Friday, January 27, 2006

The legislature gets a choice: Fund Flores, or watch Flores get funded.

Arizona's Republicans have long been a mixture of practical conservatives who are willing to work on fixing the state's problems, and those who can only be described as the 'nut-bag' right, those whose stubborn 'take no prisoners' brand of obstinacy can lead their own party into trouble. Unfortunately, the second group have often held sway within the Republican caucus, and it has cost their party, the state and the citizens of Arizona.

And so it is again. Today a Federal judge, following up on a series of decisions in the case, Flores vs. Arizona, which found that funding for English-learner programs was entirely inadequate, especially in a state that requires 'English only' as the official language, ordered that the state be fined $500,000 per day and it be deposited into a fund to help English-learners. This means that Governor Janet Napolitano, who supports the funding and has been at loggerheads with the legislature over it and who just this week vetoed two more attempts by Republicans to low-ball it, now can get her way just by doing nothing. Just let the fines accumulate long enough, and the by next year, the funding the courts require will be in place and ready to roll. And any bill the legislature passes that the Governor signs, students in English learner class get an extra half million outside of the bill for every day that they spend working on the bill.

Last year, the legislature sent the Governor another bill that was wholly inadequate, so she vetoed it (together with a pair of Republican tax credit bills just to make it clear that there needed to be give and take.)

Now, this has been working its way through the courts for fourteen years, so conservative Republicans who controlled the legislature for all of that time have had plenty of time to fix the problem. But being unwilling to do anything about it, they have sacrificed mightily just to reach today's decison against them. Had they gone along with the first court order regarding Flores, they would today have already addressed that problem years ago, and would certainly have delivered the tax cuts the Governor vetoed last year, but instead, they stubbornly stuck to their 'spend as little as possible' dogma, and now it has cost them everything. They won't have the money that is going into the fund to spend on anything else (including tax cuts), and now that the Governor will get this priority funded automatically just by leaving the whole thing alone, the legislature's only chance to get her to sign a bill on Flores funding is to pass a real one. There will be a special session starting this week to deal with Flores-related issues, but the Governor holds all the cards now, and the conservatives know it.


Anonymous said...

Well Eli I am not very familiar with this particular matter although I probably should be, I mean the specifics of it. Thats why it helps to read your blog, and I thank you. No long rambling feedback from me today!

shrimplate said...

Well said, Eli.

Yours is the clearest summary of this issue that I have encountered, either in print or on the web.