In the first few weeks of the Arizona Legislature’s 2014 session, lawmakers have submitted a series of bills that range from the ridiculous and insulting to crushingly cynical attempts to strip power from the people. Here are, sadly, but a few examples.
You thought you broke only immigration law
Taking a break from the investigation into President Obama’s birth, Rep. Carl Seel, R-Phoenix, has proposed HB 2192, a bill that would make it a misdemeanor on first offense and a felony thereafter for any person who is in the country illegally to use a public resource.
Although an argument could be made on who should and should not receive public benefits, the bill defines a public resource to include “driving on a public road or highway, accepting any public benefit, attending a public school or using the services of any public entity in this state.”
With such a broad definition, if you’re in the country illegally it would be a crime to take the bus to school, but that’s probably a good thing since you couldn’t take a shower either.
Freedom to discriminate
Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, and other representatives are responsible for bills (SB 1062/HB 2153) that would allow anyone to ignore the law and discriminate at will if that will is the Lord’s.
The bill would permit businesses to deny service to anyone if that denial is based on religious reasons.
If you don’t want two men staying in your hotel because they look gay, you’re OK. If you’re a Scientologist and don’t want to serve psychologists in your restaurant, feel free. It’s all covered as long as there are other service providers — heathens, no doubt — who will have your business.
Unfortunately, and this seems to be a theme, the language in the bill is so broad that it could justify ignoring almost every law in the state if it interferes with a person’s free exercise of religion.
I’m looking at you, Tucson
From the bill: “The Legislature finds that the taxing, spending, regulatory, eminent domain, planning and zoning authority that is granted to municipalities may encourage the exercise of local governmental power that is threatening …” to the Legislature (not from the bill).
SB 1161 would allow municipalities to voluntarily adopt “streamlined local government policies” that would not be threatening to “genuine public health, safety and welfare, frustrating to economic development, inimical to fiscal responsibility, as well as overly centralized, bureaucratic, intrusive and politicized.”
What municipality would voluntarily give up its power to enact reasonable ordinances or laws over to a set of enforceable “best practices” imposed by the Legislature? The bill makes no sense unless it comes with a future push to make these “streamlined policies” obligatory. Another instance of legislators making home rule the best option until it’s not.
More a change of
tack than heart
The briefest of the bills discussed here and also the most insidious. HB 2196 would repeal the provisions of HB 2305, which included increasing signature requirements for minor parties to get candidates on the ballot, limiting who can take an early ballot to a polling place and imposing stricter requirements on groups sponsoring initiatives.
The Republican-proposed bill does not mean the party has seen the error of its ways and decided to remove these voter suppression measures. On the contrary. It is a contemptuous attempt to circumvent voters after a petition drive put the question on whether to repeal HB 2305 on the ballot.
The big idea is to eliminate HB 2035, rendering its appearance on the ballot moot, and then pass the same measures individually, which would make it much harder to put them on a future ballot.
Guns! Guns! Guns!
Included among the worst, and most unnecessary, bills extending gun owner “rights” are: HB 2186, which allows teachers at community colleges to carry concealed weapons on campus; HB 2338, which would increase the penalty on those who try to take a gun from someone who is legally carrying it; HB 2412, which would bring guns into schools through the school safety designee program; and HB 2337, which requires law enforcement officers to have “probable cause” before they ask if someone is carrying a gun.
Laugh or cry
While it’s easy to make fun of some of these bills and the legislators who sponsor them — as it certainly seems they’re mocking us when they propose them — their clear disregard for compromise and sensible measures makes it difficult not to think of the Legislature as a joke.
A particularly cruel one where the punch line is an underfunded education system, roads that are falling apart, a stalled economy and an armed everyone, everywhere.
We deserve better representation. It’s difficult not to be partisan when almost every piece of questionable legislation comes from a lawmaker with an R after his or her name, but a Democrat-controlled Legislature is not necessarily the answer.
Reasonable Republicans and Democrats must work together to take back control. They should get down to the business of clear-eyed governance that would make Arizona a model for other states and not a national laughingstock.