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TIT FOR TAT

Sen. Pamela Gorman is working hard at the Arizona Legislature for the gravity-challenged. Gorman is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1143, which would fix serious flaws in the state's breast-implant tax structure.

It appears that the Arizona Department of Revenue doesn't tax reconstructive breast surgery, but it does add a 5.6 percent sales tax to boob jobs done for cosmetic reasons. Gorman's bill would treat all enhancements equally by getting rid of the sales tax.

Hey, why not have AHCCCS cover the cost while you're at it? Poor women need to boost their self-esteem, too!

Gorman's bill will produce no shortage of snickering around the Capitol, leaving lawmakers to explain that they really do important things most of the time that get ignored. Meanwhile, editorial writers will be able to gripe that lawmakers are more worried about giving tax breaks to rich-but-flat-chested Scottsdale girls while they fail to address the real state budget problems.

Speaking of that state budget: We keep hearing that an agreement may be near. Gov. Janet Napolitano, Senate President Tim Bee and House Speaker Jim Weiers spent a weekend together trying to reach an agreement.

From what we hear, Bee played the role of a marriage counselor, trying to help Weiers and Napolitano find common ground. Napolitano wants to keep from cutting more than a couple hundred million dollars from state spending, while Weiers wants to cut a billion bucks. We're guessing the final number will be somewhere in the middle.


MORE BALLOT BLATHER

Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer gave Pima County a paddling in a March 17 letter when she said that giving out blank election ballots to political-party representatives was a "fundamental security breach."

County reps have pointed out that the ballots--which are used for testing before each election--specifically say "Test Ballot" along the top.

Brewer says giving out those ballots could allow someone to make up counterfeit ballots.

"No matter how well-meaning people believe it is, it is wrong, and I'm not going to stand for it, and I'm urging the Legislature to address this issue," Brewer told The Associated Press in a phone interview shortly after her letter was released. "The bottom line is that party representatives, just like any other unauthorized individual, should not ever be allowed any unauthorized access to blank ballots."

Brewer says that no other county follows such policy, which has no basis in law or in the secretary of state's election-procedures manual.

Last week, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry responded. In a March 28 letter, Huckelberry told Brewer that county officials were surprised by her concerns, considering the process that she's taking issue with has been going on for at least 30 years and has been discussed at meetings with election officials throughout the state.

Huckelberry took a moment to remind Brewer that the county is very aware of election scrutiny, thanks to the little matter of a certain lawsuit filed by the Pima County Democratic Party.

Huckelberry also took a moment to share the county's perspective that ballots are, in fact, at greater risk for counterfeiting now that Pima County was forced to give the Democrats electronic-database files, and now that the GEMS software used in elections is now available over the Internet.

"These combined facts cause us a great deal of concern over future election security," Huckelberry wrote. "We share your concerns about the generation of counterfeit ballots via reproduction or direct printing by those in possession of the GEMS software."

Despite Huckelberry's assertion that state election officials knew about the county's test ballots, the county plans to discontinue the practice. It's just one of a slew of changes the county began making last year as election-integrity activists began voicing concerns.

Huckelberry also let Brewer know the county supports Senate Bill 1477, sponsored by state Sens. Karen Johnson and Linda Grey, that would allow political parties to do logic and accuracy tests using their own marked ballots. The county also supports SB 1395, a bill Brewer hasn't embraced, that would change the Secretary of State Elections Procedure Manual to allow counties to scan voters' ballots and post them on the Internet.

The bill, also sponsored by Johnson, was written up for her by election-integrity activists Jim March and John Brakey. Huckelberry has said it's a procedure the county would like to implement that would enable all Pima County citizens to become election watchdogs. The county, however, can't scan a thing until the manual is changed. While some folks like the idea that Brewer is paying attention to election-integrity issues in Pima County, she might want to keep an eye out for March and Brakey, who are now hanging out in her state-capitol backyard. The two activists have been spending time at the Maricopa County elections office, and they were denied credentials as official observers of the logic and accuracy test before the presidential-preference election in early February. The two are now questioning that county's election system and procedures.


DIGGING IN

Folks with the Empire-Fagan Coalition have continued their fight against proposed limestone mines southwest of Tucson above Vail, despite the Pima County Board of Supervisors' vote to end a lawsuit filed last year against the Arizona State Land Department.

Mike Carson, past president of the organization, says members recently collected more than 1,500 signatures in 28 days for a petition that they want to personally deliver to Gov. Janet Napolitano. The petition asks the governor to intervene on the coalition's behalf and quash the leases approved for California Portland Cement and other mining operations.

All along, the coalition has pointed out that the law says the land-department commissioner works at the pleasure of the governor. Their logic: If they can't get State Land Commissioner Mark Winkelman to deny the mining leases, then perhaps the governor can intervene.

The mines are in Davidson Canyon, an area the state is currently considering naming a protected waterway, which could prevent mining in the area. But since Pima County threw in the towel on the lawsuit, the coalition now realizes that there are no guarantees, since the protected-waterway designation has not been approved.

Carson and the coalition's new president, Wendy Spaulding, recently met with Kristin Almquist, director of the governor's Southern Arizona office, to request a Napolitano sit-down.

This is the second petition the group has prepared for the governor. The first, with 1,200 signatures, was sent to her in August 2006.

"This time, we are demanding a face-to-face presentation," Carson says. "We are respectful, law-abiding, engaged citizens. We have been working on this issue for four years. It is about time that the governor publicly recognized our existence."

Jeanine L'Ecuyer, Napolitano's deputy chief of staff for communications, says a meeting between the governor and the Empire-Fagan Coalition is in the scheduling process.

"We have a formal process, but there is no guarantee," L'Ecuyer says. "We have hundreds of requests each month to meet with the governor."


FOR THOSE WHO SLEEP IN ...

Radio ringmaster John C. Scott, who has been gabbing about Tucson politics on the air for the better part of two decades, has picked up an extra hour of airtime every weekday. Scott can now be heard between 11 a.m. and noon, as well as between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., Monday through Friday, on KVOI AM 690.

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