By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings
A couple of early updates from the new session of the legislative session:
While some of the names have changed, some things haven't changed at the Capitol. Like the arrogance and culture of entitlement among the majority caucus.
Exhibit 1: They're proposing to pay any legislators, current and past, who claim to have incurred legal costs from lawsuits against their infamous anti-immigrant measure, SB1070. (Arizona Capitol Times, subscription required)
Something similar to this has been proposed before this week; after former senator Russell Pearce was recalled. There was a move to reimburse him for the costs of his campaign in (unsuccessful) defense of him. That move didn't go far, not least because he didn't actually pay for his defense - contributors did.
Pearce's acolytes in the lege may have failed the first time, but they haven't stopped looking for ways to funnel taxpayer money to him.
Exhibit 2: One state legislator, Sen. Don Shooter (R-Yuma), in response to proposals to end the practice of legislators accepting tickets to sporting events from lobbyists, proclaimed that unless legislators get a pay raise he's going to keep accepting bribes tickets.
For the record: I actually agree with Shooter on one thing - legislative pay should be raised. Most would-be public servants are honest and honorable people. However, they also have families to support and cannot do that on the current legislative salary of $24K per year.
So, instead of people who want to work for the best interests of their constituents and the state, Arizona ends up with the majority of the legislature is made up of whackjobs and grifters.
I'll leave it to readers to determine for themselves which category (or both, they're not mutually exclusive) that Shooter fits in.
In any event, he knew what the pay level for legislators was *before* he took his oath of office. While I think that legislative pay is too low, that doesn't justify corruption. He gets absolutely no sympathy on this.
Exhibit 3: Another state legislator, Sen. Steve Yarbrough, was the subject of a recent investigative report by a local news station chronicling Yarbrough's self-dealing, pushing school tuition tax credit measures that benefit the school tuition tax credit organization that he operates.
Probably not the best publicity for a sitting legislator entering an election year. However, Yarbrough has been doing this for years and has reaped hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars from the scheme.
So, instead of maintaining a low profile, he's running a bill to expand eligibility for taking school tuition tax credits (SB1048).
Note: the STO bill is being fast-tracked; it has already received consideration from and has been passed by the Senate Finance Committee. Which is, perhaps not coincidentally, chaired by Yarbrough himself.
Another thing that hasn't changed: the push to privatize public services.
Just two days ago, Governor Jan Brewer made a big splash in her State of the State speech to the new session of the legislature when she announced that she was "abolishing" Child Protective Services (CPS), removing the agency from the Department of Economic Security and making it a separate, cabinet-level agency.
One day later, rumors were swirling that the "privatization" vultures were already circling the carcass of the agency, looking to pick off any pieces that could be turned into profit centers.
Prediction: Given the rush to rationalize privatizing CPS and the presence of a new director, Charles Flanagan, whose background is in warehousing prisoners, and not protecting children, a system will be created where children who are removed from possibly abusive home situations will be housed by private foster care providers.
The providers will have contracts that guarantee minimum population levels in their private "foster care" systems, leading to a new CPS culture where removing children from their homes is "incentivized" while actually resolving dysfunctional family situations is most assuredly not.
...More to come...unfortunately.