BUSINESS AS USUAL
When the wind blows in Bisbee, some little children run indoors.
It's simply too dangerous for them to breathe the air in this old, southeastern Arizona mining town, says Anjelika Johnson, a Bisbee travel agent and the mother of a 12-year-old girl.
The wind blows gritty chunks of dirt and rock off the towering piles of mine tailings deposited just outside of town. Even a mild gust can send swirling devils of dust--laden with iron and arsenic--sailing down city streets.
Johnson, whose daughter Rebecca has blood levels of lead and arsenic much higher than the national average, doesn't let the child drink the water, either--the wells in Bisbee are contaminated with sulfates and heavy metals, all as a result of run-off from the old piles of slag.
"I worry about how exposure to all this is going to affect her later," Johnson says. "We need to get this cleaned up."
Michael Gregory, the head of Bisbee-based Arizona Toxics, an environmental watchdog group, has been trying to do just that for almost 20 years--lobbying the state legislature to mandate that big mining companies like Phelps Dodge, which owns the Bisbee tailing piles, take responsibility for the job.
Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trail Blazers
TicketsWed., Nov. 2, 7:00pm
Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators
TicketsThu., Nov. 3, 7:00pm
Arizona State University Sun Devils Hockey vs. University of Michigan
TicketsFri., Nov. 4, 7:05pm
2016 Charles Schwab Cup Championship
TicketsWed., Nov. 9, 9:00am
"I thought this year we might possibly get some action," he says. "Bisbee clearly needs help."
But it wasn't to be.
The Arizona legislature did pass a mine cleanup law--but because of intense lobbying pressure from the mine industry, it was stripped of any punch, and will have virtually no effect on the dangerous situation in Bisbee.
Phelps Dodge escaped a big cleanup bill. Rebecca, it seems, will simply have to learn to play inside.
It was a familiar story at this year's session of the Arizona legislature--when practically every professional group, business alliance and corporate behemoth with a mind to do so bellied up to the public trough, gorging themselves on tax cuts and regulatory relief.
A group of pro-business legislators, along with a few high-powered lobbyists representing the largest companies in the state, conspired to make this feast possible--by engaging in last-minute political powerball, twisting of the public will and blatant grabs for gold concealed under thin veils of altruism.
From the utilities to mines to dog tracks, from airplane builders to microchip makers, business interests were granted tax windfalls, freedom from environmental restrictions and liberty from lawsuits on a grand scale.
One longtime lobbyist, in a moment of rare candor produced only by a guarantee of anonymity, admits that he and his colleagues referred to the 41st Legislature as "being just like a candy store."
"And we were just like kids," he smiles.
In nearly every instance, the public will pick up the check for this sugary spree.
In fact, according to public interest groups that monitor such things, 1994 was the best ever for Tycoon Tom and, conversely, an all-time low for Average Joe.
But how could that be? After all, didn't the legislature just last month approve a $100 million tax break for average, middle-income Arizonans?
Yes. But Kay Jeffries, executive director of Common Cause, says such tax cuts, while admirable, are little more than bread and circuses for the masses--a populist sop to voters that pales in comparison to the loads of lucre being distributed to corporate Arizona.
"Sure, some of us will pay $30 less, or even $200 less, in taxes," Jeffries says. "But that's nothing when you think about the hundreds of millions the legislature gave out quietly this year to business behind the scenes, while things the people of this state really need, like aid for at-risk kids and education reform, are left unpaid-for.
"This session was the worst in memory for that kind of thing. There was a certain element of inhumanity about it, as human beings took a second place to corporations in office buildings. The common person got raked over the coals."
In the short run, she points out, individual tax savings may be lost to rate hikes by utilities, which have been granted a free hand by this year's legislature to boost bills. And over the long haul, she adds, the effects of dramatically reducing the tax base and casting care for the environment to the winds produce costs that will certainly dwarf any small gains made on this year's personal income tax forms.
Not all of this year's pro-business legislating should be perceived as pernicious, of course. Too often critics forget, or choose to ignore, where wealth and prosperity come from in the first place--and that the welfare of business and the welfare of the individual are, on many levels, inseparable. What is good for GM is sometimes good for you, too, and government has an important role to play in luring corporate America to the Sonoran Desert.
But while legislators taking steps to encourage economic development is one thing, hoisting big business upon their shoulders--like native bearers carrying their chief off to a merry meeting with the God of mammon--is quite another.
