Michelle Ugenti's Anti-Colorado City Bill Gets No Love from State Senate

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If more than two-thirds of the state House votes in favor of a bill that would rein in corruption in local police forces, you would anticipate that the proposed legislation at least would receive a hearing in the state Senate, wouldn't you?

See also: -Eddie Farnsworth Blocked Hearing for Anti-Child-Sex-Trafficking Bill -Andy Biggs, the $10 Million Chairman, and His Tuesday Night Massacre Not in the case of House Bill 2648, which would create a complex mechanism by which an out-of-control law enforcement agency could be decertified by the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, and taken over by a law enforcement administrator appointed by a county board of supervisors.

Sponsored by Republican Representative Michelle Ugenti, the bill was meant to address problems with the Hildale-Colorado City Marshal's Office, which patrols both Colorado City and Hildale on the Arizona-Utah border, a twin city notorious for its association with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The tiny police force of six men has been accused of protecting polygamists, preventing "plural wives" from leaving their husbands, and being an instrument of intimidation close to the FLDS cult.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune's "polygamy blog," six officers in the marshal's office, including a chief, have been decertified by POST over the years for everything from bigamy and marrying underage girls to writing to FLDS leader and convicted child rapist Warren Jeffs in prison.

A provision of the bill requiring POST to investigate a police agency of ten persons or less when 50 percent of the force has been decertified, could apply to the Colorado City force.

But the bill is not retroactive and would only be triggered if 50 percent of that force were decertified over the next five years.

The bill is far from perfect, though improved from a similar bill run last year, which some deemed "special legislation" and thus prohibited by the Arizona Constitution. The bill failed in the House by three votes.

With most of last-year's concerns addressed, the bill was overwhelmingly approved earlier this month by the House, drawing support from both Democrats and Republicans to pass with a vote of 52 to 7.

One of those voting nay on the floor was none other than Representative Eddie Farnsworth, the guy who blocked a child-sex trafficking bill by refusing it a hearing in the Judiciary Committee he chairs.

Farnsworth's seat-mate in Legislative District 12 is state Senate President Andy Biggs, who assigned HB 2648 to two committees, Public Safety and Government and Environment. But neither scheduled the bill for a hearing, and according to Mike Philipsen, communications adviser for the Senate Majority Staff, that means the bill is likely kaput.

"That particular bill would be dead," he explained, "because Public Safety met for the last time today--also it is not on the agenda for tomorrow's final Government hearing."

Moribund the bill might be for now, but until sine die (the end of the session), all things are possible.

I've been hard on Ugenti in the past, but her bill is worthy, and perhaps with a few tweaks, would make a good law. I also appreciated her righteousness in the House Government Committee she chairs, when she shut down a lawyer representing the Hildale-Colorado City Marshal's Office.

"I don't think in Arizona we should have police departments that have 50 percent of their officers decertified," she shot back at one of the attorney's cavils. "And we're going to deal with it."

Not this session, it seems, unless the bill's fortunes change.

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