#HCR2045 Limits #Marijuana Research, Adds #MMJ Sales Tax & Spends #MMJ Funds (video)

Marijuana plant

On the Floor of the House on Tuesday, Speaker Rusty Bowers, and Reps. Warren Petersen, Kelli Butler, Isela Blanc and I had a rousing debate over Bowers’ HCR2045.

You may remember that I mentioned this bill a few weeks ago in a blog post about Reefer Madness. HCR2045 has been amended. The worst part of it is gone, but it’s still bad.

HCR2045 is the bill in which Bowers wanted to artificially lower the amount of THC in products sold in Arizona to 2%. This is a politically motivated, artificial limit on a chemical compound found in a plant that has been used as an herbal remedy for CENTURIES and has never killed anyone. HCR2045 would destroy successful small businesses by eliminating their products from the market, hurt patients, cripple the medical marijuana program, and revive the black market.

Continue reading #HCR2045 Limits #Marijuana Research, Adds #MMJ Sales Tax & Spends #MMJ Funds (video)

#HCR2020: Should the Government Be Run by Political Appointees? (video)

Doug Ducey

On Thursday afternoon, we debated HCR 2020 in the Arizona House. This is the Republican Party’s latest attempt to create … wait for it … more government!

You may remember that since Democrat Katie Hobbs became Secretary of State, Governor Doug Ducey decided to remove the Department of Administration from the secretary of state’s job duties and create a new top-level government position as head of ADOA and appoint former Speaker of the House Andy Tobin to the position.

The next step in the grand plan is to pass HCR 2020, which is a ballot referral creating a lieutenant governor’s position. I spoke against and voted against this bill.

With HCR2020, after the gubernatorial primaries, the Democratic and Republican candidates will pick a lieutenant governor as a running mate, and they run as a team for the top two slots in our government. If something happens to the governor, lieutenant governor becomes governor and that person has the ability to choose their successor– another lieutenant governor. This would give us to appointed people in the top spots of our state, removes the voters from the process, and keeps the party in charge. I disagree with this idea because it is a way to game the system. There are far too many political appointees in the government, thanks to the changes that Governor Jan Brewer and Ducey have made. Our government should be run by people who are elected by the people not by political appointees.

Continue reading #HCR2020: Should the Government Be Run by Political Appointees? (video)

#HB2752 Gives Away Future Revenue Automatically– Bad Idea! (video)

Throughout last week as we debated multiple tax giveaways, I repeatedly asked, “Is $1 billion in new tax giveaways too much?”

In debate on Thursday, Rep. Mitzi Epstein and I showcased the 18 Republican bills that give away potentially $1 billion and revealed how little the bill sponsors actually know about the revenue losses that their proposals will create. (I say “potentially” because seven tax giveaway bills have an unknown cost. We shouldn’t be passing bills when we don’t know the economic impact!)

On Thursday, we were debating Rep. Bret Roberts’ HB2752, which was projected to be a $64 million hit to the general fund in FY21, $71 million in FY22, and $110 million in FY23. There was a floor amendment that said it change the calculations for the tax break. Roberts refused to answer a my question regarding how the calculations had changed and whether the cost was going to go up or down from the projected figures. It doesn’t necessarily work out well for the Republicans when they refuse to answer questions. Since he refused, I asked Epstein about this. The upshot is that the amendment made Roberts’ bill even worse and pushed it into the unknown cost column, bringing that total to eight tax breaks with an unknown cost.

Continue reading #HB2752 Gives Away Future Revenue Automatically– Bad Idea! (video)

Is $1 Billion in New Tax Giveaways Too Much? (video)

AZ Tax Breaks

Crossover week– when hundreds of bad bills are pushed through both houses– is always difficult. In addition to four 12-hour days this past week, Democrats had the extra pressure of trying to stop the tax giveaway parade before it dances off the cliff with our state’s future.

I used to call these tax giveaways fiscally irresponsible, but with 18 tax breaks poised to pass the Arizona House and more coming our way from the Senate, we have crossed the line into insanity. Of the 18 tax giveaways, 11 have some cost estimate. Those 11 total close to $500,000 annually in new tax breaks starting next fiscal year; there are another 7 tax breaks with unknown costs. They’re not free; the Joint Legislative Budget Commission (JLBC) doesn’t know how to estimate their cost. You can read more detail about these bills these three articles herehere, and here. With so many unknowns, if they all pass, Arizona could be looking at $1 billion in new tax giveaways (AKA lost revenue) in next fiscal year or in the near future, since several of them automatically increase over time, and it takes a two-thirds majority to repeal any of them.

