Rep. Warren Petersen’s (R-Gilbert) build your own border wall bill (HB2084) is moving quickly through the process in the Arizona House. It was assigned to the Federal Relations and Rules Committees on the first day of the 2020 session. It passed out of Rep. Mark Finchem’s (R- Oro Valley) federalism committee last week, out of House Rules on Monday, and heard in Caucus on Tuesday. This highly ideological bill is headed to the House floor.
HB2084 waives building permits and other regulations to allow landowners on the border to build sections of the Border Wall to help President Trump fulfill his campaign promise. There are no standards in the bill. People can build whatever they want. Finchem added an amendment to say that the wall sections have to built “according to the plan”.
What plan? People can build whatever they want. If this actually happened, besides being an environmental disaster, it would be a hodge podge lodge of bad design with gaps.
Continue reading Build Your Own Border Wall… Seriously? (video)
“How can Arizona increase education funding?” has been an ongoing question since the Tea Party started hollowing out public education and doling out tax breaks ten years ago.
This week the Legislature is hearing a few education funding bills. The Senate Education Committee is hearing two bills related to education funding on Tuesday, January 28: SCR1002 (Brophy McGee) and SB1059 (S. Allen).
SCR1002 is a ballot referral to extend the Prop 301 “temporary” sales tax for education that was passed by voters during the Great Recession, make it permanent, and raise the sales tax from 0.6 cents on a dollar to 1 cent (on top of what you are paying in sales tax now).
SB1059 dictates how the new money from the ballot initiative should he spent. (There’s a lot of detail in there. Check it out.)
Obviously, we need more money for public education at all levels. My question about SCR1002 is: who should be paying more in taxes? Sales tax (AKA Transaction Privilege tax or TPT) is a tax on the poor. Continuously raising sales tax at multiple levels of government is also not “business friendly” because it artificially raises prices to consumers. When some Arizona cities and towns are bumping up against a 10% sales tax, is it smart to continue to raise sales tax to fund state government? Some cities and towns have rent taxes and sales taxes on food. Those really double down on the poor. With a 10% sales tax rate, people would pay $10 in sales tax on $100 of food. Sales tax is one of the more volatile income streams for our state because it depends on consumer purchasing. When consumers are strapped for cash, their purchases go down, and the states revenue goes down.
Continue reading How Should Arizona Pay for Education? Tax the Rich? Or Tax the Poor? (video)
Did you know that when the Legislature is in session, I post daily video updates to Facebook from my desk.in the Arizona House?
Now, even if you don’t have a Facebook account, you can watch all of my video updates on my website PowersForThePeople. For the past year, since Inauguration Day 2019, I have been posting my video updates to both Facebook and my blog, A View from the Left Side, on my website PowersForThePeople .
These one-to-three minute videos have been wildly popular on social media, which initially surprised me …until I got to thinking about the state of news in our country. So many newspapers have been closed or dramatically downsized that people are starved for content they can trust. By clicking on the blue bar that says “Follow Powers For The People” on my website, you can subscribe to my updates and have them delivered directly to your inbox. (This is news… not fundraising appeals… since I am a Clean Elections candidate.)
My updates give you the straight scoop on the action at the Legislature.
Continue reading Do You Wonder What the #AZLeg Does? Follow my updates & Find Out (video)
Thursday, January 23, marked our first floor debate of the 2020 session of the Arizona House. We had Committee of the Whole (COW) for HCR2023, a bill to raise the Constitutional funding cap that was imposed upon schools districts in 1980.
We have to pass this bill in order to allow school districts to spend the money that we allocated to them. The 1980 funding cap formula is based on figures from the late 1970s. It is way out of date, obviously.
During the debate, Republicans tried to make the point that Legislators had to raise the spending cap because they have been so generous with the schools, and the schools are getting more money than ever.
The schools are getting “more money than ever” because we have more students in schools and more people in Arizona and because the schools were devastated by Republican budget cuts in the past decade.
Continue reading #AZLeg Must Raise 1980 Funding Cap for Schools (video)
The Arizona House Republican leadership wants to change the House rules again this year. We have not voted on their proposed changes… yet…and if we do, there will be a floor battle because the Democrats don’t like the changes and neither do some of the more reasonable Republicans.
The suggested GOP changes would further suppress members’ speech by prohibiting photography, video or livestreaming from the floor, limit the number of House staff on the floor, and make it harder for people who are not House members to file ethics complaints against House members. On the photography issue, Republicans particularly don’t want us to photograph the votes on the board. What are they afraid of? Their voters? Voters have a right to know what we are doing, what we are saying and how we are voting.
You may remember the huge floor battle in 2019 over the Republican changes to the House rules. They cut speaking times to suppress speech, brought brought back the non-germane striker, and made other changes like making introductions of guests super short and not allowing us to say *why* a person was at the capital. (For example, we were not allowed to say that the people who marched 38 miles for the ERA want the Arizona Legislature to ratify the ERA.)
