Prop 100 Passed – Now What?


In a 2-1 vote that was largely expected, Arizona passed Proposition 100.  It wasn’t a huge surprise at all considering proponents spent over two million dollars lobbying for its passage.  In comparison, whether for apathy or lack of disagreement with the sales tax (likely the former), opponents raised a nominal thousand dollars.  Planned to begin on June 1, 2010, Proposition 100 will raise the Arizona state sales tax by 18%.  Though it sounds like hefty increase (and it is), supporters posit that it is “merely” a one-cent increase over the existing sales tax.  That is also true; the sales tax is increasing from 5.6% to 6.6%.

For the time being, state employees can breathe a sign of relief; they are able to keep their jobs.  Teachers and other employees that had been laid off may be rehired.  For those dependent on a state salary or on state services, this is a welcomed relief. 

At the very least, Arizona will hopefully be able to right its financial ship.  I am leery of raising taxes, and it is certainly not the norm that the biggest proponent to raising taxes be a Republican governor.  At the same time, I understand that governor Brewer did inherit much of this debt from Janet Napolitano (who was appointed head of Homeland Security).  This does not mean I have experienced a change of heart regarding Proposition 100; I haven’t.  And like I mentioned in the post yesterday, throwing money at our financial woes is not a viable solution to a systemic spending problem.

The decision to Prop 100 did not relieve the state of its obligation to make hard budget decisions, but it did help mitigate the consequences of its financial irresponsibility.  It’s like touching a hot stove, it’ll burn your hand.  That’s what happens when you touch hot stoves.  Likewise, over spending leads to drastic cuts.  Passing Prop 100 is akin to putting on an oven mit and then touching the hot stove.  You feel it, but it’s no where near the effect of touching the skin to the burner.   We can debate the pros and cons of each method, but it’s clear where I stand.  If I touched the hot burner once with my hand, I learn my lesson.  Touching it with a mit, maybe not.

Regardless, this tax is (supposedly) temporary and it will be automatically repealed in three years.  Again, lots can happen between now and then.  So, the goal now is it still to cut programs and reduce spending such that three years later, Arizona can still function without the additional 300 million in revenue.  I’ve heard talk that to drop off in revenue, Governor Brewer will not renew tax incentives given to businesses (but that isn’t this post).

Though the specifics will still be worked out, the “wish-list” projects will be scratched from the drawing board – and rightfully so.   Do we need more parks or playgrounds?  Do we even need the latest and greatest technology labs in schools?  Jobs will survive, but there certainly will be fat trimmed from the general budget.  I’m still of the opinion that we need more than a “trimming.”

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Why I voted “NO” on Arizona Prop 100


Today the polls open for Arizonians to vote whether to approve a one-cent sales hike for three years to benefit public schools and public safety.  I voted early and I voted no.

Over the past few months, there has been an incredible amount of spin associated with Prop. 100 – almost all exclusively by those in support of the sales tax.  I’ve heard the refrain on the news and in the office: our public schools need support, and we need to support public safety too.  But the thought that failing to support higher taxes means that I am somehow anti-government is absurd.

I am for fiscal responsibility.   Arizona, for the past number of years, has continually dug itself into a financial hole.  Salaries of state and local government employees have swelled as great as the economic boom of the mid-2000s.   It wasnt’ bad at first because year-over-year revenue suggested that future years would be more profitable than the current ones.  But this house of cards quickly collapsed after the economic downturn and as a result, Arizona still has a billion dollars of money to raise or programs to cut. 

Arizona just has not managed its money well over the past decade and am I opposed to raising taxes on the population to cover its financial mismanagement.   The government needs to manage the money entrusted to it, not raise more to pay for its mistakes.  Look, I think funding public safety is important – especially here in Arizona where the state is plagued with unique problems with border enforcement and illegal immigration.   But there is a problem when there are more police sergeants than necessary, and police officers aren’t properly utilized.  Public safety is top-heavy right now and police officers are sometimes being charged with (and paid for) completing tasks that can be best left to lower level (and lower paid) government employees.

