Cinco de Mayo in #AZLeg: House Passes Bills Attacking Free Speech (video)

Freedom of Speech

The 55th Legislative First Session has been filled with crazy, right-wing ideological bills attacking voting rights, reproductive rights, patients, doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, teachers, engineers, professionals, unions, public education, the Permanent Early Voting List, the Citizens Initiative, Clean Elections, and transparency in campaign finance. Adding insult to injury, these bad bills are passing on party line votes — often with little or no debates and no public input. This is tyranny of the minority. Yes, Republicans are in the majority with 31 members in the House compared to the Democrats 29, but these extremist views are not held by the majority of Arizonans.

Wednesday was Cinco de Mayo and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Given the importance of this day to other cultures, it is appalling that we would spend most of the day debating bills that would limit speech regarding racism, sexism and other “controversial issues” in schools (SB1532) and in government, including community colleges (SB1074). The floor debates for these two bills lasted at least five hours. The Democrats offered many eloquent speeches, while the Republicans insisted they aren’t racist. In addition to limiting speech, SB1532 also bans critical race theory and would make it difficult — if not impossible — for schools to use programs like the 1619 Project.

Continue reading Cinco de Mayo in #AZLeg: House Passes Bills Attacking Free Speech (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)

Arizona Republicans Pass More Voter Suppression Bills (video)

voter suppression in Arizona

Each session has a pattern. This year, everything seems more orderly. We have had only one night where we were on the floor past 7 PM. Mondays generally have a leisurely pace, now that there are no committee meetings, but Thursday’s make up for it with rousing debates.

Arizona House members had several debates on voter suppression and unnecessary election tinkering on April 29. Three bad election bills passed on a party line vote. The worst one sets up a differential system for paper ballots that have missing, messed up or non-matching signatures. Ballots with missing signatures can be cured only up to 7 PM on the night of the election, while messed up signatures can be cured for up to five days after the election.

People whose first language is not English are more likely to not sign their ballots, according to Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren from LD7. People, who are older and whose handwriting may be impaired or changing due to a medical diagnosis, would end up in the five-day signature resolution pile. You can see why this two-tiered system for signature curing matters. Also, many people drop their completed paper ballots off at the polling place. Those ballots are usually counted AFTER election day. Any of those ballots without signatures wouldn’t be counted at all if SB1003 is signed into law.

The Navajo Nation sued the state of Arizona over this issue in 2018 and won. Why are the Republicans putting into law, the very system on which we lost in court? SB1003 is a terrible bill.
Continue reading Arizona Republicans Pass More Voter Suppression Bills (video)

Dems Fight Back as Republicans Attack Your Rights (video)

Arizona: Meth Lab of Democracy

Republicans are attacking your rights at multiple levels — voting rights, reproductive rights, the right to protest, the right to sue a business, the right to citizens initiative, and the right to unionize.

On Tuesday, the first bill up for debate was SB1268, the anti-union ALEC bill. In committee, we were led to believe that one “concerned citizen” was the source of this bill idea. During COW we found out that, of course, Senator Warren Petersen got this bill idea from the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC) not the “concerned citizen” who has testified in committee two years in a row. Besides being harmful to unions, this bill is unnecessary.

In a nutshell, SB1268 is based upon the lie that union members are kept in the dark about their healthcare benefits. This bill forces additional, duplicative and costly reporting by the unions, allows union members to buy insurance outside of the contract, and sets the state up for future court cases.

Continue reading Dems Fight Back as Republicans Attack Your Rights (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?

#AZLeg​ Vote Protects Fetuses, Criminalizes Doctors & Patients (video)

fetal personhood

Republicans have spent weeks and employed multiple levels of parliamentary procedures to ram Senator Cathi Herrod’s … er … Senator Nancy Barto’s fetal personhood bill through both houses … twice. SB1457 died in the Senate earlier in April, but the Republicans brought the zombie bill back to life for a do-over.

SB1457 inserts BIG government into private medical decisions. It criminalizes doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, and patients.

Government has the right and the duty to make and implement public health policy to keep us all safe and healthy — like mask mandates, vaccinations, inspections, etc. Government does not have the right to insert itself into personal medical decisions and impose felony charges against medical personnel and patients to enforce the Legislature’s will. SB1457 criminalizes the doctor/patient relationship if they discuss, recommend, refer or perform an abortion on a woman and they all know she is carrying a child with a disability or a child that is so medically fragile that it won’t live long after birth. It also makes ordering abortion-inducing drugs by mail illegal.

Besides the fact that government should not be meddling in this personally tragic decision, the woman and her partner have to thing long-term about raising a child with a severe disability or carrying a fetus to term that may not live 24 hours. This is a tough decision — emotionally, physically and financially.

Continue reading #AZLeg​ Vote Protects Fetuses, Criminalizes Doctors & Patients (video)