In January 2021, when the Arizona Legislature goes back into session, we will be faced with major decisions in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic.
If Democrats take control of one or both chambers in the Legislature, it will be a New Day in Arizona, after 50 years of Republican control.
My goals for the future are to improve the public health and financial state of Arizona, as we rebuild from COVID19 or learn to live with it.
The post-COVID19 world will be different from “the before times” and hopefully better. In my opinion, the past will never return exactly as it was, and we have to plan for that. Travel, tourism, consumerism, healthcare, entertainment, K-12 schools, higher education, work life, prisons … many changes will come in these areas and others, whether we want substantive change or not.
Our job is to create the world we want. Here are some of my priorities for 2021 and beyond.
Health and Security: We’re All in This Together
Arizona had one of the worst pandemic outbreaks in the country, thanks to random executive orders; states rights; for-profit medicine; chronic doctor and nurse shortages; widespread healthcare deserts; and no comprehensive federal or state disaster plans or leadership.
It doesn’t do our community, our state, or our country any good to force people to live in poverty and sickness — just to save a buck. Arizona’s healthcare system was an inadequate, broken patchwork before COVID19; it won’t improve without investment and serious reform.
Arizona is not only shortchanging its school children. Our stingy policies are shortchanging some children before they are even born. In 2020, I proposed major legislation to improve and expand maternal and child health, improve birth outcomes, and save money while doing it. Premature birth alone is costing Arizona billions of dollars a year because the state’s Medicaid system (AHCCCS) pays for 52 percent of the live births. The cost of premature birth doesn’t end when the baby leaves the nursery intensive care unit. Premature babies often have chronic health issues, along with long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities. We should be investing in healthy babies by expanding pre- and post-natal care, not forcing Moms and their children to struggle.
On top of this, Arizona has the worst record in the US for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ie, food insecurity, housing insecurity, death or loss of a parent, domestic violence, drug addiction). What if the Legislature’s goal was to ensure that all of Arizona’s children have food on the table and a roof over their heads? This could be accomplished with better-paying, fulltime jobs, or when times are tough and jobs are scarce, an adequate social safety net to prevent homelessness, hunger, family separations, and childhood trauma.
Far too many single Moms and their children are forced to live in poverty with food and housing insecurity, and the Republican-controlled Legislature has done nothing about this.
In 2021, to tackle poverty and food insecurity, I will again propose expanding Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to the full five years and raising the amount, which is currently set at 36% of the 1992 poverty level. To tackle housing insecurity, I will again propose full restoration of the Housing Trust fund and implementation of fair tenant/landlord laws and property tax assistance for the elderly.
Arizonans need a social safety net as we rebuild the economy. Putting thousands of people out on the street and causing widespread trauma and family separations is not an alternative. Austerity hurts everyone but the people at the top.
Some economists are predicting that as many as 50% of the jobs that existed before COVID19 will not exist in the post-COVID or chronic COVID19 world. Some jobs will be created by the pandemic, but many jobs will be lost because they are not needed.
We already knew that workers would need retraining, due to technology. BUT more workforce changes will come because of the new lifestyles we adopted during COVID19.
The pandemic unemployment showed us what universal basic income could do for people. What would it cost to give Americans a basic income — enough to put food on the table and a roof over their heads? We already know that “housing first” is the cheapest and most humane way to deal with homelessness. Why are we evicting families, forcing parents onto the streets, and putting their children into foster care? These policies make no sense from a financial standpoint or from a humanitarian standpoint. What could be created or invented if people felt financially secure and had some time and breathing room to innovate — instead of scrambling for food and shelter? Would universal basic income be more cost effective than the welfare state? Obviously, people would be healthier if we guaranteed food and housing security — through universal basic income [think pandemic unemployment] during times of crisis and through living wages when we get beyond COVID19. This is another area where some progressives and libertarians overlap in their thinking.
Economy: What Will the Future Hold?
Recently — no one knows exactly what day — President Donald J. Trump tested positive, had symptoms, spent a few days in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and returned to the White House prematurely while he still had symptoms. Many of the President’s staff, advisers, and political allies have tested positive.
Today is October 7, 2020. The US is reporting 7.5 million cases and 211,453 deaths. The novel Coronavirus pandemic is far from over.
What is the financial future of our state, our country or the world? Your crystal ball is as good as mine.
Annually doling out billions of taxpayer dollars in sweetheart deals was already an unsustainable path. Continuing Arizona’s carte blanche corporate and special interest tax giveaways during the COVID19 era and beyond is fiscally irresponsible. We will need funds to rebuild our state; we can’t afford tax giveaways.
The Arizona Legislature has to stop the tax giveaway gravy train. The vast majority of Arizona’s tax giveaways have no end dates, no employment goals, no economic performance goals, and no transparency, but many have built-in annual increases. Tax giveaways drain the General Fund and starve programs that the people value, like education, infrastructure, healthcare and security.
There should be no new tax giveaways until the state’s financial health and public health have been restored, post-pandemic.
The Legislature should finally review all of the tax giveaways (including tax credits), eliminate the tax giveaways that are not performing or not used, and assign sunset dates and performance goals to any that remain. This is talked about every year; 2021 is the year for action.
