#AZHouse HHS Committee to Hear Experts on Opening Economy on May 14 (video)

COVID19 computer models

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 knowledgeLanhee 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.

Continue reading #AZHouse HHS Committee to Hear Experts on Opening Economy on May 14 (video)

#AZ Senate Votes to End Session. What about the House? (video)

Rep. Pam Powers Hannley

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.)

Senator David Livingston
Senator David Livingston spoke forcefully in favor of opening up Arizona for business ASAP– even though his zip code has been particularly hard hit, by his own omission. He and Senators Eddie Farnsworth (seated), David Farnsworth, and Michelle Ugenti-Rita don’t think Governor Doug Ducey is moving fast enough to open up Arizona for business.

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)

Ducey’s May 4 ‘Open Up #AZ’ Decree Is Risky Business (video)

Save our billionaires

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.

Continue reading Ducey’s May 4 ‘Open Up #AZ’ Decree Is Risky Business (video)

Tax Giveaways, Gentrification, & Housing in Tucson (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

On Sunday, March 1, 2020, I was the keynote speaker at a South Tucson community forum on tax giveaways (specifically the GPLETs), gentrification, housing, and poverty. The following is my speech.

Thank you all for coming, and I especially want to thank Brian Flagg of Casa Maria for organizing this.

You may know me as a Legislator now, but old friends in the audience also know me as a political blogger with Blog for Arizona.

Gentrification, Rio Nuevo, incentivizing development with tax giveaways, corporate welfare… these are topics that I have been researching and writing about for more than 10 years.

During that 10-year time frame, I have also been advocating for public banking as a way to self-fund infrastructure projects, tackle student debt and spur economic development through low-interest loans—not giveaways. Public banking is based upon a public private partnership between a state bank and local community banks and small local businesses—like those represented by Local First.

The major problem with public banking is that you have to trust the government to make the system work for everyone—not just for the corporations and the wealthy, as out current system works. After almost four years in the Legislature, I trust the Arizona government far less than I did before. The belly of the beast is not a pretty site.

So… where does that leave us?

As a blogger, I theorized that layers of tax breaks—beyond Rio Nuevo– were fueling the development in the city core.

Do you remember when Molly McKasson lost the mayoral race to Bob Walkup in 1999? She was successfully painted as an old hippie chick who wasn’t ready to lead. Walkup was the successful Raytheon exec who would run Tucson like a business.

McKasson was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “It’s too bad that Tucson has decided to put all of its eggs in the developers’ basket.”

She was spot on!

Twenty years later, downtown is gleaming with new buildings, and everyone in power points to the new buildings as a sign of success downtown.

But at what cost?

Continue reading Tax Giveaways, Gentrification, & Housing in Tucson (video)

#AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

Trailers in Midtown Tucson

There are multiple reasons why Arizona has an affordable housing crisis. Chronically low wages; years of under-funding social safety net programs; high student loan, credit card or medical debt; and aggressive evictions have forced far too many Arizonans to live with housing insecurity.

Wages in Arizona are 85% of the national average. Only 6% of Arizonans who are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) actually get it. In Pima County, the eviction rate is 30 per day– that’s roughly 1000 per month. 

To use a medical analogy, HB2732 (affordable house tax credits) treats the symptoms of the affordable housing crisis– not the disease. The disease is poverty. 

Continue reading #AZLeg: Look Beyond Tax Credits & Take Comprehensive Approach to Housing (video)

Microsoft Wants a Sales Tax Break Because ‘Electricity Is Too Expensive in Arizona’ (video)

starve the schools. feed the rich (sarcasm)

Should the Arizona Legislature help Microsoft pay its APS bills?

Tuesday was a light day at the Capital. There was no floor action, but I had time to catch up with colleagues and sign some of their bills. I wanted to tell you about the conversation I had with two Microsoft lobbyists about the tax break that Microsoft wants.

You may remember my blog post on Powers For The People (back in December) about the tax review committee that I was on, due to my membership on the Ways and Means Committee. One of the income tax credits that we reviewed was for an Apple international data center to be built with renewable energy in Mesa. At the time, Apple was offered a TPT (sales tax) break also, but the committee reviewed only the income tax break.

The lobbyists were in my office because Microsoft wants the TPT tax break that was offered to Apple. I told them that I really don’t support tax giveaways to multinational corporations. Period. I don’t support any tax giveaways when ~68% of Arizona women aren’t getting first trimester prenatal care, and that is contributing to AHCCCS wasting $2-4 billion dollars on premature births (Not to mention the long-term health effects of prematurity.) When thousands of Arizona mothers and their children are living in poverty with food and housing insecurity, why would I prioritize a tax break for one of the most successful corporations in the US?

The lobbyist told me that the reason Microsoft needed a TPT tax break because “electricity is too expensive in the state of Arizona.” Microsoft doesn’t want to pay sales tax on electricity for this giant data center. International data centers take a use a lot of electricity because it is a building full of servers and cooled to ~65 degrees. This particular tax break is related to data centers built with renewable (solar) energy, which will already lower their energy cost significantly.

Continue reading Microsoft Wants a Sales Tax Break Because ‘Electricity Is Too Expensive in Arizona’ (video)