On the state level, a Senate/House compromise bill just passed the Senate Appropriations Committee to render the 1998 voter-passed Clean Elections laws effectively mute. The Bill, SCR1013, was written by Republican Rick Murphy, R-Glendale, who strangely enough, was a clean elections candidate. Problem is Rep. Murphy received a $10,000 fine in June of 2005 by the Clean Elections Commission for overspending. So in essence, Murphy wants to gut the laws he violated, thereby wiping his corrupt ass clean with the paper the law was written on. But Murphy isn't stopping there. He wants to raise the cap on individual contributions to privately funded legislative candidates to a total of $10,000. The current limit is $296.00 for a legislative race and $760.00 for a statewide race. He also wants to remove the limit of $3500.00 from private donors to all candidates.
Considering the current US House corruption scandal which made the name 'Jack Abramoff' a synonym for greed, you'd think that Mr. Murphy would be a bit more cautious about sponsoring a bill which allows politicians a financial windfall of campaign contributions. But like so many of his Republican colleagues, Murphy thinks the electorate is just way too stupid to understand the whole campaign finance situation. Should the full Senate pass the Bill, it will be included on the November 2006 ballot.
In my home city of Tucson, a controversial transportation plan will be voted upon in a special election on May 16 of this year. The initiative raises the cities part of the state sales tax by half a cent over a twenty year period of time to provide $2.1 billion dollars to the Regional Transportation Authority, a mayor appointed group of local cronies to make various improvements to our road and traffic woes. The mayor created the RTA after voters turned down a 2004 ballot initiative to raise the sales tax to build a trolley that was to run down one of our main thoroughfares. And what did our Republican Mayor Bob Walkup say after the overwhelming rejection to a long standing councilman? "The voters are too stupid to understand the importance of the transportation issue."
Anyone who's visited Tucson can tell you we are a medium-sized city trying to act like a big city. One of the more unflattering features of our burgh are the acres and acres of new and used car lots that now occupy land that contained spectacular desert landscapes. The owners of these lots are a powerful lobby in the halls of our town government, as are the home and commercial development companies that are quickly chewing up land south and east of Tucson, draining our miniscule water aquifers to provide quickly built homes for sun worshipping retirees and transplants. The car dealers are violently opposed to expanded transit services for obvious reasons, as are the developers and realty groups placing people twenty and sometimes thirty miles from their in-town jobs. So who wants to bet against me that the interests of the car dealers and developers will come first with our marvelous, unelected Regional Transportation Authority? As for road improvement, the voters passed a bond initiative in 1997 for road improvement, and not even a quarter of those projects have been completed nearly ten years later. Besides, our local elected officials are very good about ignoring the wishes of the electorate. In 2004, the Pima County Board of Supervisors had an election about land preservation, which the voters overwhelmingly passed. Not a year later, the Supervisors sold part of the land that was supposed to be preserved to mining interests when the price of copper skyrocketed. Ooops!
The parallels between local and state governance and that of federal legislators continue to be remarkably similar. So take heart, Republicans in the US House and Senate. If you're flustered about how scandal has impeded your ability to make lobbyists at your door happy, make a trip to the warm confines of Arizona. We'll make you feel right at home.
Larry Sakin is a former music executive and medical non-profit administrator. He has published a number of articles in both fields and is currently writing a book about coping with loss. More of his work can be found on www.blogcritics.org, www.changeforamerica.com, and Charlotte's Other Web.