When the 2013 Arizona legislature was sworn in last week, we heard a lot of noise about the "moderate" tone that lawmakers will pursue. Although the GOP still has a majority in both chambers, they no longer have a super majority, which has been the case the last couple sessions. Without sufficient opposition to stop their crazy train, Republicans have pushed through a mountain of dickheaded legislation that made the state the laughing stock of the nation, at the same time their measures did nothing to solve our severe economic and social problems.
You might remember some of our most recent unpleasantness:
• several years of birther bills, designed to keep Barack Obama's name off the state ballot;
• an Official Weapon bill, signed into law soon after the massacre in Tucson (real class there);
• deep, deep cuts to the education system (the largest in the country), that were matched by tax breaks for corporations;
• elimination of funding for organ transplants, which condemned patients to death;
• a bill calling for America to dissolve its membership in the United Nations;
• a lot of states right bullshit, such as proposals requiring the federal government to turn over national parks, forests, and BLM territory to the state;
• a shit load of restrictions that make abortion next to impossible;
• a bill that allows Bible studies in public schools, but no other book of faith;
• in addition to the Official Weapon bill (it's the Colt revolver), legislation that allows guns in public facilities, like campuses and libraries;
• creation of a volunteer militia along the border;
• union-stripping measures that make Gov. Scott Walker look like a piker;
• mean-spirited proposals that make it harder to qualify for unemployment insurance;
• and of course SB 1070, authored by ALEC, the private prison industry, and Russell Pearce, a senator who was even too bigoted for the conservative voters in Mesa, who recalled his ass.
I'm just getting warmed up, but you get the picture. So when this year's legislature began, many reporters and politicians talked about how they're going to quit doing stupid shit, and actually work on legislation that improves the quality of life for Arizonans.
So, how's that working out?
Well, let's begin with loyalty oaths for high school students. Why not?
House Bill 2467, requiring anyone who wants to graduate from an Arizona high school to first swear an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution...While other states are trying to improve students' proficiency in science, math and languages, this clown wants to make sure Arizona isn't graduating terrorists or anarchists, who will use their high school training to undermine democracy. I can see why that would be at the top of every lawmakers' agenda.
The bill is sponsored by freshman Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff. Thorpe is the Flagstaff Tea Party Chairman who spent a good part of his campaign last year urging war against the federal government, calling on the states to convene a constitutional convention to revoke laws passed by Congress. Arizona Republic
And that recalled senator I mentioned above, Russell Pearce? His good tea party buddy Rep. Steve Smith has introduced a bill that would allow Pearce to be reimbursed up to $260,000 for the costs he incurred during the recall campaign. You know, the election he lost.
[T]he money Pearce spent in his failed bid to win the 2011 recall all came from donations by outside individuals. None of it was his money. Yet Steve Smith thinks it's just and proper for Pearce to be reimbursed with taxpayer funds to presumably repay his donors. What part of that makes any damn sense? Tucson WeeklyRep. Smith isn't done yet, because he also introduced a bill that would allow Arizona to ignore new federal gun laws that might follow in the wake of Vice President Biden's recommendations. As I mentioned yesterday, his knee-jerk reaction to legislation we haven't even seen yet has the NRA flipping out, because his measure could eliminate sales in all federally licensed Arizona gun shops. Oops!
Speaking of guns, tofumagoo reminded us in the comments of another work of sheer lunacy. HB2455 says that guns which are turned in to voluntary buy-back programs must be resold instead of destroyed. This boneheaded law received quite a bit of press recently during a Tucson buy-back.
From the weird to the wacky: Arizona schools are not permitted to use funds for memberships in organizations that try to sway voters, such as a human rights group. GOP Rep. John Kavanaugh is fine with that, but he thinks it's hunky dory for schools to use public funds to join the local, state or national chamber of commerce. Because, you know, they're not trying to affect elections or anything.
In case you're in a tizzy about people who make fake web and twitter sites that impersonate others, don't worry. HB2004 makes it illegal to do so—to even send fake emails. I guess all those emails I get from Nigerian bankers will be outlawed in Arizona now. The Onion too.
And while the Arizona Republic applauded Gov. Jan Brewer's new "kinder, gentler tone" on immigration, what's she been up to? As Stephen Lemons points out, her most recent fundraising letter continues the immigrant bashing, urging her happy horde of nativists to "demand that the federal government commit to a secure border FIRST before addressing immigration reform." Even though immigration is at net zero, maybe less.
Brewer is also continuing her dead-end quest to deny a drivers license to immigrants who have taken advantage of Obama's deferred action program. The "kinder, gentler" governor maintains that these students, workers, and military personnel do not have "authorized status," and are therefore not entitled to benefits, like being able to drive to your job. The ACLU, Congressman Raul Grijalva, and even the Department of Homeland Security have told Brewer to prepare for a lawsuit—another one she will lose:
"An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect." DHS statementThat's just a peek at Arizona's new "moderate" legislature. Other bills make it harder to receive unemployment payments, they want to overturn the voter-approved medical marijuana provision, open up indigenous sacred land to copper mining, and hammer public employees.
At least we haven't seen another birther bill. But it's early.