History Lesson For Today: Special Legislation

Today’s lesson is written as a service to Representative Steve Smith (R-Maricopa). A relatively recent arrival to our state, providence thrust poor Rep. Smith into a political career without the benefit of anything more than superficial knowledge of Arizona’s history, culture or economy. It is our duty as people who love Arizona to help him out.

The Tenth Territorial Legislature, which met at the capitol in Prescott in 1879, was known as the “Divorce Legislature” because granting divorces comprised a substantial portion of its business. In fact, many of the 65 bills it passed were strictly personal in nature, including 10 name changes and 18 divorces.

As an aside, one name change that they passed was for a man named John Smith, one of the early founders of Arizona’s Republican Party. Smith successfully appealed to the legislature to have his name changed to John Y.T. Smith, the initials standing for “Your’s Truly.” It seems that, given the fact that the Territory was full of folks who were fleeing a sordid past elsewhere, he wanted to make sure that everyone knew that his name really was John Smith. This, of course is not written to imply anything of the sort regarding any other relative newcomers named Smith.

Back in Washington D.C., this sort of pettiness was regarded as a sign of small-mindedness and political immaturity by the folks in Congress. The excesses of the so-called “Thieving Thirteenth” legislature of 1885 brought these concerns into focus and led to the passage of the Harrison Act, named for its sponsor, future United States President Benjamin Harrison, which restricted what territorial legislatures could do. Almost three decades later, Arizona’s political leaders decided that that these restrictions remained a good idea, and incorporated them into the State Constitution as Article 4, Section 19, which forbade the legislature from passing “local or special laws,” including “Granting divorces,” granting name changes, and “Granting to any corporation, association, or individual, any special or exclusive privileges, immunities, or franchises.”

Which brings us to Representative Smith, who has again introduced legislation to pay former State Senator Russell Pearce some $261,000 in reparations for losing his 2011 recall election. I say “reparations” rather than “reimbursement” because his campaign funds came from contributors rather than Pearce himself and the tone of the discussion seems to imply that Pearce was somehow wronged by the process. While, on its face, the law would seem to violate the constitution’s restrictions against special laws, Smith has gotten around this by writing it to apply generally. However, the fact that this recall was an unusual event and that this bill is written to be retroactive to November of 2011 make it clear that this is about Pearce. Sure, the bill might well stand up to judicial scrutiny, but it certainly violates the spirit of the constitution and the intent of the framers.

Smith’s bill has no co-sponsors and the leadership is unlikely to do him any favors, so this measure is likely to die as did a similar measure did last year. This in and of itself does not make it a waste of time, as there are many good reasons to introduce bills that  are unlikely to go anywhere. A legislator might want to draw attention to an issue, for example. What does not speak well for Smith is that he has chosen to use up a substantial portion of his 15 minutes of fame to harrumph his righteous outrage about a friend who lost an election. This is precisely the sort of small-mindedness that previous generations of political leaders wanted Arizona legislators to avoid.

Bill Konopnicki

Editor’s note: Yes, the blog is still dark for the time being, but my brother wanted to write a tribute to his friend and colleague (and according to Polish clan rules, shield brother), Bill Konopnicki

Last week came the sad news of the passing of my former colleague, Bill Konopnicki, Republican of Safford. He was a deeply thoughtful statesman in the long-standing tradition of earthy and pragmatic rural Arizona legislators for whom partisan considerations were secondary to the needs of their communities. It is a reminder of how quickly things in Arizona changed so radically that we speak of him as if he was part of some distant, bygone era, but we are talking about a man who was first elected in 2002 and served until 2010. This is not long ago at all, but it is difficult to imagine his like in the current legislature.

An alum of both Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, Bill brought to the legislature a long record of community involvement, including terms on the school board and the governing board of the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center. Back in the early 1970s, he was, along with his future House colleague Phil Lopes, involved in the establishment of Pima Community College. He later moved to Safford to work in the administration at Eastern Arizona College. This experience proved invaluable during the many times that state’s community college system became a political football.

My brother met him before I did. Ted ran Marsha Arzberger’s successful campaign for State Senate in 2000, when her district included both Cochise and Graham Counties. Bill was a supporter, despite the fact that Marcia was a Democrat, and his presence would have been difficult to avoid anyway. He seemed to own every McDonald’s in rural Southern Arizona that was not owned by José Canchola.

We hear all the time from politicians who cite their business experience, but a little bit of digging reveals that their records in this regard are problematic. This was not the case with Bill. He was an exemplary community-minded businessman. Once, during one of those marathon budget sessions, Bill took time out to drive to Safford and back to deal with a payroll problem which would have prevented his employees from getting paid on time, something that others might have let slide. This spoke not only to the special problems that rural legislators face, but also to Bill’s sincere concern for the people who worked for him.

