Arizona Republicans Vote Down ERA (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

Arizona House Democrats made a substitute motion to suspend the rules and bring HCR2010 Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to an immediate vote today (May 19, 2021). Republicans have been bringing us to the floor for one or two votes for several days in a row while they work their backroom budget deals, far from watchful eyes of voters, reporters and Democrats.

The Floor drama went a bit differently than the ERA vote has in past years. The newly elected Democratic women Legislators really wanted to propose the ERA. I agreed and said it would be better if someone else made the motion, this year since they’re on to me after four years of motions. Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham didn’t recognize Rep. Melody Hernandez, but a few minutes later, just as Majority Leader Ben Toma made the motion to adjourn, Grantham recognized mild mannered, former school teacher Rep. Judy Schwiebert, who rose to make a substitute motion to suspend the rules to bring HCR2010 to a vote. Republicans didn’t try to substitute her substitute motion. Consequently, we voted on the Schwiebert amendment, unlike other years. (Later Grantham said he goofed on the parliamentary procedures; Toma’s motion to adjourn should have taken precedent.)

This has been a tough year for women in the Legislature with multiple attacks on our rights, passage of the Draconian anti-abortion bill SB1457, and no additional funding for housing, maternal and child health, or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). In this toxic, anti-woman environment, I think it is only fitting to propose ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The vast majority of people living in poverty in Arizona and in the US are women and their children. Why are we purposefully shortchanging future generations by forcing working mothers to struggle to put food on the table and a roof over their heads?

Continue reading Arizona Republicans Vote Down ERA (video)

Arizona Needs a Comprehensive Approach to Affordable Housing (video)

affordable housing

For years, Arizona has been one of the worst states in the country for affordable housing.

A recent research survey, published in March 2021, ranked Tucson #1 in the world for worst change in property affordability, with Phoenix coming in #7. The survey by Online Mortgage Advisors reported on housing affordability in 200 US cities over the past five years. It shows that “house prices have quickly become unaffordable for workers making average wages for their specific city,” according to a report by KOLD TV.

In the five years that I have been in the Legislature, affordable housing has been a hot topic which generated a lot of talk and a fair number of Democratic bills but not much Legislation that made it to the finish line. (Heaven forbid that any meaningful Democratic legislation would be signed into law — regardless of how much it would help the people of Arizona.) Unfortunately, little has been done to raise stingy benefits for the poor and the unemployed OR to tackle homelessness, housing affordability, or evictions. One positive step by the Legislature was restoration of partial funding to the Housing Trust Fund. (Also worth noting: thank goodness the voters raised the minimum wage in 2016, or Arizona residents’ income to housing ratio cost would be even worse.)

In the five years the Legislature has been talking about housing, affordability has gotten significantly worse in the state’s two major cities. The video below discusses two bad bills from the past that have contributed to Phoenix and Tucson becoming less affordable. These bills should be repealed. It also includes four current housing-related bills in the Legislature.

Continue reading Arizona Needs a Comprehensive Approach to Affordable Housing (video)

What Did #AZLeg Do in the First 100 Days?

Phoenix

For many years, the Arizona Legislature has had a 100 day target for the length of each session. April 20, 2021 was day 100 for this session. When more than 1000 bills are proposed every year and more than 300 are usually signed into law in non-pandemic years, the Legislature doesn’t generally finish in 100 days.

So, what did we do in the first 100 days? Here are a few examples of bills that have been signed by the governor. Below is the complete list of 33 video updates that I have created in 2021 … so far.

The Legislature passed two massive corporate tax giveaways that will primarily help Maricopa County — the qualified facilities tax credit (HB2321) and the data center tax incentive (HB2649).  Fun Fact: according to the Financial Advisory Committee, 90 percent of the job creation touted by Governor Doug Ducey has been in the Phoenix metro area. Bills like HB2321 and HB2649 perpetuate the inequitable system that exists in our state.

We passed a passed another Ducey priority, the  massive expansion of gambling (HB2772/SB1797), which legalizes sports betting, fantasy sports betting, and app-based Keno. In exchange for additional casinos and a portion of the app-based gambling action, the tribes backed and heavily lobbied for expanding off-reservation gambling. Since most of the new tribal casinos and all of the major league sports teams are in Maricopa County, the millions generated from gambling will disproportionately benefit Maricopa County. I have serious concerns about the negative public health and privacy aspects of this dramatic expansion. Gambling will be everywhere, and gambling apps will be hounding people on social media — thanks to HB2772. Every click, every bet, every win, every loss, and every betting location on every app-based gambler will be collected, stored, and used to advertise more gambling.