Continue reading Is $1 Billion in New Tax Giveaways Too Much? (video)

#AZHouse #Republican Bills Create Unnecessary Bureaucracy & Regulation (video)

voting

It was another late night on Wednesday, but I snuck away to my office for a couple of minutes to do a video in the daylight.

It’s about this time in the session when the Democrats start to get ornery because one bad bill after another is passed on a party line vote. If something fails, one of the good old boys or good old girls brings it back up for reconsideration, and all of the Republicans march in a line and revive the Zombie Bill, as directed. Occasionally, bills die a second time like the rodeo license plate that would have benefited the Spirit of the West Museum in Scottsdale. That died for the second time yesterday– thanks to Reps. Shawnna Bolick and Michelle Udall joining the ranks of representatives who are fed up with license plates. (I did a previous update on this topic.)

Governor Doug Ducey and Republican Legislators often pontificate about reducing bureaucracy and regulation. They then turn around and create more bureaucracy and regulations surrounding issues and services that they don’t like–for example, women’s reproductive rights, Clean Elections, voter rights, independent redistricting, the Citizens Initiative, marijuana… you get the idea. Today’s video is about three Republican bills that create new, unnecessary and redundant bureaucracy, regulations, and structure in the government.

Continue reading #AZHouse #Republican Bills Create Unnecessary Bureaucracy & Regulation (video)

#AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

Trailers in Midtown Tucson

There are multiple reasons why Arizona has an affordable housing crisis. Chronically low wages; years of under-funding social safety net programs; high student loan, credit card or medical debt; and aggressive evictions have forced far too many Arizonans to live with housing insecurity.

Wages in Arizona are 85% of the national average. Only 6% of Arizonans who are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) actually get it. In Pima County, the eviction rate is 30 per day– that’s roughly 1000 per month. 

To use a medical analogy, HB2732 (affordable house tax credits) treats the symptoms of the affordable housing crisis– not the disease. The disease is poverty. 

Continue reading #AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

sleeping baby

Several times during the tax cut debates on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Ben Toma and other Republicans repeated the mantra that Arizona has a “budget surplus”. The only reason that we have funds that have not been allocated is because we have had decades of budget cuts and chronic underfunding of important programs like public education(!), the Housing Trust Fund, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and so forth. It’s not that there is no need in our state, and, so therefore, we have extra cash. We don’t have extra money.

Also, several times during the committee meeting, I reminded everybody that Arizona is worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We are not only shortchanging our school children by underfunding education, we are shortchanging small children before they ever get to school. It is highly ironic that Arizona is the country’s #1 “pro-life” state and also #50 in ACEs, due to our stingy policies and poor treatment of our children.

In my study of gaps and inequities in maternal and child health in Arizona, I took a comprehensive approach and looked through the lens of the social determinants of health. Two contributing factors to Adverse Childhood Experiences are housing insecurity and food insecurity.

Continue reading How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

Arizona Republicans Attack Voting Rights & Clean Elections (video)

Clean Elections

Some aspects of the Arizona legislature are highly predictable– like the ideological bills from the left and the right that are proposed to show where members stand on the issues.

For the Republicans, attacks on Clean Elections, voting rights, and the Citizens Initiative are perennial favorites. There are multiple bills based upon voter suppression and unnecessary election tinkering from Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita (SB1014, SB1020, SB1032, SB1092, and SB1520) and House Elections Committee Chair Rep. Kelly Townsend (HB2043, HB2267, HB2268, HB2305, HB2306, HB2307, HB2308, HB2364, and HB2647). Although I do not have bill numbers, I hear that there are bad ballot referrals attacking the Citizens Initiative process and Independent Redistricting.

As in 2019, Rep. Leo Biasiucci from LD5 in Mohave County is carrying the anti-Clean Elections torch. Two years in a row, he proposed a bill to limit the independent watchdog function of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) by putting it under the Governor’s Regulatory Review Commission (GRRC), a political entity packed with Governor Ducey’s appointees. That bill narrowly lost in 2019 and is back again as HB2054 in 2020. It was debated in Committee of the Whole (COW) on Feb12 and will come up for a vote soon.

