Arizona House Republicans recently passed SB1451, Senator Vince Leach’s latest attempt to kill the Citizens Initiative process. Every year, Republicans add new regulations to the popular Citizens Initiative process–like dramatically increasing the number of signatures, strict compliance on petitions (forcing us to write in between the lines or risk having our signature knocked off), or eliminating the pay-per-signature practice for paid circulators.
The worst part of 1451 was taken out in the Senate. That was the section that made people group the petitions by circulator and allowed for elimination of whole petitions if one volunteer’s petitions got mixed up with another. The house added another amendment to give the attorney general the power to change the language used to explain the initiative. (This is a scary thought, after all of the intrigue and BS that surrounded the language of the initiatives on the 2018 ballot. You’ll remember that the anti-Clean Elections initiative was allowed to be purposefully misleading.)
SB1451 is a bad bill that over-regulates the Citizens Initiative process, adds bureaucracy and slows the process of circulator recruitment and signature gathering down.
If you often scratch your head at the bad bills that the Republicans pass in Congress and in the state legislatures and wonder what their end game is, you should read Democracy in Chains by Nancy McClean.
What you may think are random bad ideas that have somehow gotten into law are actually part of a grand scheme that has been playing out since Brown versus the Board of Education attempted to desegregate public schools in the United States.
An academic, McClean has studied the articles, books and letters of James Buchanan, the economist not the former president. Buchanan was the primary theorist of public choice theory. In the 1950s, public choice theory was used as a rationale to close all of the public schools in the state of Virginia (rather than comply with desegregation) and is being used today to support state-funded vouchers for private and religious schools. In Virginia in the 1950s, the state gave money to white parents for private school vouchers and allowed hundreds of black children to go uneducated for years. Needless to say, this was a travesty of justice.
Republicans have two big problems with the 2018 election: too many of you voted, which resulted in too many of them losing.
Each year of the Arizona Legislature seems to have a theme. For 2017, the theme was big tax giveaways. For 2018, it was Red for Ed. The theme for 2019 is voter suppression. One of the Democrats suggested that the Republicans were overreacting to their losses in 2018.
The sheer volume of voter suppression bills is staggering. In the multiple ways, the Republicans are trying to make it more difficult to vote, to register someone to vote, and to submit Citizens’ Initiatives. They also want to solidify big money politics by attacking the independence of Clean Elections Commission.
There are so many awful bills that I needed a cheat sheet to do this video. Many of these are still in play, and you can use the Request to Speak system to comment. HB2724 (anti-Clean Elections) and HB2616 (adds penalties and unnecessary burden to registering people to vote) passed the Arizona House this week and will head to the Senate. (You can stop them there!)
For some of them, it’s time to start pleading with Governor Ducey for vetoes. SB1072 (even stricter voter ID laws, which would result in a poll tax for people who move often) passed both the House and the Senate. Other horrible bills from Senators Michelle Ugenti-Rita (SB1090) and Vince Leach (SB1451) are on there way to the House floor soon.
Stopping people from voting is anti-Democratic. (I am working on a blog post with more bills and details.)
HB2724 is another Republican attack on the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Due to misleading ballot language, voters were tricked into voting Yes on Prop 306 in November 2018. (I have old videos with 306 details.)
Prop 306 prohibits Clean Elections candidates from buying any services from a political party (like access to the VAN voter database or basic support services like organizing volunteers). Voters were led to believe that Clean Elections candidates were donating to the Democratic Party, but that is already illegal. (Candidates who run traditional do donate some of their campaign funds to their parties.)
Prop 306 also weakened the campaign finance watchdog function of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) by placing it under the Governor’s Regulatory Review Commission (GRRC). GRRC’s members are appointed by the governor, and most of them are lobbyists!
Let’s put the formerly independent campaign finance watchdog commission under a group of Republican political appointees. What could go wrong?
For many years, author and historian John Nichols has been coming to Tucson for the Festival of Books. In addition to his popular appearances at the Book Festival, Nichols has a tradition of speaking on Saturday evening at a free event hosted by Progressive Democrats of American (PDA Tucson) and the Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF).
2019 is no exception. Nichols will appear at the IBEW Hall on Saturday, March 2, with doors open at 6 p.m. and the event beginning at 6:30 p.m. Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley will warm up the crowd with local political news from the Arizona Legislature. Powers Hannley was recently named “most valuable state Legislator” by The Nation magazine.
Nichols is a consummate storyteller and political historian. He writes for The Nation and is a frequent commentator on MSNBC and Democracy Now. He is the author of Uprising, Dollarocarcy, and more recently Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guid to the Most Dangerous People in America.
