Monday, February 9, 2015

Legislating through litigation

Unless the people of Arizona speak out against bad legislation and an out-of-touch Legislature, when Arizona historians look back at the legislative record from the first two decades of this century it’s quite possible they will call it the era of legislation through litigation.

Last week, a lawsuit seeking class action was filed against the state accusing it of negligence in the care of nearly 17,000 kids in state custody. The suit alleges the state has failed to care for these vulnerable children to a degree that “shocks the conscience.”

The state is currently negotiating a settlement with public school districts after a judge ordered the state to pay inflationary funding that the voters of Arizona approved in 2000, but which the state failed to pay.

Last month a public interest advocacy group announced it will be filing a lawsuit to force the state to pay public school districts building maintenance and soft capital funds, which pays for such things as text books and computers. Those funds have been cut by hundreds of millions in recent years.

Those lawsuits are the result of a Legislature that for years has prioritized tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy above the safety and education of our children.

It’s time to say enough is enough! Tell the Republican leaders in the Legislature to protect our most vulnerable citizens and to fund our kids’ schools.

But what do these legislative leaders do when every aspect of state government isn’t under their control? They run to the courts as well.

When the voters of Arizona made clear they don’t trust the Legislature to draw legislative and congressional districts, they passed Prop 106 to put it in the hands of an independent commission of citizens. Republican legislative leaders didn’t like that and are currently suing for the right to draw districts to their liking.

In the rare instance that a truly bipartisan effort like Medicaid restoration passes and is signed by the governor, the Republican leaders who were on the losing side of the vote don’t accept the loss as part of the democratic process. They sue again.

The worst case scenario for these lawsuits is not just troubling, it is devastating. The school funding ruling alone could bankrupt the state for years. Were Medicaid restoration to be reversed, hundreds of thousands of Arizonans could lose their health care and hundreds of millions in federal dollars would leave the state.

But that is how our current legislative leaders choose to govern – by passing bills with questionable constitutionality, by slashing budgets for child safety and schools to negligent levels and by suing to usurp the democratic process.

Future historians will write: “Crumbling schools and a child welfare system that let thousands of children slip through the cracks is their legacy, righteous indignation and privilege was their defense.”

It’s not too late to change history. Stand up for what’s right, for the priorities that will help put Arizona back on the right track.

Here’s how you can help: 
  • Call these Republican leaders and tell them this year’s budget must put our kids’ schools and abused children above private prison special interests.
    • Governor Doug Ducey: (602) 542-4331
    • Senate President Andy Biggs: (602) 926-4371
    • Speaker of the House David Gowan: (602) 926-3312
    • Senate Appropriations Chair Don Shooter: (602) 926-4139
    • House Appropriations Chair Justin Olson: (602) 926-5288 
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on what's happening at the Legislature.

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