Biasiucci’s a second bad bill (HB2055), according to Legislative staff, would eliminate 80% of Clean Elections funding.

Why does Biasiucci hate Clean Elections? Why do Ugenti-Rita and Townsend attack voting rights… annually? Because they fear another Blue Wave in 2020. Republicans want to put roadblocks up against any Democratic paths to victory rather than compete on a level playing field of ideas.

Biasiucci is a freshman. He replaced one-term freshman Republican Rep. Paul “Lead Foot” Moseley in 2018. Biasiucci knows that his next opponent– whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat– who would likely run clean against him. In 2020, 35 Legislative candidates are running clean– 17 Republicans, 17 Democrats, and one Independent. Of those 35, only the five most Progressive Democrats run clean as incumbents: Senators Juan Mendez and Andrea Dalessandro and Reps. Athena Salmon, Isela Blanc, and me.  The Legislature is fueled by big-money politics and dirty money donations; the idea that anyone would dare to buck the the dirty money system is an anathema.

You’ll remember that in 2019 as a freshman, Biasiucci proposed several bills requiring driving school because, of course, his family owns a driving school. He’s not the only one of the Republicans who proposed bills that would directly benefit their businesses. (David Gordon of Blog for Arizona wrote about this.) He also fought to add a driving school requirement to teach people not to text and drive.

Every year when the Republicans attack Clean Elections, it’s my job to stand up and remind everybody that the citizens created the Clean Elections Commission with a Citizens Initiative. It was a direct response to corruption in the Arizona Legislature in the 1990s. The Maricopa County attorney’s office did a sting operation called AZSCAM. It made national news when several Arizona legislators (from both sides of the aisle) were charged with bribery and money laundering. Then Speaker of the House Jane Hull removed them from their seats and their chairmanships. Some of them were charged. The Legislature passed campaign finance reforms back then, and the voters created the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The process to run as a clean candidate, CCEC’s voter education efforts, and the CCEC’s independent campaign finance watchdog functions were created in direct response to corruption in the Legislature. During the Tea Party Reign of Terror, some of those reforms were eliminated, campaign donations were dramatically increased, and Clean Elections was weakened repeatedly.

I’m sick of the Republican Party’s nationwide strategy of “if you can’t win, cheat” with voter suppression, gerrymandering, dirty money, and zero transparency.

Besides ignoring the will of the voters, the Republican Party is marching backwards and trying to drag the rest of us with them. Do you want our elections to be controlled by money or voters? Please voice your opinion on these bills on the Request to Speak System (RTS).

Protect Your Voting Rights by Backing the Fair Elections Act on Nov 3

If you want to protect your voting rights, make it easier to register to vote, and update Clean Elections, please support the Fair Elections Act, sponsored by the Arizona Advocacy Network. This Citizens Initiative will be on the 2020 ballot; signatures are being collected now.

Tax Cuts R Us… #WhatCouldGoWrong (video)

revenue neutral

Instead of “Ditat Deus” (God Enriches), Arizona’s motto should be “Tax Cuts R Us.”

Today in the Ways and Means Committee, we heard three tax giveaway bills: HB229 (corporate welfare for utility companies); HB2355 and HB2356 (increases to the 25% charitable tax credit passed in 2019); and HB2358 (increases to the dependent tax credit).

HB2293 exempts the purchase of electric storage units from sales tax (AKA Transaction Privilege Tax or TPT) and from use tax. When I asked Rep. Tim Dunn, the sponsor of the bill, who benefits from this, he said the utility companies benefit from it, but consumers will see a financial benefit because their rates will go down. (Really? When has that ever happened?)

The industry lobbyist made many circular arguments trying to convince us that giving utilities a tax break was good for consumers. Currently, there are eight rate increase cases before the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), including rate increase requests from APS and other electric utilities. When I started talking about rate increases and the relationship to infrastructure investment by utility companies, Committee Chair Ben Toma said that I was off-topic. Dunn and the energy lobbyist were the ones that said giving APS, TEP and SRP a tax break was going to lower costs to consumers. I believe that I was totally on topic when I said that these things were likely to raise our rates in the long term, not lower them.

Continue reading Tax Cuts R Us… #WhatCouldGoWrong (video)

Build Your Own Border Wall… Seriously? (video)

Border Wall in Nogales

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)