Let’s talk about education too.  Supporters of Prop 100 cry wolf if this does not pass: more teachers will be cut, classroom sizes continue to swell and the level of education will drop precipitously.   Arizona, however, has been consistently at the bottom of the barrel in public education.  It can’t drop much further even if class sizes triple.  And look, this issue is dear to my heart too: for the most part, I am a product of public education.  Education is important, but even here, changes are necessary.

The public school system is in desperate need of a paradigm shift.  Reading, writing and arithmetic are certain baseline principles, but so are real-life, practical classes too.  Instead of reading “See Jane Run” teachers need to put more emphasis on the principles of basic budgeting.  I’m not laying the problems on the teachers, the issues are far deeper and systemic than any one group of employees or individuals.  After all, teachers are mandated a particular curriculum with goals, tests, objectives and sub-objectives.  Meeting these goals are supposedly a benchmark to a well-performing school and a well-performing, adapted student.  Even these are flawed.   And as a result, we are sending waves of under-performing students into the workforce or into college without a solid education foundation.

Just throwing money at a program won’t solve a problem.  This is what Governor Brewer, the media, and the general public seem not to understand.  And those that stand to benefit the most are raising their voices, extending their hands, and casting incredulous stares by those challenging the State to make changes to how it has done business over the decade.  Arizona needs to conduct a hard look at how it operates its budgets and it needs to make hard decisions.  But equally, it needs to develop innovative, new solutions.   Just adding a tax is like sticking a finger into a drain.  It’ll plug the problem temporarily, eventually you’ll want to remove the finger.   Until Arizona fundamentally changes how it manages its budget, its schools, public safety programs and other publically funded endeavours, Arizona will continue to encounter one problem after another.

At some point, we need to say “enough is enough.”  I am drawing the line in the sand with Prop 100.  It’s time for Arizona to own up to its mistakes and quit avoiding the hard decisions.  Governor Brewer needs to make a holistic, top to bottom review about how the state already spends its hundreds of millions of dollars.

Free Upcoming Concerts


Who doesn’t like free? Next week, there are a couple concerts here in the Grand Canyon state that may be worth checking out.

Though I by no means wish ExDeserto to be local in scope, from time to time, I will highlight certain events, statutes, or happenings on a related to my geographic backyard. Plus forgive (or indulge) me.

That said, there they are:

What: CREATION FESTIVAL: THE TOUR featuring JARS OF CLAY, Thousand Foot Krutch, Audio Unplugged, featuring Mark & Will from Audio Adrenaline with
special guests B. Reith, This Beautiful Republic and FM Static

Where: Arizona State Fair, Phoenix AZ
When: October 31, 2009
Comment: So, reserved seats are $15 – but if you’re at the Fair, you’ll be able to listen for free. (It does cost money to enter the fairgrounds, and parking… but the concert itself is free). I am a fan of all of these bands.

What: Newsboys
Where
: Pima County Fairgrounds, Tucson AZ
When: October 31, 2009
Comment: I grew up listening to Newsboys. They were in Tucson last year, but I wasn’t able to make it. There is a suggested donation of $10 (not sure if this is an “or” – but possibly “$10 or non-perishable food donation”). You can still enter without paying so if money as an issue, don’t worry about it. (Still, the Newsboys are easily worth a $10 ticket).

I’ll probably have something of general relevance later this week about Justice Scalia. He’ll be speaking tomorrow with Justice Breyer. Look for it!

Should Taxpayers Front the Cost for Inmate Abortion?


In a dig I suspect Sheriff Joe takes personally, Judge Robert Oberbillig sided with the ACLU and struck down the policy requiring inmates to pay up front for transportation and security to obtain an abortion.

Of course, viewing abortion as a fundamental right, any law will limiting it will be subject to strict scrutiny.

