Arizona Republic
June 25, 2007

 (Phoenix, AZ) Estimated printed pages: 2

1. Stick to the schedule

Every January, the Legislature opens with a fervent vow to finish in 100 days. It's about as effective as a New Year's resolution to lose weight.
This year's session lumbered in at 164 days. By the end, frayed tempers, fatigue and impatience start taking the place of judgment and negotiation.
Yet for all the extra time, there's a mad dash at the end when half-baked bills get rushed through and worthy ones are lost in the shuffle. Lawmakers know how to set deadlines. They need to learn how to meet them.

2. Use self-control

Arizona's 90 legislators filed more than 1,400 bills this year, or an average of 15 each. Pity anyone from the public who's trying to spot the few grains of wheat in all that chaff. The Legislature should limit the number of bills that an individual can introduce, maybe to five. Lawmakers would be forced to target the most important issues and spend time crafting effective responses. As a bonus, legislative leaders should guarantee that every bill can get a hearing and not be bottled up by a recalcitrant committee chair.

3. Get rid of strikers

Opponents of a bill breathe a sigh of relief when it's defeated. And then they gasp in horror as it staggers back to life like Frankenstein's monster.
A striker! Yes, lawmakers can revive dead legislation with the "strike-everything" technique: striking out the language of some minor bill and inserting the provisions of a failed one. Sometimes there's a striker on top of a striker: One bill this session started out as a technical correction on bonding, turned into a school-finance measure and ended up dealing with the San Pedro River. It's time to ditch this cumbersome system and use a straightforward vote to reconsider bills.

4. Share the ball

The state budget is the crucial game at the Legislature. Senate President Tim Bee avoided the bitter wrangling that often accompanies it. With Minority Leader Marsha Arzberger as a willing team player, he captained an inclusive effort that produced a budget acceptable to Republicans, Democrats and Gov. Janet Napolitano. House Speaker Jim Weiers, in contrast, hogged the ball and worked for a budget that required no Democratic votes. With little team spirit in the House, the final version of the budget drew mostly from the Senate version.

5. No embarrassing noises

Arizona has a collective red face from the bizarre uproar over a proposal for new international high school programs and schools where students could start a second language in kindergarten.

Dangerous! Un-American! Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City; Sen. Karen Johnson, R-Mesa; and Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, raised an outcry over a program so subversive that Wisconsin, Kansas and Ohio are using versions of it. Arizonans haven't been this proud since the Legislature legalized the production of Freon despite a federal and international ban on it.

CAPTION: Sen. Tim Bee, R-Tucson CAPTION: Sen. Marsha Arzberger, D-Willcox
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Opinions
Page: A14

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Record Number: pho170784583