A lot has been said about the 13 budget bills making their way through the Arizona Legislature this week—and there's quite a bit that could concern Southern Arizonans, including deep cuts to education and health care.
But last night's bill covering funding for public safety had a strange clause in it, even by current legislative standards.
29. Shift language governing the Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission (GIITEM) local enforcement grants from a General Appropriation Act footnote to permanent law. Monies deposited in the GIITEM Fund can be used for employer sanctions, smuggling, gang, and immigration enforcement. Allocates the first $1.6 million to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and the next $500,000 to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. Monies given to Sheriffs’ Offices do not require further approval by the county board of supervisors. Remaining monies may be used for agreements with cities, counties and other entities at a 3:1 match rate. Excludes Maricopa and Pinal Counties from the matching requirements. Excludes Pima County from funding. Requires contracting law enforcement agencies to verify legal status of suspected illegal aliens and gang members. Requires expenditure reporting to JLBC for any expenditures not previously identified.
Essentially, this sets up Department of Public Safety funding to fight gang and immigration-related crime, but Pima County won't get getting a dime of that money. In fact, the bill specifically prohibits Pima County from getting the money. Why? According to the East Valley Tribune today, Senate President Russell Pearce said it's because Sheriff Dupnik wouldn't enforce SB 1070:
"That was by design,'' said Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa.
"The sheriff says he's not going to enforce the law,'' Pearce said Wednesday night. "Why would I fund him?''
Talking about the bill and its potential impact today on the phone, Democratic Sen. Linda Lopez was outraged, calling the exclusion of the controversial sheriff and his department a "direct retaliation by Tea Party Republicans, purely vindictive to let people know that 'if you say anything like that, we'll teach you.'" For Lopez, this was an example of "legislation going through that shows the level of micromanagement (and) taking care of their own."
Sheriff Dupnik, in a press release issued today, described himself as "extremely concerned with the specific and deliberate exclusion of Pima County, and only Pima County, from any funding," but he decided to not comment further on the bill and its potential effect until "lawyers have had an opportunity to thoroughly scrutinize the proposed legislation.”
A message was left with Sen. Frank Antenori's office (a co-sponsor of the bill), and I'll update this post if/when he is available for comment.
For now, it's hard to not think that the two counties receiving the funds are being rewarded for their loyalty to the conservative, anti-immigration party line, while Pima County is being punished for Dupnik's outspokenness.