressing my opinion or not giving enough attention to the other side of the story. Except, just like an editorial, the purpose of a blog is not to simply report the news but rather to influence opinion and persuade one’s audience.

The purpose of a newscast, however, is strictly about objectivity and giving coverage to both sides of an issue. That doesn’t or shouldn’t mean that reporters fail to call out their experts when they misquote a source or give inaccurate information. It doesn’t mean a reporter shouldn’t ask difficult questions or investigate government agencies. Indeed, I believe holding our elected officials accountable is one of the most important functions of the press.

But when a reporter or news anchor takes a controversial issue and seemingly takes a side on the controversy, all under the guise of starting a conversation, I find myself more than a little annoyed.

This week there was an incident on Facebook that demonstrated how easy it is for a reporter to cross the line from information to persuasion. On a public Facebook page, a Valley anchor posed a question to his audience about Phoenix’s proposal to expand its anti-discrimination protections to LGBT and disabled individuals. He referred to it as the “Bathroom Bill” (which was enough to inflame many readers), then stated, “If passed, transgendered men would be able to use the womens bathroom in public places like restaurants, churches and clubs.”

That statement wouldn’t be controversial if it was true, but it is woefully inaccurate. First off, the ordinance doesn’t even address bathroom use, which means an assumption was used to sound like a fact. Secondly, the ordinance contained a religious exemption, which was clearly stated and made public in the draft copy.

I’m not sure how this reporter could have misinterpreted the religious exemption had he read the proposed ordinance. I do know that there were several groups who were also using inaccuracies such as these to generate support against the ordinance.

What I find offensive, however, are some of the additional comments made by the anchor further down in the post, especially this one: “…the other side of the coin is how the bathroom part of this bill would make OTHERS feel. What seems to get lost in this debate is not only the rights of LGBT community, but also the rights of the straight community. I agree that Phoenix should move ahead in making our city a welcoming, accepting and tolerant community. However, the feelings of EVERYONE should be taken into account.”

Again, there is not and never was a “bathroom part” of the ordinance. And if this anchor is wishing to play devil’s advocate, then express the concerns of both sides of the issue. Or better yet, keep your personal opinion out of the debate, and let your readers hash it out.

Still, I’m curious to know what “rights” the straight community is giving up by outlawing the legal discrimination against LGBT and disabled individuals. Based on this post, it seems the reporter is suggesting that we have a right not to feel uncomfortable around people we don’t like.

Hmm. I seem to have heard this argument before. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe many Southerners were up in arms about similar protections offered to individuals on the basis of race. They even argued about the effect of allowing mixed races to use the same bathrooms. It made them uncomfortable to share a bathroom or drinking fountain with someone they deemed “unhygienic.” All kinds of bad things were sure to happen if the races mixed.

The LGBT and disabled communities are not asking us to embrace them or feel comfortable around them. Feeling comfortable isn’t a right. Having access to housing, however, should be a right. Being able to provide for your family, having a chance at gainful employment, a right.

Civil rights laws aren’t about soothing the majority’s feelings. They are intended to protect individuals who are routinely discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens.

The majority of Southerners didn’t like or feel comfortable around black people. But today, the majority of Americans would find discrimination based solely on race despicable. Times have changed, but discrimination against others deemed “abnormal” or “less-than” has not.

Opining on behalf of straight people would be a-ok (ethically) for a columnist or a reporter’s personal Facebook page but not on a public page associated with one’s professional job as a news anchor. And though this anchor qualifies his statements by saying the intent of his Facebook page is to “engage in a conversation with our viewers that I can’t have when I am reading the news,” this doesn’t negate the fact that a conversation with a journalist should still be anchored by accurate statements, not offensive opinions.

I get that it’s tough remaining objective in today’s media world, one where reporters are required to do much more than just put together a story for the evening newscast. Now they must tweet and blog and post status updates and be witty and personable all at the same time.

It’s a lot to ask. But it’s what the job demands. It’s what journalistic ethics demands.