Continue reading House Republicans Push to Suppress Speech & Change Ethics Rules (video)
The minimum wage in Arizona is $12 per hour. Arizona prisoners do a variety of jobs from manual labor to answering phones for the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), for which they are paid anywhere between 10 cents to $3 per hour. The ADOT Service Arizona call center workers are the highest paid prisoners, but $3 per hour is far less than minimum wage.
Why should prisoners be paid more? 1) Because many of the prisoners have families “on the outside” who depended upon support from that person “on the inside”. 2) Because the prison industrial complex and the state of Arizona not only pay substandard wages to prisoners, they nickel and dime them and their families with fees. Yes, people “on the inside” and people “on the outside” pay fees to Corporate America and to government(s). The problem is that most prisoners lived in poverty before they went to prison, and their families likely don’t have the financial float to sustain them without a wage-earner and pay fees to stay in contact with their loved one.
The State of Arizona eliminated the Parole Board back in 1993, when “tough on crime” and “truth in sentencing” were vogue. Add this to the fact that the Republican-controlled Legislature jumped enthusiastically into private prisons during the Tea Party Reign of Terror.
Continue reading Should Prisoners Be Paid Minimum Wage? (video)
On Thursday, January 16, 2020, the Regulatory Affairs Committee started bright and early with a sunset review hearing for three different departments: the Residential Utility Consumer Office (RUCO)￼, the Department of Insurance, and the Arizona Board of Library Examiners. (This post focuses on the Auditor General’s review of the Department of Insurance.)
I have been on the Health Committee since day one and was on the Banking and Insurance Committee for two years (until it was eliminated by the Republicans). As a result, I have heard a lot of insurance bills and am very familiar with the heavy workload the Department of Insurance has. (Often, legislation gives departments more work without giving them more staff or more money.)
Primarily, my questions to the DOI director focused on surprise billing. You may remember that we passed a surprise bill in 2018. At the time, Democrats were concerned that the Republican/lobbyist crafted bill didn’t go far enough to protect patients and didn’t include a sufficient (or any) appropriation to run the surprise billing complaint department.
Continue reading Arizona’s Surprise Billing Law Doesn’t Go Far Enough to Protect Patients (video)
January 15, 2020 is a red letter day for the women of the United States because the Virginia Legislature ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
While the Arizona Legislature has been tied up in pomp and circumstance, speeches, and meetings with lobbyists during this first week, Virginia got busy and passed the ERA.￼ How did this move so quickly? The voters Virginia ousted the Republican majority from their legislature in the fall election and restored the Democratic Party to power in that state.￼ Democrats get things done.
Now that Virginia has become the 38th and final state needed to ratify the ERA, it will be sent to the Congress to be made part of the Constitution.
Continue reading Virginia Dumped the #GOP & Passed the #ERA (video)
Should the Arizona Legislature help Microsoft pay its APS bills?
Tuesday was a light day at the Capital. There was no floor action, but I had time to catch up with colleagues and sign some of their bills. I wanted to tell you about the conversation I had with two Microsoft lobbyists about the tax break that Microsoft wants.
You may remember my blog post on Powers For The People (back in December) about the tax review committee that I was on, due to my membership on the Ways and Means Committee. One of the income tax credits that we reviewed was for an Apple international data center to be built with renewable energy in Mesa. At the time, Apple was offered a TPT (sales tax) break also, but the committee reviewed only the income tax break.
The lobbyists were in my office because Microsoft wants the TPT tax break that was offered to Apple. I told them that I really don’t support tax giveaways to multinational corporations. ￼Period. I don’t support any tax giveaways when ~68% of Arizona women aren’t getting first trimester prenatal care, and that is contributing to AHCCCS wasting $2-4 billion dollars on premature births (Not to mention the long-term health effects of prematurity.) When thousands of Arizona mothers and their children are living in poverty with food and housing insecurity, why would I prioritize a tax break for one of the most successful corporations in the US?
The lobbyist told me that the reason Microsoft needed a TPT tax break because “electricity is too expensive in the state of Arizona.” Microsoft doesn’t want to pay sales tax on electricity for this giant data center. International data centers take a use a lot of electricity because it is a building full of servers and cooled to ~65 degrees. This particular tax break is related to data centers built with renewable (solar) energy, which will already lower their energy cost significantly.
Continue reading Microsoft Wants a Sales Tax Break Because ‘Electricity Is Too Expensive in Arizona’ (video)
Monday, January 13, 2020, was opening day at the Arizona Legislature.
Opening day is always fun and full of political drama because there are protests, press conferences with multiple Progressive groups (labor unions, Planned Parenthood, teachers, and others), the House and Senate Democratic Caucus Press Conference, and a big party with great food hosted by House Dems on the 3rd floor.
Southern Arizona unionists filled two buses to come to the Capitol on Monday. Striking ASARCO miners were out in force. Recently, I have been seeing these guys on the strike line down at the ASARCO Mission Unit, when I am wearing a T-shirt, boots and jeans. One of them did a double take when he saw me in a dress, stockings, short high heels, and my power pearls at the Legislature.
Continue reading On Opening Day of #AZLeg, Right-Wing Ideology & the Peoples’ Response on Display (video)