Representative Chris Cummiskey, Democrat-Phoenix, a reform-minded young legislator who bemoans the "way businesses in this state have been able to write their own checks at the legislature," says that is exactly what lawmakers did for their private-sector masters this year.
"Business took a look at the conservative makeup of the legislature this session and saw a unique opportunity," Cummiskey says. "The House and the Senate may have as much as a one-third turnover in membership next year, and companies wanted to take advantage of a climate friendly to them while they could.
"They came to get while the getting was good."
The most obvious and well-publicized example of corporate "getting" was a property-tax break for the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station that will net the nuke plant's owner, Arizona Public Service Company, $25 million a year (The Nuke Gets Tax Breaks While the County Flounders," April 27).
But an examination of the record shows that to be only the tip of the iceberg. Like bargain hunters strolling through an open-air market, a vast variety of businesses landed deals of the century from legislative merchants eager to part with the state's wares.
Here are a few of the most egregious bargains lawmakers handed out. Welcome to the bazaar.
@body:The law's official name: Senate Bill 1365--An Act Relating to Mines and Mined Land Reclamation.
What it should be called: The Slag Preservation Omnibus Package.
What the guys who came up with it say it will do: Bisbee is not alone. There are many areas of Arizona, once the land where copper was king, that now resemble the moon, a crater-filled landscape of vegetation-stripped hills framed by towering piles of slag and other mining waste.
For rural areas, old mines aren't just obnoxious blight. They are also a big safety and environmental problem--especially the mounds of tailings, which can leech toxins into the ground and groundwater.
Enter Yuma Republican Jim Buster and Senate Bill 1365. The bill, says Buster--whose district is chock-full of old mines--was designed to make mining companies clean up these abandoned sites before the federal government comes in and forces them to do so.
"Like many Arizonans," Buster solemnly intones, "I would rather this state regulate itself than have the feds come in here, to a place they don't fully understand, and force us to do things.
"This is an environmentally responsible effort on our part to take care of our own house."
What the law really does: It's true that federal environmental regulators were bound to put the squeeze on state mining companies unless the legislature acted first. What isn't true is that SB 1365 has any kind of real regulatory teeth.
Rather than a serious effort to clean up mine detritus, critics say, SB 1365 is a paper tiger; an awkward attempt to trick the feds into leaving the state's mining colossi alone and provide an escape hatch for companies to avoid multimillion-dollar cleanups.
To begin with, the law has more loopholes than Bisbee has mine shafts.
The bill specifies that companies don't have to clean up mines until two years after all mining operations have ceased. Trouble is, nobody bothered to define what "activity" means. Can companies merely visit the site and turn over a spadeful of dirt every now and then to keep the mine "active"?
Even if they refrain from this kind of subterfuge, there are plenty of ways to opt out of cleanup duties. Companies can receive two five-year extensions from the state, and if they say they have plans--no matter how vague or tentative--to turn the old mine into a historical site or amusement park, then cleanup responsibilities are effectively eliminated.
To top it off, the law will not take full effect until 1997.
Rena Honan, the director of the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club, laughs bitterly at the suggestion that the legislature is bravely forcing companies into expensive cleanups of their old mines in the name of state's rights.
"The mining companies knew that without a mine reclamation bill, the Environmental Protection Agency was on the way," Honan says. "Now they can say they have one, but it doesn't do anything--or cost the companies anything.
"We can only hope the feds aren't fooled by this empty gesture."
If they know anything about the makeup of Arizona state government, they won't be. As if the mine reclamation law weren't weak enough already, Phelps Dodge lobbyist Jim Bush, a 30-plus-year veteran of the influence game, pushed Buster and other mine-friendly legislators to place enforcement power for the cleanups with the Department of Mines, rather than the Department of Environmental Quality.
A relic of Arizona's six-gun era, the mine department's primary function these days is running the state mining museum, which is housed in a garish, faux-Middle Eastern Casbah near the Capitol that previously served as a Shriner's auditorium.
The Department of Mines has neither the manpower nor the money to embark on such a task--now or in 1997--and although state Mine Inspector Douglas Martin tries to put on a brave face when discussing his new, overwhelming duties, it is clear that making this agency responsible for mine reclamation is akin to sending the Boy Scouts into combat.
Martin, noting that he has been given a paltry $120,000 to do the job (he estimates needing two or three times that much), says he has "zero" staff to assign to the cleanup task but plans to hire one engineer and a secretary this year.
