In a fit of modesty, the GOP-dominated Arizona Legislature stuck to basic business this session, passing a straightforward budget containing a few core funding restorations, and otherwise made few gaffes, despite the efforts of a few headline-seeking members.
For Arizona’s annual rite of national embarrassment, they passed SB1062, which would have made tossing gays out of any business establishment a sport (in the name of religious freedom). A few Republicans who voted for the bill, before they fully appreciated what it meant, had the refreshing and surprising humility to withdraw their support and admit they erred in voting for it. Gov. Jan Brewer, continuing to varnish her legacy, vetoed the measure.
Democrats railed against anything the majority wanted to do, arguing that the GOP was in bed with corporate cronies. Their vision needs correction, as the Arizona Republican Party itself, and its most active members, the elected precinct committeemen, are not from the corporate world. Activist PCs are truly “grassroots,” as they like to be called. They don’t like being talked down to by anyone — politicians or corporate elites. Their desires are for local control of government, resistance to federal overreach, and immediate accountability.
Friction between GOP activists and their elected representatives arises from the fact that officeholders realize they actually have to govern the entire state, and all its citizens, not just Republicans. Those in office must seek and accept federal funds where available to balance the budget, and recognize limitations on the state’s ability to disregard federal law where it trumps local measures.
Moderate Republicans, who broke from the caucus last year to support the governor on Medicaid expansion, proceeded steadfastly together on several issues, including reform of Child Protective Services, preventing a raid on
K-12 funding of public schools by the school-choice lobby and in resisting SB1062. This moderate bloc has a better sense of current, mainstream popular culture than the partially tone-deaf activist bloc, which serves a narrow demographic.
The tone-deaf caucus amended and passed HB2305 at the midnight hour to finish the 2013 session, making it much harder for Libertarians and other minor party candidates to reach the ballot, where they were seen as spoilers in close elections between the two big parties. Popular outrage at those strong-arm tactics, both in the way it was passed and its effect, resulted in a successful ballot referral, so the Legislature stepped in and repealed the bill itself. This act was part of the 2014 session’s modesty — accepting responsibility for a mistake.
Unresolved issues looming in 2015 include school choice and curriculum. Free market and conservative voices want a voucher-based system for public funding of K-12. Both fear the further embedding of Common Core. The free marketers don’t want to serve a federal master in any way, and the conservatives fear Common Core is a vast left wing conspiracy. Admittedly, Common Core was rolled out in a ham-fisted way, and it has its flaws, but the conservative movement has not proposed a better alternative.
— Scott O’Connor is chairman of the Legislative District 28 Republican Party.