So, instead of requiring inmates to pay for their own abortions, the state must do it. Not to worry, Judge Oberbillig suggests, bill for services rendered can be passed to the inmate.

Can I get a show of hands – how many people actually think inmates will pay? Even Tim Montgomery, the former 100m world record holder (and drug cheat) in prison rakes in a whopping $44/month. In other words, the tax payers will be the ones footing the bill on this one.

If Sheriff Joe is known for anything, it’s for aggressiveness (among many other things). I’m sure we can (and should) expect a timely appeal. Be sure to follow this one.

For those interested, the case is: Doe v. Arpaio, CV2004-009286

Read the rest of the of story here.

File Under Obvious (Do Not Smuggle Heroin to Prisoners)

That message was apparently lost on Arizona attorney David DeCosta who was arrested today for providing heroin and other narcotics to a prisoner.

At the risk of stating the obvious, licensed attorneys are to maintain the integrity of the profession. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct, as promulgated by the American Bar Association, governs potentially ethic-entangling matters. Rule 8.4, covering misconduct, provides:

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;

True, DeCosta does not represent the majority of attorneys; and in almost every jurisdiction a “DeCosta” probably exists. Clearly, licensing does not confer moral uprightness.

But in the broader sense, DeCosta’s arrest illustrates that lawyers are indeed held to a higher standard than non-lawyers. The thought – rightly or otherwise – is that lawyers, like doctors or public officials, represent the blue ribbon of professional integrity. Lawyers especially are accountable for actions involving moral turpitude such as fraud and dishonesty. When a breach occurs, scandalous headlines emerge.

In sum, while DeCosta’s actions are disheartening, they are not representative of the title or position of legal advocates.

Note: Photo from Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office

Until Death Do Us Part: Arizona’s Efforts In Strengthing Marriage – A.R.S. 25-901

Although not heavily broadcast, Arizona is one of three states that has legislation strengthening the bonds of marriage when it passed A.R.S. 25-901 – otherwise known as the “covenant marriage” statute. Louisiana and Arkansas are the only two other states recognizing this union.

Why “Covenant Marriage”?
Covenant marriage strengthens families by removing the easy out secured by “no-fault” divorce legislation. By denying a spouse the ability to cite “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for separation, it encourages couples to confront issues, communicate, and ultimately strengthen the family. Divorce is often quite painful. The wedding day vows recited purport to last “until death do us part.” The reality sadly is this: if the marriage does not last, the pain from divorce probably will. Even worse, its effects ripple not only though the couple, but also through the children.

Requirements:
As fairly inferred from the statute, covenant marriage differs from a traditional marriage license by imposing certain requirements. These requirements essentially glue the marriage together not only by limiting the grounds for divorce but also by requiring full disclosure regarding the intent and seriousness of the marital sacrament. Here are the two main requirements:

  1. 1. A written statement of declaration:

    We solemnly declare that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman who agree to live together as husband and wife for as long as they both live. We have chosen each other carefully and have received premarital counseling on the nature, purposes and responsibilities of marriage. We understand that a covenant marriage is for life. If we experience marital difficulties, we commit ourselves to take all reasonable efforts to preserve our marriage, including marital counseling. With full knowledge of what this commitment means, we do declare that our marriage will be bound by Arizona law on covenant marriages and we promise to love, honor and care for one another as husband and wife for the rest of our lives.

  2. 2. Pre-marital counseling
    A pre-marital counselor or member of the clergy must discuss the seriousness of marriage and the limited grounds for divorce. Furthermore, a sworn, notarized statement must be submitted by the marital counselor.

These two main requirements serve the foundation for entering into a covenant marriage. This is not entered into light-heartedly. The statement the spouses swear impose upon them an obligation: preserve the marriage, seek help in times of discord, love, honor, and care for the other throughout the rest of their lives. Granted, those last words are oft-repeated, but often fall by the wayside in stormy times. But promising those words under A.R.S. 25-901, and coupled with marital counseling, it ensures that when the storms of marriage arise, the couple will weather through them.

