Russell Pearce's Day of Bigotry, Barbarism and Triumph
Democratic Senator Olivia Cajero Bedford, calling out Pearce as a "dictator"
In the end, they all passed out of the state Senate Appropriations Committee, all of state Senate President Russell Pearce's anti-immigrant bills, other hate-filled measures offered by his stooges, and cataclysmic proposed laws that can only be described as outright attacks on whatever civilization is left in Sand Land.
I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm not. One observer offered that it was like watching the sack of Rome, albeit via extremist legislation rather than the ancient Vandals. The analogy seems apt.
The Appropriations Committee approved the end of AHCCCS, Arizona's Medicaid program, without offering an alternative for the sick and impoverished. That move alone guarantees taking an estimated $8.5 billion out of the Arizona economy, severely impacting the ability of hospitals that we all use to survive. (Assuming it's approved by both chambers, natch.)
"I have no sympathy for people who don't pay their way in life," sneered Republinut state Senator Ron Gould as he voted for the measure.
Most committee members were equally pitiless when it came to higher education, voting to do away with the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees Arizona's university system. GOPers delighted in the fact that they would no longer have to hear the Regents come before them and bemoan budget cutting.
The immigration related bills? Of course, they all moved and are now on their way to the Senate floor, where they will likely be approved.
Everything from SBs 1308 and 1309, which seek to undermine the 14th Amendment's birthright citizenship provision, to Pearce's nightmare hate-Mexicans omnibus SB 1611, to SB 1405, which will turn health care workers into immigration agents, to SB 1407, which will make schools ask K-12ers for their papers.
Republican Senator Rich Crandall: Common sense, and stones
The undocumented became the collective punching bag for most Republicans, the literal scapegoat for all of Arizona's woes. They couldn't even agree on how much illegal aliens cost them. Some bandied about the mythological figure of $2 billion in state funds per annum. Or maybe they cost taxpayers $700 million here, hundreds of millions dollars here.
The closest anyone got to offering a source was citing the nativist hate-group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Democratic state Senator Kyrsten Sinema demanded backup, but got none.
"I have seen no data to support those numbers," she said of the varying claims.
Her complaints fell on deaf ears.
For Sinema's critics on the far, far left, who have been obsessed of late with her bill SB 1225 -- one that makes a minor change to the forgery law, kicking up the penalty from a class four to a class three felony when used in connection with a drop house -- your kvetching is truly asinine when weighed against Sinema's relentless opposition to the hateful, anti-immigrant legislation passing through Appropriations last night.
Senate minority leader David Schapira and state Senator Paula Aboud (both Ds) offered pushback as well, but it was Sinema who was on point, jousting homophobic, extremist law professor John Eastman, flown in from California, as he had been two weeks ago, to pimp Pearce's unconstitutional "anchor baby" elimination program.
Pearce, admitting SB 1611 was a last-minute deal
And it was Sinema who, after a day of being protested by her critics on the left, grilled Pearce for nearly two hours on his compendium of racist legislation, SB 1611. This, as the night dragged on into the nine o'clock hour.
Pearce appeared at 8:15 p.m., flanked by security, as the committee reconvened from a break. In granny glasses and wielding a gold pen from the podium, he defended his bill from Sinema's withering attacks as she went section by section, line by line, pointing out how poorly written and odious Pearce's measure is in reality.
When Pearce described 1611 -- which makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to operate motor vehicles, prevents the undocumented from registering their vehicles, mandates that schoolchildren prove they're in the country legally or be reported to the cops, blocks those here illegally from attending community colleges, and on and on -- as an assortment of "cleanups," Sinema called him on it, numerous times.
Sinema said she counted in the bill "19 pieces of legislation that you've introduced over the years that didn't pass," adding that it was "more than just some cleanups."
She got Pearce to admit that the bill had been slapped together at the last minute.
"This was written in a very few hours on Friday afternoon," Pearce confessed more than once, almost apologetically, as Sinema pointed out its foibles in extreme detail.
One egregious example concerned the community colleges. Students would have to provide one of a list of documents to prove lawful status, such as a foreign passport with a visa.
Sinema pointed out that 36 countries have agreements with the United States that do not require their citizens to have visas while in the U.S., including Canada and Australia. Pearce had no answers.
Instead, he blathered on ad nauseum with a bunch of his pet lines, like, "Enough is enough," "Stop the invasion," "The laws must be enforced," and "You can't continue to break our laws."
