Arizona's legislature is back in session. Before the first week had even finished, hundreds of bills had been "dropped" into the hopper, several which I find telling of the political atmosphere here in Arizona. Unfortunately, several of these bills reflect how our current legislature has lost touch with reason and demonstrate a sense of political entitlement that has and will continue to harm our state. Clearly, they have learned absolutely nothing from the message Arizona voters sent in the 2011 elections.
Republicans used to be the party of Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. I come from a family of "Barry Goldwater Republicans." My uncle told stories about my grandfather introducing Barry at the local Rotary Club. These days, I hear the names Reagan and Goldwater dropped at meetings as if the men were still around today. Both ran campaigns that highlighted the best our country had to offer and recognized our potential. They worked with Democrats to help make ours a better country. If there was a good idea, it got a hearing.
Again we hear what seems like annual reports of Republican leadership saying few Democratic bills will get a hearing regardless of the merits. Go to www.azleg.gov and look up Democratic-sponsored bills and see how many have hearings scheduled. Not too many. And God forbid any of them attempt to fix laws that have damaged our state. This "know-it-all" attitude and unwillingness to listen is what defeated former Senate President Russell Pearce in the recall. For him it was "my way or the highway." His sense of entitlement and invulnerability led to his running one of the worst campaigns in Arizona history.
The recall allowed voters to witness how dirty Republican politics can be when one of their leaders is threatened. Sham candidates, illegal street signs, voter-suppressing robo-calls, baseless personal attacks at community members, and malicious mailers were just a few of the dirty tricks deployed-and not once did the Republican leadership speak out against it. They thought it was OK because they were entitled to the seat. To ensure that a successful recall doesn't happen again, power-hungry Republicans want to change the rules. The result will be a legislature of special interests that can outspend all sensible voices and disregard upset constituents.
A recent CNN poll found that two-thirds of Americans think money corrupts politics. Here in Arizona, Republicans have introduced HB 2213 that seeks to increase campaign contributions tenfold. This bill will raise the individual contribution limit from $488 to $5,000. It would raise the amount that a political committee can give to a legislative candidate to $25,000. Republicans believe the Golden Rule of "He who has the gold makes the rules." Where does that leave you?
In another effort to stifle the voice of the people, Arizona Republicans introduced HB 2020 that increases by 60 percent the number of signatures required to initiate a citizen recall of a state legislator. Currently, you need only 10 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the previous election to initiate a recall. Interestingly, the same people who support HB 2020 are the same people who doubted we'd collect enough signatures to recall Pearce. Yet now that Pearce lost, they want to make recalls more difficult and it's all because they didn't like the outcome. That's not honoring the Constitution or respecting the will of the people. It's sour grapes from sore losers who want to weaken your voice.
By opening the floodgates to special interest money and by drastically decreasing the probability of a recall, these out-of-touch legislators will continue to turn their backs on voters and continue making Arizona what comedian Jon Stewart calls "the meth lab of Democracy." There are more important issues to work on, like creating jobs, growing businesses, and restoring our state to world-class competitiveness rather than worrying about fundraising or recalls. It's clear they are their own highest priority.
Andrew Sherwood is Democratic Party district chairman for Arizona's Legislative District 18.