If you have never heard Nichols speak, I urge you to take advantage of this free event– away from the crowds and parking hassles of the University of Arizona. Here are a few video clips from past years. The 2019 event is sponsored by PDA Tucson, PALF, and Our Revolution- Arizona for Bernie Sanders. Facebook event here.
The Arizona House is moving at a snail’s pace this session. In fact, Senator David Bradley has quipped that the Senate should take a one-month vacation so the House can catch up.
According to the Chief Clerk, as of Friday, the end of the fifth week of session, 744 House bills were dropped. Forth-seven percent of the bills (349)– including the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)– have not been first read (the first step in the process). Only 50 bills (7%) have been third read (the final vote). We voted on about half of those 50 on Thursday afternoon. The coming week will be NUTS because it is the final week for the House to hear House bills and for the Senate to hear Senate bills. At this point, there are a lot of bipartisan bills on the cutting room floor in the Speaker’s office.
With a 29-31 (D-R) split in the House, Speaker Rusty Bowers has been extremely cautious about what bills get to the floor for debate and a vote. Except for tax conformity, nothing controversial has made it to a “third read” vote. The vast majority of the bills we have voted on thus far passed through committee unanimously and passed the floor unanimously (or with just a few dissenters from one side or the other). We have had lively debates on ideological bills in my committees– Regulatory Affairs, Ways and Means, and Health and Human Services– but those bills haven’t made it to the floor yet. For example, Republicans on the Regulatory Affairs Committee passed a sub-minimum wage for workers under 22 who are also full-time students. Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee passed two different an income tax breaks to the wealthiest Arizonans. Republicans on the Health and Human Services Committee passed a bill labeling pornography as a public health crisis. (What about gun violence as a public health crisis?)
What has been left unheard in committee or on the floor? Plenty.
This is the transcript of my opening remarks at the Arizona Public Health Association Conference on Oct. 3, 2018. A video of the speech is below.
It is an honor for me to address the Arizona Public Health Association, since I have a Masters in Public Health from the University of Arizona. I worked in health communication, medicine, public health and behavioral research for many years before deciding to run for the Arizona House in 2015.
In fact, it was my background in public health that prompted me to run for office. Many times since I moved to Arizona in 1981, I have found myself shouting at the radio or the TV or the newspaper or a social post about bad policy decisions made by the Arizona Legislature. Anybody else have that experience?
In the public health arena, the Legislature far too often makes short-term decisions to save a buck or make an ideological point, but in the long-term, these decisions cost money and lives. Do you remember Governor Jan Brewer’s Death Panels? Brewer knocked more than 250,000 adults off of Medicaid—including people on transplant waiting lists. That decision made national news as transplant patients began dying.
Another example of a short-term savings that caused long-term problems is the $80 million cut in childcare subsidies and preventive services for families in need. That recession-era funding sweep played a major role in Arizona’s foster care crisis. At its peak, nearly 19,000 Arizona children were in foster care. Most of those children were removed from their homes for “neglect”. Unfortunately, in Arizona, neglect is a catch-all term which could encompass anything from lack of reliable child care to drug abuse to domestic violence.
None of that $80 million in state funding for childcare has been restored. Why not? Because, of course, we have to cut taxes every year—regardless of the needs of the people.
Are you upset that the Outlaw Dirty Money and Invest In Ed Citizens Initiatives were tossed off of the November ballot by right-wing, activist judges? Many constituents have asked me what they can do about it. Here are three suggestions: vote NO on Prop 126, Prop 305 and Prop 306, and here’s why.
Along with hundreds of Arizonans, my volunteers and I carried petitions through the summer heat to get the Outlaw Dirty Money and Invest In Ed on the ballot. I’m upset that the Arizona Supreme Court tossed both of these initiatives off the ballot– despite their obvious popularity with the voters and despite the gargantuan signature drives that were mounted by the people. The only people who declined to sign these two petitions when I asked them were people who had already signed.
Outlaw Dirty Money was an attempt to bring more transparency to campaign finance laws. Invest In Ed would have raised the income tax on Arizona’s richest residents to pay for stable funding for public education. If you believe in these ideas– campaign finance transparency, getting big money out of politics, sustainable funding for public education, stopping the tax giveaways, and stopping school vouchers– there are three important “no” votes you can make on Nov. 6– No on Prop 126, No on Prop 305 and No on Prop 306.
#RedForEd lifted the veil from our eyes and put the issue of corporate tax giveaways front and center in the fight to restore public education funding in Arizona.
As many of you are aware, the Arizona Legislature is giving away more than $13 billion in taxes every year and using only $10 billion to run the state. It is not sound fiscal policy to use accounting gimmicks and 50 fund transfers to “balance” the budget. It is no surprise that the state owes K-12 education around $1 billion. Thanks to scheduled corporate tax cuts passed by the Tea Party*, beginning in 2011, Arizona’s corporations got to keep an extra $1 billion in 2017. These corporate tax cuts continue through 2019, even though we can’t afford them.
