SB 1454: Machiavelli at work in the AZ legislature – Part 1

Part 1. Rep. Ugenti, Senator Griffin and lobbyist Sandquist 

(See Part 2).

Back in July I commented about SB1454 and wondered whether the Constitution or Machiavelli was alive and well in the Arizona Legislature.  In the subsequent two months I’ve come into possession of additional information on the events surrounding SB 1454 and its predecessor, HB 2371, and the underhanded manner in which it became an unconstitutional law. 

This post elaborates on the above commentary, which should be read first as it provides background information. This post also provides insight on how a legislature really functions, and undoubtedly how your legislature functions with respect to HOA legislation.

Furthermore, for a better understanding of the events the reader should view my video of the HB 2371 hearing before Senator Griffin’s GE committee.  It includes some interesting statements between Rep. Ugenti, who sponsored HB 2371, and Griffin; and between the HOA manager association lobbyist and Griffin. (The lobbyist’s statements begin at 9:13 into the 11 minute video). 

Please pay attention not only to their words, but to their body language as well. Listen to their arguments, but closely examine what is being said “between the lines.”

 

A.        Representative Ugenti

The March video of Senator Griffin’s hearing shows a perky Ugenti exuding confidence. She makes use of the special interest mantra, “stakeholder,” and states how all the stakeholders met and agreed upon the bill. She basically tells the committee that they are vendors (“stakeholders” refers not to homeowners, but to all those vendors who are making money off the HOA and off the homeowners).  The problem is, is that these vendors are daring to set legislation affecting the rights of homeowners that serve their own agenda.  Yet no committee member asks, “Where are the homeowners?”

Ugenti stated that each year there was “a plethora of personal HOA legislation[1] and tried “to spare the [committee] members the constant agony of many personal pieces of HOA legislation,” as contrasted to the industry legislation. Ugenti also said that she “felt very responsible to the stakeholders.”

 

B.        Senator Griffin

Senator Griffin is also the Senate President Pro Tempore, second in line in the leadership hierarchy. The AZ Legislative Manual states that, the chief duties of these officers are to preside over Senate and House proceedings and to otherwise assume the duties of the President and the Speaker when they are absent from the Legislature.”  

Griffin played a role in two separate incidents.   The first, see (C) below, is her withdrawal of an amendment to HB 2371, thereby allowing HB2371 to go on the Consent Calendar. This calendar leads to a direct vote by the Floor without further debate by all the representatives. However, it was objected to being on the Consent Calendar, which forced the bill to be debated by the Committee of the Whole (COW).  The bill was never debated and never came to a vote; it died in the Senate.

Second, having faced defeat in her bill Ugenti once again obtained the co-operation of President Pro Tem Griffin. Griffin added the failed HB 2371 HOA amendments to HB 2518 (Rep. Olson was the Sponsor), now before the Senate.  The bill passed the Senate and was sent to the House where a Conference Committee was recommended – the House did not accept the Griffin/Ugenti amendment.  This time, the House failed to hear the amended HB 2518 and it, too, died along with Ugenti’s HB 2371 HOA amendments.[2]

  “The role of morals in politics is mainly to cultivate illusions . . . politics is merely appearance and morality is merely pretense.” (“Machiavelli and America,” Hadley Arkes, p. 104, The Prince (Yale University Press, 1999)).

 

 C.       Jeff Sandquist, AACM lobbyist

At the end of the above mentioned video (see Part 1), Jeff Sandquist, lobbyist for the Arizona Association of Community Managers (AACM) addressed the committee.  AACM stood to gain much from HB 2371, which would allow its members to represent HOAs in small claims court and before administrative law judges at OAH (Office of Administrative Hearings).  State certified legal document preparers (paralegals) are not allowed this right. There were no provisions in the bill for licensing, training, or educating property managers to adequately represent HOAs. Nor equal representation for homeowners.

Note the very friendly dialogue between Sandquist and the Chair, Griffin, which is out of order for a committee hearing.  “Tell your Mom hello for me.” Griffin mentions that making an amendment got her to see her “buddy” Sandquist.  He thanks her for not offering her amendment.

Sandquist also vaguely spoke about how the courts would like to see a provision moved to another section, implying an acceptance by the courts. It also implies a recognition of a separation of powers issue on granting HOA managers representation rights.

Two days after filing the complaint, about a month after the Governor signed SB 1454, a Supreme Court Rule 31 change was requested seeking an exception for HOA managers to be able to represent HOAs in small claims court (still pending).


[1] I digress. My emphasis reflects, to good extent, homeowners failing to see the broader picture beyond their HOA problem, such as raising substantive issues of constitutionality. Ugenti is saying that homeowners don’t really understand the problems with HOAs, which only the HOA industry special interests can solve. It is evident that this is the view held by all state legislatures across the country. Homeowners have failed to deal with this reality.

[2] In my 13 years I have seen isolated cases in various legislatures in different states where the right and ethical action was taken and legislation was defeated or passed as appropriate, as we see here with these 2 bills.  But, on the whole, far too few.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] from the floor and refused to discipline her. Ugenti’s integrity and conviction is examined in SB 1454: Machiavelli at work in the AZ legislature – Part 1 and AZ House ‘circles the wagons’ in defense of pro-HOA […]

  2. […] See SB 1454: Machiavelli at work in the AZ legislature – Part 1 and SB 1454: Machiavelli at work in the AZ legislature – Part […]

  3. I received a late evening reply from the Ethics Committee Chair Lovas to my petition for disciplinary action against Rep. Ugenti. No action is going to be taken. I responded in length, closing with, “Ugenti must not be given a clean bill of health, a pass, a walk to try again another time. Disciplinary action will also serve as a deterrent to other so inclined legislators.”

    I await a response from the AZ Speaker of the House, Andy Tobin.

    Effective action requires a loud outcry from angry legislators.


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