By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings
Recently, AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona posted the list of committees and their chairs for the upcoming legislative session. As the Republicans control both chambers of the lege, they get to decide which committees exist and who runs them.
While I can't predict what legislation they will try to slough off on the state this year (though the list of ALEC model legislation should provide a good hint), the list of chairs and committees may provide some insight in what to expect, and not expect, from the 2013 session of the lege.
Don Shooter returns as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Last session, he refused to allow public input into the state's annual budget. Given his long record of contempt for his constituents and other Arizonans, I don't expect things to improve in the next session.
Jeff Dial will be the chair of the new House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. Dial is known best as being just bright enough to do what he is told when it comes to legislation to support, no matter how bad the legislation – like his scheme to humiliate poor people, or the bill that he sponsored/fronted for the credit collection industry that allows them to go to court have someone declared as owing a debt simply on the basis of records generated by the collector. Expect any moves to further eviscerate public higher ed and/or unions to be run through Dial. Many of the moves will have Dial's name attached, but the fingerprints of others, particularly industry lobbyists, will be all over the measures.
However, the committee to watch in the new legislature may be the Senate Elections Committee, headed up by Michelle Reagan.
During the last session of the lege, the Republican powers-that-be in the lege deemed that economic development and job creation were the priority of the lege, and put her in charge of the committee charged with help AZ recover from the Great Recession.
In the light of the fiasco of Arizona's seemingly never-ending vote counting process, those same powers-that-be have deemed that some sort of elections "reform" will be a priority for the new legislature. To that end, they've placed Reagan in charge of it, just as she was in charge of their work for Arizona's economic recovery.
Reagan is an experienced and respected legislator, so this is a sign that the Rs in the lege take Arizona's vote counting mess seriously, right?
The committee that Reagan ran during the last legislature was ever-so-slightly less than busy –
During the First Session of the 50th Arizona Legislature (2011 to folks like us), Reagan's Economic Development and Job Creation Committee met all of four times (out of 11 weeks available for normal committee meetings) for a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes.
As bad as that sounds, it's still better than the committee's performance during the Second Session of the 50th Arizona Legislature (2012, for those following along on their scorecards at home). That edition of Reagan's committee met once during the eleven weeks set aside for normal committee meetings. That one meeting lasted 1 hour and 12 minutes.
None of this bodes well for the possibility that the Rs in the lege plan anything to address the problems with counting votes that were exhibited in Arizona this year.
Of course, Reagan's committee could become active if the federal Voting Rights Act is weakened or overturned by the US Supreme Court during its upcoming consideration of lawsuits against the VRA.
Of course2, any such activity won't be designed to improve democracy, or voting, in Arizona.