As a result of the anger and frustration that many Tucsonans feel about the Arizona Legislature’s performance, the Stop Thief! Let’s Restore Fair Taxes Community Forum drew a standing room only crowd of diverse participants. The event was hosted by the Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF) and Progressive Democrats of America (PDA Tucson), with support from many other unions and community groups.
Heart-felt testimonies from current high school students, who explained how school budget cuts have impacted their lives and their schools, opened the forum.
LD9 Rep. Randy Friese gave a detailed presentation on tax revenue and how it has been siphoned off by special interest groups and corporate tax cuts for decades. (Video after the jump.)
My talk focused on specific tax giveaway votes in the 53rd Legislature. focused specific tax giveaway bills and the drama that swirled around the bills that passed and the ones that failed. (Video after the jump.) Excluding any votes related to budget appropriations, all of the tax giveaway votes in the 53rd Legislature were bipartisan— with Democrats and Republicans on both sides.
The Legislature’s mindset on tax giveaways shifted from January 2017– when two Progressive Democrats made a pact to vote against every tax giveaway until the schools were fully funded– to budget night in May 2018. The Progressive viewpoint was: If the state “can’t afford” to fully fund K-12 public education (due to self-imposed austerity), then we “can’t afford” to give away or excuse any more taxes until the schools are on stable footing and fully funded. Thanks to the #RedForEd movement, on budget night 2018, hundreds of teachers, parents, and supporters filled the House gallery and the Capitol lawn and demanded that public education take priority over corporate tax cuts.
As I mentioned in my talk, a thorough tax giveaway review bill and several tax reform or repeal bills were proposed in the Legislature in 2018. Unfortunately, due to the gamesmanship at the Capitol, these bills were not heard because they were proposed by Democrats: Senator Steve Farley and Reps. Mark Cardenas, Randy Friese, and Pamela Powers Hannley.
It’s time to review all of the tax cuts, tax exemptions, tax credits, tax subtractions, and other tax loopholes. Some of these tax giveaways benefit narrow interests– to the detriment of the general fund and the general public. We must determine which tax exemptions benefit the people of Arizona (like the TPT exemptions for food and prescription drugs); which ones benefit special interest groups (like gold bullion enthusiasts); which ones benefit individual corporations (like the infamous four-inch pipe); which ones we are effective and affordable; and how we can spark economic development without breaking our budget and starving all of our educational institutions, as we are now.
Several people told me that they felt hopeful after my talk because so many costly tax giveaways were stopped on a bipartisan vote. If fact, all of the tax giveaway votes were bipartisan— with Democrats and Republicans on both sides. This is why it is important to ask every candidate in the 2018 election what their stance is on tax giveaways, the #RedForEd movement, the Invest In Ed Citizens Initiative (to secure long-term funding for K-12), and the Outlaw Dirty Money Citizens Initiative. Will these candidates fight for the people or will they “take the money and run”?
In five days, voter registration closes for the August 28 primary on July 30.
In seven days, early voting begins for the August 28 primary on August 1.
In 34 days, it will be Primary Election day on August 28.
It’s time for voters to get serious about making up their minds on who to vote for. Many news outlets– like the Arizona Republic and the Tucson Weekly— are compiling voter guides. (The link to the Republic’s guide is below. The Weekly’s will be published soon.) The state’s main Voter Education Guide, which you will receive in the US mail soon, is already available online here.
In addition to voter guides, organizations, nonprofits, and unions have released candidate statements and endorsements (linked below).
For your consideration, I have compiled a list of my endorsements, ratings, awards and news clips– along with links to five organizations that have compiled candidate issue statements.
I am asking for your vote on or before the August 28, 2018 primary and again in the fall– on or before the November 6, 2018 general election.
I promised to be the voice of the people in the Arizona Legislature, and that’s exactly what I did. As a Progressive Democrat and a Clean Elections candidate, I am beholden to no one but you– the voters of Arizona. I accept no big-money donations from lobbyists, special interest groups or unions. Votes should decide our elections– not money.
In the 53rd Legislature, I voted my values and stood up for your rights and wellbeing. The People’s work is not done. We must turn the Arizona Legislature around. It’s time that elected officials stopped voting to give our tax money away and started voting to fund the People’s To-Do List: education, healthcare, infrastructure, and safety and security. I am proud to say that I voted against every tax giveaway that was proposed in two years. Do you want a representative who stands with teachers, students and families or one who stands with the developers? That is your choice in the LD9 primary.
Please check out the links and videos below. It has been an honor to serve you for the past two years in the Arizona House. Thank you for your support.