I've known ex-radio host and recently-elected state Representative Jay Lawrence for a while now, and I've always liked him.
He's a genial guy, who can wow you with tales of how he used to show the Beatles a thing or two back in the day, when they first came to America, and he was greasing skids for them.
Lawrence is pretty conservative, but at least on his talk radio show on KTAR, he seemed a reasonable right-winger, more moderate on immigration than others.
I was a guest on his show once. At other times, he would let me call in to challenge people he had in the studio with him.
When Lawrence decided to run in deeply red Legislative District 23 to replace state Rep. John Kavanagh, who was running for state Senate, I admit, I was flummoxed.
Why would anyone in their right mind want to be part of the clown show that is the Arizona Legislature? I mean, the place practically keeps The Daily Show in business.
During his ultimately successful campaign, Lawrence took a harder line on immigration than I recall from his days on the FM dial. And he made some statements regarding the wave of migrant children coming across the border that I took to task.
Needless to say, we're poles apart politically, but I still like Lawrence, despite the fact that he's stepped in it again, suggesting potential legislation that would apply the label "non-citizen" to some Arizona driver's licenses.
A few days ago, on his Facebook page, Lawrence wrote that he had a bill in the works "to place the words NONCITIZEN across drivers licenses issued to those in the country illegally."
Thing is, if you are in the country illegally, you cannot obtain a driver's license from the Arizona Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Division.
Moreover, there are many non-citizens who are in this country legally, such as those with permanent legal residence. These "green card" holders can live and work legally in the United States. There is no reason to label them as "non-citizens" on their DLs. They already carry documents to this effect.
Lawrence's suggestion seemed inflammatory, divisive, and ill-advised, to say the least. I told Lawrence as much, by commenting on his Facebook page, and by talking to him on the phone.
I wasn't the only one. Democratic State Senator-elect Catherine Miranda blasted Lawrence's idea, as did a tsunami of keyboard critics, some of them calling Lawrence a bigot, a racist, a Nazi, you name it.
Lawrence tried to backpedal a bit, saying online that there was no bill, per se, and that he was merely on a "fact-finding mission," and so forth.
I was told by sources at the legislature that the whole idea was DOA. That there was no bill, and there would not be a bill, along the lines Lawrence initially suggested.
Here's hoping that's true and remains true.
Local gadfly DeeDee Blase threw herself into the mix, announcing a press conference to further denounce Lawrence for a bill that apparently doesn't exist. At least not yet.
Senator Miranda, who endorsed Republican Doug Ducey for governor this year over the howls of her fellow Dems, is supposed to be at Blase's presser as well.
All of this comes on the heels of the federal courts allowing DREAMers who qualify for President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to get Arizona driver's licenses, which a lot of Rs don't like.
Interestingly, according to ADOT, the DACA kids's DLs will have an expiration date of just a couple of years from issuance, which reflects their temporary status.
Also, all drivers under 21 get a vertical credential these days.
So Lawrence's deeply flawed idea, as applied to DACA-ites, essentially would be superfluous.
I wish Lawrence or the state House leadership would just put a stake through this idea, and say, publicly, that it's a non-starter. Which it seems to be, for now.
Lawrence is not a bigot or a racist or anything like it.
Rather, I believe he was naively promulgating one of those "solutions in search of a problem."
Though I hate to see my old friend pilloried, I suppose he should regard this as his "Welcome to the Legislature" moment.
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Can a Daily Show segment featuring Lawrence be far away?
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