“How can Arizona increase education funding?” has been an ongoing question since the Tea Party started hollowing out public education and doling out tax breaks ten years ago.
This week the Legislature is hearing a few education funding bills. The Senate Education Committee is hearing two bills related to education funding on Tuesday, January 28: SCR1002 (Brophy McGee) and SB1059 (S. Allen).
SCR1002 is a ballot referral to extend the Prop 301 “temporary” sales tax for education that was passed by voters during the Great Recession, make it permanent, and raise the sales tax from 0.6 cents on a dollar to 1 cent (on top of what you are paying in sales tax now).
SB1059 dictates how the new money from the ballot initiative should he spent. (There’s a lot of detail in there. Check it out.)
Obviously, we need more money for public education at all levels. My question about SCR1002 is: who should be paying more in taxes? Sales tax (AKA Transaction Privilege tax or TPT) is a tax on the poor. Continuously raising sales tax at multiple levels of government is also not “business friendly” because it artificially raises prices to consumers. When some Arizona cities and towns are bumping up against a 10% sales tax, is it smart to continue to raise sales tax to fund state government? Some cities and towns have rent taxes and sales taxes on food. Those really double down on the poor. With a 10% sales tax rate, people would pay $10 in sales tax on $100 of food. Sales tax is one of the more volatile income streams for our state because it depends on consumer purchasing. When consumers are strapped for cash, their purchases go down, and the states revenue goes down.
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 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 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.
In just a few weeks, the second session of the 54th Legislature and my fourth year in elected office will begin. In has been a jam-packed but productive interim with community events, tours, meetings at the capitol, and conferences on taxes, finance and public health.
One of the more informative meetings I attended this fall was the Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) outlook meeting. I have wanted to attend the ATRA meeting for years but chickened out because I knew I would be the only Democratic Legislator. I was the only Democrat, and I’m glad I went.
At the ATRA meeting, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann announced her intention to wrap up the next session quickly — in less than the targeted 100 days or the usual ~120 days. Rumor has it that the Republican goal is 85 days for the 2020 session. You’ll remember that in 2019 the Arizona Legislature voted to move the primary election day up from the end of August to the beginning of August. The related deadlines also have moved up, with the signature deadline falling during the time frame we are usually in session (March 7 – April 6, 2020). Fann gave a nod to tough election in 2020, when she told ATRA attendees that she wants to hear the budget by crossover week in February. She added that Senators Vince Leach and David Gowan have been “building the backbone of the budget” during the interim. She warned Republican Legislators in the ATRA audience that if the budget is not done according to her timetable, she will halt all other bills to focus on the budget and push it through. Given that we didn’t end the last session until Memorial Day, 85 days seems unrealistic to pass the usual 300 or more pieces of legislation. (Of course, passing fewer unnecessary bills could be a good thing for the people of Arizona… depending upon which bills they are.)
Why the escalated pace? Rushing the process means less negotiation, less information, less time to ask questions and seek alternative opinions, less time for constituents to voice their opinions on Request to Speak or at the Capitol, and more opportunity for mistakes and remorseful votes.
Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now radio show has a long history of hard-hitting, investigative journalism. Today’s show (October 25) juxtaposed Progressive Congresswomen Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib grilling Facebook CEO with a story about homelessness in California.
These stories represent the two sides of California– a land of extreme wealth and innovation that also houses 50 percent of our country’s homeless population, according to Goodman.
“In a Democracy Now! special report, we look at the rise in homelessness in many major cities across the United States. California has become the poster child for this economic and humanitarian disaster, with growing encampments in Los Angeles and the Bay Area as more people are forced onto the streets. The state is home to 12% of the country’s population but half of the country’s unsheltered people. As the crisis deepens, so has the criminalization of homelessness, with increasing efforts by city and state officials to crack down on unhoused people occupying public space. President Donald Trump made headlines this month for attacking California’s politicians over the homelessness crisis, threatening to destroy encampments, increase police enforcement and even jail unhoused people. But advocates say California has already employed hostile policies that criminalize homelessness, from laws against unsheltered people sitting on sidewalks to frequent sweeps of the encampments that have popped up on thoroughfares and under freeways across the state’s cities. One of these crackdowns is currently unfolding at a massive Oakland encampment that Democracy Now! visited just a few weeks ago.”
Who can resist babies doing yoga coupled with multiple exclamation points?
As many of you know, maternal and child health has been my focus for nearly a year now, ever since my strong, adorable, and intelligent granddaughter Selah was born with gastroschisis. Her three months in the Nursery Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Tucson Medical Center (TMC) in 2018 gave me a new appreciation for the human and financial costs related to adverse birth outcomes and high tech medicine.
When it comes to maternal and child health, I strongly believe that the state of Arizona can and should do better regarding:
Increasing access to prenatal, perinatal and postpartum care.
Decreasing the rates of premature and low birthweight babies.
Reducing the number of unintended pregnancies and nonmarital births.
Reducing toxic stress in and increasing opportunities for families and children by tackling chronic, systemic poverty in Arizona– particularly among single parent households.