Bill was usually labeled a “moderate Republican.” While this label does not seem unfair, it couches his approach to public policy in terms of some sort of ideology. The truth is that Bill recognized, as did his colleagues from his district, Senators Jack Brown (D-St. Johns) and Jake Flake (R-Snowflake), that the underserved rural communities that they represented could ill afford grand partisan gestures and crusades. To this end, he was willing over and over again to work across the aisle and focus on policy rather than politics.

I do not remember if he was a member of the faction that the capitol press corps dubbed the “Cellar Dwellers,” a group of dissident Republicans who met in the basement to hammer out a reasonable budget at a time that the majority leadership was concerned chiefly with exercising a petty and unproductive feud with Governor Janet Napolitano, but Bill was always a solid voice for reason when it came to the budget. Not only did he recognize the long term needs of his district and the state as a whole, but he also knew that a strictly Republican budget would never survive the closely divided House or the scrutiny of the Democratic Governor. Again, results were far more important than talking points.

It was not unusual to find Bill hanging out in Democrat’s offices, including mine, especially that of his seatmate Jack Brown and his old friend Representative Phil Lopes (D-Tucson) when the latter served as the Democratic Leader. It was not always about business, he was a genuinely friendly guy. We often hear about the collegiality of the legislature, but such geniality too infrequently crosses party lines.

One of the things I worked on at the capitol was trying to fix Health Care Group, a sort of state-chartered insurance pool for small businesses. The legislature had, over the years, very intentionally thrown sand into the gears of the program at the behest of the insurance industry. I was surprised one day to find out that Representative Konopnicki had scheduled my bill for a hearing in front of his committee. It failed, as we both knew it would, but he thought that it needed to be discussed. Afterward, he pulled me aside to tell me that he wanted to work with me on it next session, but, unfortunately, I did not have a chance to do so.

Bill often found himself at odds with his caucus’ leadership, something which got him branded a “RINO” by an increasingly doctrinaire clique of party activists. He was openly critical of Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa), whose ascent to near-total dominance occurred largely during Bill’s tenure. It should be remembered that, while Pearce’s rise was due largely to the craven behavior of so many who knew better, he also made use of some despicable tactics, and Bill was one of his targets.

At first, Bill took this with a modicum of humor. Once, when he got a rude email from a Pearce supporter, he recognized the address as being on his way between the place he stayed at while he was in Phoenix and the capitol, so he decided to stop by the writer’s house for a friendly visit. The man’s strident convictions failed him once he was confronted by the fact that his bile was directed at a real person.

However, dealing with this sort of thing this way eventually became impossible. Bill’s opposition to whatever it was that Pearce was pushing at the time made him the target of personal attacks which bordered on actual threats. Though Pearce himself maintained a veneer of plausible deniability, it was clear that he was a little more than indirectly responsible for provoking his most dedicated followers. Finally, Bill rose up to speak out against what Pearce was doing, breaking down into tears on the floor as he voted his conscience. Bill was very careful to stay within the bounds of legislative decorum and not attack Pearce directly, but we all knew who he was speaking of. It was ballsy, and could have been a Joseph Welch moment if a few more of his colleagues had shown this kind of courage.

I will admit that there were times that Bill did things that, at the time, disappointed me. However, in retrospect I understand and even sympathize with why he did what he did. Once, an abortive bipartisan effort to elect him Speaker fizzled before it even started when too many of the Republicans who would have joined Democrats in voting for him proved to be squishy. You cannot accomplish anything at the legislature without steady support from your allies. The reasonable middle is sometimes a lonely place to be, and it seems unfortunate that we have a political environment where governing from consensus is an act of conspicuous bravery.

It was that kind of courage that made Arizona lucky to have Bill. I am proud that he was my colleague and friend.

The Best Result of the Evening…

  • District 25 Senate, Republican Pirmary
  • Russell Pearce – 10,086 (44.02%)
  • Bob Worsley – 12,789 (55.82%)
  • Write-in – 38 (0.17%)

Apparently, Pearce was a bit press shy last night, so, unlike the recall, we haven’t yet been treated to excuses about how this election really doesn’t count.

By the way, I keep hearing about high ranking Republicans and business lobbyists turning on Pearce, and that’s what buried him. Well, that’s all fine and good that they did that, but I’d prefer to save my congratulations for the people who opposed him when he was actually in office and had power.

Russell Pearce Would Have Taken the Guy Out, No Doubt

Another of former Senator Russell Pearce’s missives (and it feels so good to say “former”) made the rounds this weekend, and it doesn’t even involve bigotry.

