#AZLeg, Inquiring Minds What to Know: Are We Done Yet? (video)

Arizona House

Many of you have recently asked me what the Legislature is up to. After all, we haven’t been at the capital since March 23.

Today’s video is meant to answer the question: Are you done or what?

OK. We’re not done for the year. On March 23, the Legislature passed a “skinny budget” with the Senate bipartisan plan that included $50 million to fight the Coronavirus. After that, we voted to adjourn until April 13 (or until needed or it’s safe). Legislators and their assistants are all working remotely.

There is a lot of speculation about the Legislature, now that President has given up on his prediction that everything will be back to normal by  Easter and is promoting staying at home through the month of April. The Legislature could vote remotely or come back with a skeleton crew and sine die (end for the year) or extend the adjournment.

The Capital Times is reporting that if we did indeed sine die now, only about 60 bills will have passed and been signed into law this year. Traditionally, the Legislature passes more than 300 bills a year. (More than 95 percent of these bills are Republican bills, even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Legislature.) As a long-time Arizona voter, I remember asking myself how in the world can they could pass so many bills every year, particularly when the Republicans promote themselves as party of small government, and they’ve been in charge for decades.

Now, as a two-term Democratic representative, I know that the vast majority of the new laws passed by Arizona Republicans are totally unnecessary and often harmful to segments of Arizona’s  population. They are NOT the party of small government, obviously,

I relish the idea of passing ~60 bills in 2020, rather than 300. Legislation to enable pet projects, pet vendettas and sweetheart tax deals for utilities and multinational corporations seem completely irrelevant and wrong-headed during a mismanaged public health crisis. 

It would be a great thing for the citizens of Arizona if the Legislature passed fewer bills. In 2020, Legislators proposed a record number of bills, more than 1700. If we end the session now, hundreds of bad bills that would have passed in a normal year will be dead! This includes ~20 voter suppression bills; >18 tax giveaways that could total a $1 billion per year of lost future revenue; a bill that allows pawn brokers to become payday lenders; a bill that criminalizes people from standing on the median; a bill that forces us to buy license plates more often just so 3M can sell the state of Arizona more reflective coating, the reefer madness ballot initiative, more vanity license plates; several one-off Republican pet projects related to education (other than public education, of course); multiple attacks on Clean Elections, the Citizens Initiative, representative government, local control, and professional credentials, and whatever else is on the Republican to-do list from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Goldwater Institute, the Institute for Justice, Americans for Prosperity, Arizona Tax Research Association, the Chamber of Commerce or President Trump. 

It is completely unrealistic that April 13 would be a safe return date to the capital. I think we should sine die by remote vote. We could come up with a bipartisan, mutually agreed upon short list of bills that deserve to pass. Let’s identify 10 bipartisan bills (other than Coronavirus response bills) that deserve to pass– including earned release credits, the grandparent stipend, more money for caregivers in the ALTCS system, and increased district direct assistance for schools. All the bad bills would die. We would leave a few hundred million dollars sitting on the table (because the tax giveaways wouldn’t pass).

With so little commerce going on right now because of the Coronavirus, there is little sales tax being collected. Our state runs on sales tax. We’re going to need those extra funds in the coming months, along with the billion dollars that we have in our rainy day fund.

The Legislature can always come back for a special session.

#AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

Trailers in Midtown Tucson

There are multiple reasons why Arizona has an affordable housing crisis. Chronically low wages; years of under-funding social safety net programs; high student loan, credit card or medical debt; and aggressive evictions have forced far too many Arizonans to live with housing insecurity.

Wages in Arizona are 85% of the national average. Only 6% of Arizonans who are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) actually get it. In Pima County, the eviction rate is 30 per day– that’s roughly 1000 per month. 

To use a medical analogy, HB2732 (affordable house tax credits) treats the symptoms of the affordable housing crisis– not the disease. The disease is poverty. 

