Arizona has an established history of overreach when it comes to the "rule of law" that the Republican majority is so fond of trotting out in their speeches. Whether it's the rights of immigrants, women, or the GLBT community, the asshats here don't mind shredding the Arizona or U.S. Constitution in order to set a course to Wingnutland, nor are they reluctant to disregard the will of voters. Last fall, for instance, Arizonans approved a medical marijuana provision, only to see Governor Brewer file a lawsuit to halt the program before seeds were in the ground. She later said it was a mistake to allow voters to make that decision:
"I believe we all have a duty to speak with a unified voice on irresponsible ballot measures that jeopardize public safety. Proposition 203...is a good example where a unified voice might have prevented passage of this dreadful situation... We didn't realize it was going to get that kind of momentum." Reason
Another initiative Arizona voters approved in 2000 was Prop. 106, which took congressional redistricting out of the hands of the legislature, where it had become little more than a political tool, and established the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC), comprised of two Republicans, two Democrats, and one Independent. The Governor and legislature were to have no role in AIRC's work except, said the statute, in the case of "gross misconduct" or "egregious behavior" by commissioners.
Well, evidently Brewer saw enough "gross misconduct" on the part of the commission to call a special session Tuesday to remove AIRC's chairwoman and lone Independent, Colleen Coyle Mathis. The special session was rushed, giving Senators little notice or opportunity to prepare. During the debate, when Democratic Senator Steve Gallardo requested that the Senators seek counsel about the motion to remove Mathis -- because there's clearly a constitutional question in play -- Senate President Russell Pearce ruled him out of order.
We also just learned that Brewer and the GOP leadership wanted to remove the two Democrats as well, but they couldn't muster the votes. On conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt's program yesterday, Brewer said she will still pursue the Democrats' removal.
HH: So you intend to follow through to the best that you can to remove them [the two Dems] from that commission?
JB: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, we want a fair and open process. HH Show
Yes, "fair and open." Based on what recently emerged at HuffPo, it's less likely Brewer was concerned about "fairness" than protecting the turf of a few freshman GOP Congressmen, who reportedly urged the Governor to stick her nose into the redistricting process:
Arizona Democratic Party communications director Jennifer Johnson told HuffPost the Republican push to oust Mathis was only about protecting incumbents."Quayle didn't want to primary with Schweikert," Johnson said, referring to freshmen GOP representatives Ben Quayle and David Schweikert, who would be in the same district under the redistricting proposal. "He wants a nice easy going district. They're used to getting their way, they [Republicans] run everything in this state.
So, that's the "gross misconduct" that Brewer and the GOP are upset about. Oh, boo hoo, the AIRC has made it more difficult for Republicans. They're not used to not having all the skids greased for them in this state.
The Republicans' beef is that a new 9th district in central Phoenix, because of population increase, is gerrymandered to favor Democrats. I live in central Phoenix and all of our state senators and representatives are Dems, as is our Congressional Rep, Ed Pastor. It's hard not to create a Democratic district here. Brewer also says the AIRC took previously safe GOP districts and made them more competitive. Christ, they still have a majority of "safe" districts under the draft plan, which pretty much guarantees four seats to Republicans and only two to Democrats, with three in play. Still, in calling the special session Tuesday, Governor Brewer wrote to the legislature:
"[T]he conduct of the IRC -- led by Chairwoman Mathis -- has created a cloud of suspicion that will not lift. A flawed redistricting process has resulted in flawed district maps." New Times
It seems the Independent Mathis was just a tad too bit independent for Brewer and the GOP majority. Even though the "flawed" draft plan guarantees the GOP twice as many seats as Dems, that wasn't good enough for Governor Brewer, State Senator Russell Pearce, and their GOP toadies; not one Republican broke ranks and voted against Mathis's removal.
Dennis Burke, one of the authors of Prop. 106, was rightfully outraged by this power grab, since Brewer is using the "egregious behavior" exception as a "backdoor" for Republicans to manipulate a supposedly independent process:
Burke defined "egregious" as taking a bribe, peddling influence, or being physically or mentally incapable of doing the job. What he saw at the state Capitol Tuesday, he said, was not punishment for "gross misconduct" but a power play by the Republican governor and senators. Arizona Republic
Along the same lines, another Prop. 106 author, Ann Eschinger, said when they inserted "egregious behavior" and "gross misconduct" into the law's language, it was intended as an "emergency out" to remove commissioners for inappropriate "individual behavior," not because the Governor didn't like their maps. Besides, the commission's work to date is only in draft form, and they're currently holding a 30-day public comment period. That's the point: give the public a vote. Once again, Jan Brewer moves to squash citizens' voices. There was absolutely no need for the Governor's actions at this time!
"There was no basis for the removal of Chairwoman Mathis except pure partisan politics. There have been absolutely no findings of fact, and no conclusions of law... Now, we have a witch hunt coordinated by a Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Republican Congressional delegation and Republican legislators with a predetermined outcome. It’s a disgrace." Minority Leader Dave Schapira
Lawyers for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and Mathis are on their way to court:
Attorneys for the independent commission and Mathis are updating filings they made late Tuesday with the Arizona Supreme Court, when they tried, unsuccessfully, to block the removal. They expect to seek a court hearing later this week. Arizona Republic
Meantime, respected Constitutional scholar Paul Bender said the Arizona Supreme Court should and will overturn the Senate's "outrageous" vote. He also noted that the Governor's power play will make it harder to recruit independent citizens to serve on this and other panels, something others corroborated:
Adolfo Echeveste, the president of the Arizona Latin American Medical Association in Phoenix (who was executive director of the first IRC), said he would be wary of taking the post after seeing what happened to Mathis. "I'd have to think long and hard, given the interference from the Legislature and the Governor's Office and the state attorney general. I don't understand what they don't understand about the word 'independent.'" Arizona Eagletarian
If you missed Rachel last night, here's her take on the Arizona GOP's late-night impeachment of Colleen Coyle Mathis, the chairwoman of the commission and the lone Independent member.