Saturday, March 7, 2015

Governing? I don't think so!

Recently, Arizona saw a great example of political maneuvering, manipulation and intimidation.  

Let me rephrase that:  Arizona saw the result of political maneuvering, manipulation and intimidation.

Okay, let me try again:  Arizona will soon experience the result of political maneuvering, manipulation and intimidation.

I'm talking about the recently-passed Arizona State Budget, a document that stipulates how $9.1 billion will be spent in the next fiscal year.  I can't give details because 1) I don't have them, 2) I wouldn't understand much of it.  

Of course, when it was passed in the wee hours of the morning, some lawmakers hadn't had enough time to really read it and understand all the complexities involved in the document, either.

Let me talk, instead, about how Arizona's GOP governor and legislative leadership worked to get the budget passed in both chambers.  They worked, part of the time, behind closed doors.  This, from a governor who promised "transparency" in his administration.  Uh, huh.  And you know something? We'll never know the full story about the deals that were struck - and the threats made - in an effort to get the governor's budget passed!

But let me make some guesses.  And since I wasn't at the State Capitol when the budget was being discussed, and certainly didn't have any video cams or tape recorders set up, these are guesses.  However ... my suppositions are based on many years covering the Arizona State Legislature in the news media.  I know how it works because I've seen it first hand.

I'll bet the governor met with the GOP leadership of both chambers ... he outlined what he (and his campaign contributors) wanted and they hashed out a few details, coming up with a budget they thought would fly.  And since the GOP controls the House and Senate, this just might be a slam dunk!  Whoopee! 

But there was a problem, you see.  Not all Republicans liked the drastic cuts to education ... and hundreds of pesky constituents showed up at the State Capitol - twice - to protest those cuts.  They also emailed, sent faxes and made phone calls voicing opposition to the budget bill. Those silly soccer moms, teachers, administrators and college students just might actually show up to vote in 2016 when all 90 Arizona legislative seats are up for grabs!

That, according to my script, is when the deals were made.  And maybe some threats, too.  Enter the Majority Whip, stage right.

The Majority Whip is the "enforcer," who typically offers inducements and threatens party members to ensure that they vote according to the official party line. A whip's role is also to ensure that the elected representatives of their party are in attendance when important votes are taken - or to make sure lawmakers stay home if they don't want to play ball.

Here are some of the tactics that the whip and the majority leader (and many times even the governor) will use in order to get the "right" votes from their party members.  And I'll bet you they were used in spades as the GOP rounded up enough votes to pass the Arizona budget bill: 

+ Vote the way we want you to vote or your bills/special projects will never see the light of day.  We will bury them! 
+ Want party campaign money to help you get re-elected?  Vote our way or get nothing! 
+ If you vote our way, then your district will get that special funding you want.  Your fault if the money doesn't come your way! 
+ Still don't want to do it our way?  Then just get sick and stay home so your vote won't hurt us.  Otherwise, you'll pay in some way down the line!  

Do I know this went on at the State Capitol before the budget vote?  No.  Did it probably happen?  Yes.  Why?  Because it's happened before and it will happen again (especially since outside money is playing a huge role in Arizona elections).

This is not governing.  Governing is making sure everyone is heard - and that all of us are represented.  My two representatives and one senator are all Democrats.  Basically, they were left out of the process so I was left out of the process!  Most Arizonans had no voice in those closed-door sessions and the deal-making.

Governing is talking, debating, compromising, listening, and making sure everyone is given the opportunity to participate in the process so that democratic representation truly takes place.  But that didn't happen with regard to the budget.  The self-imposed time line was so short that it was difficult for all the lawmakers to even read the amendments, let alone discuss/debate them!  But you see, the Republicans had to move fast in order to shut down more protests from regular folks like you and me.

Yes ... Arizonans will soon experience the result of political maneuvering, manipulation and intimidation.  I hope they remember that in 2016.

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