The law of unintended consequences bites J.D. Mesnard in the behind


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) desires to be the next Speaker of the House in the Arizona Legislature in 2015. Of course, Republicans would have to maintain their majority first, but hey.

J.D. Mesnard is currently co-chairing a legislative task force on reforming Arizona's income tax as a vehicle to ride to the speakership. He has run into a couple of embarrassing problems recently which demonstrate that he is not ready for prime time.

First, his legislative task force on reforming Arizona's income tax. The Arizona Capitol Times reports, Doing no harm: Tax overhaul effort stalls over vague goals, concerns about middle class:

After four weeks and three meetings of a
task force with intentions to reform, tweak, or overhaul Arizona’s
personal income tax system, the members of the group don’t seem closer
to deciding what, exactly, they want to accomplish.

It’s an issue that Rep. J.D. Mesnard, a
co-chair of the task force and the driving force behind it, has
attempted to address at several points in the past few weeks, most
recently at the outset of a meeting on Sept. 19.

“I keep getting asked the question, ‘What are we trying to do?’ and
my response has always been, ‘Whatever we can to make the system
better,’” Mesnard, R-Chandler, told the task force. 

But that’s precisely what lawmakers,
economists, tax experts and business leaders can’t seem to settle on, as
members of the task force bring their own unique perspective to the
state’s tax code and what’s good for taxpayers and the Arizona economy.

“We seem to still be searching for who we are and what we’re doing,”
said Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson. “And it was made clear today from
members on both sides that we need some clarity as to what direction
we’re going, because I can’t answer that question.”

Much of the discussion has centered on a
flat tax
— or, as Mesnard pointed out, a single rate tax system — as a
more fair, across-the-board rate. An official from Utah gave a lengthy
presentation two weeks ago on that state’s own successful five-year
effort to create a single-rate tax system that also included progressive
exemptions to protect low-income residents.

Yet Mesnard and others have made it clear that a pure flat tax is not
ideal for Arizona. Projections provided by the Arizona Department of
Revenue gave a glimpse of how such a system might work in Arizona.  In
each case, taxes were reduced significantly for the wealthy but also
raised for the middle class

The projections swiftly drew rebukes from Democratic lawmakers on the
task force after they gave a similar reaction to a presentation by
Goldwater Institute economist Stephen Slivinski on the volatility of
personal income taxes compared to other sources of tax revenue.

Even versions with measures to mitigate the impact on Arizona’s
poorest taxpayers still saw increased taxes for the middle class
, said
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson.

Farley and Wheeler, the only Democrats on the panel, have not hesitated to sharply criticize any discussion of a flat tax.

[Note: Back in 2011, it was Rep. Steve Court (R-Mesa) who sponsored HB 2636 (the Tea-Publican "flat tax"). That Flat Tax proposal was withdrawn after Sen. Paula Aboud (D-Tucson) conducted a series of Forums on the Flat Tax Folly around the state and sucked the life out of any support for it.]

The discussions have left some members of
the task force anxious to find a tangible goal
. Most of the
presentations and discussions so far have left the panel deep in the
weeds when it comes to the tax code and economic theory, said Jim Rounds, a senior economist with Elliot D. Pollack and Company.

“The hardest part in participating in these
types of things is getting to a point where we’re all on board with what
we want to accomplish,” Rounds said after the meeting.

Again, the legislative task force on reforming Arizona's income tax is a vehicle for J.D. Mesnard to ride to the speakership. And it is not going well.

Nor did J.D. Mesnard's handling of the campaign finance reform bill go well. it appears "the professor" never considered the law of unintended consequences to sloppy drafting. Campaign finance changes’ unintended consequences:

An oversight during the legislative
session has made Arizona’s new campaign finance system much more
complicated than anyone intended, leaving incumbent legislators and
potential candidates scrambling to grasp its implications and comply
with its provisions.

Already, the law’s author, Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), is calling these unintended consequences “a nightmare.”

Just hours after HB 2593, which dramatically raised Arizona’s campaign
contribution limits, took effect on Sept. 13, Secretary of State Ken
Bennett’s elections division issued a memo that reached startling
conclusions about the how the new system would work. If the Secretary of
State’s Office is correct, the new system will be far more cumbersome
than expected, and will severely restrict the way candidates use
campaign funds.

* * *

[T]he Secretary of State’s Office opined
that candidates are now required to create separate campaign committees
for the primary and general elections
. Additionally, Bennett’s office
said candidates cannot transfer money in excess of $2,000 between the
two. Finally, if candidates have money in a preexisting campaign
committee, they cannot split up last year’s unused funds between their
two committees and earmark the lump sum solely for one or the other.

Under that interpretation, candidates would have to decide in which
election to put their funds without knowing if they would face a primary
challenger or what kinds of resources they would need to win.

And while congressional and U.S. Senate
candidates can accept a maximum contribution in the primary and then
carry the unused portion — no matter the amount — over to the general
election, state-level candidates would not have the same ability to
build up their war chests.

* * *

Mesnard said he and others who crafted HB 2593 may
have made a significant oversight:  They changed the way the state law
defines “election,” but didn’t consider how that would affect other
election statutes.

State law says candidates “shall designate … a political committee
for each election to serve as the candidate’s campaign committee.” Matt
Roberts, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said that
means the law requires a separate committee for each election.

And if candidates are required to create a
separate committee for both the primary and general elections, that
triggers a statute already on the books barring candidates with multiple
campaign committees for the same election year from transferring more
than $2,000 between the two. The law would prevent candidates from
carrying over leftover money from their primary into the general

Roberts said that probably wasn’t the intention of the bill’s drafters, but the language is clear.

* * *

The secretary of state’s guidance has sent
candidates, election attorneys and campaign operatives scrambling to
make sense of a new law that many thought they understood clearly.
Bennett’s guidance and the attorney general’s opinions are legally
nonbinding, but many candidates and consultants are following the
secretary of state’s interpretation to be on the safe side.

* * *

Candidates aren’t the only ones who will
have a tough time adjusting to the complicated campaign finance
reporting scheme that would result from Bennett’s opinion. Roberts said
the Secretary of State’s Office is currently upgrading the software that
candidates use to report contributions.

Mesnard said he will likely introduce cleanup legislation in 2014 to
ensure that candidates don’t have to file separate committees, can
transfer money freely between their primary and general election
accounts, and don’t have to designate their preexisting campaign cash as
being solely for one election or the other.

If he can get at least two-thirds of the House and Senate for the
cleanup bill, it will go into effect immediately. If not, he said, it
would probably go into effect before the primary election.

“I hope I can get an emergency clause or a retroactive clause,” Mesnard said.

But he’ll also settle for a simple majority — just to ensure the cleanup legislation goes into effect 90 days later.

“Then you’re going to breathe a lot bigger sigh of relief,” Mesnard said.

Imagine this guy making these kinds of mistakes on tax reform, which because of Prop. 108 (1992) requires a two-thirds super-majority vote of both chambers to pass any "clean up" bill to clean up his mistakes. Now imagine this guy presiding as Speaker of the House.  Yikes!

Then again, the old adage may be true, "In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." In a GOP clown car legislature, why not?

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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.


  1. Mesnard didn’t take election statutes into consideration – even though he was changing the definition of elections. Perhaps he should have read Statute Revisions for Dummies before trying to “improve” existing law. In all fairness, this has happened to other legislators in the past. Instead of trying to push legislation through, they should read EVERYTHING pertaining to existing laws. As far as his task force on tax reform, this proves he’s not ready for prime time, let alone the Speaker’s chair. You should have a goal in mind before convening a task force. His aimlessness proves his lack of leadership capabilities.

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