The Legislative District 9 Team– Senator Victoria Steele, Rep. Randy Friese, and myself– held our first virtual town hall on Thursday, April 30, 2020. Except for getting hacked at the end [more on that below], it was a great meeting. Many LD9 precinct committee people were on the call. Over the course of the hour, 125 people jumped on the virtual meeting, and for most of the meeting there were close to 90 participants. If you have been to one of our town halls, we’re lucky to get 25 people, so the attendance was amazing, as far as we are concerned. If you were unable to attend online, I broke the town hall into three videos. You can view them below the fold.
When I look at the above photo, I think to myself, “Those were the days.” I miss seeing you all, but I do enjoy hearing you on the phone and seeing you on video conferencing.
Although the LD9 team can’t meet with you at house parties and libraries, we can still meet virtually. My seatmates– Senator Victoria Steele and Rep. Randy Friese– and I have participated in many online meetings with constituent groups and other Legislators during the adjournment.
Now we are taking the leap and hosting our own online LD9 Town Hall on Thursday, April 30 at 4-5 p.m. Each of us will give a topical update related to COVID19 and then take questions. Senator Steele will address unemployment insurance, Dr. Friese will discuss the COVID19’s impact on the Arizona budget, and I will talk about the public health aspects of the pandemic (testing, contact tracing, etc.) Dr. Friese is also available to answer questions as a healthcare provider who is working in the hospital through the crisis.
Many constituents have asked me where the budget is and what’s going on– after all, it is May. On the budget, the status quo of the past month still exists. All of the budget action continues to be behind closed doors, among a closed group of Republicans.
In addition to the Democrats, there are a significant number of House Republicans who are not part of the budget process, and they’re grumbling about it. This is a state budget– not the budget for a small town church. The deacons and the pastor don’t get to decide the budget on their own in the back room. The budget should be negotiated with all parties at the table– not just a handful of those close to power. Democrats make up 48 percent of the Arizona House. When more than 50 percent of the Legislature is kept in the dark and has to rely on rumors, that is not a fair process, and it ultimately hurts the people of Arizona.
Except for the Governor’s budget, which has been public for months, and some leaked details about the Senate Republican budget, little is known about the budget, beyond a few trial balloons. What we do know is that the Senate Republican budget is far more conservative and not even close to Governor Doug Ducey’s budget.
This chasm in the GOP has left an opening for Democrats. The House Democrats will unveil our balanced budget ideas on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m. We have been saying since January that we agreed with parts of the governor’s budget– like full tax conformity and more money for P-20 education. [Stay tuned for details.]
On the right, Senator J.D. Mesnard and other tax cut fans still want to zero-out the money the state could bring in from tax conformity (~$150 million) and Wayfair (~$85 million). There are multiple trial balloons about making the income tax rates flatter. One proposal is to have only two personal income tax brackets. This is a horrible idea– unless, of course, your goal is to return to austerity and Draconian budget cuts, while making your rich donors happy. Under the Republican proposals to eliminate or lower tax brackets, rich people would pay less, and the rest of us could pay more. (Think of the Republican tax bracket plan as Arizona’s mini-Me to the Trump Tax Cut and Jobs Act. Both significantly lower taxes for the wealthy by reducing the top tax rate.)
Although we had a short floor calendar on May 1, we had some rousing debates. The highlight was a two-hour debate on SB1085, association health plans. (Watch the action here, beginning at 19:32 min.)
The Republicans have had three bills this year to lower healthcare insurance costs by encouraging people to leave the healthcare marketplace. I agree that the Affordable Care Act is too expensive, particularly for sole proprietors (like my husband who was offered a silver ACA plan for more than $1000 per month just for him.) This is why I voted for direct care contracts. I believe those are a better deal for sole proprietors than association health plans.)
I get that costs are too high, but the association health plans are not the way to go. They could, indeed, lower costs for business owners, but they could be risky due to limited coverage. There are reasons why these plans will likely be cheaper. Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”. If sole proprietor business owners want to take a risk with their own insurance and their own health, I have a mind to let them take their own risk. (Just don’t ask me to help you later with a Go Fund Me Request if it turns out I was right on limited coverage under cheap junk insurance plans.)
Where I object is when businesses are making these risky insurance decisions for their employees— just to save money.
Since the 2018 Midterm Election, pundits have been judging the size and very existence of the predicted Blue Wave . To determine if the Blue Wave of newly elected Democrats was a tsunami or a just ripple, the media has focused primarily on Congressional and gubernatorial races–with little or no mention of state legislatures.
With voter turnout at 60%, there is no doubt that a Blue Wave washed over Arizona on Nov. 6, 2018. Democratic women won major victories: US Senate (Kyrsten Sinema), CD2 (Ann Kirkpatrick), Corporation Commission (Sandra Kennedy), Superintendent of Public Instruction (Kathy Hoffman), and Secretary of State (Katie Hobbs). The incumbent Republicans for three of these seats– Corporation Commission (Tom Forese), Superintendent of Public Instruction (Diane Douglas), and Secretary of State (Michelle Reagan)– all lost in the primary. Now, Democrats will hold those seats.
In the Arizona House, the Blue Wave was more of a tsunami. Seven Republican incumbents will not be returning to the Arizona Legislature in January 2019.
Several weeks ago, the three LD9 Democratic Party candidates– incumbent Reps. Randy Friese and Pamela Powers Hannley and Senate candidate Victoria Steele–and Republican write-in candidate for Senate Randy Fleenor were interviewed by editors and reporters from the Arizona Daily Star, as part of their endorsement process.(For the second election in a row, Republican House challenger Ana Henderson didn’t participate in the interview.)
On October 17, 2018, the Arizona Daily Star formally endorsed the LD9 Democratic team. (They had endorsed Friese and Powers Hannley in 2016 also.) Here is their announcement:
The Star shot video clips of us after the interview.