Here he is with his solution to the shooting incident in Colorado, posted on Facebook only an hour or so after reports of the incident hit the news (yes, that means it was posted at one in the morning):

Had someone been prepared and armed they could have stopped this “bad” man from most of this tragedy. He was two and three feet away from folks, I understand he had to stop and reload. Where were the men of flight 93???? Someone could have stopped this man. Someone should have stopped this man. Lives were lost because of a bad man, not because he had a weapon, but because noone [sic] was prepared to stop it. Had they been prepared to save lives or the lives of others, lives would have been saved. All that was needed was one Courages [sic]/Brave man prepared mentally or otherwise to stop this it could have been done. When seconds count, police are only minutes away.

Yep. If the victims were only more “courages” they wouldn’t have been killed. Oh, and the police are incompetent. We can always count on dear Russell for his sensitivity.

Of course, what Pearce is really doing here is pushing what has been a theme on the right over the last few days: if someone just had a gun, none of this would have happened.

Let’s see: the perpetrator was wearing a bulletproof vest and was armed with an AR-15, this took place in a dark and crowded theater, oh and don’t forget the tear gas. That certainly sounds like the sort of scenario where a marginally trained civilian can get a shot or two off and take down the bad guy.

By and large, I’m a supporter of gun rights and I come from a family of gun owners. I also know the difference between real life and an episode of Burn Notice.

This incident happened in a state with gun laws and culture much like Arizona. Colorado has concealed carry, for example. Who is to say no one in the place had a weapon?

Also, remember January 8th here. I don’t know if she was carrying that morning, but Gabrielle Giffords held a concealed carry permit. People in the crowd were armed. Reports of that incident said that the man that disarmed the shooter almost got shot by another civilian who saw a guy holding a gun and made assumptions. And that happened in broad daylight.

I guess Pearce had to blame the incident on a lack of gun ownership (in Colorado?) once he found out he couldn’t blame Mexican immigrants.

By the way: this weekend Jon Kyl endorsed Pearce’s primary opponent, Bob Worsley. Worsley managed to get the endorsement of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce a few weeks ago. It just goes to show that the Republican karmazyn are done with this guy. Wow, and it only took him being out of power to do it. Talk about “courages”…

Catching Up

All sorts of articles and links I have been meaning to comment on have come over the transom over the last few days. What better way to write a Friday morning post than to summarize…a précis, so to speak.

First off, Hispanic Politico had a piece yesterday proclaiming “Tea Party Republican Tom Horne set to retire?” Fun little story, I suppose, but don’t expect to happen any time soon. The story is based on a whackjob e-mail being circulated among tea party activists. The most interesting part of it is, despite the Horne’s crusade against ethnic studies, he’s got tea partiers that aren’t enamored with him.

Also this week, Ann Kirkpatrick’s campaign got a little bit of mileage from Jonathan Paton’s pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He said this in an address to the Navajo Nation Council, and the act includes a reauthorization of the Indain Health Service.

I’d say “oops,” but given how much of the rhetoric against the ACA isn’t actually based on what’s in it (they are still talking “death panels), I don’t think it really matters to him or a lot of these candidates how they would deal with the issues that would come up if the act disappeared.

By the way, Paton still hasn’t risen above “on the radar”, despite being the leading candidate for the Republican nomination in an area that has been represented by Republicans in all but four years of the last two decades.

And finally, color me totally unshocked that Russell Pearce was sending racist e-mails. Cue the responses that there is not a single, solitary person with a racist bone in their body that is in any way involved in the anti-immigration movement. Yeah, it’s Randy Parraz sowing racial division by being all Hispanic and trilling the Rs in his last name.

Wherin I Start With a Tortured Soccer Metaphor and Move on From There

One of the things that frustrates traditional American sports fans about soccer is that a game can end in a tie. Well, it can even be worse.

The English are so allergic to tie breakers (in addition to being allergic to decent cooking) that for years, they didn’t allow for tie-breakers, even in knockout tournaments where a winner is necessary.

What was their solution? Replays.

If you didn’t have a winner, say in a match in the storied FA Cup, you’d simply schedule another match a few days later. In the 1975 FA Cup tournament, for example, it took Fulham FC four tries to beat Nottingham Forrest FC. Fulham ended up playing twelve games in five rounds of the tournament due to so many replays, which might explain why they lost the final to West Ham United. They were probably just tired.

That’s what we got on Section 2 of SB 1070 yesterday, a nil-nil draw and a not yet scheduled replay for later.

