Since Democratic Speaker Bryce Edgmon was uninterested in the Phoenix Convention of States, Alaska had no delegates in attendance. Only delegates who were appointed by both the Senate President and House Speaker were recognized by the Credentials Committee. However Senate President Pete Kelly was kind enough to appoint me to represent the Alaska Senate, so I was given a badge and observer status. As a freshman Senator in 1983 I voted for the Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution — the subject matter of the Phoenix Convention — so it made a certain amount of sense. In due time I will submit a formal report to the Senator Kelly, which I hope will be incorporated into the official Journal of the Senate.
Bill Fruth of the BBA Task Force is responsible for the fact that this Convention took place at all, and he had hoped to be a delegate from his native Florida. But Hurricane Irma made a hash of all that, and so, like me, he was not given the privilege of the floor. We watched the proceedings from the gallery of the Arizona House chambers.
Since almost all of the delegates were state legislators, and since the Convention took place in a legislative chamber, the delegates were in their element, like fish in water, and the Convention functioned just as any of the 99 state legislative chambers operate every year. It’s a bit tedious, to tell you the truth, but it’s what these people are used to, and they feel comfortable doing it. It used to drive me crazy when I was in the Alaska legislature, but I was never cut out to be a legislator.
Bill Fruth has never served in a legislature. He was mayor of a small town in Ohio. I left Alaska sixteen years ago, and have been out of the legislature for 26 years. So while we were perfectly qualified to be delegates, we would have been different. Bill and I are associated with the BBA Task Force, a non profit lobbying group promoting the BBA. If he and I were on the floor, we would naturally have been in the middle of things. But we weren’t, and thank God for that.
Two innovations emerged from Phoenix. First, the idea of regular, annual Conventions of States, to be rotated among the State Capitols. Second, the Phoenix Committee of Correspondence was created, to facilitate communication between the states, the Congress, and the public. These potentially revolutionary developments are the work product of the delegates to the Phoenix Convention. These ideas belong to them. I hope they take a proprietary interest in both of them, and make them a reality.
Bill thinks the entire Convention may have cost the Arizona Legislature about $10,000. Speaker J. D. Mesnard turned out to be a skinflint, and I’m glad of it. This was no convocation of fat cats. These were, for the most part, citizen-legislators, many of whom came on their own dime. This is as legitimate as grass roots get.
Representative Kelly Townsend, the tireless Chair of the Arizona Planning Committee, was elected, and served, as President of the Convention. It’s a distinction she earned. It’s an honor that she can be proud of for the rest of her life.