The positive way to interpret what follows is that the Arizona legislature, controlled 2:1 by a very far-right GOP, sees the handwriting on the 2012 electoral wall, and is trying to push through as many dingbat laws as they can while there's still an unchallengeable majority of wackjobs in office. Another way to look at it, sadly, is that this is just Arizona's lawmakers in action.
After all, it would be tough to top last year's bundle of crazy: the "papers please" nincompoopery (the worst elements were gutted by the court, but Gov. Brewer is appealing that decision); an Official Weapon bill (Colt 45 because it "settled the West," i.e., killed a lot of Indians); a law that allowed Arizona to solicit donations to build a border fence (they expected $50 million but have received less than $200,000, so they're accepting donations of chain link fence -- seriously); the Ethnic Studies ban that put the kibosh on Tucson's Mexican American Studies program (even though the students had higher graduation rates); a face-palm Birther Bill, which thankfully Brewer vetoed (but like Dracula it's back); and a full-throttle attack on women's health, which put every rural Planned Parenthood clinic in the state out of business. Just for starters.
But the 2012 class of the absurd is giving the 2011 version a run for its money, even without recalled nativist gasbag Russell Pearce presiding over the Senate. It's not easy to limit this list to a dozen, but if you're wondering which state has the craziest legislators, just remember that these are actual bills proposed by actual living, breathing human beings. At least that's what we're told.
12. The Don't-Be-An-Asshole-on-the-Internet Bill
Our journey through the land of legislative lunacy starts with a bill currently sitting on Gov. Brewer's desk (meaning: these guys passed it), which would prohibit what I'm doing here: calling the Arizona legislature a pack of peckerheaded clowns who can't get out of their clown car because they've wrecked it. The central and underwear-fouling part of HB 2549 reads:
Section 1. Section 13-2916, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended to read:Got that? With that new language and that one phrase "annoy or offend," not to mention "profane language," a bill that began as an attempt to stop telephone harassment has morphed into a First Amendment nightmare that would criminalize half the comments on blogs and at least 20 minutes of John Stewart every night. So, while I still can, let me just say: The Arizona GOP is full of jackasses who are out of their depth in a puddle of commonsense.
13-2916. Use of an electronic or digital device to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend; classification; definition
A. It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use
a telephoneANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.
UPDATE: New Times is reporting this afternoon that this bill has been stopped!11. The Give-Mexican-Haters-a-Gun-and-Badge Bill
Rep. Sylvia Allen, the "Earth is 6,000 years old" Mensa darling, is back at it. A real estate agent from Snowflake, which is nearly 300 miles from Mexico, Allen pretends to know more about border issues than the sheriff in Nogales. Her measure, SB 1083, which important security officials oppose, appropriates $2 million to establish a volunteer "Special Mission Unit," because the $2 billion we currently spend on the Border Patrol and Arizona National Guard isn't protecting us, according to Allen (even though crossings are down 40 percent from last year). Her bill will provide a daily stipend, authority, and in some cases even immunity to militiamen like J.T. Ready, whose White Nationalists are already patrolling the desert looking for Mexicans. What could possibly go wrong?
10. The Don't-Go-Limp-on-Me Bill
I wrote in this diary that ALEC mouthpiece Rep. John Kavanagh wants to criminalize passive resistance, which he defines as "going limp," because ... well, nobody knows why because Kavanagh said he hasn't talked to any police officers or city officials who think passive resistance is an issue. He's simply "annoyed" that limpness "only gets a summons," because it's harder to haul a limp protester's ass to jail. So, HB 2071 will make civil disobedience of the limpy variety a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in the slammer and a $2,500 fine.
9. The How-Many-Ways-Can-We-Get-into-Women's-Undies Bills
There are too many attacks on women's healthcare and choice to list separately, but here's an update on two: Rep. Debbie Lesko's "tell the boss why you're on birth control" revised bill would still allow employers to opt out of contraception coverage for religious reasons (in an early version, HB 2625 even allowed employers to fire you for your birth control practices). Happily, it was defeated last week in the Senate, but Lesko and Senator Nancy Barto vow to flip the two Senators needed for a revote that the GOP has agreed to. Another anti-choice bill, HB 2036, is marching full-steam through the chambers. This bill, which the ACLU calls the most extreme in the nation, bans abortions after 20 weeks (actually, in practice it's after 18), even if the fetus has a life-threatening complication.
