A freshman Democratic legislator has been removed from a committee after clashing repeatedly with its Republican chairman since last year, a move the Democrat called an “abuse of power.”The situation came to a head after a March 17 hearing of the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee. During consideration of a bill sponsored by Sen. Russell Pearce, a Mesa Republican and illegal-immigration hawk, Rep. Daniel Patterson peppered Pearce with questions.
The bill in question, S1027, would create a pilot program and install seismic sensors at rural airports to combat illegal immigration and drug smuggling.
Patterson, a Tucson Democrat, argued that the sensors were inefficient because they were often tripped by wildlife or malfunctioned because of weather conditions.
During his questioning of Pearce, Patterson peppered the senator with inquiries about false sensor alarms and whether any of the recent violence connected to Mexican drug cartels had occurred in the United States. At one point, Patterson refused to let Pearce answer a question before asking another question, which drew a rebuke from Republican committee Chairman Jerry Weiers.
Later in the hearing, as he was explaining his vote on the bill, Patterson berated Pearce and accused him of making up facts during his testimony. He also criticized Weiers for not requiring Pearce to answer the questions.
This afternoon, House Speaker Kirk Adams removed Patterson from the committee at Weiers’ request. Weiers said he made the request after speaking to Republican members of the committee about Patterson’s actions last week. He also added that Patterson had organized a Democratic walkout earlier this year, which prevented the committee from voting on legislation because there wasn’t a quorum present.
“The one thing we have to do is try to represent our districts in an orderly fashion, keep our emotions controlled and be civil,” Weiers said. “I tried as hard as I could to be as fair as I could.”
Patterson said he had no idea he would be removed from the committee.
“It’s completely unexpected. I guess nobody’s allowed to ask Russell Pearce tough questions,” he said. “I think it’s outrageous and an abuse of power.”
Adams said he has asked Democratic leaders to select another one of their members to replace Patterson on the committee.