As usual around here, when the temperatures cool down, our calendars fill up.
I have been shuttling between Tucson and Phoenix for Legislative meetings, as well participating in community events down here in Tucson. I was proud to stand with striking nurses who want to protect patients by lowering patient to nurse ratios. I was inspired by the youth and other Tucsonans who showed up for the Youth Climate Strike in downtown Tucson. And I was thankful to my Postcard Party volunteers for mailing and labeling 2020 campaign materials.
There are more events coming up in October.
October 6:LD9 Gathering: Meet Legislators & Friends in LD9
The Legislative District 9 precinct committee people have organized a gathering at the Woods Memorial Library on Sunday afternoon, October 6, from 2-4 p.m. at the Woods Memorial Library (3455 N. 1st Ave.) Senator Victoria Steele and I will be there to give an update and talk with constituents. If you haven’t signed my petition for re-election or given me $5 for Clean Elections, you can do so at at The Gathering. Facebook event here.
October 8: Honest Arizona Health Care Town Hall
I am honored to participate in Honest Arizona’s Health Care Town Hall on Tuesday, October 8 with Congressman Ron Barber and others. The event is at The Core at La Encantada (2905 E. Skyline Dr., Suite 277).
Republicans on the state and federal levels have been attacking the Affordable Care Act and promoting junk insurance plans. Rep. Kelli Butler and I debated valiantly against multiple types of junk insurance during Health and Human Services Committee meetings and on the floor of the House.
Health insurance coverage should be more inclusive and more affordable. Facebook link for tickets here.
What is the state of maternal and child health in the state of Arizona? Well, it certainly could be better.
Arizona ranks in the 40s (out of 50 states) in many areas related to the health of Moms and their babies.
Too many Moms and babies are dying preventable deaths after childbirth. Too many babies are born prematurely, with low birth weight or with birth defects. Not surprisingly, access to first trimester prenatal care has decreased, while beginning prenatal care late or not having prenatal care has increased.
Although the Arizona Department of Health Services recently received a CDC grant to study maternal mortality, there is more work to be done to improve the lives of Moms and babies.
Arizona should be doing more to prevent premature and low brithweight babies, increase access to prenatal and post-partum care for women, and increase post secondary educational opportunities (particularly for young girls).
I will talk about the State of Maternal and Child Health in Arizona and lead a discussion about challenges and solutions at the Salt of the Earth Labor College on Saturday, September 21, 2019, beginning at 2 p.m. (Facebook event here. Blog for Arizona event here.) The College is located at 1902 E. Irene Vista, Tucson.
Where do the mayoral candidates stand on affordable housing, low-income housing, and homelessness?
I think that’s a great question, and I hope to find the answers at the upcoming Mayor and Ward 1 City Council Candidate Forum on Saturday, June 22. The event will be held at El Rio Center, from 12 noon – 2:30 p.m. and will moderated by Nancy Montoya from Arizona Public Media. According to the Blog for Arizona Calendar, the three Democrats running for Mayor and the four running for Romero’s Ward 1 seat are expected to participate.
What is the state of housing in Arizona?
Arizona’s Housing Crisis: Has the Legislature Done Its Part?
As rents and evictions increase, housing has become a huge issue across Arizona. Housing– like prison reform and charter school reform– got a lot of lip service in the Arizona Legislature in 2019. During the session, there were many opportunities to tackle the housing crisis in a meaningful way, but those bills died.
On a high note, the Legislature allocated $10 million for the Housing Trust Fund in the FY2020 budget, which begins in a few weeks. The Housing Trust Fund used to be $40 million per year until the Tea Party Reign of Terror swept the funds and left only ~$2.5 million in it. (Of course, back then, tax cuts were far more important than helping people keep roofs over their heads.)
Many constituents have asked me where the budget is and what’s going on– after all, it is May. On the budget, the status quo of the past month still exists. All of the budget action continues to be behind closed doors, among a closed group of Republicans.
In addition to the Democrats, there are a significant number of House Republicans who are not part of the budget process, and they’re grumbling about it. This is a state budget– not the budget for a small town church. The deacons and the pastor don’t get to decide the budget on their own in the back room. The budget should be negotiated with all parties at the table– not just a handful of those close to power. Democrats make up 48 percent of the Arizona House. When more than 50 percent of the Legislature is kept in the dark and has to rely on rumors, that is not a fair process, and it ultimately hurts the people of Arizona.
Except for the Governor’s budget, which has been public for months, and some leaked details about the Senate Republican budget, little is known about the budget, beyond a few trial balloons. What we do know is that the Senate Republican budget is far more conservative and not even close to Governor Doug Ducey’s budget.
This chasm in the GOP has left an opening for Democrats. The House Democrats will unveil our balanced budget ideas on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. We have been saying since January that we agreed with parts of the governor’s budget– like full tax conformity and more money for P-20 education. [Stay tuned for details.]
On the right, Senator J.D. Mesnard and other tax cut fans still want to zero-out the money the state could bring in from tax conformity (~$150 million) and Wayfair (~$85 million). There are multiple trial balloons about making the income tax rates flatter. One proposal is to have only two personal income tax brackets. This is a horrible idea– unless, of course, your goal is to return to austerity and Draconian budget cuts, while making your rich donors happy. Under the Republican proposals to eliminate or lower tax brackets, rich people would pay less, and the rest of us could pay more. (Think of the Republican tax bracket plan as Arizona’s mini-Me to the Trump Tax Cut and Jobs Act. Both significantly lower taxes for the wealthy by reducing the top tax rate.)
Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Arizona was in the news and in the streets this week. ERA supporters launched an ambitious 38 Mile March for the ERA through the streets of Phoenix– starting at the Capitol on Monday, March 11 and ending there on Wednesday.