Ducey surprisingly vetoed Cathi Herrod’s bad bill which put ideological guardrails on what can be taught in sex education (SB1456). A second Center for Arizona Policy bill which criminalizes doctors and patients for even talking about abortion (SB1457) is awaiting the governors signature (or veto) at the time of this writing.

Many bills are stuck in the process somewhere, which is a good thing. Arizona would be in terrible condition if all of the tax giveaways, voter suppression schemes, and education privatization bills passed. In my opinion, Democrats should push for a speedy end to this horrible session, so the Legislature doesn’t do any more damage to our state or take away more of our rights.

There are many other examples. Check out the good, the bad and the ugly. Below is a list of my video updates for 2021 … so far.

Continue reading What Did #AZLeg Do in the First 100 Days?

Striker #HB2321​ Is Massive Corporate Welfare Bill (video)

Arizona Legislators & Duecy at Intel

It feels like deja vu all over again. This week a vanilla bill (HB2321) was used as a striker and was turned into a huge tax credit for big corporations. Corporations who have $2 billion or more to invest in building “qualified facilities” and hiring workers at a certain level are eligible for a total of $125 million in refundable tax credits per year.

What is wrong with that?

Continue reading Striker #HB2321​ Is Massive Corporate Welfare Bill (video)

Economic Development Across Arizona (video)

Phoenix

Business incentives, also known as tax giveaways, are common up here in the Arizona Legislature. Today’s video is about three different economic development bills. I voted “no” on two of them and “yes” on one.

HB2834 is the ultimate in picking winners and losers. It would allow municipalities to determine projects that would be eligible for lower property taxes in order to reduce their expenses while the project is being developed. (This is similar to GPLET but different.) The upshot is that you could have one building that is getting a dramatically reduced property tax rate right next to another building whose owner is paying their fair share of property taxes. ATRA spoke against this bill and said it could be subject to gift clause legal challenges. This was billed as legislation that would help rural Arizona, but it was a statewide plan to allow municipalities to pick winners and losers. It died in committee with four Republicans and me voting “no,” and three Dems and two Republicans voting “yes”.

HB2282 is a small business assistance grant using federal dollars. It would distribute $5000 grants to truly small business to help them keep afloat or help them re-invent themselves for the post-COVID era. It has limited time frame, it will help Local First businesses, and it uses federal dollars we have. It easily passed on a bipartisan vote. This was also a state wide economic development plan, but the bill sponsor, Rep. Aaron Lieberman, had metrics built into it to make sure that rural Arizona gets their fair share.

HB2649 is the 10-year continuation of tax incentives for data centers. When you store your data and information on the cloud, it’s actually being stored in a giant facility in Phoenix. The Lobbyist said that this 10 year program have been really successful because now Arizona has 25 data centers that qualify for this tax giveaway. I asked where the data centers are located and how many jobs were created. The Lobbyist presentations were very thin considering this is a 10 year multi million dollar program. When I had my public relations business, one of my services was writing and designing annual reports. There should be a 10 year recap on what’s been accomplished by this program, how much it costs and how many jobs were created where — not just nebulous factoids and random data points.

Continue reading Economic Development Across Arizona (video)

RTS Alert HB2391 & HB2255: Transparency in Government. Yes! (video)

World View Enterprises

Let’s talk government transparency.

Lucky for me my committees, so far, have not been totally nuts with radical right wing bills like some of the other committees this year. Yes, we have heard some tax giveaways in both Commerce and Ways and Means but not the extreme ideological social engineering and voter suppression bills that are in other committees.

The Feb.3 Ways and Means Committee agenda included only one bill HB2391, sponsored by Rep. Steve Kaiser, one of the freshmen Republicans. This is a property tax and county government transparency bill from ATRA (Arizona Tax Research Association). Sean McCarthy from ATRA said that all of the counties report their property taxes in different ways. (Not surprising.) HB2391 says that the Department of Revenue (DOR) should design a “worksheet” for the counties to use worksheet and make the data available. I don’t think this goes far enough. I know many Tucsonans who are digging through PDFs and memos on governmental websites to try to determine how their taxes are being spent.

I agree with the push for governmental transparency and standardization in reporting, but I would take this a couple step further. I think these worksheets should be available on the county websites and on the DOR website in an easy-to-find location, and the data should be downloadable in Excel. This allows people — including data nerds, economists, grad students, and interested citizens — to look at the data and analyze it themselves. This is true transparency and accountability, in my opinion.

Many governmental websites are data rich and information poor. There are many numbers but very little context or explanation. For example, my bill HB 2255 is a transparency and accountability bill regarding the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA). I have done a lot of digging around in PDFs on the ACA website to determine the effectiveness of the business incentives that the ACA has been doling out.

Continue reading RTS Alert HB2391 & HB2255: Transparency in Government. Yes! (video)