Gov. Janet Napolitano knows how to reposition herself when she might be on the losing side of a hot-button issue. But Napolitano showed Monday she’s not running from any fights with the Legislature in this election year.
The governor vetoed eight separate bills that illustrate some of the wide differences between conservative Republicans and Napolitano and her Democrat allies. The topics range from abortion to gun rights to controlling school taxes — in some cases the bills were nearly identical to measures she rejected last year.
The veto that probably will receive the most attention during the governor’s race, however, was of the bill to expand state laws against trespassing to illegal immigration. Napolitano’s decision wasn’t a huge surprise, as she shares our belief Senate Bill 1157 is an empty political gesture that would solve nothing.
But still, it was a courageous choice by the governor in the face of growing pressure from many voters to something — anything — about the unending tide of illegal border crossings. Her dilemma was made easier because the law enforcement community spoke with one voice in opposition. Even Cochise County Sheriff Larry Devers, one of the few in Arizona law enforcement who favors police arrests of illegal immigrants, told a Valley newspaper columnist that SB1157 is unfunded and unworkable in the form passed by the Legislature.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, wrote in these pages Wednesday that without SB1157, the state is powerless to deal with illegal immigrants who come into contact with police. But this simply is not true, as demonstrated by the Georgia General Assembly. On Monday, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law a measure that, in part, calls for the state to enter into a contract with the federal government for local police to undergo training in enforcing federal immigration policy.
But the law won’t into effect until proper funding is available. That’s a straightforward, constitutional approach. But too many Republicans have been more interested in riling up voters against Napolitano than in opening an honest dialogue with police officials on this thorny question.