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The Skinny

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NEVER MIND

Looks like we'll have City Manager Mike Hein to kick around for a while.

After all the drama that followed City Councilman Steve Leal's e-mailed request for Hein's resignation last week, Leal this week delivered a quasi-apology for bungling the resignation demand, though he added that he still had frustrations with Hein.

The council agreed to look into hiring an auditor who could make sense of the city budget and then vanished behind closed doors into executive session. When they emerged later that afternoon, they voted 7-0 to support Councilwoman Karin Uhlich's motion that the council and the manager work on their communication issues "to best serve the community."

Whether this means group counseling remains to be seen.


NUMBERS RACKET

Lawmakers finally agreed on a budget and wrapped up the legislative session last week, with days to spare before the end of the fiscal year. That'll teach those worrywarts who were yapping about government shutdowns.

So what if lawmakers had only hours to look over the $9.9 billion budget package? It's not like most of them would have understood the thing even if they'd had the entire session to look it over.

As we predicted last week, House Speaker Jim Weiers didn't have enough Republican votes to get his budget passed. Among the Republicans who blocked Weiers' budget: Southern Arizona Reps. Pete Hershberger and Jennifer Burns, who both teamed up with the Democrats to provide the margin of victory for the budget that passed with the minimum 31 votes.

Also as we predicted: Senate President Tim Bee got his budget out with Democratic support and just enough Republican votes to get to the minimum 16.

Bottom line: The GOP House leadership got steamrolled, and Gov. Janet Napolitano got most everything she wanted--again. When it comes to budgeting, Weiers is looking like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football.

Why did Weiers and his leadership team waste months in negotiations to come up with a last-minute budget that had no chance of passing?

This might just be the final debacle that allows Rep. Kirk Adams of Mesa to bring an end to Weiers' House reign.

We'll point out that the final budget ain't pretty. It drains the rainy-day fund, sweeps all sorts of accounts that are dedicated to specific purposes and puts a whole lot of hope into the questionable notion that we're turning the corner on the economy. It also installs lots of photo-radar cameras on the highways in hopes of balancing the budget on the back of lead-foot drivers, and counts on lottery players to pay back a billion bucks that the Board of Regents wants to borrow for construction.


STEEE-RIKE!

One thing that didn't get done: passing a bill that would allow Pima County voters to decide if they wanted to tax themselves to pay for improvements to Pima County's baseball stadiums.

That bill, which emerged late in the session, was undergoing all sorts of changes in the final throes of the session: First, it would have put a 3/4-cent tax on hotel rooms, rental cars and restaurant/bar bills. Then the restaurant guys complained they were going to foot the bill for sports welfare, so backers decided to lower the overall proposed sales-tax increase while spreading it to include more "amusements," like bowling alleys, movie theaters and maybe even all of our purchases.

But before the Senate could vote on that, lawmakers first needed to make sure that voters would decide whether to amend the Arizona Constitution to ensure that those gays wouldn't taint the sacred institution of marriage.

That particular debate--marked by accusations that both Democratic opponents and Republican supporters were abusing the rules of Senate debate--left lawmakers in such a foul mood that they weren't able to address the spring training legislation.

Senate President Tim Bee, who first signed onto the gay-marriage ban, then tried to kill it, and then tried to ignore it when it came back to life, finally ended up providing the 16th vote to get it on the ballot.


DASH FOR CASH

Candidates for statewide office filed their midyear campaign-finance reports earlier this week.

In Legislative District 26, where Rep. Pete Hershberger is battling Al Melvin for the GOP Senate nomination, Hershberger is running a traditional campaign, while Melvin has already qualified for nearly $13,000 in Clean Elections money.

Hershberger had raised more than $58,000 for his campaign, with nearly $23,800 coming in since the start of the year. He still had more than $39,600 at the end of the reporting period, which was May 31.

That gives him a financial advantage over Melvin, although Clean Elections rules will give Melvin a dollar-for-dollar match of every dime that Hershberger spends--up to three times Melvin's original check for $12,921.

Hershberger will need plenty of bucks to defend himself against Melvin's message that Hershberger is out of step with the GOP platform. Melvin was able to successfully run the same kind of campaign against Republican Sen. Toni Hellon two years ago in the northwest-side district. Melvin went on to lose the general election by fewer than 500 votes to Democrat Charlene Pesquiera, who is not running for re-election.

The GOP primary winner will face a tough race against Democrat Cheryl Cage, who has already received a check for $12,921 for her primary campaign from Clean Elections.

The three Republicans and two Democrats running for House seats in LD26, which is seen as a swing district, are all participating in Clean Elections. The two Democrats, incumbent Rep. Nancy Young Wright and Don Jorgensen, and Republicans Trent Humphries and Marilyn Zerull have received their funding, while Republican Vic Williams has not yet qualified.

Over in Legislative District 30, four Republicans are seeking two open House seats. Two of the candidates, Sharon Collins and David Gowan, are running as Clean Elections candidates. Collins has already received her check.

The other two Republicans, Frank Antenori and Doug Sposito, are running traditional campaigns, which has left them at a financial disadvantage at this early stage of the game. Antenori, a former Green Beret who unsuccessfully sought a congressional seat in 2006, had raised $10,404 by the end of the reporting period and had spent $8,370, leaving him with just more than $2K in the bank.

Sposito, a Sonoita-area homebuilder, has raised $6,065 and spent $4,725, leaving him with $1,338 in the bank.

The two primary winners will face Democrat Andrea Dalessandro, who has already qualified for Clean Elections money.


DEBATE ALERTS!

Over at our new political Web site, we've launched a political calendar with upcoming debates and other important dates.

There's a doubleheader next Thursday, July 10.

Pima County's Democratic Nucleus Club hosts a debate between Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson and Donna Branch-Gilby, who hopes to upset the three-term incumbent. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Viscount Suite Hotel, 4855 E. Broadway Blvd.

Reps. Phil Lopes and Olivia Cajero Bedford, who now represent Legislative District 27 in the House, face off against challenger John Kromko in a Clean Elections debate at 6 p.m. at the Pima Community College District Office, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd.

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