The bill doesn't stop there. Under this law, if a doctor performs an abortion after that 18-weeks, he or she can be charged with a crime, have his or her license revoked or suspended, and can be held liable for civil penalties if the father of the fetus decides to pursue legal action. The bill also requires a mandatory ultrasound for anyone seeking an abortion at any stage of pregnancy (hello, transvaginal probes) and mandates that a doctor offer to show a pregnant woman the ultrasound, describe it to her verbally and provide her with a photo of "the unborn child." Mother JonesWould you prefer an 8" X 10" or a page of wallet-sized photos?
8. The Let's-Allow-Mining-Companies-to-Keep-Their-Environmental-Fuckups-Secret Bill
You read that right: HB 2199 (labeled the "environmental audit privilege") allows mining companies, who haven't cut, dug, or smeared enough of Arizona, to shield themselves from criminal liability for any ecological catastrophes they may cause. What's even more mind-numbing is that the law allows the industry to keep those screw-ups secret. Yeah, this is something the public is clamoring for -- to not hold giant international companies responsible when they shit all over your backyard, and to not be told about it when they do.
Sandy Bahr, director of the club's Grand Canyon chapter, ticks off a number of objections: The bill would prevent regulators such as the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality from using any audit findings during an inspection; it would penalize whistle-blowers if they divulged confidential information; and it would keep information out of the public record.7. The Make-Teachers-STFU Bill
Bahr also said the secrecy provisions suggest there's something to hide. "Show me where such a program has actually increased compliance," she said. "How does secrecy help compliance?" Arizona Republic
Okay, let's say you teach modern American fiction, in high school or at the university level, and you want to include heavyweights like J.D. Salinger, Toni Morrison, Don DeLillo, or Thomas Pynchon in the curriculum. Sorry, you can't do that, because the champions of backward-looking education at the Arizona legislature have introduced SB 1467, which directs schools to fine, suspend, or even fire an educator who
engages in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the federal communications commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio.And you know what FCC means: no "fuck" or Carlin's other six words in the classroom. So, if you're a student who'd like to get a PhD in literature, sorry, you'll have to go someplace else. Arizona's professors aren't allowed to teach 90 percent of the books written today. Shit, you couldn't even teach Canterbury Tales. And buckle up for more:
[T]he bill would regulate professors' actions outside the classroom, which means that merely writing [an obscene word] in a blogpost, a scholarly article, even a private email -- would get you suspended. The Nation6. The Wisconsin-Drunk-on-"5-Hour Energy"-Collective-Bargaining Bill
Arizona is a right-to-work state, so unions are already in a weakened state; but at least they often have a seat at the table, especially for public employees. SB 1485 removes the table. This ALEC-driven POS says the state is not permitted to speak to any representatives of teachers, police, and other public workers. Go away, we don't want to hear your concerns. The rightwing think tank pushing this promises it'll cut costs (read: bust unions, undermine workers' rights and benefits).
5. The Russell-Pearce-Sore-Losers Bill
That's actually what the Democrats called it in their rundown of "extremist" GOP bills. This measure would add a round to the primary that, if it had been in place last year, would not have allowed a Republican Lewis v. Republican Pearce race. Yes, let's make it harder to recall incumbents, who are mostly Republicans. Let's throw up more roadblocks and increase the cost of challenging them. Pearce, who currently hosts a radio program for Ban Amnesty Now, a hardline anti-immigration group, has announced he's running for the Senate again.
4. The Give-Us-Back-the-Federal-Land-We-Never-Owned Bill
Good old Atomic Al Melvin, a Republican Senator from Tucson (called so because of his strong support for uranium mining and nuclear energy), has sponsored a bill that's similar to other Sagebrush Rebellion laws that are being introduced throughout the West. I wrote about Al's version earlier, but in short the bill demands that the Federal Government return a lot of the land they control here to the state (about half of Arizona is federal: national parks, reservations, military instillations, forests and BLM). I pointed out earlier that the Tea Party nonsense about "returning the land to the state" is bullpuckey, because the land has always been federal as a condition of statehood. And that was just fine with the states, who didn't want to pay for the maintenance of millions of acres of desert, wilderness, and inaccessible canyons. There is no friggin' way the states can sustain these places at the level the feds do, and of course even they don't have huge budgets. Maintaining this land at even the current level is not possible economically for the states without either: a) tax increases, unlikely, b) allowing the lands to fall into disrepair, likely, and/or c) leasing or selling nature's resources, most likely. Yeah, this is a good idea.
