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What the Devil won't tell you

Lawmakers' complaint may scuttle Pima County's COVID-19 rules

Saddlebrooke lawmaker Mark Finchem is at it again.

The Republican state representative and his fellow travelers in the in the It's-All-a-Hoax Caucus have filed a complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to force the undoing of Pima County business regulations intended to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Finchem doesn't like government and one could argue, civilization. It's a free country ... right up til you start infecting us with a deadly disease.

This week, the Board of Supervisors turned guidelines into regulations as the state of Arizona prepares to reopen the economy after six weeks of staying at home.

Gov. Doug Ducey – oddly, just as President Donald Trump arrived for a visit – decided to undo his rather weak stay-at-home order.

Finchem argues some of the county's new regulations and recommendations for restaurants – and there were many – may have surpassed Ducey’s executive orders. However his complaint doesn't say which ones exceed the authority. State law allows for sanctioning any county or municipality that violates state law by withholding the local government’s state-shared revenues. That's a big chunk of change.

The crowd that hates and fears the jackboot of government is again stomping around to make sure all communities in Arizona live as Finchem instructs — no matter how many people it kills.

Finchem once proposed a bill prohibiting local governments from obeying federal court orders.

So Finchem and Sen. Vince Leach, R-Saddelbrooke, filed their complaint with Attorney General Mark Brnovich's office using the same mechanism that forced the city of Tucson to stop destroying guns a few years back.

Brnovich’s office sent the county a letter Friday informing them that an investigation has begun into the new rules. The AG’s team has 30 days to determine whether the law was violated.

Just trying to help

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry’s described the proclamation passed this week as a group effort that included business, community and faith leaders who helped develop the rules.

“The goal of this effort is to assure the public that it is safe to resume dining, recreating, exercising and lodging in Pima County because the County, through its statutory duty to protect the public health, has established, in cooperation with the business community, a set of minimum standards that will help protect workers and the public from the transmission of COVID-19,” Huckelberry said in a hell of a run-on sentence.

Then, more cogently, he said “The goal is to help the business community get back to business, not hinder it. The Board originally issued a proclamation suggesting guidelines to inform how businesses should reopen." Huckelberry said the response from the community that more stringent rules are required spurred the board to turn the guidelines into rules.

What’s not clear is the degree to which the county will fight it, a prospect Finchem met with incredulity during an interview with KNST. The hypocrisy dripped.

“That will be taxpayers dollars, fighting against taxpayers … yeah … think about that one.”

Oh golly, Mark. Anything but that. The Far Right’s capacity to project its guilt on others is consistently jaw-dropping. He was the one who keeps calling the cops on Southern Arizona lawmakers whenever they get crosswise with the cheap rhetoric of rightwing talk radio (largely codified as our Arizona Revised Statutes).

How existential

Finchem touted himself as a defender of business as the true purpose of human existence.

“It’s unnecessary to pile on even more of the heavy hand of the government on people who have been crushed. What are you thinking?”

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What local jurisdictions might be thinking is that a requirement for social distancing in restaurants might save a few thousand lives.

That's too much for guys like Finchem. In fact, deploying science in the name of saving lives is just another form of tyranny.

“This is an interference in the people’s right to exist,” Finchem said, in an effort to deny the capacity of language to convey meaning with any sort of utility.

I don’t cease to exist because I have to provide hand sanitizer to my customers during a pandemic. However, my customers may cease to exist if my chase for the almighty dollar kills them with a virus they contracted at my eatery.

Atrocious but not wrong

By the way, this doesn’t make his legal analysis wrong. As he put it on the air, “counties are the functionaries of the state. Therefore counties are there to carry out policies of the state.” Eh. More or less. The county can impose rules of local concern but for the most part he’s right about counties. They are subdivisions of the state.

The Legislature has the authority to write laws of statewide concern and the case can be made that a single overlay of rules governing business. Had Pima County experienced a specific spike in coronavirus cases, they might have a stronger legal case for going nitro on regs.

So legally, Finchem may not be out of line. Morally, ethically and by any sense of human virtue, he’s atrocious.

Republicans like Finchem applauded Trump calling the coronavirus a "hoax" when he originally said it. Then they backed way up and said “No, it’s not the virus it’s the media reaction to it.” So they always knew the mass pandemic was real but concern for the staggering loss of life was a fraud.

The GOP is kind of still hell-bent on treating the virus as little more than a minor annoyance. And people killed by the virus are little more than speed bumps on the road to MAGA greatness.

Not only do Republicans like Finchem expect a passing grade. They demand an “A.” They assert their right to incur deaths up over 100,000 to keep the Dow Jones Industrial Average up over 22,000 because they are the only true arbiters of right and wrong.

Facts? Pffft. Facts are for suckers.

Porn nub

Finchem and talk show host Garrett Lewis kept calling it "panic porn" that there would be general alarm involving the deaths of 100,000 Americans.

This from the same Tan Suit Mafia that lost its mind over Operation Jade Helm a.k.a., the U.S. invasion of Texas. They wouldn't shut up about Obama ushering in "Sharia law." When the FBI investigates Russian sabotage of a U.S. election, that's what they call a coup d'etat.

Lewis and Finchem were seething that anyone less Trumpian than Ally Miller would be elected to office and have any say over policy. Republican Supervisor Steve Christy is a "gigantic RINO (Republican in name only)," according to Lewis.

Lewis loves mocking people based on their names. He even scatologically went after the late supervisor Richard Elias. I would wear the moniker "Blake Moron" with honor.

They spent a few minutes of the interview ruminating about why no business ever comes to Tucson. Business moves to Tucson plenty but don't tell them a fact independent of their post-modern, rightwing narrative as determined by talk-radio rage.

I've started thinking COVID-denial isn't as much about Trump as much as it is the control of information. Science snowflakes don't like when the people reach conclusions by testing hypothesis with data. If the people trust virologists more than Finchem and his ilk, then they might read the Mueller Report.

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I have to hand it to Finchem, though. He's legitimately fringe in a way I kind of respect.  This is a guy who argues the Supreme Court lacks the right to judicial review because it's not in the Constitution. It's not nuts to argue Marbury v. Madison was settled wrong. Chief Justice John Marshall wasn't infallible. Undoing every precedent for 200 years is freaking radical, though.

His view of guns being sacred items that shall not be destroyed is a little out there. Demanding the rest of us adopt that religion is government overreach.

Then there's his weird push to eliminate the constitutionally required Arizona Board of Regents. And his contention that the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Va., was a Deep State "PSYOP" operation. And his promotion of the Oath Keepers' "Civilization Preservation Team" militia recruitment.

Except in Arizona politics, he's not an outlier. He's the establishment. And his out-there arguments are a threat to human life.

Blake Morlock is a journalist who has spent 20 years covering government in Arizona and also worked in Democratic political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.


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State Rep. Mark Finchem has filed a complaint to overturn county regulations guiding business re-opening during a pandemic. The law may be on his side but morality is not.

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