I don’t wish to demonize this anchor because I don’t believe he was acting maliciously when he made his post, and he is certainly not alone among anchors in finding a controversial subject and putting a personal spin on it. Unfortunately for him, I just happened to see his post and take offense with the inaccuracies, the position and the ethics behind it.

I’m not a reporter, and I don’t mind if people disagree with my opinions. But as a blogger, I intend to call out journalists when I see them acting like editorialists. It’s a matter of professionalism, and it’s too important to simply sit back and say nothing.

Posted in anti-discrimination, Featured Articles, journalism, LGBT, Main Article | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

DiCiccio and Herrod work to flush anti-discrimination efforts down the toilet

Have you heard about the ‘Bathroom Bill?’ It’s at the top of the kill list for Phoenix’s City Councilman Sal DiCiccio and Center for Arizona Policy’s Cathi Herrod.

Also known as the LGBT Ordinance, this proposal would amend Phoenix’s civil rights policy to include sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and disability in its list of unlawful discrimination. In other words businesses would not be allowed to discriminate against someone based on gender identity just as they currently cannot discriminate against someone based on race or age or religious affiliation, among other things.

Herrod and DiCiccio like to refer to it as the ‘Bathroom Bill’ because it’s politically savvy to pretend their objections are about bathroom concerns instead of civil protections for LGBT individuals. They argue that little kids might end up using a restroom with a member of the opposite sex.

Herrod also erroneously claims on her website that churches will not be exempt from the ordinance and will be forced to hire homosexuals or transgender individuals, which is flat-out wrong. The religious exemption that was part of the original ordinance remains.

But Herrod doesn’t stop there. She has gone so far as to say this ordinance will lead to child predators pretending to be transgender just so they can gain access to a child through a restroom.

Her scare tactic is quite imaginative, especially since the ordinance doesn’t even address bathroom use, nor does it change criminal penalties for child predators. And though this may come as a shock to some, transgender individuals already use bathrooms in public places.

The argument also strikes me as somewhat, no make that incredibly ridiculous because little kids use bathrooms of the opposite sex all the time. When my boys were young, I always took them into the women’s restroom with me just as I know plenty of dads who took their daughters into the men’s room with them.

If Cathi Herrod is really concerned about this issue, perhaps she should be pushing businesses for the addition of family restrooms or single stall, unisex bathrooms.

You may recall Herrod is the same individual who was credited with single-handedly killing an anti-bullying bill during last year’s legislative session. Until Herrod got involved, the bill was set to pass with plenty of bipartisan support as well as the enthusiastic support of teachers and schools.

Herrod, however, claimed the bill was propaganda for gay rights to push a secret agenda even though the bill never mentioned sexual orientation. No doubt she believes she can successfully kill this ordinance with the same type of scare tactics she used to kill the anti-bullying bill.

While Herrod focuses on bathrooms and churches, DiCiccio is panning the ‘bathroom bill’ as harmful to small businesses, saying the language is so broad “the floodgates of litigation against businesses will be opened.”

Interestingly enough, this ordinance doesn’t change any of the existing non-discrimination penalties against businesses. In fact, mediation, not criminal prosecution, is always the first step after a complaint is filed, and to date, no “floodgate of litigation” or anything close to that has ensued within the city.

Phoenix is behind, way behind, other major cities when it comes to extending civil protections for the LGBT community. 166 other cities, including Tucson, have already passed these ordinances, and it has not disrupted the business community or led to frivolous lawsuits.

The Council is set to vote on the ordinance next week Tuesday, February 26. Councilman DiCiccio has pledged he will vote against it, and it’s believed that Councilman Jim Waring will vote no as well. If you’re a Phoenix resident who does not wish to continue to legalize the discrimination of the LGBT community (because without these protections, discrimination against LGBT individuals IS perfectly legal), then I suggest you call or email your councilman/woman and voice your support for the revised ordinance. Don’t let the scare tactics of a few flush away years of progress by many.

