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It's become more meanspirited, more ideological, less friendly," says five-term House member Jack Jewett. It's always been crisis management, but it seems we're in permanent crisis now."
Jewett, a Tucson Republican and the House Majority Whip, is one of those who will be calling it quits after this session. We've lost sight of what public service ought to be about," he says. We've lost sight of the real basic principles of the public trust. The rigid ideology, the inability for us to do the right thing. Those are the contributing factors."
After 14 years, serving in both the House and Senate, Maricopa County Republican Senator Bob Denny agrees with Jewett, and Denny also will be quitting after this term.
I'm just fed up with the system," he says. And I see it getting worse. Last year I was waking up in the morning toward the end of the session and I'd tell my wife, `I really don't want to go to work.'"
Four-term House member Karen Mills says the legislature is not a place you feel good about being in. You start wondering who you can trust down here."
The same themes repeat themselves when lawmakers talk about their institutionsÏlack of leadership, a failure to face the reality of hard times and just plain meanness among politicians fighting over scraps.
It is mean, and I don't know why," says freshman Graham. No one wants to give anyone else credit for coming up with something, so the way we achieve things down here is to point a finger when somebody fails. I don't understand it. It doesn't make any sense to me."
Freshmen like Graham complain that the legislature tries to deal with too many bills each session, does not have enough staff to help it analyze what it is debating and lacks a unified vision of what it is trying to do.
The resulting gridlock, lawmakers and observers say, has produced a legislature that is incapable of acting on many major issues facing the state. It's no wonder so many want to walk away from the process, says former Senate minority leader Alfredo Gutierrez, now a principal in the lobbying firm of Jamieson and Gutierrez.
The tools, the capacity for bringing people together, seem to be gone," he says. There doesn't seem to be a shared view of what we are going to do this session. Without that you have 90 political entrepreneurs. There really isn't a unifying theme."
IF THERE IS opportunity in chaos, however, Gutierrez is one of those poised to take advantage of it. His firm represents, among others, America West Airlines, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona, Phelps Dodge Corporation, Browning-Ferris Industries and the Retail Grocers Association of Arizona.
Gutierrez is a past inside master of the legislative art. As Senate minority leader when Bruce Babbitt was governor, he was part of what some still characterize as the most efficient legislative machine in recent Arizona history.
Out of elected office for six years, Gutierrez candidly acknowledges that the high turnover taking place at the statehouse plays to the advantage of lobbyists.
What you do is shift the tutorial [role], the institutional memory, the knowledge of how to pull things together, to a group of outsiders," he says. [Lobbyist] influence grows-I don't think there's any question about that. I don't think that's bad, but I think it at least begs a question."
Gutierrez is hardly alone as a former lawmaker now working the higher-paying side of the street. For example, former representative Jim Skelly, longtime chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, now lobbies for several clients, including the state County Attorneys and Sheriffs Association, the Arizona Automobile Dealers Association and the Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
The question of just how much influence lobbyists have over the Arizona legislature is an open-ended one. From time to time, national studies point out that Arizona has substantially more registered lobbyists than any other state. The most recent such survey showed Arizona with 28 lobbyists for each legislator, compared with eight lobbyists per legislator in California and nine per legislator in New York.
The figures are misleading, lawmakers and lobbyists agree, because the state's lobbyist registration law tends to include hundreds of people who would not fit the customary definition of a lobbyist in other jurisdictions.
Large law firms, for instance, register all their employees as lobbyists just to ensure the firms will not run afoul of the law. Many utilities, and some large companies, also register everyone who might have even the remotest contact with legislators, says Sam Vagenas, assistant secretary of state.
Arizona does, however, still seem to have a surfeit of lobbyists. Another way to measure lobbyist abundance is to count the number of principals"Ïthose companies, associations or special interests for whom the lobbyists work. There are 936 principals" registered with the Secretary of State's Office, Vagenas says, or more than ten per legislator.
Lobbying arrangements link the most powerful companies and prominent law firms in the state. Phelps Dodge Corporation, for example, lists on its lengthy lobbying payroll three of Phoenix's most prominent law firmsÏBrown & Bain, Fennemore Craig, and Lewis and Roca. And Fennemore Craig lists almost 100 other clients whom it represents at the state capitol.
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