Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Tuesday was one of those days when you either had to laugh or cry at the utter inaneness of the Arizona legislature.
The Republican insane clown possee is currently in the midst of a "special session" to benefit one of its own caucus members, Rep. Steve Yarbrough (R-Chandler), whom David Safier has written about extensively.
Oh sure, Republicans will tell you that it is really about providing services to developmentally disabled and foster care children who need specialized care that only a private school can provide. But it is really not about the children – at its core is an ideological battle over who may receive taxpayer dollars for education. It is about school choice and backdoor vouchers to privatize education for profit – the GOP's holy grail.
As Rep. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) explained in his most recent Farley Report:
This bill would create a new corporate tax credit which would funnel $5 million from big companies' tax returns (that otherwise would go into the General Fund) to a private Student Tuition Organization which would take 10% off the top and pass along the rest to private or parochial schools to pay for some portion of the tuition for somewhere around 200 to 400 disabled or foster kids.
No word on how we improve education and services for the 120,000 other Special Ed kids currently being served by Arizona public schools as the legislative majority continues to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from education and from services for the disabled and foster kids.
We did hear a lot of rhetoric about how private school choice is going to help everybody, if we can only unleash the free market to serve parents' needs. More to the point, we heard that this new voucher program is not restricted for low income people. Yes, millionaire parents will be able to get their children's private school tuition paid for by you and me if this bill passes.
We even heard that public schools should support this. The proponents' argument goes thusly: Yes, they will lose the state's funding for each student that goes to a private school, but since they will no longer have to spend the extra money educating a special needs student, they come out ahead.
Unfortunately, this calculation is not accurate. Let's say a school has a classroom with 10 special education kids, and two decide to take the vouchers and go to a religious school. The school cannot then fire 20% of that special-ed teacher, or refuse to pay 20% of the utilities for that classroom. They will educate fewer kids for the same overall costs with less money.
It's in that way that this voucher scheme becomes yet another cut on top of the hundreds of millions of other recent cuts for our state's K-12 education. As I said last week in the Report, an adequately funded public education system must be provided with enough money to pay for good special education programs.
Earlier this year the House passed a resolution regarding "state sovereignity" under the 10th Amendment which bordered on a threat of secession from the United States. Following up on this secessionist rhetoric Tuesday, the House Health and Human Services Committee passed House Concurrent Resolutuion 2014, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), which would amend the Arizona Constitution to overrule any law or regulation compelling an individual or company to participate in any federal health-care system, i.e., godless "socialized medicine." AZ bill: US med plan optional
The measure is modeled after Proposition 101 which was rejected by Arizona voters in 2008. This measure would also have to go to the voters for approval on the ballot in 2010.
Apparently the Arizona legislature is unaware of existing "socialized medicine" programs in the United States, e.g., Veterans Administration health care benefits for military veterans and Medicare for retirees. Do Republicans also want Arizona to opt out of these federal health care programs as well? I'd like to know.
The usual suspects behind bad government policy were involved:
Christie Herrera, who works for the American Legislative Exchange Council, said the measure is needed to preclude the kind of "socialized medicine" being considered in Washington, which exists in some other countries.
Attorney Clint Bolick of the Goldwater Institute, who supports HCR 2014, conceded that if the proposal becomes part of the state constitution, it would set the stage for a legal fight with the federal government over any "single-payer" plan Congress might approve, whether before or after the 2010 election.
"It will set up a federalism clash," Bolick said, adding that attorneys for Arizona would have to argue in court that the rights of the state and the rights of individuals to make their own health-care choices trump any right of Congress to enact this kind of health-care plan.
As an attorney, Mr. Bolick should be familiar with federal preemption doctrine. Congress is not about to pass any federal health insurance plan that does not include a federal preemption clause, preempting all conflicting state laws. It is the only way that such a plan is "universal" and not optional.
The legal challenge Mr. Bolick outlines is designed to enrich the lawyers representing the various conservative think tanks who would bring such a lawsuit and to serve as a means of fund raising for various conservative causes. There are no higher principles involved. And there is no chance the courts are going to overturn decades of federal preemption doctrine case precedents.
Also on Tuesday, the House gave final approval to HB 2258 which would make it legal to sell and for Arizonans to use sparklers, cone fountains, ground spinners and toy smoke devices. Bill legalizing sparklers clears a major hurdle The bill now goes to the Senate. Governor Brewer reportedly will sign the bill.
Tuesday's vote was a victory for the United States Fireworks Safety Commission, which represents manufacturers, according to its lobbyist Mike Williams. The bill was opposed by firefighters and fire safety organizations citing Arizona's history of devastating wildfires, and the threat of injury to children who handle fireworks.
Have you noticed the recurring theme here? Your Arizona legislature is entirely owned and operated by special interest lobbyists.
Finally, your Arizona legislature got down to the really serious business — no, not passing the state budget. The House passed HB 2019, officially laying claim to the nickname of "The Grand Canyon State" for Arizona. Are we the Grand Canyon State or not? No, seriously. This is what your Arizona legislature was spending its time on.
"I'm just disgusted that we're voting on things like that instead of actually doing the work of the budget," said Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, pointing out lawmakers have yet to adopt a budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins in five weeks. "I think we have other priorities right now."
Our Arizona legislature is a shameful embarrassment. Unfortunately, these clowns feel no shame.