Posted in anti-discrimination, conspiracy theories, Featured Articles, LGBT, Main Article | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Creating more big government under the guise of ‘voter fraud’

Arizona State Senator Michele Reagan, rumored to be eyeing a run for Secretary of State, has proposed legislation not to bolster voter turnout but rather to make voting more complicated and cumbersome. This seems counter to what a Secretary of State, the overseer of elections, would desire and counter to the Republican Party’s mantra of protecting personal liberty and reducing needless regulation and big government.

Reagan’s proposed bill would make it a felony – yes, a felony – for anyone other than a family member or member of a household to turn in someone else’s ballot. In other words if a young woman was on her way to the polls and her boyfriend (who lives in a different household) asked if she could please turn in his completed and signed ballot, the woman could receive up to 2 ½ years in prison… for turning in said ballot. Democracy in action? I think not.

And how would this be enforced, you may ask? Sponsors of the bill are saying there will be no additional regulation required, but as it stands now, I don’t have to show any proof of who I am, not even a voter ID card, when I drop off a completed ballot or ballots at the polls. Considering that thousands of people drop off their mail-in ballots on election day, this would mean a huge backlog as election workers would now need to check not just the voters’ IDs but also the verification that the person turning in the ballot was qualified under law to do so.

And what’s to stop someone, or even a group, from continuing to collect ballots in advance of the election and simply mailing in those ballots? Are we going to turn our postal workers into elections officials to ensure this won’t happen?

This bill does not end needless regulation but rather creates it. Taking away a person’s right to hand over his/her signed and completed ballot to someone else does not extend personal liberty but rather inhibits it. Making it more difficult to cast a ballot does not embrace the democratic process but rather precludes it.

So why go to the trouble of creating a punishment for something that’s completely unnecessary and includes the possibility of jail time?

Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, this legislation is purely political. It stems from the last election and the efforts of two groups, Citizens for a Better Arizona and Adios Arpaio.

Besides signing up thousands of new, mainly Latino voters, CBA and Adios collected many of those ballots and turned them in to elections officials. They did this to remove any and all voting obstacles for lower-propensity and first-time voters, people who typically forget to vote or mail in their ballot on time.

Yes, these individuals could find a way to turn in their ballot themselves, but what harm is it for another individual or group to turn it in for them? If someone gives someone else permission to hand over his/her completed ballot, are we supposed to believe this is a crime worthy of a felony charge?

Senator Kimberly Yee summed up the political reasoning behind this bill when talking to Arizona Republic reporter Mary Jo Pitzl. She said she saw copies of the thousands of ballots dropped off at the polls by groups like CBA and Adios. She said that after seeing the box of ballots, “I know that voter fraud is real.”

That sounds to me like Senator Yee is suggesting these groups didn’t just collect ballots but actually forged them. That’s a very damning and in my opinion, libelous statement. Does she have any proof whatsoever to back her claim? If so, why are we not hearing about any investigations by the Secretary of State?

Voter fraud is a serious crime and one that is already punishable by law so clearly, this proposed bill is about something entirely different. It’s about muting the voices and interests of those who differ from legislators such as Senators Yee and Reagan.

Anyone who truly cares about “freedom” and “liberty” should be especially concerned when legislators pass laws intended to suppress the voices of its citizens, regardless of whether or not those citizens agree with said legislators.

Posted in elections, Featured Articles, Main Article | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Arizona legislature off to a fantastically kooky start

Republican legislators do not like it when Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts calls them kooks. They want us to believe they are serious lawmakers. But who, in her right mind, would call these bills anything other than kookery?

We have a bill that tells the federal government to “go fly a kite.” Another one that assumes all rich, married couples are perfect parents. One that demands science teachers ignore scientific facts in favor of political posturing and yet another that takes money from poor kids to inform them they have choices they cannot afford.

You can’t make this stuff up, though I truly wish it was just a joke. Unfortunately, the joke isn’t the legislation but the legislators who will probably get some of these ridiculous bills passed.

Carl Seel, our infamous ‘birther’ politician from Phoenix, was recently seen hobnobbing with the Sons of the Confederate Veterans (those would be the people who lost the Civil War and the ‘right’ to keep slaves) at a pro-gun rally at the Capitol. In speaking about his bill that makes it a state crime to enforce federal gun laws, Seel said, “This bill tells the federal government to go fly a kite. We’ll show ‘em what we’re gonna do with our firearms.”

