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The Range

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Booted!

Get out of the Arizona Legislature, David Burnell Smith! Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark F. Aceto ruled last week that Smith, a Republican who represents the Scottsdale area in the House of Representatives, must surrender his seat as ordered by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, because he broke rules by overspending in his 2004 campaign.

Smith, who initially admitted to spending too much in the GOP primary, has since said he just made some minor accounting errors. Response from CCEC officials: "No takebacks!"

Smith, who holds the dubious honor of being the first lawmaker in the United States to be booted from office for violating the rules of a publicly financed campaign program, has vowed to take his legal fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying that the CCEC has no authority to order him out of office. Except, of course, for the contract he willingly signed to get the public money, which seems to holding up remarkably well in court so far.


Little Dig

Tucson officials are scheming up ways to convince the state to build a new tunnel for Interstate 10 in the downtown area near Congress Street. Depressing the interstate would eliminate a major barrier that now splits downtown and reduce the need for the proposed-but-way-too-expensive Science Center bridge. It would also create additional real estate above the highway that might even provide a new home for that troublesome Greyhound bus station.

The change would add an estimated $100 million to the $191 million makeover bill. Where might the extra money come from? Well, how about if state lawmakers just let us keep diverting sales taxes through the special Rio Nuevo district for an extra 15 years? That would be mighty generous of them.

In other transportation news: Tony Davis of the Arizona Daily Star brings us the news that Oro Valley Town Manager Chuck Sweet wants to push La Cholla Boulevard right through the Tortolita Mountains to accommodate future commuters who are moving to the outskirts of the community. The downside: It would cut through a planned expansion of Tucson Mountain Park.

Don't you just feel awful for people who save money by buying houses in the middle of nowhere and then complain when the roads aren't convenient? They need to come first, don't they?


Smoked

Nadine Basha, wife of supermarket magnate/bigshot Democrat Eddie Basha, has announced the launch of a petition drive to ask Arizona voters to approve an additional 80-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes to fund a program for preschoolers. If approved by voters next November, the proposition would bring the total taxes on a pack of cigs to just under $2 a pack.

The initiative could put a real crimp in Tucson City Councilwoman Nina Trasoff's "plan" to lobby lawmakers to allow the city to replace Tucson's garbage fee with a citywide tax on cigarettes and liquor.


Objection!

The Arizona Supreme Court denied convicted killer James Hamm's appeal to be allowed to become a lawyer in Arizona. Hamm, who killed a man during a botched drug deal in 1974, rehabilitated himself in prison and was paroled in 1992.

Hamm has since completed law school but was blocked from entrance to the bar association. The court ruled that it wasn't so much Hamm's execution-style act of murder but his failure to pay child support that suggested that he still lacked the good moral character necessary to practice law in Arizona.


Hammered by Hollywood

Avast, ye pirates! The Motion Picture Association of America filed a lawsuit against William Homer of Tucson for illegally downloading two films, Hitch and Are We There Yet?, says MPAA spokesperson Michelle Greeno. Homer faces penalties of up to $30,000 for each movie he downloaded via BearShare. The fine could reach as much as $150,000 per movie "if such infringement is proven to be willful," according to MPAA legal jargon. Man, that's way worse than the late fees we're always racking up at Casa Video.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of another suit filed by the MPAA in October alleging that Tucsonan Steve Streeter used KaZaA to illegally download Alien Vs. Predator and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. We're not movie critics, but we don't think watching AVP was worth anywhere near $150,000.

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