This legislative session, Arizona lawmakers will sweat away trying to cope with a $1.6 billion budget shortfall. Yet even such a huge deficit has not stopped legislators from wanting to expand an already overextended government.
As if Arizona did not have enough regulation already, legislators have proposed establishing at least six new boards. They would create an eleven-member Board for School Readiness, an eight-member Indian Education Advisory Board, a 20-member Child Support Committee, a 25-member Domestic Relations Committee, an Equal Pay Committee, and a Board of Massage Therapy.
The ostensible purpose of most of these boards is to study their respective issues and make policy recommendations to the governor and legislature. In reality, they would provide a quasi-permanent, taxpayer-funded platform inside the government for various interest groups to lobby for the expansion of their pet projects. If created, we can expect these bodies to emit report after report lamenting the woeful state of child support or school readiness in Arizona and calling for new spending to remedy the situation.
It is not fair to pick favorites, but the Board of Massage Therapy is perhaps the most ridiculous of them all. Covering everything from five-minute mall massages to salt glows, this board would require 700 hours of training in a board-approved school, the passage of a written exam, and a $250 licensing fee. In addition, therapists must be high school graduates, at least eighteen years old, and of "good moral character." To keep their license, therapists must also pay a renewal fee of $250 and take 25 hours of continuing study every two years. A therapist can be brought up on disciplinary charges and even become a criminal for doing such things as charging "unreasonable" fees or failing to report an unlicensed massage therapist.
If this bill becomes law, many people will be without paychecks because they do not have a high school diploma or cannot read English. Popular businesses offering such services as chair massages and skin wraps may be forced to close because of the financial burden of a license.
The legislature is also pondering a host of new regulations and mandates. One bill would require even the smallest school district to employ at least one teacher who holds a master's degree or near equivalent in library science. Another would make noise standards for outdoor shooting ranges a state instead of local responsibility.
Arizona's politicians are also considering interfering in private contracts by banning noncompete clauses for television and radio stations. Non-compete clauses are common in industries from computers to beauty shops. They are designed to ensure that intellectual property and other investments made by a company are not lost if an employee moves to work for a competitor. In media, the clauses usually stipulate that radio and television personalities may not work in the same city market for a year. In the end, the banning of non-compete clauses will do these personalities no good. No longer able to protect their investments, broadcasters will either cut back on promotional budgets, or make personalities pay indirectly through lower salaries.
And what session would be complete without health care mandates There is a bill prohibiting the use of the common mercury amalgam, or "silver," dental fillings. If passed, Arizonans would lose an efficient and affordable method of dental healthcare, and dentists would be subject to a whole slew of new regulations-regulations based on claims that have been debunked by the American Council on Health and Science, Consumer Reports, the American Dental Association, and the Food and Drug Administration. Another new mandate would require insurance policies to extend coverage to all types of female contraception, including the most expensive implanted and intrauterine devices and hormone injections. This will drive up the cost of health care yet again.
Every year, Arizona citizens brace for a tidal wave of legislation pouring out of the Capitol. This year, a deluge of more than 1,000 bills threatens to swamp citizens in line after line of new code. If we are fortunate, this wave will be stopped before it can do any damage.