Arizona's legislators are acting like children again. That about sums up the caliber of the legislation our elected officials are proposing this spring.
Glendale Representative Linda Gray is in a dither because university professors are talking about vaginas, while Mesa Representative Karen Johnson is hiding provisions in the state's $12 billion budget to deprive unmarried, cohabiting foster parents of their measly $350 monthly stipend.
Both of those women--and a few of their colleagues--need to go sit on a mirror and get in touch with their inner selves.
Meanwhile, Tucson Representative Andy Nichols wants to create four-year terms for our legislators. Great. Double their terms, double our misery.
It's enough to make me yearn for autocratic rule. At the very least, we need a fresh crop of legislators, instead of these self-serving, corporation-catering, bedroom-obsessed wackos who treat the Arizona Revised Statutes like a pile of Play-Doh dumped on the conference table for their personal amusement.
I have just the group in mind. They may be kids, but what they lack in years, they make up for in common sense. One weekend each spring, our elected Legislature turns the Capitol over to a group of high-school students. Sponsored by the YMCA, the Model Legislature ("Model Leg," pronounced "ledge") gives the students an opportunity to craft their own legislation, then shepherd it through the lawmaking process--from committee to the governor's desk. The YMCA sponsors elections to pick officials, and even assigns kids to be lobbyists and reporters.
Former governor Bruce Babbitt aide Fred DuVal, who now works for Vice President Al Gore, was a Model Leg-er. So was Northeast Valley Representative Steve May. So was I.
After tortured hours last week reading bills introduced by our real elected officials, it was refreshing to flip through some of the proposals that will be considered at Model Leg the last weekend in March. Karen Johnson, Andy Nichols, Steve May--pay attention. These kids have some ideas--okay, a few are a little out there--that would make sound public policy.
Certainly, they put the "real" Legislature to shame.
You decide. Here are 10 of each.
Ten bills introduced in the 1999 Arizona Legislature:
The I Am Fire God! Act. House Bill 2368 is a perennial bill that would legalize sparklers. Governor Jane Dee Hull vetoed it last year, and we can only hope that she vetoes it again, if it makes it that far. The pro-sparkler movement in the Legislature is so gung ho, the bill's opponents, including the chief of the Phoenix Fire Department, were barred from testifying against it in committee. Sponsors: representatives Marilyn Jarrett, Roberta Voss, Debra Brimhall and Jeff Groscost.
The Hands Off the Interns Act. Senate Concurrent Resolution 1006 is designed to promote character in government-training programs. From the text: ". . . All that we do should be measured against the following standards of good character on which our nation's laws and systems were founded: obedience, truthfulness, gratefulness, generosity, forgiveness, sincerity, virtue, punctuality, diligence, patience and attentiveness. . . ." Sponsor: Senator David Petersen.
The Honk If You Hate Baby-Killers Act. Under provisions of House Bill 2112, "Choose Life" license plates would bear that very inscription. Proceeds from a $25 fee would go to promote adoption. Sponsor: Representative Debra Brimhall.
The Political Consultant's Wet Dream Act. House Concurrent Resolution 2008 would require that directors of state agencies as well as members of all state boards and commissions that handle state money be elected. Good idea. Just look at the quality of our elected officials. A financial boon for political consultants. Sponsor: Representative Debra Brimhall.
The Do You Think It's Hot? I Don't Think It's Hot Act. House Concurrent Resolution 2022 would send a "postcard" to Congress, protesting a treaty that calls for the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases. Sponsors: representatives Barbara Blewster, Mark Anderson, Jean McGrath, Wayne Gardner, Lou Ann Preble and Marilyn Jarrett.
The Harley Riders Are People, Too, Act. Senate Bill 1200 would outlaw discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin or ancestry, OR because of motorcycle ownership or the wearing of clothing associated with motorcycle ownership. Sponsor: Senator Keith Bee.
The Plastic Surgeons' Full Employment Act. House Bill 2010 would repeal the mandatory seat-belt law. Sponsor: Representative Debra Brimhall.
The We Don't Need No Stinking Endangered Species Act Act. House Bill 2028 would authorize the Legislature and governor to approve all federal agreements naming and protecting endangered species. A small problem: Because it involves a federal law, this bill is blatantly unconstitutional. (Phew.) Sponsor: Representative Debra Brimhall.
The Y2K Get Out of Jail Free Card Act. Senate Bill 1194 gives companies criminal and civil immunity for environmental contamination relating to the year 2000 conversion. Sponsor: Senator Rusty Bowers.
The Why Would Anybody With an STD Want to Get Married? Act. House Bill 2524 would require that anyone applying for a marriage license undergo blood testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Arizonans would be required to certify that they have no such diseases before they could get a license. In other words, two HIV-positive people would not be allowed to marry. Neither could one, for that matter. Sponsors: representatives Karen Johnson and Mark Anderson.
And now, 10 bills introduced by teeny-boppers:
Senate Bill 107. Requires home-school teachers to be certified by the state.
House Bill 210. Requires the state superintendent of public instruction to take and pass any and all standardized tests that students are required to take while in high school.
Senate Bill 124. Requires a screen behind home plate at all amateur and professional baseball games.
House Bill 204. Legalizes ticket scalping.
House Bill 212. Expands the membership of school governing boards to include one high-school student.
House Bill 234. Requires anyone buying a car stereo to sign a contract stating they are aware of the health risk, and therefore will never qualify for government assistance for a hearing aid.
House Bill 258. Requires the state Department of Corrections to set up "electric generating exercise bikes" at jails and prisons. Power generated from the use of the bikes would be sold, with proceeds to go back into the state prison system. (Hey, too bad Arizona doesn't have an electric chair!)
House Bill 260. Allows taxpayers to subtract $3,000 from their Arizona adjusted gross income in exchange for volunteering in the community.
House Bill 262. Offers free tuition at Arizona universities or colleges to high-school students with a grade point average of 3.83 or higher, and who maintain a 3.0 GPA in college. This would be paid for with a 1 percent tax increase on tobacco and alcohol.
Senate Bill 103. Requires auto insurers to offer equal rates regardless of age and sex.
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Senate Bill 114. Requires the state superintendent of public instruction to have a master's degree in education.
House Bill 208. Requires every high-school student in the state to participate in Model Legislature for at least one year.
I have my own suggestion for a bill: one that requires every grown-up legislator to attend a session of Model Legislature.