For Arizona Democrats, "Crazy" Times

With Republicans in complete control of the state, Arizona has become a focal point for conservative policy experimentation. How does it feel to be a disempowered Democrat?
by | July 28, 2010
 

Journalists' favorite politicians are the ones who tell us how they really feel. In that spirit, I like Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema a lot.

As I've written before, Arizona's politics over the past two years say a lot about where states are headed after the 2010 election, when I expect more states will be ruled by one party. When Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, left to become Secretary of Homeland Security, Republicans suddenly controlled Arizona's government. Under Gov. Jan Brewer, Arizona has become a focal point for conservative experimentation, starting with SB 1070 -- the immigration bill.

Sinema is one of the disempowered Democrats. Here's what she told me when I asked what Republican rule has meant:

It’s been a real change, much bigger than we expected. I knew that it would be a big shift when Napolitano left – we widely anticipated that she would be tapped for the Obama administration – but, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t think it was going to be this bad. I did not.

The legislation that they have passed through and that this governor has signed is almost beyond belief. The elimination of the concealed-carry permit law is crazy. It’s crazy. That coupled with the fact that last year they passed a bill that said you can bring guns into bars – so now you can bring concealed weapons into bars with no permit. That’s just frightening to think of.

You know that they also passed a bill to ban the creation of human-animal hybrids, which pose a great security threat to our state. I think that people underestimate the damage that the centaurs and mermaids can do in our community.

They banned African-American history classes. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. So now our students don’t even get the option to learn about African-American history. That’s just crazy.

And then obviously, they passed SB 1070, I think a misguided solution to what is a very real problem that our state is facing. And, that’s just a handful of things.

They also, I think kind of maliciously, eliminated domestic partner benefits from state employees’ health care and of course last week a judge struck that down and said, “You can’t do that. It’s not fair to protect health care for some of your employees and not others.” So, that’s been struck down in court already.

They’ve just pushed forward a really extreme agenda. One of my favorite bills to tell people about is they passed a bill that said that you can manufacture and own automatic weapons in Arizona as long as the weapon was entirely manufactured in Arizona and as long as you don’t cross state boundaries. Now, a lot of people don’t know about that. The Commerce Clause, as you know, is the rule that the federal government uses as its basis to ban the sale of automatic weapons in this country. Their argument is, well, if every part of the gun is manufactured in Arizona and if the gun doesn’t leave Arizona, then the interstate Commerce Clause doesn’t apply. So, let’s just be clear here. You can take guns into bars, there’s no concealed carry weapon permit anymore and you can have an automatic weapon. Now, I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment, but this is crazy. That’s crazy. That’s just crazy.

So, what I’m concerned about is that if we continue to have one-party rule after this election that they will continue down this road of unbelievably out-of-touch bills that frankly endanger our community.

Obviously, Republicans would disagree with some of her characterizations of the legislation, but it's hard to imagine a better encapsulation of what it feels like to be an Arizona Democrat right now.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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