KINGMAN - Sen. Ron Gould expressed disappointment that several of his bills, including two dealing with the interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, did not pass in the last session of the Arizona Legislature at a meeting of the Republican Men's Club Monday.
Sen. Ron Gould called the session successful, short and the only one during his seven years in office where the Legislature adjourned on time.
He was pleased that the Legislature focused mainly on fixing the budget. The budget process was painful and tough, but Gould felt more work could have been done to reduce spending. He didn't want to shift the cost of some programs down to the cities and counties. One particular cost he didn't want to shift was the funding of retirement accounts, which he said was tacked on at the 11th hour as an amendment to one of the budget bills.
However, it appeared that the Legislature was done playing games with the budget, something that should have been done more than three years ago, Gould said. If it had been done then, the cuts in services would be less painful today.
He said the removal of more than 250,000 people from the rolls of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System was a good thing, especially childless adults. However, he would have preferred making the cuts on a case-by-case basis instead of across the board to make sure that those who really need health care would not be without.
He was also disappointed that several of the bills he sponsored were either vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer or killed before they could reach the floor of the Senate. He was particularly disappointed that two bills dealing with the interpretation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution did not pass. The bills would have challenged a common interpretation of the amendment that states that anyone born in the U.S. automatically becomes a U.S. citizen, even if their parents are not citizens.
Gould said he was hoping that the state would be sued because of the bills and the U.S. Supreme Court would have to make a ruling on the interpretation of the amendment, which has never been done. But he couldn't get the bills out of committee and had to introduce them in the Senate Appropriations Committee in order to get them heard. The bills eventually failed.
Gould was also disappointed that five illegal immigration bills failed in the Senate. The bills would have required schools and hospitals to track the immigration status of students and patients. He said those bills failed because the Arizona Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to legislators asking them to vote against the bills.
Reps. Doris Goodale and Nancy McLain also spoke at the meeting.
"It was like 'A Tale of Two Cities,' sometimes on the same day," Rep. Doris Goodale said. She said during the last week of the session she worried that things were moving too fast and legislators did not have enough time to read and consider bills, especially after working an 18-hour day and voting on them at 3 a.m. It was frustrating to be voting on something that would have an impact on local communities and not be able to call city council members or county supervisors because it was 5 a.m., she said.
Goodale also called the budget process painful, especially the reorganization of the state workers retirement funds, something that should have been done a while ago. She was frustrated that the Legislature had to cut certain programs but was unable to drill down to find out what state departments were spending money.
Goodale was pleased that the jobs bill passed but disappointed that Brewer vetoed part of it. She was also pleased with the efforts of the Rural Caucus, a bloc from the Arizona House of Representatives, which was able to bring more attention to the needs of their areas.
This was also her first year as a chairwoman, for the House Education Committee. As such, Goodale said, she was able to keep several bills that she felt were bad for education off the floor of the House.
She also tried to protect Mohave County and the cities from the numerous bills designed to shift state costs down to the local level.
Goodale declined to vote on a number of bills that she felt were personal attacks made by some legislators on certain organizations in their districts.
Rep. Nancy McLain agreed with the others on the budget process and said the Legislature tried to soften the blow of cuts to education, health, community colleges and AHCCCS.
Those departments received large cuts to their general fund moneys but were not hurting as badly as they would make you believe, she said. For example, education received a 5 percent cut to the money it gets from the state general fund, but it only represented a 3.6 percent cut in the total revenue the department takes in.
She disagreed that the budget was balanced - she didn't consider shifting state costs down to local governments balancing the budget.
"I don't think it's right that for the state to dictate to the counties or cities how they should run their governments," said McLain.