Those last couple are pretty amusing, actually, considering the fact that Pearce's son Joshua is currently cooling his heels in county jail for, um, breaking the law. But hey, that's different, right?
Ultimately, two Republicans peeled away from 1611: Senators Sylvia Allen and Rich Crandall. Allen didn't explain her nay. Crandall did, which I'll get to in a sec.
My favorite vote explanation of the night came from Democratic state Senator Olivia Cajero Bedford, who had this to say before voting no on Pearce's prejudiced proposals:
"The spoken word today has been, `illegal alien,' but what it really is, is `Mexican,' and of course, I'm Mexican and Spanish. There was a remark made by Senate President Pearce that these illegal aliens are taking [the] jobs of... American citizens.
"But I just wanted to tell you that my great-grandfather was recruited by...an Arizona mining company in the early 1900s to come to work [in Arizona] for a mine. And the reason why was that the Mexicans' pay was less than those that was paid to the whites.
"There's a lot to this bill. This morning we had in rules Senate Bill 1433, which nullifies a lot of federal law. Tonight we're having a lot that [decimates] the Arizona Constitution. And what I see happening is sort of a dictator Senate President. Anyway, I respect the process, but I just had to express my feelings."
Though Appropriations Committee chairman Andy Biggs later chastised Cajero Bedford for the "dictator" comment, it's on the money. By his own admission, Pearce ramrodded this quickly-written bill through the process.
I could practically write a novel about what went on in AppCom yesterday. Some notable vignettes include:
*Republican state Senators Al Melvin and Lori Klein quietly mocking Border Action Network policy director Jaime Farrant's accent as he addressed the committee.
*Dr. George Pauk calling out the Senators, and telling them, "The elephant in the room is racism."
*Republitwit state Senator Steve Smith -- who looks and sounds like he could be Pearce-lickspittle (and state Representative) Carl Seel's mini-me -- blaming all of Arizona's economic problems on the undocumented.
*Democratic Senator Aboud getting an official from the Mayo Clinic to agree that, in some cases, under Smith's SB 1405, hospital workers might have to report infants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
*And of course, the sheer infantile stupidity and waste of time of SB 1610, which would make the Colt single-action army revolver the official state gun. It was voted on at around 12:20 a.m.
(I later asked the gun lobby shill pimping the bill why he wasn't going for the politician-wounding, judge-killing Glock 19 as state gun. Not sure he appreciated my sarcasm.)
Lastly, I must praise the political courage of Republican state Senator Rich Crandall, who had the stones to vote against the anti-birthright citizenship bill, as well as Pearce's 1611, the move to end AHCCCS, the kids-show-us-your-papers bill SB 1407 and Smith's 1405.
He made reasoned arguments against them. Regarding the 14th Amendment travesty, he noted that Arizona was going it alone, despite claims from other GOPers to the contrary. He also complained that the two-tiered system of birth certificates had not been discussed or vetted properly.
On both the 14th Amendment bills and Pearce's 1611, he observed that they ran contrary to the state's publicity campaign to change its image, and he offered that under Pearce's 1611, even car rental companies would have to worry about checking people's immigration status.
On Smith's 1405, he said:
"I'd like to let the hospitals worry what they're good at, that is patient care, and have law enforcement worry about what they're good at, and that is immigration enforcement. So with that I'll vote no."
I caught up with Crandall in the hall after his vote against the anti-14th Amendment bills. He told me that he thought more Republicans would join him in voting against them on the Senate floor. He also mentioned that Pearce had stacked AppCom just so he could move bills like those through it, as, Crandall conceded, was his prerogative as Senate President.
Still, I couldn't help but wonder if Crandall feared retribution from Pearce over his opposition.
"Possibly," he said. "You can't count anything out. But Russell's been very respectful. On education, he's been very good to me. Honestly, to this point, I can't say a single negative thing about Russell, the way this session's run. He's let me run my big education reform bills, has supported them, signed off on one. So, no."
Then he laughed, "Now, tomorrow morning, ask me that question, when my name plate's gone..."
Crandall was good humored, self-deprecating. But Republicans like him with some Barry Goldwater-like common sense are rare birds these days. Or at least, those with the gumption to share that common sense in public. Kudos to Crandall. Goldy's giving you a thumb's up from the other side, I'll bet.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.