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Arizona Legislature Preps

For Battle In 2013

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Randy Parraz at the Arizona state capitol complex Monday.
DREAM Act Kids Driver’s License Battle Comes To The Fore As What Promises To Be Another Wild And Wooly Legislative Session Gets Underway

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By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine

Jan. 16, 2012 — Each and every January, in each and every state in the U.S., each and every corresponding legislative body opens their work.

In Arizona, the entire legislature is up for re-election every two years. Consequently, after those elections — that happen to coincide with Congressional midterm and presidential elections — the somewhat necessary ceremonial trappings of public office that always inhabits governmental bodies is especially amplified.

Legislators affirm their oaths and the governor makes the “State of the State” speech.

But usually, it is the regular people outside the statehouses that are talking about the issues that the legislatures were created to resolve in the first place. Yet, most often, those issues are as locked out from the process as it appeared Monday as the Arizona legislature opened its 51st session.

Inside the House chamber, Gov. Jan Brewer addressed some issues and frankly, most of them were nothing new. She said the state should re-expand Medicare eligibility, add social workers to Child Protective Services, add funding for school resource officers and increase general school funding, among a few others.

But that was the old bait and switch.

She was going to be FORCED to expand Medicare eligibility to all those in the lowest income brackets, anyway. Coverage to those Arizonans was only taken away in a 2010 money grab when tax revenues plummeted thanks to tax cuts and the Great Recession. That coverage had been adopted by voters in 2004. The Russell Pearce led legislature won a court battle to not cover the poorest Arizonans if there was a budget deficit.

Adding caseworkers to Child Protective Services? That is a topic few can argue against politically — even if it will never actually happen.

And, Tuesday, an Arizona court ordered the state to increase school funding annually by way (at least) of inflationary increases — another Pearce-led solution to the 2010 budget deficit.

She also babbled on about how she went to Afghanistan and praising Cindy McCain and Jon Kyl — before Kyl literally got so sick that he went home.

So most of what she said was hooey, misdirection, gobbledygook, and in Kyl’s case, sickness inducing — although there is no direct evidence that Brewer actually was the cause of Kyl’s sickness.

It was somewhat serendipitous that the man who nearly brought Pearce’s political career to an end singlehandedly — Randy Parraz — was able to steal the headlines outside the chamber. Parraz’ newest battle appears to be finally convincing Brewer to reverse her decision to let the ‘DREAM Act Kids’ — children of undocumented immigrants who are granted a deferment from deportation by paying $465 and filing out a lengthy, time spanning set of forms — obtain a driver's license.

Brewer signed an executive order denying kids granted a deferment access to a driver’s license Aug. 15 — the day the process was scheduled to begin. The American Civil Liberties Union and a host of rights groups filed a class action lawsuit against Brewer in December hoping to eventually reverse her action.

Inside the House chamber, Brewer addressed immigration passingly, basically saying the same tired, old line she has been pushing since before the aggression of SB 1070, “I’ve heard the earnest calls for immigration reform. I agree our nation’s system is broken and has been for decades. To the reformers, I say: Demonstrate your stated commitment to a secure border by making that your FIRST priority.”

Ok, Jan, whatever. Latin Americans will continue to come to the U.S. as long as they have a better chance of living a middle class life here. The border will never be completely closed unless we want a big brother solution — a truly secure national identification program or aerial surveillance.

Saying the border needs to be secured before discussing immigration reform is not tackling an issue, it is running away from it.

Outside the House chamber, Parraz and his Citizens for A Better Arizona supporters reminded Brewer and republicans who don’t want to see any accommodations made for undocumented Arizonans, that the legislature won’t get away with avoiding the issue.

A not very large group of people crowded into the lobby and since they chanted — not very loudly, mind you — three people were arrested. Saul Solis, Chimene Hawes, and Sheila Ryan peacefully and semi-willingly were taken away.

When one officer was asked what they were being charged with, the only answer was “interfering.”

Parraz and DREAM Kids supporters were prepared. Attorney Isaac Hernandez was ready to provide counsel, although he was not allowed to go with them as they were led away.

It wasn’t a stunt, though. Sure, Parraz is great at getting headlines and therefore spotlighting the issues he is tackling, but the Department of Public Safety Capitol Police were making sure Brewer and the legislators weren’t bothered by them. It was intimidation at its finest.

The republican dominated legislature will be taking on many other controversial pieces of legislation that will rile all segments of the population. House minority leader Chad Campbell has promised a series of gun rule changes, republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti has introduced a bill that will stop municipal unions from having dues collected by their governmental employers and republican Rep. John Kavanaugh is trying to get the Medical Marijuana Act back on the ballot.

Those controversies are just a tip of the iceberg as there will surely be many more to come. The session has just begun and lobbyists are just beginning to make their noise.

Strangely, Brewer had one moment of clarity early on in the speech Monday — a rare moment of eloquence and truth from a woman who can rarely not be an embarrassment when speaking to a crowd.

She said of her first arrival at the legislature 30 years ago, “I remember it well — taking my oath of office , friends and family gathered, issues looming, controversies brewing, new members planning, and lobbyists scheming.”

What’s that? Scheming is going on at the legislature? And lobbyists are involved?

Shocking? No.

True? Hell yes.

The battles have just begun.

John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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