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Our View: Legislators should act quickly on immunity, power abuse issues

December 28, 2018

The best thing the Arizona Legislature can do when it reconvenes is to pass a bill holding individual lawmakers accountable for abusing their elected positions.

Arizona Rep. David Cook is the latest to make headlines from his DUI arrest in which he allegedly threatened to get back at the state trooper writing the ticket.

To his credit, the Globe Republican didn’t claim legislative immunity. He also later apologized profusely to the public for bad judgment.

Rep. Paul Mosley of Lake Havasu City is still awaiting trial on speeding charges last spring. In the hugely publicized LaPaz County Sheriff’s video, he boasted of routinely driving up to 140 mph and claimed legislative immunity.

He apologized to the public as well, but he lost his seat in the election. His upcoming trial will likely focus on legislative immunity.

Legislative arrest immunity is enshrined in the Arizona Constitution. Its intent is to assure lawmakers won’t be detained as they rush to the Capitol to cast a pivotal vote and similar situations.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order shortly after Mosely’s video became public allowing the state Department of Public Service to arrest legislators in some circumstances. His order was a reaction to a DPS interpretation that it was powerless to arrest the lawmakers.

Clearly there are gray areas. It’s also clear that legislators too often — and once is too often — see the immunity provision as a “get out of jail free” card.

David Cook, who obviously paid attention to the Mosley scandal, was wise enough to avoid the immunity topic but still threatened paybacks. That reveals not only an abuse of power but an insight that this lawmaker feels himself more important and more powerful than the arresting officer.

The Legislature can do something about this. It should. Arizona voters send citizen representatives to Phoenix to do public business, not to wrap themselves in the cloak of entitlements. The lawmakers are there to create laws that apply to everyone, including legislators.

A new law should spell out very narrow provisions for legislative immunity and specify that lawmakers threatening personal retaliation against anyone will be censured. The lawmakers need to take action to assure trust is retained with the public that sends them to the Capitol.

— Today’s News-Herald

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