OK, I’m back in the saddle again. Back in the Arizona House, that is.
To be safe, I am doing Floor sessions on the Floor with my mask and gloves but all other meetings remotely.
Today, we had a very interesting Democratic Caucus meeting in the morning. ASU data modeling scientists presented data and answered many questions about COVID19. Following that, the Grand Canyon Institute￼￼ presented on unemployment insurance and what a mess it was in Arizona, even before COVID19. Both of these presentations were excellent; it was such a breath of fresh air to hear the Grand Canyon Institute speak, instead of the Goldwater Institute! It gave me a glimpse of what the Arizona Legislature could be if the Democrats took control this year. (The meeting will be available in the Capitol TV archived videos.)
At the beginning of the floor session today, Rep. Arlando Teller from the Navajo Nation proposed sine die. This would have ended the 54th session, as the Arizona Senate has already voted to do. The Navajo Nation now has a higher COVID19 infection rate than New York City.￼ Both Teller and his seat mate Rep. Myron Tsosie talked about the friends and family who have been sick with the novel Coronavirus and those who have died. Several Democrats gave speeches about focusing on the pandemic rather than focusing on pet legislation that is not an emergency.￼ Rep. Kelly Townsend accused the Democrats of politicizing the issue. Teller’s motion was vetoed on a party line vote.
What did the House Republicans do next? They put up 15-20 unnecessary, non-emergency bills for debate and a vote.
The Arizona House of Representatives has been adjourned since March 23, 2020, due to the COVID19 pandemic. Some of us wanted to vote to sine die (end the session) on March 23 and come back later for special session(s) focused on COVID19 public health and economic issues. Others– mostly Republicans– wanted to stay in session and adjourn because they had hopes that their bills would still pass during this session. I say “mostly Republicans” because even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Arizona Legislature, the majority party refuses to move more than a handful of Dem bills each session.
The majority party refuses to hear these types of bills that would help the people of Arizona because these bills are not backed by special interest groups, big money donations, individual corporations, the Chamber of Commerce, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), the Goldwater Institute, Americans for Prosperity or the “Institute for Justice” (quote marks added to emphasize the irony of their name).
Using their data, they say that the risk of death for the general population is much lower than previously thought, but the death rate for seniors is still exponentially higher than the rest of the population. The crux of their argument was that we should have stringent procedures in long-term care facilities to keep Grandma and Grandpa safe, and everyone else should get back to school and to work.
Amid the nationwide controversy regarding when it is safe for states to open up their economies during a pandemic, the Arizona House Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee will meet to hear presentations from open up experts. What about hearing from the public health experts, too?
The HHS meeting will be Thursday, May 14 at 1 p.m. The meeting was a total surprise to the Democrats on HHS. Why is this a surprise? Because the House has been in adjournment, with committee hearings paused, since March 23.
The agenda just popped into our inboxes on Tuesday and in the past 24 hours additional speakers have been added.￼ The meeting is a collection of presentations by out-of-state experts who support opening up Arizona’s economy: Aaron Ginn, who is the co-founder of the Lincoln Network; Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford Health Policy), who has developed an antibody test, conducted research on the spread of COVID19 in the community and death rates, and whose research methods have been critized; Dr. Neeraj Sood (USC Sol Price School of Public Policy), who also did research on COVID19 community spread and death rates and whose results were released prematurely and without his knowledge; Lanhee J. Chen (Hoover Institute and Stanford University School of Public Policy), a FOX commentator and former Romney advisor, who has been critical of WHO and supports bring college students back to campus; Avik Roy, who is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and who advocates for young people going back to work because mostly old people will die from COVID19; Dr. Joel W. Hay (USC Shaeffer Center), whose Twitter feed rails against state economic lock downs and cites Sweden (who has a higher death toll than neighboring countries) and sparsely populated South Dakota as success stories because they didn’t lock down their economies to stop the spread.
HHS Dems sent a letter to HHS Chair Nancy Barto asking to hear from some Arizona experts, rather than just listen to people from California tell us what we should be doing. (What happened to “don’t California my Arizona?”) For example, the HHS Democrats also would like to hear from these Arizona experts and get their thoughts on what the others have to say: Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS); Will Humble, former ADHS director and current executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association; Dr. Dan Derksen, from the Rural Health Office; and Dr. Tim Lant, from Arizona’s university-based COVID19 modeling team.
I drove to Phoenix last Thursday (May 7) because Speaker Rusty Bowers and President Karen Fann had called the Legislature back for a sine die vote (a vote to end the second session of the 54th Legislature). We have been adjourned and working remotely since March 23.
Unfortunately, I made that trip for nothing. On May 7, after the morning email notice to report for work, House Republicans held a closed-door caucus for several hours (as long as six hours by some reports). At about 8:20 p.m. on May 7, when I was already in Phoenix, Bowers sent a second email saying that the House would not reconvene on Friday (May 8) for the sine die vote. (I drove two hours to a canceled meeting, and Rep. Myron Tsosie drove 5.5 hours from Navajo.)
The Republicans are in complete disarray. For the second Friday in a row, Republicans have scheduled a sine die floor session and canceled it because they can’t agree. I would have driven to Phoenix last Thursday (April 30), also, but that was the day of the LD9 town hall. The May 1 Legislative floor vote was called and canceled before I got in the car.
Bowers has a revolt on his hands, obviously.￼ There is a small but vocal group of Arizona representatives and senators who want to buck Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order to stay home and keep businesses closed. Ducey has flip-flopped several times in recent weeks due to pressure from Libertarians (who, regardless of the public health costs, want to open up the state for business, force people back to work, and rescind Ducey’s executive order closing the economy) and Democrats (who are clamoring for more testing, more contact tracing, more transparency in the data, workplace protections, continued shelter in place, and not opening up too soon). The Open Up Arizona Republicans are marching in lock step with ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). In fact, 11 Arizona Legislators signed an open ALEC letter to President Trump asking him to open up the economy: Senate President Karen Fann, Senators Vince Leach, Rick Gray, David Livingston, and Reps. John Allen, Walter Balckman, Nancy Barto, Ben Toma, Becky Nutt, Frank Carroll, and Leo Biasiucci. Continue reading #AZ Senate Votes to End Session. What about the House? (video)
Did you all see the photos from the Open Up Arizona rally on Friday, May 1 at the Capital? Wow! On two recent Fridays, there have been large public rallies at the Arizona Capital to promote ending the executive order that closed businesses and told people to shelter in place due to the COVID19 outbreak.
The social media promotion for this past weekend encouraged people to rally at Wesley Bolin Plaza on Friday, have a party in the park with friends on Saturday, and “rev it up” by going to church on Sunday.
Many anti-vaccine folks￼ are participating in these rallies because they don’t want the government to require Coronavirus vaccines (which don’t exist). Think about this. What could go wrong? A bunch of people who don’t believe in being vaccinated decide to go to participate in three days of large public events… during a pandemic! You can’t make this stuff up.￼