Ours is supposed to be a government of checks and balances. Whimsical or corrupt behavior by the executive branch should be held in check by one of the other branches of government. This is especially the responsibility of the legislature, where the combination of House and Senate should restrain bad behavior in the executive branch.
Unfortunately, this carefully designed system failed completely when Governor Brewer and the Arizona Historical Society hatched her pet project, the Arizona Centennial Museum. If the Governor could have attracted private money for her pet project, she could simply have built it. However, like an Egyptian Pharaoh, she wanted to obliterate former legislature Polly Rosembaums pet project (Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum, see Tuesday July 20 blog post) and build hers on the very same spot. To do that, she needed to change the law.
Unfortunately, with the help of Representative Russ Jones and Senator John Nelson, that was all too easy. Aware of public opposition, Jones used a House trick (strike all bill) to avoid a House hearing, and Nelson pushed the bill through he Senate hearing in the face of public opposition. Then, it was easy. On the last day of the legislative session, the rest of the geese simply ran with the flock.
Incredibly, the House vote on the Arizona Centennial Museum bill was 58 to 1 with one representative not voting. Why would such a flawed bill easily attract 58 votes? The apparent answer may be that no one read it. Except for one, the geese simply ran with the flock.
Every one of the 60 Arizona congressmen were provided with information on the serious problems with the bill. Apparently, only one read it or understood it, and voted nay.
Voting without understanding is apparently standard procedure for the Arizona legislature. Not only do they apparently not read bills, they also carefully make sure no one will read it to them. Every session of the Arizona legislature is an “emergency session” to avoid a constitutional provision that bills be read before voting on them.
The Senate did a bit better. There were 9 nay votes and one Senator did not vote. However, 20 non readers or non thinkers voted for the bill.
Senators and Representatives do no appear to be representing the people. Who tells the geese how to vote, and why do they listen?
The following is from page 36 of “From idea …. To Bill… To Law, The Legislative Process in Arizona”, by State Senator Randall Grant, 2000, available online at www.az/gov
Eventually, the legislature sought to get around the three readings.
The solution was again creative. They simply declared an emergency. (Remember the “unless in case of emergency” in Article IV?) Under this provision, instead of reading the entire bill three times, the legislature only reads the title of the bill three times. So, to this day, one of the very first items on the agenda at the opening of each legislature is to have an emergency declared. Put differently, every piece of legislation passed for a number of years has been passed under an “emergency”.