Here you have a State Representative who calls himself a ‘Constitutionalist’ and ‘Defender of Liberty,’ crafting an unconstitutional bill while making veiled threats against the federal government. And this is okay?

At what point are the leaders within this man’s party going to stand up and tell him this is not behavior becoming of an elected official?

The media has tried. Laurie Roberts listed Seel as one of the Kooks in her “Dekook the Capitol” campaign. The Daily Show pointed out Seel’s lack of consistency (and intelligence) when he was interviewed about his bill to outlaw photo radar on the freeways. He claimed it was okay for police to stop people based on the suspicion that they might have committed a crime, aka SB1070, but not okay for cameras to catch people who have actually committed a crime, aka speeding, because that would be infringing on people’s civil liberties.

And yet Seel was reelected in November, which begs the question, “Who the hell is voting in LD 20?” Clearly, the people in his district either 1) don’t pay attention to what their local legislators do or 2) are just as crazy as this guy.

If there’s one thing Carl Seel is good at, it’s making a fool of himself and his state. No doubt, the people at Comedy Central appreciate this man much more than this writer does. Of course, the people at Comedy Central don’t have to live with the results of Carl Seel in power.

Nor do they have to live with the results of Kelli Ward in power. Ward, the replacement for Ron Gould, is another anti-federal government legislator making her mark in the land of bad bills. She recently proposed a bill that would take $1.5 million away from funding for low-income kids in K-12 schools and instead funnel the money into a pamphlet that promotes educational choices in Arizona. Low-income kids, no doubt, appreciate being told they could enroll in a private school (if only they had enough money) or a charter school (if only they could afford both transportation and hot lunches).

Another ‘birther’ legislator and honorary AZ Republic ‘kook’ is Judy Burges from Skull Valley. She’s introduced legislation that helps muddy the waters, so to speak, on climate change. Instead of relying on accurate and widely accepted scientific data, Burges wants to allow teachers the ability to present ideology and religious belief as part of their science curriculum. Climate change denial and “intelligent design” (meaning, anti-evolution) would be accepted in science classrooms. Considering Americans already fall well below their worldwide peers in science, I’m not sure why we would dumb down our standards, but then again, I’m not a state legislator.

Apparently, not being a state legislator is also why I fail to understand why, in a state that has struggled to provide assistance to abused children, a lawmaker would actually make it easier for couples to forgo criminal background and child-abuse checks before becoming a foster-care parent. Warren Petersen, State Representative from Gilbert, wants to get rid of those requirements if the couple looking to foster is rich, married and has a high credit score. We all know only poor people with bad credit abuse their kids, right?

If this legislation passes, the state will actually lose money because federal law requires the background and child-abuse checks. But what’s an additional $20 million to a state that already underfunds child welfare? And why listen to child welfare advocates, the ones pleading with Peterson and the other co-sponsors, which includes a few Democrats, to leave the law as it is? Apparently, state legislators know more about the needs of traumatized children than those who actually work with them.

To be fair Republicans have introduced some good bills, as have Democrats. The good Republican bills will most likely pass. However, if the prime sponsor of a bill is a Democrat, they have little to no chance of getting it assigned to a committee, meaning it’s already dead in the water. In Arizona’s legislature bills can only be heard, debated and voted on if they are sponsored by Republicans. It’s one of those unwritten rules the electorate isn’t privy to understanding.

Yes, only one-third of Arizonans consider themselves Republicans. However, that one-third is slightly higher than the approximately one-third of Arizonans who consider themselves Independents (and have zero representation at the Capitol) or the slightly less-than one-third of Arizonans who are Democrats. In other words two-thirds of Arizonans are screwed.

Spoils of war, er, election, I guess, and don’t count on it changing anytime soon. If, however, you are rich, no longer in school, an attorney (they stand to make a killing off all the unconstitutional bills that will be challenged in court), or a Son of a Confederate Veteran, you can count your good fortune. For the rest of us, there’s always another election and a snowball’s chance in Hell that things will change.

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