The Finance Advisory Committee of the Arizona Legislature met recently. This group of financial experts from the universities and elsewhere meet quarterly with the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) to advise them and the Legislature on the state’s economic outlook.
The October 2021 Finance Advisory Committee meeting was particularly rosy. During the pandemic, Arizona’s state government and residents received a total of $51 billion in aid from the federal government. These funds kept many Arizonans afloat during the pandemic and greatly helped our state’s financial position. The state coffers are brimming with tax revenue and gaming proceeds. Arizona corporations saw record profits. The Rainy Day Fund has $970 million in it. Ninety-four percent of the prepandemic jobs have returned.
During my five years in the Arizona House, I have been a crusader for increased funding and services for maternal and child health. Arizona is worst in the country for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Far too many Arizona children grow up with food insecurity, housing insecurity and financial insecurity, while the state government gives away billions each year in tax breaks.
With so much cash on hand, it’s time for the Arizona Legislature to invest in the health and wellbeing of children and families – instead of more tax breaks for corporations and wealthy Arizonans.
Continue reading Podcast: With Cash in the Coffers, Will Arizona Finally Invest in Healthy Children & Families? (video)
As prescribed in the US Constitution, every 10 years the United States conducts a census and counts everyone in the country. After the census, there is a redistricting process in which the areas that have gained population can potentially gain seats in the US House of Representatives. Population shifts nationally and statewide dictate that new maps be drawn to update representation in government at multiple levels. Historically, redistricting has been conducted by the political party in power in each state. This has resulted in highly gerrymandered and oddly shaped districts that are designed to keep the party in power in power for another 10 years until after the next census. Allowing the political parties to draw lopsided maps – literally – is obviously not a fair to the people and leads to unrepresentative government.
In 2000, the voters of Arizona passed a Citizen’s Initiative that took the redistricting process out of the hands of the Republican-controlled Legislature and gave it to an Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC). By law, there are two Republican members, two Democratic members and one Independent member.
Arizona’s 2021 Independent Redistricting Commission has been working on new Congressional and Legislative maps for a few months now. Controversial draft maps (version 10) were passed by the commissioners on October 28, 2021.
The maps are not final, and many people in Pima County, myself included, are not happy with the Pima County’s gerrymandered districts. Tucson proper is split into four different districts, ignoring natural boundaries like Interstate 10 and multiple mountain ranges and putting urban areas in districts that are heavily rural.
Continue reading Podcast: Independent Redistricting Commission Draft Maps Ready for Public Comment (video)
One of my pet peeves is reading a cliff-hanger news story, only to be left hanging when there is no follow up. Several stories reported in my previous podcasts have had newsworthy developments since those episodes aired.
To catch you up on the details, Episode 8 is a compilation of updates.
Many of my podcasts referred to petition drives and court cases that were trying to stop bad Republican bills from being enacted. These issues were decided last week. Why last week? Because September 29, 2021 is the 91st day after June 30, 2021, which was the end of the Legislative session. Unless passed with an emergency clause or stopped by the courts or the voters, bills passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor are enacted 90 days after the end of session.
Three previous guests return to discuss the status of the contested laws – particularly the flat tax, the alternative tax to get around Prop 208, the voter suppression bills, the bills attacking the power of the Secretary of State and the power of the governor, Arizona’s latest radical anti-choice bill SB1457, and mandated COVID public health protections.
The good news is that progressives had some wins in the courts. We also had some disappointments. Needless to say, the struggle to beat back oppressive legislation continues. Of course, Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich are appealing cases that the state lost. Brnovich is even appealing the court’s ruling that Republican Legislators acted unconstitutionally when they stuff dozens of unrelated failed bills into the budget. Who is paying for these unnecessary lawsuits generated by unconstitutional or burdensome laws enacted by Republicans? You are. The taxpayer.
Continue reading Podcast: Updates from Taxes to Reproductive Rights & COVID … What’s the Latest?
Since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, he and other Democratic leaders have proposed sweeping legislation to tackle deep-seated societal problems.
Many popular progressive bills – like the For the People Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act; the Richard L. Trumka Protect the Right to Organize Act, the Dream and Promise Act, and the Women’s Health Protection Act – have been passed by the US House of Representatives. Unfortunately, these bills and many more are blocked in the Senate by the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold.
Parts of Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better Plan are also in jeopardy due to opposition from so-called “moderates” in Congress. Build Back Better would rebuild and modernize our nation’s neglected infrastructure, address climate change, create jobs, and lower taxes and costs for the middle class. Who pays for Build Back Better? Biden’s plan calls for a “fairer tax code.” Rather than taking on more debt, corporations and the wealthiest Americans would pay more in taxes to fund this sweeping recovery plan. These are the people who have enjoyed decades of tax cuts under the guise of trickledown economics. These are the people who made billions during the pandemic while working families scraped by. These are the people who build private space ships to glorify their egos while they starve their workers and bust unions. These are the people who enjoyed the biggest tax cut ever under President Trump. Unfortunately, these are also the people who have the money to buy politicians and lobbyists. That is why Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was passed by Republicans on a party line with a simple majority without debate just days before Christmas, but Biden’s plan, which would tax the rich to the benefit of the rest of the country, needs a super majority to overcome a filibuster.
Continue reading Podcast: The Filibuster, It’s Time to Remove a Relic of Racism (video)
Eighteen months ago the Arizona Legislature shut down due to the COVID19 pandemic and the governor’s shelter in place order. Arizonans have traveled a rocky road since then.
Throughout most of the pandemic, Arizona’s government has been willing to sacrifice lives in order to hew faithfully to the right’s anti-science ideology, which dovetails neatly with the “open for business” mantra. Pressure from the Chamber of Commerce, COVID deniers, and the Trump administration caused Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to jump the gun more than once and open the state up for business too soon. In the summer of 2020, Arizona was worst in the world for COVID19.
My guests today are Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, and Rep. Melody Hernandez, who is paramedic. Humble provides a brief overview of where Arizona has been and where we are now with the pandemic. He breaks down the history, the science, the policies, the politics, and the personalities. In contrast, as a frontline healthcare worker throughout the pandemic, Hernandez tells stories of tragedy, death and perseverance.
Continue reading Podcast: COVID19 in Arizona: Where Are We Now? 18 Months Later (video)
The United States is about 15 months out from the November 2022 election. At this juncture, there is a lot of drama going on in this country and in the state of Arizona. Social media is awash with lies, conspiracy theories, outrage memes, and anti-science rhetoric on multiple topics. Mainstream news outlets like the New York Times, National Public Radio, and AZ Central attempt to point out factual inaccuracies, but it is next to impossible to keep up with the volume, when the liars include the former president, his attorney and many elected officials. [Hear this commentary at the beginning of my podcast, linked below.]
There is a segment of the Republican Party that still refuses to accept the results of the November 2020 election. President Joe Biden’s win in Arizona and the involvement of many Arizona elected officials in the “Stop the Steal” movement and the January 6 insurrection put our state in the vortex of the manufactured 2020 election controversy. For months, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and Senator Warren Petersen have drawn out the discredited audit of Maricopa County ballots by the Cyber Ninjas. The nation is watching as “fraudit” volunteers examine actual paper ballots to look for bamboo threads and watermarks and follow up on election conspiracy theories. Meanwhile millions of dollars is pouring in from outside sources to support these efforts and copycat efforts in other states to discredit fair elections that were audited multiple times. The Fann and Petersen fraudit is a dangerous game.
Continue reading Podcast: The State of Politics in Arizona (video)