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.
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 It is way out of date, obviously.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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Should healthcare providers and institutions be allowed to deny services to patients based upon the provider’s “sincerely held religious beliefs”? I don’t think so. Discrimination is not OK.
This is the fourth year in a row that I have proposed a Patient’s Right to Know bill which requires healthcare providers and institutions to disclose upfront if they have any religious restrictions that would preclude them from providing all legal drugs and services within their scope of practice.
On Democracy Now recently, filmmaker and activist Michael Moore said voters want politicians who “won’t sell out” to special interests when they get into office.
Constituents have written to me and asked if I accept donations from the fossil fuel industry or the private prison industry or utility companies. I don’t accept donations from any of them, and I also don’t accept donations from Dirty Money political action committees, Planned Parenthood, unions, or corporate people. Running as a Clean Elections candidate I am free from special interest groups and the big money politics that swirls around me at the Capital.
Many thanks to everyone who everyone who answered my Christmas Eve Facebook post about wrapping up my Clean Elections Qualifying Contributions before the session starts on January 13, 2020. I need a minimum if 200 $5 donations (plus overage) from people in my district to qualify for public financing.
I currently have 215 $5 donations. I am over 200, but I need 230 to ensure a sufficient cushion (in case some are unreadable or otherwise disqualified). We can do this. The 2020 session will be a wild ride. I want to focus on you… the voters… while I am in Phoenix… not on campaigning.
Many thanks to LD9 supporters who donated $5. I could not have done this without stalwart volunteers Lori Cinnamond, Barbara Warren, Jenise Pace Porter, Beth Britton and Alma Byrd who each took a stack of blank forms and returned them with $5s and to my husband Jim Hannley for cycling around Midtown with me collecting signatures and $5s. Also, I can’t forget the early work of my Postcard Party volunteers who helped with mass mailings to past $5 donors and who repurposed old 2018 campaign lit for 2020 canvassing. (Clean candidates are frugal.)
There’s still time to donate $5 and sign my petition if you live in LD9 and to donate seed money if you want to help but don’t live in LD9. All of the links are in this blog post.
Watch the Events tab on my Facebook page for canvassing opportunities beginning Saturday, January 4. I still need more signatures, and the temperatures are mild for walking the neighborhoods.
Thank you and Happy New Year. It has been an honor to serve you.