Government Accountability

Back-room deals and closed doors are not the stuff of free governments. Our work is making governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.

<p>Back-room deals and closed doors are not the stuff of free governments. Our work is making governments more transparent and accountable to citizens.</p>

Divided government will be the name of the game when Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Republican-controlled State Legislature start the 2003 session Jan. 13.

The business community also faces some divisions as industry and interest groups take different tacks on mammoth issues such as taxes, economic development and how to deal with the state's $1 billion budget shortfall.

Movie director Peter Jackson began his Lord of the Rings saga with an ominous message: The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air, Cate Blanchett darkly says. Much that once was is lost.

We have the same sense of foreboding when considering Arizona's unresolved budget crisis, without the Hollywood ending. Arizona has been fortunate to have a vibrant economy and falling poverty rates, but a series of bad policy decisions now puts this at risk.

Scottsdale's Motor Mile just may be one of the most profitable corners of real estate in Arizona. Featuring luxury cars such as Bentley and Rolls-Royce, its a safe bet most Arizonans probably will spend more time dreaming about cars like these than driving them. So why are taxpayers footing bills for these dealerships? A few years ago, the Scottsdale City Council voted to give $1.5 million to 19 car dealers for an ad campaign to make the area the ultimate car buying destination. I guess 19 car dealerships weren't obvious enough.

This year a ballot initiative is moving to establish a minimum wage in Arizona. The wage would initially be $5.95 an hour and would rise to $6.75 an hour in 2008.

Arizona currently has no state-required minimum wage, but employers are required to comply with the federal minimum wage of $5.15.

It's a safe assumption that most Americans want to reduce poverty and give all workers a chance at the American dream. But a higher minimum wage tends to put the lesser skilled among us out of work.

In 1965, the University of Florida football team faced a potentially devastating enemy-dehydration. University doctors set out to make a drink that would keep the team hydrated and winning.  The product they made is now known the world over as Gatorade. Not only did Gatorade energize dehydrated football players, but once licensed to a soft drink company, it reaped handsome profits for the University of Florida and sparked an ongoing race for universities to discover more profitable products.

Seventy years after the end of Prohibition, it is illegal for Arizona consumers to purchase wine directly from out-of-state wineries.

Arizona is one of two dozen states that prohibit the direct shipment of out-of-state wines to in-state consumers. Although the number of nationwide wineries and available wines has increased by over 500 percent over the past 30 years, wholesalers continue to dictate the availability of out-of-state wines to Arizona consumers.

Tucson's legislators scored poorly on the Goldwater Institute's 2003 Legislative Report Card, which grades legislators according to their commitment to free markets, limited government, rule of law, individual liberty, and individual responsibility.

In fact, Tucson Districts 27, 28, and 29 had some of the lowest scores in the state. None of those districts produced a legislator with a score higher than 39 percent, which translates to an "F+" on the Institute's (rather generous) grading scale.

There seems to be plenty of finger-pointing going on, but ultimately, little is being said about the actual reason for the current gas shortage in Phoenix. Everyone seems to be aware that a pipeline broke and we have to wait for federal approval before gas can begin flowing. But, isn't anyone wondering why this problem is confined to the Phoenix metropolitan area?

In the Robert Bolt play, A Man for All Seasons, St. Thomas More is chided for allowing an unsavory character to go unpunished because there is no law against the act in question. In response, More declares that he would give the devil the benefit of law, for his own safety's sake.