After the speeches, supporters filled the gallery of the Arizona Senate, and a contingent of 30 or so supporters went to the Arizona House. In the Senate, there was a motion to suspend the rules and vote on the ERA. In the House, Democrats attempted to introduce the ERA supporters in the gallery and were shut down when the Republicans decided to police the content on our speech– in addition to strictly limiting our time to one minute.
Patriarchy and suppression of speech were on full display. You can watch the whole scene here on the official video. Points of Personal Privilege start at around 2 minutes. Note the lengthy introductions that are allowed for people who are representing other groups– not the ERA.
Rep. Athena Salman starts the ERA introductions at about 10:28 minute mark. She and I both got through our introductions without interruption. Things heat up when Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez (at the 13:16 minute mark) tries to introduce an ERA marcher from Rep. Warren Petersen’s district and is gaveled down and scolded by Speaker Pro Tempore T.J. Shope. At 15:43, Shope shuts down Rep. Raquel Teran and tells the gallery to be quiet. At 17:08, Rep. Randy Friese is not shut down. At 18:14 Rep. Mitzi Epstein is shut down and protests Shope’s censorship of her speech. At 20:25, Rep. Isela Blanc is allowed to introduce her student shadow, but when she starts the ERA introduction, she doesn’t get more than a few words into her introduction before Shope stops her. At 21:17, Salman reads the rule book and calls out the Republicans for censoring our speech. The gallery and the Democrats burst into applause and get the gavel. The rules limit the amount of time we can speak to one minute but not the content.
The scene devolved after Shope ruled Salman out of order. Friese protested the ruling of the chair and called for a roll call vote (23:05). This resulted in multiple speeches about the ERA and freedom of speech– and multiple women being called out of order for speaking truth to power. I watched the whole fiasco on video, and it is shocking how many women were disrespected– House members and women in the gallery.
When your state and your Congressional district are being targeted by both major political parties and several special interest groups, the days leading up to Election Day are fast-paced as national groups and speakers come to Arizona.
Nov. 1 is a big day for political events.
Tucsonans Talk Back to McSally & Trump Jr.
As Donald Trump Jr. stumps for Congresswoman Martha McSally in Maricopa County, Tucsonans will be protesting in front of her office on Broadway Blvd. Organized by Arizona Healthcare Voters, the purpose of the rally is to call out McSally’s lies about her votes on the Affordable Care Act and on healthcare in general. Media advisory here.
As the ranking member of the Arizona House Health Committee, I am happy to be participating in this event hosted by Arizona Healthcare Voters.
The US has the most expensive and least effective healthcare insurance system when compared to other developed countries. McSally and the Republican Party want to make our already overly complicated and expensive system even more restricted and more expensive. That is going in the wrong direction.
Come on down and tell McSally what you think of her record on healthcare, health insurance, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and more.
Can’t decide how to vote in the November 6 election? If you live in Legislative District 9, check out the LD9 debate before casting your vote.
The debate video below reveals clear differences between the candidates on key issues such as the minimum wage, food security, the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), climate change, abortion, gun violence, and more. (Check out the Tucson Weekly story here.)
Five people are running for the three LD9 Legislative seats: incumbent Democrats Reps. Randy Friese and Pamela Powers Hannley (me), Republican challenger Ana Henderson, and Senate candidates former Democratic representative Victoria Steele and Republican write-in candidate Randy Fleenor.
The Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) conducts candidate debates, videotapes them, and stores them on their website and YouTube channel. If you live in a district other than LD9, check out the CCEC archive for the other 2018 debate videos. For Southern Arizona Legislative Districts, here are links to debates for LD2, LD3, LD10, LD11, LD8, and LD14. (LD9 video embedded below.)
The three Democrats and two Republicans running for seats in Legislative District 9 will participate in a Clean Elections Debate on Tuesday, October 16, beginning at 6 p.m. at Pima College Northwest.
Running for the Arizona House are incumbent Reps. Randy Friese and Pamela Powers Hannley and Republican challenger Ana Henderson, who lost to the two Democrats in 2016. On the Senate side, Democrat and former House Rep. Victoria Steele and political newcomer Republican Randy Fleenor are vying for the seat vacated by Senator Steve Farley.
Come with your questions. Since this debate is being run by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC), at least half of the questions come from the audience.
Also, the CCEC will videotape the debate and make it available on their YouTube site if you can’t come. Links to other debates and to upcoming debate dates are here: https://www.azcleanelections.gov/debates
#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”?
LD9 House incumbents– Dr. Randy Friese and I– will be the featured speakers at the Stop Thief community forum on tax giveaways on July 31 at the IBEW Hall.
As many of you are aware, Arizona is upside down on its mortgage. Thanks to years of Republican tax cuts, our state gives away more than $13 billion in taxes and spends just $10 billion to run the state. For years, the people of Arizona believed the lie that our state is broke. Now the veil has been lifted. The people realize that our state has plenty of revenue. The problem is that the majority of our Legislators vote to give the money away–rather than spend it on much-needed services– like public education.
Austerity is a lie. Arizona has the money to fund public education. The problem is: the Legislature gives our taxes away. It’s time to end crony capitalism in Arizona.
When the Arizona budget comes up short because of the tax giveaways, loopholes, and sweetheart deals, Republicans cut funds from K-12 education, the universities, the community colleges, healthcare, and environmental protections. OR they suggest raising sales tax to fill in the budget gaps caused by tax cuts for the rich and for the corporations. (Unfortunately, some Democrats go along with more tax cuts for the powerful and more sales tax for the rest of us.)
The Arizona Legislature should be funding the People’s To-Do List– education, healthcare, infrastructure, and safety and security– not the corporate wish list.