Tuesday, April 26, 2011

AZ legislative session dominated by GOP nonsense

Dark ages at the Capitol

by Rep. Daniel Patterson

TUCSON -- Southern Arizonans have discussed seceding from Arizona for some time now, and after this legislative session I can see why.

Just take a look at the focus of the supermajority of Republican lawmakers this year:

• Declare an official state gun (passed).

• Birther bill, requiring presidential candidates to prove their citizenship (vetoed).

• Allow guns on college campuses (vetoed).

• Stop health care for 280,000 people, flood our emergency rooms and leave people on the streets (passed).

• Make food-stamp cards bright orange (failed).

• Eliminate health care for 5,000 seriously mentally ill (passed).

The list goes on and kept going through the middle of the session's last night, when controversial bills were debated. As most Arizonans slept, politicians were engaged in hours of debate over naming an official state firearm.

Never mind that federal unemployment benefits would expire for 20,000 families without a simple one-word, cost-free change in state law. Republican lawmakers were too busy. And now that they failed to act, our state's economy will lose $4.5 million a week from those families who are spending money to put food on the table while they look for jobs.

This legislative session has been government waste at its finest, and Republicans are the ones making the mess.

Just look at the corporate-bailout package Republicans call a "jobs bill." This bill gave away corporate tax breaks to giant, out-of-state retailers that didn't use it to create a single job here in Arizona.

Meanwhile, for three years, including this year, Republicans soundly rejected plans to deal with foreclosures. Arizona ranks second in the nation. Politicians in control in state government have done nothing at all to help middle-class families struggling to avoid foreclosure.

But they chose to continue with their massive cuts to our kids' classrooms, which repel business from setting up shop in Arizona. Even former Intel chief executive and board chairman Craig Barrett warned that "cutbacks don't bode well" for the quality education essential to attracting companies like his. It's bad for business, period.

Republican lawmakers, including many who represent Southern Arizona, voted to shift part of the burden of the state budget onto counties like Pima, requiring city and county donations to state government.

Another Southern Arizona lawmaker, Sen. Al Melvin, R-SaddleBrooke, sponsored a bill that would have allowed special interests to bypass a state power-line-siting committee and rush to build lines over rural counties and conservation areas. Fortunately the bill failed.

This is the kind of nonsense we are dealing with at the state Capitol, and Southern Arizonans shouldn't have to put up with it. This isn't the Arizona we know and love.

We need state government to work for "We the People" again. Majority lawmakers need to take a balanced approach that funds schools and creates jobs.

Most importantly, we need accountability in government.

Daniel Patterson is a Democrat who represents District 29.

- printed in April 26, 2011 Arizona Daily Star

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