"I'll do the best I can," he sighs. "That's all I can do."
The verdict: Residents of old mining towns like Miami, Ajo and Bisbee should face downwind, take a deep breath, and hold it--for at least three years.
@body:The law's official name: Senate Bill 1373--An Act Making an Appropriation Relating to Agriculture.
What it should be called: Aid for Dependent Dog Tracks.
What the guys who came up with it say it will do: The rise of gambling on Arizona Indian reservations has put a real dent in the profit margins of the state's dog and horse tracks, complains the by-now-familiar Senator Buster.
"Having slot machines out there on the 'res' has drained off a lot of folks who used to bet at the track," he says. "Track owners are taking it on the chin, and it's not fair because the Indians don't have to pay all these state taxes."
To remedy this awful inequity and to ensure the preservation of a tremendous cultural resource like greyhound racing, Buster sponsored SB 1373, which provides track owners with $6 million in tax breaks.
"We're just trying to even the playing field," he says. "I think voters will be pleased with the idea that businessmen off the reservation now have the same opportunities as those who run gambling halls on the reservation."
The real story: When this piece of prime pork was offered by Buster early in session, it was rejected outright by Finance Committee Chair Pat Wright, Republican-Glendale, who announced she would allow the bill to be heard "under duress or not at all."
But Buster, who represents a district where a greyhound track recently shut down due to lack of business--and where unemployment hovers around 25 percent--wasn't about to let sleeping dogs lie. During the closing hours of the session, around 3 a.m. on the final morning, to be exact, when horse trading over bills is at a peak, Buster snuck the bill back into the race.
Senator Marc Spitzer, Republican-Phoenix, for one, was outraged.
"Guys like Buster try to claim that the tracks are falling victim to unfair competition," he says, "but the truth is that they are just on the wrong side of history. Interest in racing has been falling off for some time.
"Even if the situation were unfair, this bill should not have gone through like it did."
Coming at such a bleary hour, the bill emerged on the Senate floor for a vote without any debate or public hearing. There was no time for legislators to scrutinize the bill, a complex document written wholly by racetrack-industry lobbyists.
"This was one of the most complicated pieces of legislation I've ever seen," Spitzer says. "I'm a tax lawyer, and I couldn't make sense out of it.
"Things like this require careful consideration, instead of being rammed through at literally the last minute."
The reason supporters succeeded, observers like Spitzer say, is the presence of an all-star team of lobbyists--including premier deal maker and gubernatorial scion Bob Fannin, former attorney general Jack LaSota and former House majority leader Jim Skelly--who showed up in the wee hours to pressure weary legislators to give SB 1373 the nod.
Especially key--and especially surprising--were lobbying efforts to corral Assistant Minority Leader Pete Rios, who Spitzer says has earned a reputation among his colleagues as "someone who almost never votes for a bill unless it hurts business."
"It's almost like he has a grudge against anyone who works for a living."
But in the final hours, lobbyists chased this unlikely ally around the floor like . . . well, like greyhounds after a rabbit. Only unlike their counterparts on the racing ovals, these dawgs got their prey--persuading Rios to lead a pack of other Democrats in support of the bill.
Perhaps Rios' sudden conversion was the result of impassioned, logical argument on the part of the lobbying swarm. Or maybe his change of heart can be attributed to the financial aid of the track industry, which was one of the only business interests to support his last campaign for Senate--support he will doubtless need more of to triumph in his upcoming statewide race for secretary of state.
Rios did not return calls seeking comment for this story. But whatever the truth, his support was vital--the track aid passed narrowly in the wee hours of the final day.
Spitzer says the bill represents a dangerous precedent.
"It sends a message to powerful interests that it is in your interest to bypass the regular process of public hearing and debate," he says, "if you know you have leverage on enough legislators to wait and slam it through at the last minute.
"That, clearly, is not how the system is supposed to work."
The verdict: Being slow out of the gate doesn't mean you won't finish in the money.
@body:The law's official name: House Bill 2009--An Act Relating to Public Service Corporations.
What it should be called: The Corporation Commission Castration Scheme.
What the guys who came up with it say it will do: According to Bob O'Leary, the head of the Arizona Water Utilities Association--one of the lobbying groups that pushed hard for HB 2009--the new law is designed to remedy the public's "long-held frustration that the Arizona Corporation Commission takes way too much time to approve rate increases."
