By Becky Fenger
It would be a darn shame if Arizona missed out on the chance to be the first state in our nation to proudly display an artistic Bill of Rights monument at our state capitol. But the water is circling the drain on this legislative session, without House Bill 2682 getting a “third read” in the State Senate presided over by Prescott Republican Ken Bennett.
A bit of background here: Chris Bliss of Scottsdale came up with the idea to celebrate “the collective genius and spirit of compromise that created the Bill of Rights.” The result can be viewed at www.MyBillofRights.org. “Our sole purpose is to remind all Americans of that brilliant, shining and truly revolutionary document… which has for 200 years been the lifeblood of our freedoms,” writes Bliss.
Bliss, who is a successful professional comedian, was touting the project on a radio show when Democrat State Rep. Kirsten Sinema offered to sponsor a bill. In order to give it a better shot at success, Rep. Karen Johnson, a bona fide Republican, co-sponsored HB 2682, thus representing the ideological divide. In fact, all 90 legislators signed on, sensing a good idea when they saw one. By the end of February the bill passed the House by a vote of 57-0. At the end of April, it was waiting to get onto the Third Read calendar in the Senate.
Instead of giving the bill a straight vote, Senate President Ken Bennett last Friday amended the bill onto the budget bill, which passed and was sent over to the House. Now Bennett’s office is telling the scores of citizens who have called or mailed his office that the bill has been passed. Not so. There is a good chance that Gov. Janet Napolitano will veto the budget bill (a 19 percent increase in spending is just not enough for her, don’t you know!), thus killing the Bill of Rights Monument bill. When Bliss had to point this out to his elated supporters, President Bennett’s office accused Bliss of spreading false accusations about the fate of the bill.
Now, there is truth to Bennett’s claim that the Senate has been busy with the crushingly onerous business of the budget and illegal immigration bills, with little time for anything else. But this uncontroversial bill could have boot-scooted through the Senate on its own in minutes.
Attaching HB 2682 to the massive budget bill makes little sense. There is no appropriation involved here. No one is asking for a dime of public money. The organization does not take corporate money or contributions over $250, Bliss explains, because the intent is to get individual support of caring citizens across the land. The average donation has been $40.
All the monuments across the country are going to be site specific and uniquely designed by talented artists with 12 years of training with English master stone masons. They are committed to the project philosophically and aesthetically. It’s difficult to find people who are willing to do this kind of work nowadays.
I do not want to believe that Senate President Bennett would deny a clean vote on this bill because the original sponsor is a Democrat who is unabashedly proud of her Socialist protoplasm. Fengernails to him if that is what’s behind attaching it to a budget bill that Napolitano is standing over with dagger in hand. That would be petty and unworthy of leadership. Tell me it ain’t so, Ken.
Becky Fenger can be reached at email@example.com.