Today was the last Ways and Means Committee Meeting of 2021, and it was a doozie. More interruptions. More suppression of speech. More putdowns.
There were several controversial bills on the agenda, particularly three that take money from public education or lead to more privatization.
SB1273 would allow Student Tuition Organizations (STOs) to give students money for expenses other than tuition. we know that STO’s are not transparent. We know how many scholarships they deliver but not how many students are being served. We also know that some parents get as much is $20,000 a year per child for those children to attend private or religious schools. That’s blatantly unfair and in equitable. SB1273 would just allow them to give away more tax￼￼ with no accountability.
SB1280 is about the privatization of school transportation. There is a previous video on this bill, but things came out in committee that make men more against it. One of my big concerns about strike-everything bill SB1280 is child safety. This bill allows charter schools and districts schools to use some of their current transportation funding in order to give grants to parents. As you may know, charter schools get money for transportation, but they don’t have to use it on transportation. I’m sure you’ve seen the long lines of parents who are picking up or dropping off their kids at charter schools. Public school kids have the opportunity to ride the school bus or perhaps even walk to their neighborhood school. This bill would allow parents to apply for grants to get an unknown amount of money to come up with “innovative ways” to get their kids to school, including paying parents gas mileage or funding neighborhood carpools, city bus passes, or ride sharing services (like Uber or Lyft).
My big concern — besides the bureaucracy, expense and inequity that will be created with this system — is child safety. You may think you know your neighbors, but do you really know your neighbors well enough to trust them to transport your child every day to school? Do your neighbors carry guns in their cars? Will parents and neighborhood carpool participants be fingerprinted, have background checks, and hold commercial drivers’ licenses — like school bus drivers? Who is going to administer all of this complexity? The Koch Brothers are behind this model legislation, and I don’t think it is well thought out. I don’t see any innovation in it. It’s just giving taxpayer dollars away to private individuals. The Lobbyist speaking in favor of it did say that in New Jersey they are using using electronic apps to organize these “transportation innovations,” to which I said, “Are you proposing to track our children electronically?” Although the Lobbyist kept saying that this was for low income children, she had no explanation of how this would be administered. She backed down eventually and said that it was “their intention” to try to reach low income children. “First-come-first-served grants are popular among Republicans. Why not base grants on need? This bill will benefit the families with a solid Internet connections, good computer skills, and the know how and time to search for grants for their children’s education.
SB 1783 (small business alternative tax) was also on the agenda today. This is Senator Mesnard’s bill to dramatically reduce than the impact of Prop 208 (Invest in Ed) on the richest Arizonans.￼ The JLBC fiscal note on SB 1783 said that it will reduce the Prop 208 fund by between $260 million and $377 million.￼ They estimate that ~16,000 individuals will use Mesnard’s alternative tax in order to reduce their personal income tax liability. The Republicans decided that no one should mention Prop 208 during the debate because it was not mentioned in the bill. They completely blew off the JLBC fiscal note because it contained inconvenient truths that they did not want in the video record of the meeting. Instead in the video record, we hear the chair threatening Democrats.
Republican attempts to limit speech in both the Government and Elections Committee and the Ways and Means Committee didn’t go unnoticed by the local news media and constituents.
Here is a link to the video of the official committee proceedings: https://www.azleg.gov/videoplayer/?eventID=2021031117
UPDATE: SB1273 passed the Senate and the House Ways and Means Committee on party line votes. It was retained on the House calendar in mid April, where it sits as of April 23, 2021.
The version of SB1280 that sailed through the Senate is a different bill. In House Ways and Means, Chairwoman Shawnna Bolick passed a “strike-everything” amendment on SB1280 which transformed it into the privatized transportation bill (a completely different bill). It passed House Ways & Means on party line vote. As of April 23, 2021, it has not been heard in House Rules Committee.
SB1783 passed the Senate and the House Ways and Means Committee on party line votes. As of April 23, 2021, it has not been heard in House Rules Committee. There is intense public pushback against this bill and its impact on Prop 208.
None of these bills are moving as of the update day but none of them are dead either.