It seems that O'Leary and other utility gurus have been besieged by citizen complaints that the commission, which is charged with evaluating and approving rate increases, is dawdling--taking almost two years, in some cases, to okay rate hikes.
In other words, O'Leary says people are mad because their utility bills aren't going up fast enough.
Therefore, the cantankerous commission, which is renowned for playing hardball with Arizona Public Service Company, Salt River Project, U S West and various waterworks around the state, often denying or slashing their rate requests, clearly needs to be reined in.
"People understand," says Representative Gary Richardson, Republican-Tempe, the bill's principal sponsor, "that utilities need normal rate hikes, just like people need cost-of-living raises in their paychecks."
Richardson says that when utilities aren't promptly granted the increases they want, they must borrow money to cover their extra costs. They then must pay interest on that money, and pass the interest cost on to the ratepayer.
"In the end," he says, "failure to give timely rate hikes to utilities costs everybody money."
The answer to the problem, Richardson and O'Leary insist, is HB 2009, which sets a "time clock" of nine months for the commission to review and approve rate hike requests.
"The present system takes too long," Richardson says. "This new rule will be more streamlined and efficient. Surely everyone is in favor of that."
What the law really does: Think of the Corporation Commission as a pit bull standing between you and menacing higher utility bills. HB 2009 yanks the regulatory teeth out of this guard dog--turning it into a poodle.
Of course, a poodle isn't the kind of beast you want to take into war against the power brokers.
And war, after all, is what the commission was designed for. It was created by a provision of the original state Constitution--drafted during the heat of the Progressive movement early this century--as a hedge against the kind of fiscal feather-scattering that can occur when the legislature is left alone to mind the henhouse.
History had taught the founding fathers to fear that, without an independent agency keeping a close lookout, utilities (at the time, that meant railroads and water companies) would merely have to grease a few palms to persuade lawmakers to look the other way while rates were raised with abandon.
They feared legislators like Richardson, who is known to some winking colleagues as "the representative from APS" because his campaign bank account in 1992 was awash with big utility money donated by the power-company PACs.
They also doubted Richardson's central assumption--that all utility rate requests are completely legitimate.
"This new law subverts a long Arizona tradition of protecting consumer interests from the money-driven politics of utilities," says Corporation Commissioner Renz Jennings, one of the pit bulls facing a dental extraction.
Jennings is quick to point out that the reason it takes the commission so long to investigate and rule on rate requests is that they are often of Rubik's Cube complexity.
Each expenditure made by a utility is conscientiously examined by commission staffers, to ensure that the utility isn't trying to sneak something into the bill that consumers really shouldn't have to pay for. Like, for one thing, millions in cost overruns due to mismanagement in building a nuclear power plant. Or, for another, softball uniforms.
"One time," Jennings says, "a utility tried to include the cost of uniforms for the company team in the rate increase. Now, I don't know about you, but I doubt most ratepayers want to ante up for stuff like that."
With the reduced amount of time available for investigations, the commission will undoubtedly miss such excesses, big and small, and will be forced to pass them on to ratepayers. This new "efficient" system could net utilities hundreds of millions of dollars in increases that in the past would have been denied.
"The utilities are trying to cast this thing in terms of efficiency," Jennings says. "Hell, if efficiency is simply a measure of time, we could get through these rate cases in two days, or two hours.
"All we have to do is agree to trust the utilities' word that they need all the money they're asking for. That may be efficient, but efficient for whom?"
Perhaps the worst thing about HB 2009, however, is that if the commission fails to rule on a rate increase within the time allowed, then the rate hike the utility wants goes into effect automatically--as long as it is "reasonable."
O'Leary says that shouldn't worry ratepayers.
"I'm sure the utilities will be perfectly reasonable with their requested increases," he says. "Just because we've got this new law doesn't mean utilities are going to rush out and ask for something wild like a 40 or 50 percent hike."
Postscript: Soon after House Bill 2009 cleared the legislature, U S West filed a "reasonable" rate hike request of 41 percent.
Postscript II: Jennings and others plan to sue the state over the law, claiming it violates the constitutional guarantee of an independent Corporation Commission.
The verdict: Candles--they're not just for romantic dinners anymore.
@body:The law's official name: House Bill 2220--An Act Relating to Drug Testing of Employees.
What it should be called: The Fill the Bottle at Your Own Risk Ordinance.
