It is a sad state of affairs when our government’s most important decisions — how to wisely invest $5 billion and how to maintain our water supply into the future — are made behind closed doors by a tiny group of (primarily) white men.
While Republicans twist each other’s arms over the budget, water, and tax giveaways, floor action focuses on culture wars, 2020 election conspiracy theories, voter suppression and guns. Since April, the Legislature has had sketchy schedules with a handful of votes and many days of adjournment. (Don’t get me wrong the extra days working from home in Tucson are greatly appreciated.)
In 2021, Republican disarray over the budget dragged out the session until June 30 — the very last day to pass a budget. If the Republicans are going to make backroom deals until they get 100% of their members to agree on the budget, I prefer 2022’s the somewhat random scheduling to 2021’s 28 days of “Pledge and Pray” with no votes. (That was a real waste of time and money!) Although many Legislators (Ds and Rs) stated publicly that they didn’t want a repeat of 2021, that is where we are headed.
As 2021 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the past Legislative session, the extreme laws enacted by the radical right that controls the Arizona Republican Party, the continuing court cases and voter backlash against these new laws, and a look forward to November 2022.
As many as eight appointees will start the Legislative session in January 2022 with returning incumbents. At this writing there could be as many as 17 open seats in the Arizona House, plus the eight appointees will be running in the November 2022 election.
Appointees are technically incumbents, but they have not been elected and have proven to be vulnerable to losses at the ballot box. Many districts — both Ds and Rs — have two seats open or one open seat + one appointee because so many legislators have chosen to run for other offices or to quit or retire.
Add to this the unknowns regarding the new voting maps and the 2022 election have many unknowns. In fact, the reference to the LD2 Senate race in this video may be obsolete if the current draft maps are adopted by the Independent Redistricting Commission.
Each session has a pattern. This year, everything seems more orderly. We have had only one night where we were on the floor past 7 PM. Mondays generally have a leisurely pace, now that there are no committee meetings, but Thursday’s make up for it with rousing debates.
Arizona House members had several debates on voter suppression and unnecessary election tinkering on April 29. Three bad election bills passed on a party line vote. The worst one sets up a differential system for paper ballots that have missing, messed up or non-matching signatures. Ballots with missing signatures can be cured only up to 7 PM on the night of the election, while messed up signatures can be cured for up to five days after the election.
People whose first language is not English are more likely to not sign their ballots, according to Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren from LD7. People, who are older and whose handwriting may be impaired or changing due to a medical diagnosis, would end up in the five-day signature resolution pile. You can see why this two-tiered system for signature curing matters. Also, many people drop their completed paper ballots off at the polling place. Those ballots are usually counted AFTER election day. Any of those ballots without signatures wouldn’t be counted at all if SB1003 is signed into law.
There’s never a dull moment in the Arizona Legislature when we debate voter suppression. There are more than 30 voter suppression bills currently in play. Arizona Republicans are #1 in the nation for their productivity. The sheer volume of bad bills that make it harder to vote, harder to register to vote, and easier to hide campaign donations is staggering. Many thanks to the hundreds of people who signed into RTS against these terrible attacks on your right to vote.￼
This video discuss several voter suppression bills from Reps. John Kavanagh and Jake Hoffman: HB2723 (campaign finance); HB2792 (felony charges for election workers who mail an unrequested ballot); HB2793 (criminalizing volunteers who register people to vote); HB2811 (ban on same-day voting); HB2569 (ban on elections departments taking outside funds to run the elections); HB2794 (ban on changing election deadlines, even during a pandemic); and HCR2023 (attack on Congressional voter rights bill HR1). (Correction to the video: I named Kavanagh and Chaplik as the source for these voter suppression bills, when in fact, these bills should be credited to Kavanagh and Hoffman. Hoffman gets the prize for proposing six voter suppression, although Kavanagh infamously said the the Government and Elections Committee that government should not look at the “quality of the votes” in an election — not just the quantity.)
It is a tribute to the women representatives who became my friends in the past four years but have now moved on to other career adventures or to the Senate.
Serving in the Legislature is a tough job. It’s good to have colleagues who have your back and who are willing to lend an ear. Thank you to former Reps. Isela Blanc, Gerae Peten, Winona Benally, Kirsten Engel (now a Senator) and Rosanna Rodriguez Gabaldon (now a Senator). Blanc, Peten, Benally and Engel were four of the eight “Feisty Freshmen” from 2017. Only four of us are still in the House: Reps. Kelli Butler, Mitzi Epstein, Athena Salman and me.
Many of us were elected in 2016 because we fully utilized social media and communicated with constituents regularly. In the House, we kept talking and Tweeting. The Republican men did everything they could think of to shut us up, but they were never successful.
We had strength in our solidarity and our speaking skills and our passion. Thank you for being there.
Thank you so much, LD9 voters, for making me the top vote getter in the 2020 Primary Election and the 2020 General Election. I particularly want to thank my grassroots volunteers who worked tirelessly to help me win re-election.
It was an extremely difficult year for humankind, but you persevered to help many Democrats win– including the LD9 team of Senator Victoria Steele, Rep. Randy Friese and me. Oh, yes, and Joe Biden!
You are my Power Team.
We traveled 2020’s rough and bumpy roads together. We not only faced the pandemic together, we faced a Republican opponent with more than three times as much money and all of the wealthy donors, television commercials, robocalls, slick mailers, and giant signs that accompany big-money politics.
I was his target, and you helped me beat him. The final count is PPH 64,781, Rep. Randy Friese 64,772 and Brendan Lyons 48,026. OK, I beat Friese by only nine votes, but I beat Lyons by 17,755 votes.