3. The Let's-Find-Another-Way-to-Demean-the-Unemployed Bill
Here's another headslapper from Senator Steven Smith, the buttcrack who pushed through the "donate to build a border fence" nonsense last year. Now Smith wants to drug test people receiving unemployment checks -- and make them pay for the privilege. Says the Senator,
"If you are so fortunate to live in a nation to get an unemployment check ... when you're down on your luck, the very least you should be able to do is prove you're of sound mind and body to earn -- earn -- that benefit." Arizona RepublicHow 'bout if you earn your state salary by contributing to the pee cup monthly, then paying for it, Senator? How 'bout if every contractor receiving public funds does the same? Smith frames SB 1495 as a cost-saver for Arizona taxpayers -- what bull. The state doesn't pay unemployment insurance; it's a combination of federal funds and taxes businesses pay. You're fucking entitled to it! Second, the cost of a pee-checking bureaucracy would outweigh any savings. When Florida did research on recipients of welfare, they found that only 2% were using drugs, less than the national average of more than 8%. But Senator Smith never misses an opportunity to kick people who are down on their luck, especially if they're of the brownish hue.
2. The Joe-Arpaio-Found-a-Secret-Document-Penis-Free Birther Bill
Holy sphincter, Batman, these drunk-on-stupid twits can't get off the birther carousel, can they? Last year a bill requiring presidential candidates to prove their US citizenship before their name can appear on the Arizona ballot actually passed the House and Senate (gulp!), but Gov. Brewer vetoed it, mostly because she thought it too icky that a circumcision affidavit could be used to prove one's birthplace. So this year a new penis-free bill was snuck through in a "strike everything" amendment by Rep. Carl Seel, who earlier flew to NYC for a research meeting with Trump. For a while it seemed that even Arizona's GOP had had enough of the birther nonsense, and HB 2480 stalled. Then came the Joe Arpaio-WorldNetDaily press conference on March 1, which revealed
proof nothing that hasn't been debunked. Seel spoke at Arpaio's presser and afterwards tried to revive his bill. Stories are floating about saying Senate President Steve Pierce is holding it up, so last week Seel had heavy-hitters like Arpaio call on Pierce.
1. The Make-it-Illegal-to-Save-the-Earth Bill
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said in his six years at the legislature, "This is the most ludicrous bill I've ever seen." Remember, this is Arizona, so that's saying a mouthful, and that's why SB 1507 comes in at #1. Last year, when Republican Senator Scott Bundgaard was booted from office after he slapped his girlfriend around on a Phoenix freeway, the Maricopa Co. Board of Supervisors replaced him with Judy Burges, who as a member of the House introduced the state's first birther bill in 2010. Oh, goodie. And she also once worked for a mining company, so I guess Judy figures she's informed enough to make laws about the environment. Her gobsmack crazy bill would make it illegal for cities, counties, and other municipalities to spend any money on projects that save energy, reduce pollution, conserve resources, encourage recycling, or otherwise foster a sustainable lifestyle:
The state of Arizona and all political subdivisions of this state shall not adopt or implement the creed, doctrine, principles or any tenet of the United Nations Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Statement of Principles for Sustainable Development adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June, 1992 or any other international law that contravenes the United States Constitution or the Constitution of Arizona. SB 1507This lunacy stems from a long-held belief by Birchers, LaRouchies, and now Tea Partiers who say the Agenda 21 resolution in the 1992 Rio accord is a plan to bring about a One World Order. Because, you know, if there's anyone who can accomplish world domination totalitarian style it's environmentalists, who have much more money and political clout than, say, oil companies and Wall Street banks.
I'm sure you'll agree these bills go a long way toward digging Arizona out of the economic, environmental, and educational shit hole that the state's been drowning in. And they sure make great talking points for the Arizona Office of Tourism.