Monday, May 21, 2007

Somebody, Please, Teach Jim Weiers How To Count

We're in the middle of the budget doldrums here in AZ; everybody could go home if the House just got to vote on the Senate budget, but the GOP House leadership wants to keep whipping their ideological hobbyhorses in hopes that maybe THIS time, the sawdust really will transform into horse flesh. We'd all be safer and happier if the legislators just went home because while they're sitting around waiting for the budget to appear again, those idle hands have increased opportunities for performing the devil's work. It's a supply-and-demand kind of thing.

This YouTube parody is worth 60 seconds of your time.

East Valley Tribune, May 20, 2007

The Speaker of the state House of Representatives absolutely needs only one skill: the ability to count to 31. So Speaker Jim Weiers, R-Phoenix, really shouldn't have confirmed his lack of arithmetic skills last week.
The House GOP leadership rolled out their Republicans-only budget for a vote. Usually in a legislative body, leadership won't call a vote unless they know the result. Otherwise, they tell everybody in advance that the vote is uncertain for one of two possible reasons: the issue is purely a matter of individual legislators' consciences, or really doesn't matter.

But with big issues like the budget, the majority calls the vote only with a solid idea of the result. That's the whole point of having a whip organization and those leadership posts. Sometimes you proceed when you're a vote or two shy, hoping that momentum will bring a recalcitrant representative along. But good leaders never just roll the dice -- especially for the last big votes of the session.

Both lobbyists and legislators figured Weiers called the vote because he had the 31. "I assumed they were going to the floor because they had the votes," said Rep. Jennifer Burns, R-Tucson, one of the GOP moderate opposing the budget for failing to fund child care, health care, and Child Protective Services.

But doing his homework is apparently not Weiers's style. "You never know what's going to come up there," he said after six Republicans (3 from each end of the GOP ideological spectrum) joined all Democrats in defeating the leadership budget, 27-31. Maybe Weiers never knows, but most competent legislative leaders wouldn't be caught on the wrong side of a vote they called.
While Weiers has announced that the House GOP leadership will try again this week, all he did was confirm the opposition's strength. Meanwhile, in the Senate, as unlikely a political odd couple as you'll ever find, GOP leader Thayer Verschoor of Gilbert and Democratic leader Marsha Arzberger of Willcox, worked together on a bipartisan budget supported by strong majorities in both parties, fending off amendments by legislators of both parties to get the package approved.

That bipartisan cooperation contrasts with the Weiers approach in the House, where only Republican were allowed to participate in budget deliberations -- until earlier this month, when two Democrats on the Appropriations Committee, Pete Rios, D-Hayden and Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, voted for the budget in committee. Rios and Lopez claimed that they supported the bill because of their amendment to give state employees a bigger pay raise. However, the GOP offset the pay hike by cutting employee benefits by more. Thus, Rios and Lopez cut a deal to get less for state employees. With such negotiating savvy, I hope I can buy my next car from them.

With two possible Democratic votes, Weiers thought he might squeak by, but Rios and Lopez realized just how bad the deal was, and when the floor vote came, stood with all other House Democrats to vote no. Somehow, Democratic leader Phil Lopes of Tucson kept his caucus together, something Weiers couldn't do, proving that you can make fun of, but shouldn't underestimate, anyone who can tie a bow tie.

The Senate budget would pass the House in a flash, should Weiers allow it to reach the floor for a vote, and everybody could go home. But Weiers wants to keep trying, despite his failure last week. It's not clear there's a substantive reason at stake here; the difference between the Senate and House budgets is all of 0.03 percent. Weiers must want to try yet again to score political points off Gov. Napolitano, because it's not like there's an actual principle at stake here.

So here's your math question for the week: Which budget would you support: the bipartisan Senate plan, which Gov. Napolitano already has said she'd sign, or a budget pushed by somebody who can't count to 31? No need to show your work on this problem.

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