Tearing Down the House

I feel naughty about my respect for Evan Mecham, so I'm badly conflicted when I see him walking toward me through the Capitol Mall between the Arizona House and Senate buildings.

Should I scold him for the Bircher-right idiocy he helped galvanize in Arizona over the last half a century, or should I vomit my respect for his lifelong steadfastness to his ideals and his uncanny ability to mount big wins and near wins against good odds?

I mean, besides stealing the governor's office (when he started his campaign, pollsters said he could muster only 5 percent of the vote), he's the guy who came within a couple of thousand votes of beating the Father of Arizona, Carl Hayden, in the U.S. Senate race of 1962. That's like coming down to a chad count against Yahweh in the race for supreme deity.

This is by far the most interesting visit to the Capitol since my asshole editor asked me to "keep tabs on the Legislature" this general session.

Monumental session, he said. What will legislators do to fight our $1 billion budget shortfall?

I could have telegraphed this one in. The Republicans will try to cut all the regulators, who are mostly Democrats, while the Democrats will try to borrow money to keep the regulators in place to protect us from all the Republicans.

"No, Bob. Go down there. Watch the show."

So I did. And if I have to read one more lunatic bill written by Representative Russell Pearce, if I have to watch one more tax loophole get slipped in by one more thief, if I have to hear one more cute cowboy quip from House Speaker and grandson-of-a-polygamist Jake "The Breeder Snake" Flake, I will douse myself with alternative fuels and have a self-immolation party right there between these House and Senate buildings.

My silent rage, mixed with watching this impeached icon of radical conservatism pass between these two legislative edifices, inspired the most delightful idea:

Hey, what would Evan Mecham think about a unicameral Legislature in Arizona?

There's the House of Representatives, the infamous home of nuts and dim bulbs, there to his left. What if we shuttered the dang thing?

Mecham has been railing about Big Government since his days in the state Senate back in the 1950s. There is no bigger symbol of Big Government than the big number of worthless government teat-suckers in the Arizona House.

Why get rid of the House over the Senate?

For starters, it costs us $12 million a year while the Senate costs $6 million.

Yeah, the Senate has idiots, too. Bob Burns, who wanted to buy property in Mexico to build a prison. Jack Harper, the new Sun City senator who didn't want rape victims to get the morning-after pill.

But the House costs more because it has more people and needs more peripheral people to move the mounds of defiled paper generated by, uh, Rhodes scholars like Representative Chuck Gray, who wanted weapons permits issued for a lifetime; John Allen, who wanted car dealerships to close on Sunday; and Gary Pierce and Andy Biggs and, well, name just about anybody else.

Grammar question: Must one capitalize all the letters in AzScam?

The savings would compound. Fewer tax loopholes would sneak through. No House and Senate joint committees, where so much of the behind-doors chicanery takes place. Over time, the savings would cascade into the billions.

And just think, Senate president Skippy (he's so dull that I can't bring myself to look up his last name) could oversee the new unicameral body, freeing up Speaker Flake to return to Flakeville up in Flake County and open the Flake Memorial Sperm Bank so Arizona could have even more Flakes.

I dream this big dream while waiting in front of the old Capitol building with Jack August, Arizona's best political historian who is three chapters into his biography of Mecham. I've been invited to tag along as the former gov searches the state archives for documents regarding his impeachment proceedings.

After a few niceties, I just toss out the big question:

"Hey, Governor Mecham, what do you think about closing one of the houses of the Arizona Legislature? You know, to save costs. To cut the idiot factor in half. To streamline."

"Hmmm," he says. "I've got to admit I have never given it much thought."

At first, I'm deflated. Later, though, as we casually talk about Arizona history, about how Mecham beat the crap out of Hayden for being a CAP-crazed, Roosevelt-loving socialist, about how he accused everybody in government of stealing from the general fund candy jar, I realize a simple truth:

There are many good ideas that have not been given much thought by Evan Mecham.

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Robert Nelson