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State lawmakers penning postcards to Congress, others

Rep. Ed Ableser, a Tempe Democrat, wants Congress to urge the NCAA to adopt a college football playoff system.

Sen. Jack W. Harper, a Surprise Republican, wants to proclaim that Arizona has no intention of providing assistance to the controversial community-organizing group ACORN.

Rep. Chad Campbell, a Phoenix Democrat, wants federal laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Undeterred by the budget crisis, state lawmakers are continuing to propose types of legislation that often amount to little more than postcards or press releases. Amid words such as “whereas” and “wherefore,” messages intended for Capitol Hill, the Chicago Cubs and elsewhere proclaim legislators’ positions or preferences, often on matters beyond their control.

“They’re all pretty much symbolic,” said Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City. “You’re just trying to tell ‘em, you’re sending them the message that this is how the Arizona Legislature feels.”

The measures involved are called memorials and resolutions. Memorials petition outside entities or governmental bodies to take action on issues outside the Legislature’s authority but that lawmakers consider important to Arizona. Resolutions are statements of legislative opinion, intent or resolve that often refer matters to the ballot but sometimes simply convey opinions.

Lawmakers have introduced several dozen such measures this session.

Gould has authored four of them, including a proposal that would urge Congress to disband or allow states to opt out of the federal highway system and another that would proclaim state sovereignty. He’s signed on as a primary or co-sponsor of several others.

“In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t take very much time,” he said. “They pretty much don’t get debated for the most part.”

A review of memorials and resolutions intended to send messages found that about one in 10 made it through the Legislature in recent years.

Fred Solop, a Northern Arizona University political science professor, said legislators often use memorials and resolutions as PR tools.

“They’ll put it in their newsletters or maybe they’ll make a speech declaring support for a holiday on the floor and get a video of themselves to put on their Web site,” Solop said.

Harper said that state sovereignty is a big reason behind the need for memorials to Congress and the president. He has introduced a memorial in favor of withdrawing from the United Nations and resolutions calling for Ronald Reagan Day and Cold War Victory Day.

“It’s important to tell the federal government how we feel about issues because they derive their authority from the states, not vice versa,” he said.

Ableser said that many national issues affect his district, which contains Arizona State University’s main campus. Creating a football playoff for major colleges, for example, would foster school spirit and student involvement, he said.

“The more you can have students invested in your university system, the more graduation and retention rates will rise,” Ableser said.

Campbell, the House minority whip, also signed on to a memorial urging Congress to adopt the DREAM Act, which would give children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, and resolutions recognizing the Navajo code talkers and civilian military workers.

He said he supports articulating the Legislature’s mindset on timely, relevant issues. But he said he draws the line at memorials and resolutions that are nothing more than philosophical statements.

“The recycled ones about getting out of the United Nations, things that are just dropped every year, I think that at this point that is probably a drain on our resources and we should be paying attention to more serious matters down here,” Campbell said.

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