What the guys who came up with it say it will do: As companies rush to enact employee drug testing programs, they have awakened to an ugly reality--employees don't like being forced to piddle in a cup, and they sometimes file lawsuits in an attempt to avoid it.
That, says the by-now-familiar Representative Richardson, is bad for business--and for all of us.
"It is in the public interest for companies to test their employees and rid the workplace of drug users," he says. "But companies can't effectively perform these tests if they are constantly getting hit by nuisance suits from disgruntled employees."
The answer, Richardson says, is HB 2220, a law that bars workers from suing their employer over drug testing.
"This law will help Arizona businesses who want to keep drug dealers and boozers on the unemployment lines where they belong," Richardson says.
What the law really does: Although Richardson does his best to accentuate HB 2220's get-tough-on-drugs, law-and-order veneer, he dodges the bill's true intent--to specifically insulate large firms against legitimate lawsuits from employees who have been disciplined or fired based on erroneous test results.
No one knows how often drug tests come back with what industry calls a "false positive" result--that's "wrong" in realspeak--but some scientists estimate it happens as much as once in every five tests. Everything from cold medication to various kinds of seeds and nuts can raise a drug test's not-so-discriminating red flag.
It evidently happens often enough that companies like Motorola, which runs one of the most extensive employee testing programs in the country, put their muscle and their lobbyists--like Chuck Shipley from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce--into pushing for passage of the bill.
Representative Susan Gerard, Republican-Phoenix, who fought HB 2220, says that she "supports drug testing, but that one would think that if an employee is wronged based on incorrect tests, he should have a right of recourse.
"But not in Arizona; not anymore."
The verdict: If you eat regularly in the Motorola commissary, stay away from the poppy-seed bagels.
@body:The law's official name: Senate Bill 1384--An Act Relating to Agriculture and the Environment.
What it should be called: The State Knows What's Best for Pima County and Hughes Aircraft.
What the guys who came up with it say it will do: You've got to give credit to the supporters of SB 1384--they don't even try to disguise what havoc they have wrought.
While no legislator who was key in passing the bill would return calls to New Times (weatherman/senator Ed Phillips, Republican-Phoenix, and House Speaker Mark Killian, Republican-Mesa, foremost among them), the primary lobbyist for the measure was shamelessly willing to spell out the legislation's goals--which call for a kind of environmental "norming."
"The idea is that no county should be able to enact environmental standards that are more stringent than state standards," says Dan Cavenaugh, principal lobbyist for the Pima County Chamber of Commerce.
"It is simply too harsh of a penalty on business to make them conform to the harsh rules of the federal government, the state and the county, too."
As a result of the new law, counties are forbidden from forcing companies within their boundaries from adhering to higher air- or water-quality standards than those set by Arizona law. Only if the county has a "peculiar" local problem--a term left undefined by the law--will the state allow a county to set a higher standard.
In Pima County, where Tucson residents simply seem to care more about the desert ecosystem than many of their state brethren, that means a host of regulations--approved by public vote--is now null and void.
"Businesses have been released from a number of restrictive and difficult restrictions," Cavenaugh says. "They will be more profitable as a result."
Back in 1992, Hughes Aircraft, one of the largest firms in southern Arizona, began to bump up against the tougher Pima County regulations. It seems the company was having trouble getting permits approved for a plant expansion because it was unwilling to provide the county with detailed maps showing how airborne wastes would be processed and disposed of.
At Hughes' prompting, the county Chamber of Commerce launched a drive for SB 1384, a drive that bore fruit this year.
Reaction in cactus-hugging Pima County has been swift and critical.
Tucson-based environmentalist and public interest lawyer David Barron calls the law "an abomination."
"Industry lawyers are going to use this thing every time they don't like some environmental regulation at a local level," he says. "The law effectively strips environmental control of a community from the people who live there and gives it to the state.
"If industry wants to, it can use this law to bring local environmental regulation to a halt."
An added complication is that Barron and many other lawyers interpret SB 1384 as meaning that if the state doesn't have a regulation covering a particular environmental issue, then the county can't enforce one, either.
"For instance," Barron says, "the state doesn't have a law governing bad odors emitted by a factory. Well, since Arizona doesn't have an official position on the subject, a county is prohibited from enacting a law to deal with it as well."
Proving that the county has a "peculiar" problem may be a partial solution, but even this provision is so laden with bureaucratic requirements--the county must prove its case in court, hold hearings, file a position paper with the secretary of state and then hold more hearings before an exemption can be won--that it offers little real-life recourse.