Lastly, I believe establishment of low-cost loan programs through a public/private partnership between a state public bank and local community banks and credit unions is the most sustainable and most equitable way to “build back better”. Low-interest loans can help local small businesses rebuild and expand; help municipalities build infrastructure; make college tuition affordable; rebuild the General Fund; and help Arizona recover from COVID19.
Governance: Big-Money Politics Is Destroying Our Democracy
On these five levels– voter suppression, Citizens Initiative attacks, Clean Elections attacks, money in politics, and suppression of local governments — Republicans are attempting to suppress your voice and the voice of your community. Government should work for the people … and not for the money.
Arizona must reform its election laws. For too many years, Republican Legislators have passed laws that make it harder to vote. We must end voter suppression and repeal past laws that perpetuate it. We should ensure secure voting by adequately funding the Secretary of State’s Office, promoting the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL), and instituting automatic voter registration at age 18, same day registration, and expanded early voting.
Moreover, Republicans have repeatedly attacked the voter-created Clean Elections system and the Citizens Initiative process, which has been in the Arizona Constitution since the beginning.
On these five levels– voter suppression, Citizens Initiative attacks, Clean Elections attacks, money in politics, and suppression of local governments — Republicans are attempting to suppress your voice
I propose repealing attacks on the Citizens Clean Elections Commission that make it more difficult for candidates to choose the Clean Elections option over the big money option. Clean Elections was created by the voters of Arizona as a response to the AzScam bribery and money laundering scandal in the Arizona Legislature in the 1990s. Clean Elections should be expanded to county races and unpaid boards. Why does anyone running for county supervisor need a maximum donation limit of $6250? These high individual donation limits just open the door to big money donors looking to buy elections. People running for unpaid boards — like school board — shouldn’t have to raise tens of thousands of dollars to serve for free.
I propose revising the Clean Elections law with some of the reforms suggested in Arizona Advocacy Network’s Citizens Initiative, such as raising the funds for Clean Elections candidates and lowering campaign finance limits. (The virus stopped this initiative from getting to the ballot.)
In addition, I propose repealing attacks on the Citizens Initiative that have made the process more difficult and more expensive and litigation more likely.
I propose repealing the bills that rolled back AzScam-era reforms, dramatically raised the individual contribution limits, and made campaign finance less transparent. I backed the Outlaw Dirty Money Efforts. If we can’t get transparency in campaign finance through a Citizens Initiative, the Legislature should do it, in my opinion. After AZScam, then Speaker of the House Jane Hull led bipartisan reform efforts. It’s time for reform of that magnitude again.
Lastly, I propose repealing SB1487 — the worst local government pre-emption law in the US — and other state laws that hurt local independence. SB1487 is the law that stopped Tucson’s Gun Buy-Back Program and Bisbee’s plastic bag ban by threatening the cities with loss of state-shared revenue.
My Campaign: 2020 and Beyond
It’s no surprise that the Chamber of Commerce Republican in the LD9 race is targeting me in 2020. The choice is crystal clear between the two of us.
During my four years in the Arizona Legislature, I have been the most outspoken critic of tax giveaways for corporations and austerity for the people. Back in May, when the Governor opened up the Arizona economy too soon and didn’t require face masks, my opponent Brendan Lyons was aligned with the Governor and the Chamber — not with public health experts, as I was. He backed opening up the Arizona economy, regardless of the COVID19 pandemic, and said masks were a personal choice. Premature opening of the economy in May gave us more death and disease and more shutdowns in July.
Lyons is a cheerleader for privatized, for-profit health insurance, which has given the US the most expensive patchwork of care in the world. The inadequacies of just-in-time medicine proved deadly during the pandemic. He’s for continuing the tax giveaway gravy train and for “school choice” but absolutely against reproductive choice.
Lyons is completely silent on public education, poverty, fair wages, food and housing insecurity, the financial and physical well-being of Arizonans, civil rights, and the Equal Rights Amendment.
He is downright hiding his party affiliation on his signs and on his website, neither his home page nor his “about” page currently tell anyone what political party he represents. Why is he hiding who he is? He is particularly quiet on his choice for President. Is he “One with Trump” as the rest of the Republican Party has proclaimed?
Lyons is funded by developers, Rio Nuevo backers, businesses that thrive on the prison labor, and big-money donors who have become wealthier and more powerful, with Republicans controlling the Legislature.
Lastly, Lyons has the seal of approval from the Republican establishment: Governor Doug Ducey, Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, Senate President Karen Fann, Jim Click, four law enforcement unions, the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, and more. (My endorsements are here.)
LD9, do you want your representative to be a solid Republican vote in the Legislature?
OR a solid Progressive vote?
I think I know your answer. LD9 is one of the most progressive districts in the state. Let’s do this. The victory will be even sweeter to beat a Chamber-backed candidate with Clean Elections funds.
Arizona should be investing in future generations. Raising healthy babies, fighting homelessness and evictions, fostering sustainable economic development, and stopping irresponsible government giveaways are bipartisan issues … or should be.
To learn more about me, to see my video updates, or to find out where I stand on the issues, go to PowersForThePeople.net. As a Clean Elections candidate, I take no Big Money donations. Please vote for me on or before November 3 in the upcoming election.