#AZHouse Dems Deny Quorum, Stalling Budget Temporarily (video)

economic insecurity

Arizona House Democrats denied quorum on June 22, stalling the Republican budget and the Flat Tax for third time.

June 22 was day 163 of the Arizona Legislature. The Legislature’s target end date is 100 days. Republicans have been twisting (breaking?) arms for two months to pass their extreme ideological budget. Every version of their budget has made it worse because they are inserting failed bills into the budget to buy votes from the bill sponsors.

Every version of this budget and all of the amendments were negotiated amongst a small group of Republicans behind closed doors. If the Republicans want to pass this budget with only Republican votes, they are going to have to have all of their members in the House to make quorum. The inconvenient truth is that some of them are out of state.

You can read these bills on request to speak and make comments on the azleg website. We are adjourned until 10 AM on Thursday, June 25.

Continue reading #AZHouse Dems Deny Quorum, Stalling Budget Temporarily (video)

Republican Flat Tax Feeds Economic Inequality in #AZ (video)

flat tax

Governor Doug Ducey and Arizona Republicans are promoting a 2.5% flat tax on personal income and have included it in the budget package, currently under negotiation in the Arizona Legislature. They are also proposing that income over $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples be taxed at 1%. Usually excess profits are taxed at a higher rate, not at a lower rate, but, hey, this is Arizona.

You’ll remember that in 2020 the voters approved Prop 208 Invest in Education. With this citizens initiative, the voters created a 3.5% fee on personal income over $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for couples. The Republican tax plan will eliminate the Prop 208 “burden” on Arizona’s 1%. Who will pay the difference? You will.

Rather than requiring Arizona’s richest 30,000 residents pay their fair share of public education costs, the state is giving them a tax break, and the state is going to pay the bill for them. In the news, Rep. David Cook called the Flat Tax “unfair” because everyone will pay taxes, but the state will “backfill” the cost and help out “high-earners” (ie, Arizona’s richest residents).

Other states have tried flat taxes and they have broken the budget. It will not only hurt the states budget, but it will hurt the cities and towns also. The Republican budget is a nonstarter. Except for the 30,000 millionaires and billionaires who will benefit from Republican largesse, it is bad for Arizona.

The Flat Tax — along with all of the other tax breaks in the Republican budget — will fuel greater economic inequality in Arizona. Read the details of the Flat Tax plan here: Arizona budget plan would massively cut tax collections, create flat income tax rate.

Continue reading Republican Flat Tax Feeds Economic Inequality in #AZ (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)

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?

#AZHouse Republicans Pass #PEVLPurge Voter Suppression Bill (video)

Rep. Reggie Bolding

April 23 UPDATE: As only she can do, Senator Kelly Townsend put a fly in the Republican Party’s ointment on Thursday when she unexpectedly voted NO on HB1485, killed the PEVL Purge bill (at lease temporarily), and left the building. [Below is my original blog post about the House vote.]

April 20 was high drama in the Arizona House — and not because it was 4/20!

After multiple parliamentary maneuvers to shut down debate on voter suppression, a retreat by the Democratic Caucus, and three hours of raucous wrangling over one bill, the Republicans passed SB1485 on a party line vote.

This bill has been dubbed the PEVL purge because it will knock voters off of the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL). It will disproportionally affect Black, Latino and Native American voters, seniors, and registered Independents. According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, if this bill passes, ~200,000 Arizona voters could be knocked off the PEVL before the next election. 

Speaker Rusty Bowers refused to allow ANY debate in the Committee of the Whole (COW). Democrats called foul on lack of debate and late posting of amendments. Rep. Athena Salman, our parliamentary procedures whiz, called for a 24 hour delay in Floor action because amendments were not provided to members in a timely fashion, as per House rules. Floor was delayed one hour (instead of 24 hours). Republicans really wanted to pass both SB 1485 (voter suppression) and SB1457 (anti-abortion/fetal personhood) on the same day and then head to the border for a photo op on Wednesday with Governor Doug Ducey, who announced deploying National Guard to the border.

Continue reading #AZHouse Republicans Pass #PEVLPurge Voter Suppression Bill (video)