Continue reading #AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

Arizona Is #50 in Adverse Childhood Experiences: #HB2013 Would Hurt Kids Further (video)

child's stove

Arizona is dead last — #50– for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Arizona is not only shortchanging school children, our stingy policies hurt little children before they ever enter the classroom. ACEs include food insecurity; domestic violence; DCS removal; addiction, incarceration, or death of a parent;  or housing insecurity at any level– homelessness, eviction, foster care, etc.

Rep. John Filmore’s bill HB2013 would force teachers to hold back children if they are not performing at grade level– thus eliminating “social promotion” for students who are technically not at grade level. Rep. Jennifer Pawlik– herself a soft-spoken and kind special ed teacher– said that teachers have tools to help children who are progressing but may not be at grade level. Filmore’s bill ignores the expertise of teachers and ignores the fact that some children may need extra help because of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Far too many Arizona children have the chips stacked against them before they are born and due to significant ACEs during their early years, they enter kindergarten with emotional trauma. At a meeting with Amphi School District educators and parents, I learned that 40-50% of Amphi elementary school children who enroll in school in the fall, don’t end the year in the same school. Why? Housing insecurity, eviction, domestic violence, death, poverty, foster care. With low wages and bad policies, we are forcing far too many families to live with hardship.

Holding a student back a grade is second only to death of a parent in childhood trauma. HB2013 just increases the likelihood that Arizona children will be continue to be worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Continue reading Arizona Is #50 in Adverse Childhood Experiences: #HB2013 Would Hurt Kids Further (video)

HB2269 Creates Process to Give Unused Medicine to the Poor (video)

All too often my video updates focus on bad bills that the Arizona Legislature is considering. To end week three of the Legislature on a high point, here is a good bill.

HB2269 sets up a process for donating unused, good medications to people in need. Under HB2269, nursing homes, assisted living centers, and people can take unused but in-date medications to participating pharmacies for inspection for tampering, checking expiration dates, repackaging, and redistribution. People receiving the drugs would pay a fee for the handling but nothing for the medications. This would not include prescription opioids, but it would include everything else, including many very expensive drugs.

Continue reading HB2269 Creates Process to Give Unused Medicine to the Poor (video)

Big Banks, Big Insurance, Big Pharma & Big Housing: Corporate America Is Burying Us in Fees

Thanks for the poverty

Working for a living is hard. You have to get out of bed early, get dressed… maybe even put wear a silly uniform that you were required to purchase… drop the kids off at school, drive around to find parking or sit on a bench waiting for the bus, rush to work to be on time, and repeat in reverse after work a few hours later. If you are forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, the complexity and aggravation of daily life grow exponentially … one grueling day after another.

Decades ago, Wall Street bankers learned that making money off of other people by charging fees for absolutely everything their accountants can think of… and then charging late fees upon those fees… is an fast route to Easy Street. Banks and other lending institutions are masters at making money from fees (as opposed to real work).

The Fee Game is now pervasive across Corporate America. As a result, We the People are getting fleeced at every turn. People complain about high taxes from the government, while Corporate America is slipping billions of dollars out of our pockets in service fees, administrative fees, application fees, late fees, nonpayment fees, stop payment fees, online payment fees, nonrefundable deposits, usurious interest rates,  junk health insurance, unaffordable health insurance premiums, co-pays, coinsurance, and the list goes on. It’s no wonder people are strapped for cash. We’re being nickel and dimed into bankruptcy by Corporate America, while Congress and state Legislatures bend over backwards to be “business friendly.” For more about The Fee Game and how lucrative it is… read on…

Continue reading Big Banks, Big Insurance, Big Pharma & Big Housing: Corporate America Is Burying Us in Fees

Democracy Now: Compelling Stories about Extreme Wealth & Extreme Poverty in California (video)

Safe Park Homeless camp 2015
Safe Park Dream Pod, Tucson 2015
Safe Park Dream Pods for Tucson homeless,  2015

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.

Excerpted from “State of Emergency”: Special Report on California’s Criminalization of Growing Homeless Encampments

“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.”

Watch the video and read the story here.