This week continues my alternative suggestions to the "reform state government" group gathering around former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra O'Connor and the Morrison Institute at ASU.
The apparent principle behind most of their suggested reforms, such as eliminating term limits and clean elections and somehow making elections more "competitive," is to facilitate the election of more "moderates" and thereby achieve more "compromise."
My response is that moderation is a demeanor, not an epistemology, and compromise is how we got in this financial hole in the first place.
Further changes advocated are to split our current two-member state House districts into single member constituencies, eliminate statewide elected offices such as treasurer and mine inspector, and extend the terms of state senators and perhaps others. Those familiar with American political history know much of this is contained in the ideas of the original "progressives" and totally counter to their contemporaries, the anti-elitist "populists." These are not new ideas.
Arizona has two House members per district by judicial fiat, court ordered in 1966 as a result of the Supreme Court of the United States ruling changing the manner in which representation was assigned by the states. Arizona then had three congressional districts. The court simply increased our state senate to 30 members from 28, reduced our state house from 80 to 60, and placed 10 legislative districts in each congressional district. The number of CDs grew while the legislature has remained the same at 30 districts.
I could support splitting those, but while we're at it, how about making more of them? New Hampshire, on a fourth of our population, has 400 in their lower house and still no state income or sales tax. Smaller the district, closer the representation, and another great benefit is drastically reduced campaign costs and special interest money.
Large elected bodies were common well into the 20th century. Boston once had a town council of 100 but early progressives sold the idea that large numbers were "unmanageable." That too many guys with "Mc" in their name were getting elected may have also had some bearing.
Unlike progressives, I like it "unmanageable." I not only want to keep all my current elected officials, I'd like to add a couple more. We could put back the state auditor and the state tax commission (abolished in the '60s) for openers. It's called "division of powers." And terms should be shorter, not longer. We once had single-year terms for state officials and the legislature, then went to two years, now four. The result is less contact with constituents, lower election turn-outs and a giant increase in recalls and voter initiatives.
The argument that elected officials would just "spend more time campaigning" tells us much about the mindset of the progressive. To campaign, officials must get out and move around with the folks they represent. Good. Otherwise they just sit around talking to each other and listening to staff. Bad. Progressives want policy wonks, not true representatives.
As to staff, if we keep the legislature at its current size, our representatives need more that report directly to them as individuals. Forget higher salaries, there is simply no way anybody can read and analyze all the crap dumped on them, mostly by staff, with only a secretary. In a multi-billion dollar budget the cost is minimal, and to deny it for this reason is akin to linking tidal waves to peeing in the ocean.
I'm willing to compromise. Dump term limits for shorter terms. Curtail initiatives for more statewide elected officials. Can clean elections for more single-member districts.
As all of those are positions I advocate, it's a great compromise for the rest of you.
Hear Emil Franzi and Tom Danehy Saturdays 1-4 p.m. on KVOI 1030AM.