Legislators must pay selves to dodge court order  
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 17, 2007

Mary Jo Pitzl, Jessica Coomes, Matthew Benson and Yvonne Wingett

Hey, taxpayer - can you spare $10? . . . Lawmakers looking to avoid a judge's order to pay for English-language learners are thinking about continuing the legislative session. But if they do that, they could be in dicey public-relations territory: They would continue to draw their daily pay even as they balk at putting more money into English-language instruction.

Granted, there is a huge disparity between the $10 daily pay that lawmakers receive ($20 for those outside of Maricopa County) and the millions that are estimated to be needed to satisfy the court. But paying yourself while delaying payments to others doesn't sell too well.

There is a hitch: For lawmakers to continue the session, they would need to meet regularly to extend their days off. And that would require bringing at least some lawmakers back to the Capitol - a hard thing to do after a session that is going to run 160-plus days.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins ruled earlier this year that lawmakers must provide adequate language-instruction money by the end of the session.
Lawmakers have sought a stay of Collins' order so they can appeal his underlying ruling, but the judge has not yet acted on that request - thus the quest to find ways to avoid bringing on a ruling of contempt of court.

Let's make history . . . uh, never mind . . . By the time lawmakers return to the state Capitol on Monday, they will have already been in regular session longer than in all but six years dating to Arizona's first Legislature in 1912.

Monday will be the 162nd day of the session. Lawmakers adjourned last year on June 22, which was Day 164.

So lawmakers could easily beat the 2006 mark this year and a record could even be in sight. That's because Senate President Tim Bee told the Insider that legislative leaders are considering recessing, rather than officially adjourning.

Happy days.

Turning Ron Gould's kitchen into a 'Cyber Legislature' . . . Stuck in Lake Havasu City recently, Republican Sen. Ron Gould set up a laptop on his kitchen table and watched the Senate session, even standing to say the Pledge of Allegiance with fellow lawmakers.

Then a lightbulb clicked. Lawmakers, especially those from rural Arizona, could telecommute to the Capitol and cast votes hundreds of miles away from Phoenix, Gould thought. He calls it a "Cyber Legislature."

Applause broke out on the Senate floor when Gould explained his rationale:
"I would imagine most members would prefer I was not here for floor debate."
Gould often speaks against members' bills, particularly when he smells a tax increase.

Plus, Gould said, if lawmakers worked from home, lobbyists would have a tough time rallying votes for their priorities.

"I don't think I'd let lobbyists come and lobby me at my kitchen table."
Napolitano feels the love . . . Gov. Janet Napolitano's approval ratings are at their highest point since she took over in 2003, according to a poll released by the Behavior Research Center.

The Phoenix group found that 65 percent of Arizonans said Napolitano is doing a good or excellent job, and 19 percent rated her "fair." Just 11 percent of respondents gave the Democrat a "poor/very poor" rating.
Napolitano's approval rating is up 2 percentage points from March.

The non-partisan Rocky Mountain Poll was based upon 628 phone interviews with voters across Arizona, and was conducted May 24-29. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

The end of Villar and Raigosa . . . They're not exactly K-Fed and Britney Spears, but the impending divorce of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Corina, is making big news.

In the Valley, Democratic and Hispanic politicos are clucking away about it, mostly because Villaraigosa has strong ties here, since he was elected mayor in 2005. Villaraigosa regularly flies into Phoenix - or conference calls when he's superbusy - to raise money for his fellow Dems.

Corina filed for the divorce citing irreconcilable differences as the reason for ending their marriage of 20 years. The couple has an 18-year-old son, Antonio Jr.; the mayor has two adult daughters from previous relationships.

When the pair tied the knot in 1987, they combined their last names - his Villar, and hers, Raigosa. The mayor plans on keeping the Villaraigosa name.

This is the second time Corina has filed for divorce from Antonio. She first filed for divorce in the mid- 1990s, after it was revealed that her husband had had an affair.