And while all this wrangling is going on, the law will be saving county businesses millions that should have been spent in environmental controls.
In the end, Barron says, the law could end up costing Arizonans "untold amounts" in future cleanup costs, not to mention degrading the quality of life in the Tucson area, where voters made a conscious decision to take extra steps to protect it.
That, really, is the central question raised by the law: Who should be making the decision about what kind of standards are enforced in a community--the state or the people who have a stake in the standard of living there?
State officials are oddly schizophrenic on the issue. On one hand, the legislature, in an action aimed directly at the Brady Bill, approved spending $1 million to establish a legal fund to battle the federal government over what many conservatives--including Governor Fife Symington--view as unwarranted intrusions by Washington, D.C., on the states. The idea is that, when it comes to government, small is beautiful--state residents should choose their own laws and regulations: i.e., federalism.
But on the other hand, legislators feel no compunction about dictating to county governments, an even closer-to-the-bone division of democracy, to the effect that they can't make their air and water cleaner than the state at large.
Have legislators missed this comparison simply because they lack a sense of irony? Probably not. It's more likely they recognize a higher power than their professed adherence to the principles of small government.
"Big money, like the kind Hughes has, talks," Barron says.
The verdict: Do as I say, not as I do.
@body:What is the total price of all this legislative largess? There is no easy way to affix a cost on environmental degradation, and according to Kevin McCarthy, director of the Arizona Tax Research Association, trying to account for the straightforward tax breaks and regulatory relief is equally futile.
But if you could gather all the relevant numbers and extrapolate their effect over the next decade, you would probably end up with one of those numbers where the pocket calculator blinks all nines and an "E."
"Clearly," says McCarthy, a supporter of several of the tax-cut and deregulation bills, "there are hundreds of millions of dollars involved."
The only thing one can definitely conclude by analyzing the record of the corporate victories won by the free-giving 41st is that it could have been a lot worse.
A quick check of the bills that didn't pass into law reveals even more blatant giveaways and onerous subversions of the supposedly democratic process:
There was a bill, financed by the liquor industry, that would have taken zoning control of bars and nightclubs away from cities and neighborhoods and given it to the rubber-stamp state liquor board. Another would have done away with the requirement that corporations file a list of directors with the secretary of state--a state of affairs that, in the bad old days of the 1970s, helped make Arizona the land-fraud capital of the country.
Still another would have granted the right for landowners to issue private hunting licenses for game animals that wander onto their property--a measure that would have raised extra income for northern Arizona ranchers but thrown Arizona's wildlife management system into disarray.
And another, perhaps the most subversive of all from a constitutional perspective, would have made it almost impossible for the public or press to access state, county or city records--from police reports to official audits of agencies.
As incredible as these pieces of legislation may seem, it is even more incredible that those who introduced and supported them had plausible reasons to believe they would become law.
The reason that was so, says Jeffries of Common Cause, is because of the way the lawmaking system is structured.
"The whole process is citizen-unfriendly," she says. "It's a Byzantine process that defies logic. Many times, legislators themselves couldn't find out where their own bills were in the system, so how can citizens be expected to find out what is going on and put a stop to the really wild things?
"They would have to quit their day jobs and come to the legislature full-time."
Amid more than 1,200 different proposed laws and a crazy patchwork of committee hearings and circuitous procedures--a system that in turn encourages last-minute bargaining sessions, where the most undemocratic elements come to the fore--the legislative process more closely resembles an elaborate game of hide-the-ball than an open forum for the forging of laws.
The growing obsession with limiting the session to a 100-day sprint--a length of time often insufficient for the proper consideration of the towering pile of complicated legislation--adds to the confusion, as well.
It is little wonder that legislators feel confident in packing pork or rolling logs without fear of being discovered or chastised.
Perhaps this legislature's biggest sin was its failure to pass a law that could have changed all that.
The bill, sponsored by Chris Cummiskey, would have forced the legislature to conform to the state open-meeting law--from which it exempted itself several years ago--and actually hold public hearings on important issues. It would have limited the number of bills each legislator could introduce to five (plus a few additional appropriation bills), thus narrowing the field, making bill tracking easier and opening the system to public scrutiny.
Unfortunately, reform wasn't a popular issue under the copper dome.
"There wasn't a tremendous amount of interest," says Cummiskey. "A lot of people said they were too busy to talk about it. I guess they had other things on their minds.
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.