Should Prisoners Be Paid Minimum Wage? (video)

Reframing Justice

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.

Continue reading Should Prisoners Be Paid Minimum Wage? (video)

Virginia Dumped the #GOP & Passed the #ERA (video)

ERA wins multiple Capitol Times awards, 2019.

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.

Continue reading Virginia Dumped the #GOP & Passed the #ERA (video)

John Oliver Asks: Which State Will Make History by Being #38 to Ratify #ERA? (video)

ERA banner

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) needs only one more state to ratify it before it can become an amendment to the US Constitution. Although State Senator Sandra Day O’Connor and Arizona State Rep. Sister Claire Dunn proposed ratification, Arizona is one of the laggard states that never ratified the ERA in the 1970s.

Both Senator Victoria Steele and I proposed ERA ratification in 2019 and in past years. Now, HBO Commentator John Oliver has jumped on the ERA bandwagon. Below, you can watch his segment on the history of the ERA and why it should be ratified. Steele has a cameo appearance talking about Arizona’s opportunity to move out of laggard status and move into the history books as the 38th and final state to ratify the ERA.

Continue reading John Oliver Asks: Which State Will Make History by Being #38 to Ratify #ERA? (video)

Why I Voted to Raise the #AZLeg Per Diem

[On Monday, May 27, the Arizona Legislature voted to raise the per diem compensation. This is my floor speech to explain my vote.]

When I decided to run for office in January 2016, I stepped down as managing editor of the American Journal of Medicine and became social media editor. With this step, I took a 60% pay cut. I knew I would be bringing in less money, but we thought it would all even out working two part-time jobs (with one of those part-time jobs being 24/7.)

When I was elected to the Arizona House, I didn’t realize how much I would have to pay out of pocket.

The Cost to Serve

Currently, Arizona Legislators are paid $24,000 with a $60 per diem for rural/out of Maricopa County folks and $35 per diem for Maricopa County legislators– for the first 120 days of session. The per diem drops to $20 and $10, respectively, after 120 days and during the interim.

Each year in the fall, I rent a small apartment for six months for $1000-1200 per month plus Internet, water, electric and fees. Since it is a six-month lease, there is an additional charge per month tacked on for that convenience. (Large corporate apartment complexes love to add fees– on-time payment fees if you use a debit card, late fees, recycling fees, pet fees, “association” fees, etc.) Pretty much my whole in-session per diem goes to housing.

In fact, this year when I applied to rent my apartment, I sent them my pay stub from the Legislature to the apartment complex’s management company. A few days later, they sent me a kind rejection notice saying that with a salary of $24,000, I didn’t qualify to rent a 400 square-foot studio apartment. I replied, “Don’t worry. I have a second job!” And sent them my pay stub from the journal.

Let that sink in. On my Legislative salary, I didn’t qualify to rent a tiny studio apartment in midtown Phoenix.

Continue reading Why I Voted to Raise the #AZLeg Per Diem

#StopTheBans Pro-Choice Rallies Draw 100s in #AZ (video)

Across the nation today, men and women were protesting stringent anti-abortion bills that have passed in at least eight states recently. There was an impressive rally with close to 200 people at the Capitol today in Phoenix and even more in Tucson.

Alabama’s bill is the most recent and the most stringent. It is essentially an all out ban on abortion because it does not exclude women who have been raped or who have been the victims of incest. It also criminalizes doctors. They can be charged with a felony for conducting an abortion.

Six states including Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio have passed heartbeat bills. This means that an abortion cannot be conducted after a heartbeat has been detected. This can be as early as 6 to 8 weeks. Often women don’t even know they’re pregnant by then. Utah and Arkansas ban abortions after the middle of the second trimester.

Some states, like Arizona, still have abortion bans that pre-date Roe v Wade on the books. If one of these 2019 right-wing bills gets to the Supreme Court and results in over-turning Roe, it is unclear what will happen, but Arizona’s law could go into effect.

I was in college at Ohio State, when Roe v Wade passed the Supreme Court. I remember what life was like for young women in the time before abortion was legal and when access to contraception was limited. Everybody was on the “Rhythm Method”, and everybody in the dorm knew if somebody was “late.” I knew at least a half a dozen women in the dorm who were driven to New York for abortions. I knew a guy who got three women pregnant and drove them all to New York City. (You’d think he could figure out that he was part of the problem!) When abortions became legalized in Detroit, my boyfriend and I gave his younger sister a ride to Detroit.

To get birth control pills, I had to take a 1.5 hour bus ride from campus to the Planned Parenthood Clinic in ghetto on the near East Side. The clinic was in a dingy storefront. The waiting room was filled primarily with African-American women and children who lived in the neighborhood nearby plus a handful of white college girls like me.

Continue reading #StopTheBans Pro-Choice Rallies Draw 100s in #AZ (video)

#AZHouse Democrats Force Vote on #ERA

ERA vote in Arizona House

For the third year in a row, Arizona House Democrats forced a debate and a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). On April 16, I made an “emergency motion” to skip over First, Second and Third Readings of HCR2030 and bring the ERA up for an immediate vote. Predictably, the Republicans offered as substitute motion which led to two hours of rousing debate on women’s equality.

The Back Story

Earlier in the session– when the Democrats still believed that at least a few Republicans may have a tiny independent streak– Senator Victoria Steele and I both garnered signatures from a handful of Republicans and all of the Democrats for ratification of the ERA. Steele had the votes to pass it in the Senate, but  Judiciary Chair Eddie Farnsworth refused to hear the ERA in committee, and President Karen Fann stopped a real floor vote.

Arizona Senate debated, but since there was no floor vote– only a division call– the Republicans weren’t held accountable for their stance against equal rights for women. None of the Republicans who had signed Steele’s bill stood up for the ERA or spoke in favor of it.