Take a look at the portions of the law that were struck down. They were all stricken because they were preempted by federal law. Section 2, despite being the one that generated the most ire from the opponents, didn’t fit into that argument. But supporters of 1070 who think of this as a win might want put away the champagne.

Here’s Anthony Kennedy:

Without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to assume §2(B) will be construed in a way that conflicts with federal law. Cf. Fox v. Washington, 236 U. S. 273, 277. This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect. Pp. 22–24.

So, in other words, we don’t see how the preemption argument applies here. But, show us how you can enforce this thing and still make it constitutional. Given how hard this law would be to enforce without racial profiling, expect another challenge.

Still, the right is saying this is an unalloyed victory. Heck, they are demanding a medal for Russell Pearce for being such a swell guy.

One Little Thing

La Cervecera put out a statement saying that the “heart” of 1070 has been held up, and this makes everything okay.

It may be, but the court seemed to say that there could be further litigation depending on how the provision empowering police officers to check immigration status of those that are deemed “reasonably suspicious” is enforced.

Given how Brewer, Russell Pearce and company are such fans of Joe Arpaio, one wonders exactly what their model for reasonable enforcement is.

Fortunately, they won’t be designing the standards. It will be AZPOST, the board that sets many of the regulations for law enforcement in Arizona. But, there is one bit that I’m curious about.

A provision of SB 1070 that hasn’t been talked about lately, and was unaddressed by the court, is the part that empowers citizens to sue police agencies if they feel that the 1070 isn’t being enforced to their satisfaction.

So, lets say AZPOST manages to write up a set of standards that steer clear of racial profiling enough to satisfy the federal courts. For Brewer’s warnings about further litigation from 1070 opponents, what about 1070 supporters who are empowered to sue if they think that not enough people are being subjected to the law? How much will this possibility effect AZPOST’s discussions and does it make their job even harder? Will there be departments who feel that they need to go beyond AZPOST’s guidelines to avoid a lawsuit from the anti-immigration crowd?

I don’t know how this is going to work, and I doubt the governor does either.

Possibly the Funniest Political News of the Week

You may have read a little bit about this; it even made Wonkette.

Russell Pearce had a fundraiser scheduled yesterday, and he had to cancel it when no one wanted to host it.

The fundraiser was organized by lobbyist Gretchen Jacobs (yes, there are lobbyists who still like Pearce), an ally of pro-bullying activist Cathy Herrod. The event was originally scheduled for a Macayo’s restaurant in Phoenix.

Then, to use the passive, calls were placed. Some were organized by a group in Phoenix called the Tequila Party, but also organizations that schedule events there like the Arizona Education Association made their displeasure known. The Macayo folks didn’t want to deal with the grief, so they canceled the event. This left Jacobs with only a few hours to find a new location.

Jacobs picked a new restaurant: Oaxaca Restaurant and Cantina. My Baja Arizona readers might not be familiar with the place, but it is near the capitol and has become a hangout for politicos of all persuasions. It is a favorite spot for Ed Pastor.

Here is the fun part: the family that used to own the place had to give it up and it is now owned by Chicanos por la Causa. CPLC doesn’t exactly form a part of Pearce’s political base.

The manager told the Capitol Times that Jacobs didn’t tell him who the event was for. Needless to say, when the manager found out that it was on behalf of Pearce, he was less than amused.

This left Jacobs to move the event with even shorter notice. She arrived at holding it at the Phoenix Central High School library, ’cause Pearce’s folks are so into books.

The school cancelled the event citing short notice, the size of the event plus possible protestors. It couldn’t have helped much that the school board, which includes Laura Pastor, got wind of it.

Time for the Irony Board. Here is Pearce quoted in the Capitol Times:

Make no mistake: I am undeterred by a few individuals who are motivated by hatred in lieu of discussing the issues

Yeah, that doesn’t sound like anyone I know.

The Liberal Media

I try not to seek out conservative bias in the media. I’ve talked to enough reporters to know that what looks like “bias” could be poor editing or, yes, laziness at times. Still, once in a while I see something that makes me wonder.

Today, JT Ready was killed after he massacred a family. For those who don’t know much about Ready, he was a white supremacist and candidate for Sheriff up in Pinal County. He had been a buddy of Russell Pearce at one point, until they had a falling out. Despite his numerous hate filled statements, the man was a welcome presence at anti-immigration rallies. So, you wouldn’t exactly place this guy on the left end of the political spectrum, would you?

This from KOLD’s website:

Ready identified himself as a “National Socialist,” so “Socialist” could be shorthand. But that shorthand misidenitifies his politics, politics that could have had a lot to do with why he committed this attrocity. Also, it lets his fellow travellers off the hook.