Which brings us to Rep. Patterson, a Democrat, and his penchant for asking uncomfortable questions of the bill's sponsor Sen. Pearce, a Republican.
What would the sensors be monitoring for? You guessed it, illegal aliens being smuggled into Arizona, as well as for drug trafficking.
To his credit, Patterson dogged all of witnesses before the panel, wondering why this was being written into law, when implementing such technology was the job of the U.S. Border Patrol.
Patterson pointed to reports that the technology was weak, and could be tripped by wildlife, livestock, and even cold weather. And he got Mark Tinker, President of Quantum Technology Sciences, Inc.
, the company pushing the bill, to admit that he approached Pearce and asked him to run the bill, and that QTSI was paying lobbyists to see the bill through the legislative process.
Though QTSI would have to bid for any state contracts, they're poised to gain if bill becomes law. I did check Pearce's last campaign filing, and he hasn't taken any contributions from QTSI or its lobbyist that I can see. Still, Pearce is a die-hard supporter of the bill.
When Pearce spoke on behalf of the proposed law before the committee, he raised the specter of border violence, telling the committee that,
"We had 69 homicides along the border just in one day...The violence and the drug trafficking going on that border ought to scare every American."
Problem is, many of those murders were not along the border and none of them were in the United States.
An AP story from early January
noted that, "law enforcement and media reported the deaths from various regions, including 26 in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, 13 in and around Mexico City and 10 in the northern city of Chihuahua."
Patterson responded like a dive-bomber, asking Pearce,
"The 69 murders you refer to, isn't that true that those have all happened in Mexico?...None of those [happened] in the U.S., did they?"
Pearce responded, "Absolutely not true, most of them we're talking about there were in Mexico. But it's along the border. These are all border regions..."
Patterson kept after Pearce, and Pearce kept dodging. Finally, noting that Pearce wasn't replying to the inquiry, he jumped to another question, but committee Chairman Jerry Weiers
allowed Pearce to give an equivocal response.
Pearce was red-faced at Patterson's questions, and Patterson was livid at being shut down by his chairman. When it came time for members to explain their votes, Patterson took the opportunity to lambaste both Pearce and Weiers.
"Mr. Pearce, you answered none of my questions," he told Pearce, who was still in the room. "I asked very specific questions. They were not answered, and that's only because I can assume you don't have the answers. Or you just step up to the mic and you make things up. That to me is troubling. We need to make decisions based on facts, not based on what you make up."
He added, "You're entitled to your own opinions, you're not entitled to your own facts...We don't get a lot of facts on your bills, we get a lot of rhetoric."
Patterson also took pains to criticize Weiers, saying, "I think it undermines the effectiveness of this committee when members ask questions and the chair shuts down the member rather than requiring a straight answer to a very clear question."
Weiers invited Patterson to request off the committee, if he wanted.
"I wouldn't have a problem with that," said Weiers, "but I don't think that's necessary. I value your opinions, I don't necessarily agree with your opinions."
However, Weiers must have had a change of heart, as he later asked that Patterson be booted from the committee, citing the decision as the will the Republican members to a reporter for The Legislative Report. Ultimately, the call was House Speaker Kirk Adams' to make, and Patterson was stripped of his MAPS membership.
House Dems issued a press release
, arguing that Patterson was a valuable asset to MAPS, and accusing the Republican leadership of censorship. In the release, a retired Army general and an ex-Air Force major attested to Patterson's effectiveness on the committee.
Tucson's Border Action Network
jumped into the fray with its own press release, accusing Weiers and Pearce of "bullying tactics."
Asked if there was a chance Speaker Adams might reverse his decision, House Republican spokesman Paul Boyer indicated that was unlikely to occur.
"With just two weeks to go of more committee hearings," he said, "I don't see him being put back on."
And so, when Pearce's SB 1070 goes before MAPS, Pearce's nemesis in the House will not be there to question it. How convenient. Not that Patterson would have been able to block SB 1070 any more than he was able to block HB 2632 when it went through MAPS. But he would have at least been able to address the bill's many flaws.
And if you think that's not worth much, just go ask Weiers and Pearce, who would prefer no debate at all.