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley calling for a vote on HCR2030, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Pre-Game Action

Fast forward to yesterday. The House didn’t hear the ERA on the same day as the Senate because the plan was to propose the ERA in the House on a different day… unannounced. A stealthy surprise for the House Leadership. The Republicans don’t like it when the Dems surprise them with parliamentary procedures and force votes on bills they thought they had killed with parliamentary procedures. Their intransigence is the catalyst for our shenanigans.

Several weeks ago, I met with Speaker Rusty Bowers about the ERA and asked him to assign HCR2030 to a committee that would hear it. Every year, the Democrats and ERA supporters ask for a real committee hearing, a real floor debate in Committee of the Whole, and a Third Read vote on the ERA. Every year, the Republicans use “horse and buggy procedures” to stall any meaningful progress.

At the time of our meeting, the ERA had not even gone through the First Read– the very first step in the legislative process. He told me in no uncertain terms that he had “no intention” of doing anything to move the ERA forward. Initially, he declined to tell me why and said he wanted to “explain his position in a larger forum.” I pushed for a reason, and he talked about his wife and daughter and how it would negatively impact them. He also talked about more lawsuits as a result of passage of the ERA. I told him that the ERA focuses on government-based discrimination. If the ERA is passed and if the state of Arizona has discriminatory laws on the book, then, yes, the state could be sued, but the real issues are equal pay for equal work, equal protection under the Constitution, and structural sexism in our country.

Continue reading #AZHouse Democrats Force Vote on #ERA

#AZHouse Republicans Censor Dems to Block Speech on #ERA, Women’s Rights (video)

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.

The news stories covered the Senate action because that was the official vote. They didn’t cover the censorship fiasco in the Arizona House.

I gave one of the first ERA introductions and was allowed speak. Later introductions were cut off by the Republicans.

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.

Continue reading #AZHouse Republicans Censor Dems to Block Speech on #ERA, Women’s Rights (video)

John Nichols of ‘The Nation’ Returns to Tucson (video)

John Nichols

For many years, author and historian John Nichols has been coming to Tucson for the Festival of Books. In addition to his popular appearances at the Book Festival, Nichols has a tradition of speaking on Saturday evening at a free event hosted by Progressive Democrats of American (PDA Tucson) and the Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF).

2019 is no exception. Nichols will appear at the IBEW Hall on Saturday, March 2, with doors open at 6 p.m. and the event beginning at 6:30 p.m. Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley will warm up the crowd with local political news from the Arizona Legislature. Powers Hannley was recently named “most valuable state Legislator” by The Nation magazine.

Nichols is a consummate storyteller and political historian. He writes for The Nation and is a frequent commentator on MSNBC and Democracy Now. He is the author of Uprising, Dollarocarcy, and more recently Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guid to the Most Dangerous People in America.

If you have never heard Nichols speak, I urge you to take advantage of this free event– away from the crowds and parking hassles of the University of Arizona. Here are a few video clips from past years. The 2019 event is sponsored by PDA Tucson, PALF, and Our Revolution- Arizona for Bernie Sanders. Facebook event here.

Continue reading John Nichols of ‘The Nation’ Returns to Tucson (video)

Speaker Bowers: It’s Time to Hear the People’s Agenda (video)

Arizona Flag

The Arizona House is moving at a snail’s pace this session. In fact, Senator David Bradley has quipped that the Senate should take a one-month vacation so the House can catch up.

According to the Chief Clerk, as of Friday, the end of the fifth week of session, 744 House bills were dropped. Forth-seven percent of the bills (349)– including the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)– have not been first read (the first step in the process). Only 50 bills (7%) have been third read (the final vote). We voted on about half of those 50 on Thursday afternoon. The coming week will be NUTS because it is the final week for the House to hear House bills and for the Senate to hear Senate bills. At this point, there are a lot of bipartisan bills on the cutting room floor in the Speaker’s office.

With a 29-31 (D-R) split in the House, Speaker Rusty Bowers has been extremely cautious about what bills get to the floor for debate and a vote. Except for tax conformity, nothing controversial has made it to a “third read” vote. The vast majority of the bills we have voted on thus far passed through committee unanimously and passed the floor unanimously (or with just a few dissenters from one side or the other). We have had lively debates on ideological bills in my committees– Regulatory Affairs, Ways and Means, and Health and Human Services– but those bills haven’t made it to the floor yet. For example, Republicans on the Regulatory Affairs Committee passed a sub-minimum wage for workers under 22 who are also full-time students. Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee passed two different an income tax breaks to the wealthiest Arizonans. Republicans on the Health and Human Services Committee passed a bill labeling pornography as a public health crisis. (What about gun violence as a public health crisis?)

What has been left unheard in committee or on the floor? Plenty.

Continue reading Speaker Bowers: It’s Time to Hear the People’s Agenda (video)

Request to Speak Update: #JustSayNO to Sub-Minimum Wages (video)

HB2523 is on the agenda for the Regulatory Affairs Committee for Monday, Feb. 11. This is a terrible bill for younger workers who are under 21 years of age, employed in the gig economy, and full-time students.

This bill allows employers to pay you less than Arizona’s current minimum wage of $11 an hour. They can go as low as the current federal minimum wage which is $7.25 an hour.

You have until 2 o’clock on Monday to voice your opinion on the request to speak system. Tell the Republicans loud and clear that this is not fair to younger workers! Why are we saddling college students with enormous debt and then forcing them to work for slave wages?

Go to RTS as the AZLeg website. I am ranking member on the Regulatory Affairs Committee. We have heard many bills about dumbing down qualifications for professions and other bills that are bad for workers.