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The Skinny

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STOP THE POLLUTER PROTECTION ACT!

The last time we asked readers to urge Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill, it actually worked: To her credit, Brewer vetoed House Bill 2757, which would have allowed electronic billboards along Arizona's highways.

So we're once again asking you to reach for your telephone to give Brewer a call and ask her to veto HB 2199, known in some circles as the Polluter Protection Act.

Supporters of the bill—which include all of the Republican lawmakers in our neck of the woods—say the legislation will create an "environmental audit privilege" that will encourage companies to clean up any toxic messes that they discover in the course of doing business.

But opponents of the legislation—such as the Sierra Club and most of our Democratic lawmakers—argue that it lets polluters off the hook if they discover they've been violating environmental regulations, as long as they report the problem to the government. Those reports are hidden behind a veil of secrecy and can't be used in civil lawsuits if the state or other injured parties decide to sue over violations of the law, and there are all sorts of restrictions on how the information could be used in future lawsuits, including limits on who could testify—which would go a long way toward silencing whistleblowers.

It doesn't take a genius to realize that the new law would create an obvious incentive for businesses to ignore the environmental regulations that keep poisons out of Arizona's air and water. If a company knows that it can hide wrongdoing in a legal web of secrecy and say it's sorry after committing violations, it's gonna be a lot easier for bad actors to commit bad deeds. And that is bad news for companies that do play by the rules, because their competitors will be the ones cutting corners and possibly driving them out of business.

Call Gov. Brewer at (800) 253-0883, and ask her to veto HB 2757. Arizona doesn't need a Polluter Protection Act.


SUPREME COURT TO TUCSON: PARTY ON!

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled last week that the state Legislature can't tell the city of Tucson how to run its elections.

In a unanimous decision, the justices declared that state lawmakers overreached when they passed a law saying that every city in the state had to have nonpartisan elections and elect its representatives by ward, rather than citywide.

The law was pushed by Republican Jonathan Paton back when he was in the Arizona Legislature. Paton, who is now running for Congress in Congressional District 1 (which stretches from Marana to Utah along Arizona's eastern border, including the liberal bastion of Flagstaff), signed on to defend the state with the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

The city of Tucson has an odd system: Unlike most cities in Arizona, it has partisan rather than nonpartisan elections; and candidates first run within their wards in those partisan primaries, then run citywide in the general election.

The end result: Democrats have a big advantage when it comes to controlling the Tucson City Council, because they significantly outnumber Republicans in the city as a whole.

That doesn't mean the Republicans always lose; Mayor Bob Walkup served three terms as a Republican, and other GOP candidates have won (and often end up representing liberal areas, like central Tucson).

It's an odd system with odd results. But one of those results is that Republicans tend to moderate themselves and worry about neighborhood issues to keep their constituents happy, while Democrats tend to fight against tax hikes and transit subsidies.

The most recent example is Ward 6 Councilman Steve Kozachik, who is burning the biscuits of conservatives in the GOP with his tendency to tangle with Republicans like state Sens. Frank Antenori and Al Melvin, as well as his decision to cross party lines to support Democrats such as U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona and congressional candidate Ron Barber.

In their arguments against the state law, attorneys for the city of Tucson—chiefly, Dennis McLaughlin—told the justices that the city, under the rules of the Arizona Constitution, had the power to run elections however it wanted.

The justices agreed that the power, in this case, should sit with the city and not the state.

"Determining the method for electing city council members necessarily involves a weighing of competing policy concerns," Justice W. Scott Bales wrote in the opinion overturning the state law. "Our opinion neither involves policy choices nor endorses one method of election over another; instead it considers whether Arizona's Constitution entrusts those issues to the voters of charter cities or the state Legislature."


JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: CONGRESSIONAL MAPS OK

You may recall that there was a lot of drama cooked up by the Republican Party over the new congressional maps drawn up by the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Attorney General Tom Horne tried to discredit the IRC with an investigation that the courts eventually determined was not legitimate. (Horne, incidentally, has his own problems with federal investigators looking into his campaign-finance reports, as well as the resignation of his top criminal prosecutor.)

Gov. Jan Brewer and the GOP caucus in the Arizona Legislature tried to remove IRC chairwoman Colleen Mathis on trumped-up charges, only to have the Arizona Supreme Court tell them they were out of bounds.

Well, those controversial congressional maps were approved by the U.S. Justice Department on Monday, April 9, so we guess all those worries about how the maps of the nine districts were unfair and unconstitutional aren't getting much traction in places where it counts.

The Justice Department has until April 30 to review the maps for Arizona's 30 legislative districts.


PIMA POLITICAL PREVIEW

The entire Pima County Board of Supervisors will face re-election this year, along with most of the other elected officials in Pima County government.

So far, the most lively Board of Supes race is shaping up in District 1, where Republican Ann Day's retirement creates an open seat. We've got a crowded GOP primary that includes state Rep. Vic Williams, former Arizona Republican Party chairman Mike Hellon, Tea Party activist Ally Miller and mortgage broker Stuart McDaniel. Barring any surprises, the winner of that contest will face Democrat Nancy Young Wright, a former state lawmaker, in the November general election.

In District 3, Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson, a Democrat seeking a fifth term, has drawn a Republican opponent: Former UA football player Tanner Bell, who now works in the UA Athletics Department as an academic counselor.

District 4 Supervisor Ray Carroll, who has been on the board since 1997, is facing a political newcomer in the Republican primary: Sean Collins.

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, a Democrat who has been in office since 1996, is facing a challenge from Republican Mike Jette, who has been heading up the Arizona Attorney General's Office in Tucson.

Pima County Treasurer Beth Ford, a Republican who was first elected in 2000, is facing a challenge from former state lawmaker Elaine Richardson, who headed up the Arizona Department of Real Estate during the Janet Napolitano administration.

Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, a Democrat who was first elected in 1992, is facing Republican challenger Bill Beard.

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