Grounds for Divorce:
A covenant marriage strengthens the cords of marriage; it does not lock a couple into an airtight bond with no basis for breach. Grounds for divorce exist, but only under the eight reasons as established by A.R.S. 25-903. Of those eight, half codify a finding of serious fault: adultery, felony conviction with imprisonment, physical or sexual abuse, and abandonment. The last four allow for more lax standards: agreement by both spouses to dissolve the marriage, drug or alcohol abuse, and spouses living in separate domicile for two years or legal separation for a period of time.

The most significant departure from “no-fault” divorce is that no one spouse may simply obtain a divorce without cause. Seeking divorce outside one of these eight permissible categories is virtually futile; even within them, a divorce is not necessarily automatic. After all, the couple agreed to take reasonable measures to preserve the marriage – including marital counseling.

What if I’m already married?
Even those already married are eligible to convert their marriage into a covenant marriage. The main requirement, besides a nominal fee, is a signed declaration of intent to convert the marriage into a covenant marriage. This is not uncommon.

Some Arizona courts already have pre-printed forms to fill out. Once the clerk of the court files the document, the work is complete. Unlike those entering into covenant marriage initially, those already married need not complete marital counseling.

For more information, or to initiate the process of obtaining a covenant marriage license or converting to one, contact the court for information (for formatting’s sake, I am including both Pima and Maricopa county and not every county court). Alternatively, click here for more information.

Maricopa County
201 W. Jefferson
Phoenix, AZ 85003
(602) 506-3676
http://www.clerkofcourt.maricopa.gov


Pima County
110 W. Congress
Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 740-3200
http://www.cosc.co.pima.az.us

No Surprise Here: U of Arizona’s Political Science Department Lacks Diversity

Although I rarely read the student newspaper, The Daily Wildcat, I glanced at it today and was bemused to read that that the University has zero Republican professors. While I dislike conflating the labels “Republican” and “Democrat” with “conservative” and “liberal”, political party is a rough indicator of probable social, moral, and economic values. With a whopping zero Republican instructors, I find it hard to think that any significant counter-balance exists to the liberal truths expounded from mouths of the left-leaning professors; but maybe the university simply cannot find any.

But that presumption is probably far too generous. Yes, conservative ideas are often at odds with liberal principles. Yes, a staunch conservative would be viewed as radical to bleeding heart liberal. Yes, it might seem outrageous to believe that the Constitution does not provide a general right of privacy. But if the University was looking for a token professor with unconventional beliefs, they found it in Bill Mishler.

Political science professor Bill Mishler said he hasn’t “committed voting” since roughly 1980. He called voting a waste of time and said anyone who doesn’t believe in the luck of roulette shouldn’t believe his or her vote makes a difference.

Mishler was the head of the Political Science Department from 1997-2004.

The political science department accepts these students, teaches them, and sends them into the “real world” a bit more “educated.” Let’s not forget that many of these students are only 18, 19, 20, and 21 years old – still relatively fresh from high school. Fill them up in the “facts” of a particular course; sprinkle in some snide political comments and soon these students become talking mouthpieces for the professors themselves. (Maybe Mishler is a reason the younger generation suffers from voter apathy). Even those with a inkling of conservative ideas are susceptible to these liberal leanings. And once those students are “educated”, it can be difficult to remain conservative.

Still, the solution is not through instituting quotas based on political affiliation. Rather, one answer resides within erudite students or blossoming professors to seek positions within institutions of higher education. Those students having withstood being boiled in the cauldron of liberalism should seek professorships and fellowships and to replace those fanning the flames of left-wing indoctrination.

The next time the University seeks a professor with unconventional beliefs more “radical” than Mishler’s non-voting conviction, it could do well to search among the conservative ranks.