Thursday, January 29, 2009

Your Tax Dollars at Waste By Mark R. Kerr

Two plus weeks are in the books for the first Regular Session of Arizona’s 49th Legislature, a total of $994,612.64 (as of the writing of this column) down the proverbial taxpayer drain.

As of press time, a total of 716 proposed bills, concurrent resolutions, memorials and legislative mandates had been introduced, in this session for consideration in the Republican-controlled Legislature which is supposed to be focused on the multibillion dollar shortfall in the state budget, plunging revenue figures during this cataclysmic, economic recession and drafting an economic blueprint for the next fiscal year (starting July 1) so that the state government can operate and provide the needed services to the public - all in 100 days as per the Republican mandate.

So far the Republican led Arizona House of Representatives and State Senate have come up with a solution for all these troubles to ensure that their Governor, Jan Brewer, can maintain “the freedoms,” she went on about, ad nauseam, during her inaugural address.

Their plan includes: repealing a law, passed last year by the GOP controlled Legislature, prohibiting automobile license plate frames; creating at least six new license plates; banning partial birth abortions; enhancing criminal penalties for violent actions to individuals, initiated by dog owners using their pets as weapons; completely gutting the state’s 49th ranking in spending educational system, K-12, junior college and the universities through budget cuts, balancing the state’s budgets on the backs of students and spending taxpayer money on new carpeting, furniture and extravagant laptops for their offices, just like Merrill Lynch’s ex-CEO, John Thain did with federal taxpayer bailout money intended for the financial institution.

One would think that, during these times, Arizona’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) populace would be “left out” and not have the annual worry of dealing with the usual assortment of anti-LGBT legislation from 1700 West Washington, written in previous columns in this publication, there is SB 1174, introduced by state Senator Russell Pearce, R-Mesa.

Entitled, “state employee health insurance; coverage,” SB 1174 would go where Brewer said her office won’t go for now in regard to the state’s rules and regulations implemented by the current Homeland Security Secretary and former Democratic Governor, Janet Napolitano by ending the healthcare coverage of the domestic partners (same and opposite) sex, and their families, of current Arizona state employees since “they are not married,” according to state statute and Constitution.

SB 1174 has been first read but has not been assigned to a committee by state Senate President Robert Burns, R-Peoria, who is mandated that no Senate committee’s will hear bills until the budget is dealt with or gutted.

Another measure is HB 2053, a “technical correction,” dealing with surrogate parenting and contracts, introduced by the conservative homophobic Republican and new Speaker of the Arizona House, Kirk Adams of Mesa, hasn’t been first read yet but will be the attempt by Republican’s to deal with Gay and Lesbian adoption during this legislative session.

On the other hand and side of sanity is SB 1212. Introduced by Democratic state Senator Meg Burton Cahill of Tempe and Democratic state Representatives Phil Lopes of Tucson, Ed Ableser and David Schiapra of Tempe, also known as the “Amancio Corrales Act,” SB 1212 would expand current state hate crime statutes to include gender identity and gender expression. SB 1212 has not been first read as of press time.

With the Republican’s in charge of both chambers of the Arizona Legislature, the concern is more about whether the carpeting, furniture and the new laptops match the proverbial drapes than the needs of the populace.

This column, as well as the Observer’s new blog (, will continue let readers know of the goings on at 1700 West Washington and the need to take action since to paraphrase the author and playwright, Larry Kramer and ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), our silence would equal the death of the rights movement. Online, Arizona’s Legislature can be found at or for those without Internet access, its (800) 352-8404.

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