We the people... state needs civics lesson

By Laura Keslar
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Attend any high school and a student would learn that America is a representative republic. Ask any student and they can quote parts of the Gettysburg Address: "We the people...."

But it appears that both government officials and interest groups in the state of Arizona have forgotten what they learned in high school government class.

With the passing of Proposition 200 and similar legislation, we have seen the state, its municipalities, and special interest groups try to thwart the collective will of the people.

For instance, in 2003, Governor Janet Napolitano vetoed a bill passed in the state legislature that had provisions similar to those in Proposition 200.

In fact, all it would have done was require some form of identification to be shown when voting. And if no identification was present at the time, provisional ballots would have been given and the votes counted after citizenship was confirmed.

Whether she vetoed the bill because she thought it was a racist little bugger or if she was trying to appeal to a certain subset of individuals rather than the will of the people, we will never really know.

You might be thinking that Napolitano did her job; after all, vetoing bills is listed under the job description of governor. However, the purpose of the governor, as well as the state legislature, is to represent the will of the people within the confines of the state and national Constitution.

By vetoing that piece of legislation, she effectively wagged her tongue and waved her finger at a majority of Arizonans who voted for the representatives that passed that bill through the legislature.

In other words, the state representatives were doing their jobs while Napolitano was pandering to an interest group.

But the citizens of Arizona were not to be discouraged. They wanted something that would assuage their fears of voter fraud at the hands of illegal immigrants - and they wanted it badly enough to put it on the ballot as an initiative.

And, this past Nov. 2, the people passed it with a majority of votes and a 12 percent margin.

However, those groups and people who have opposed the measure, despite its tremendous success, have done everything to thwart or otherwise circumvent the will of the people.

The Phoenix City Council decided to vote on an ordinance that would protect the nearly 14,000 city employees from any lawsuit that arises over the enforcement of Proposition 200, simply because the proposition was vague in its definition of what a public benefit was.

But the Phoenix City Council was not the only local government who passed a similar ordinance.

Tucson City Council is looking into passing something similar, despite the fact that it already has a provision in its bylaws covering potential lawsuits.

And Tim Nelson, who is the general council for Napolitano, has indicated that the state will foot the bills for potential lawsuits.

While it sounds all fine and dandy, such ordinances endorse willful negligence and lawlessness. In other words, it allows city and state employees to skirt around the law as long as they are acting in "good faith."

It barely preserves the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

Oh, but government groups aren't the only ones who are trying to thwart the will of the people. Interest groups, like always, must try their hand at it as well.

Currently, the Mexican American Defense and Education Fund has already declared that after the voter certification on Nov. 22, they will bring the issue to court in order to "protect" those affected by it.

True, the courts are supposed to act as constitutional guards, insuring that any measure - whether passed by the state or by the people - are held constant with that of the Constitution, state or national. However, in recent times, bringing things to the court has become the fine means of throwing a temper tantrum, the adult way.

The majority of the people wanted this legislation; and because a group of individuals didn't get their way at the polls, they have decided to bring it to Mom - the court.

Public officials are supposed to represent the will of the people as well as uphold the Constitution. But what we have here is blatant disregard for public opinion. The proposition passed. A majority of Arizonans wanted it.

So let's stop acting the child, and could we please grow up?

Laura Keslar is a pre-pharmacy junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.