Cinco de Mayo in #AZLeg: House Passes Bills Attacking Free Speech (video)

Freedom of Speech

The 55th Legislative First Session has been filled with crazy, right-wing ideological bills attacking voting rights, reproductive rights, patients, doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, teachers, engineers, professionals, unions, public education, the Permanent Early Voting List, the Citizens Initiative, Clean Elections, and transparency in campaign finance. Adding insult to injury, these bad bills are passing on party line votes — often with little or no debates and no public input. This is tyranny of the minority. Yes, Republicans are in the majority with 31 members in the House compared to the Democrats 29, but these extremist views are not held by the majority of Arizonans.

Wednesday was Cinco de Mayo and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Given the importance of this day to other cultures, it is appalling that we would spend most of the day debating bills that would limit speech regarding racism, sexism and other “controversial issues” in schools (SB1532) and in government, including community colleges (SB1074). The floor debates for these two bills lasted at least five hours. The Democrats offered many eloquent speeches, while the Republicans insisted they aren’t racist. In addition to limiting speech, SB1532 also bans critical race theory and would make it difficult — if not impossible — for schools to use programs like the 1619 Project.

Continue reading Cinco de Mayo in #AZLeg: House Passes Bills Attacking Free Speech (video)

Arizona Needs a Comprehensive Approach to Affordable Housing (video)

affordable housing

For years, Arizona has been one of the worst states in the country for affordable housing.

A recent research survey, published in March 2021, ranked Tucson #1 in the world for worst change in property affordability, with Phoenix coming in #7. The survey by Online Mortgage Advisors reported on housing affordability in 200 US cities over the past five years. It shows that “house prices have quickly become unaffordable for workers making average wages for their specific city,” according to a report by KOLD TV.

In the five years that I have been in the Legislature, affordable housing has been a hot topic which generated a lot of talk and a fair number of Democratic bills but not much Legislation that made it to the finish line. (Heaven forbid that any meaningful Democratic legislation would be signed into law — regardless of how much it would help the people of Arizona.) Unfortunately, little has been done to raise stingy benefits for the poor and the unemployed OR to tackle homelessness, housing affordability, or evictions. One positive step by the Legislature was restoration of partial funding to the Housing Trust Fund. (Also worth noting: thank goodness the voters raised the minimum wage in 2016, or Arizona residents’ income to housing ratio cost would be even worse.)

In the five years the Legislature has been talking about housing, affordability has gotten significantly worse in the state’s two major cities. The video below discusses two bad bills from the past that have contributed to Phoenix and Tucson becoming less affordable. These bills should be repealed. It also includes four current housing-related bills in the Legislature.

Continue reading Arizona Needs a Comprehensive Approach to Affordable Housing (video)

Dems Fight Back as Republicans Attack Your Rights (video)

Arizona: Meth Lab of Democracy

Republicans are attacking your rights at multiple levels — voting rights, reproductive rights, the right to protest, the right to sue a business, the right to citizens initiative, and the right to unionize.

On Tuesday, the first bill up for debate was SB1268, the anti-union ALEC bill. In committee, we were led to believe that one “concerned citizen” was the source of this bill idea. During COW we found out that, of course, Senator Warren Petersen got this bill idea from the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC) not the “concerned citizen” who has testified in committee two years in a row. Besides being harmful to unions, this bill is unnecessary.

In a nutshell, SB1268 is based upon the lie that union members are kept in the dark about their healthcare benefits. This bill forces additional, duplicative and costly reporting by the unions, allows union members to buy insurance outside of the contract, and sets the state up for future court cases.

Continue reading Dems Fight Back as Republicans Attack Your Rights (video)

What Did #AZLeg Do in the First 100 Days?

Phoenix

For many years, the Arizona Legislature has had a 100 day target for the length of each session. April 20, 2021 was day 100 for this session. When more than 1000 bills are proposed every year and more than 300 are usually signed into law in non-pandemic years, the Legislature doesn’t generally finish in 100 days.

So, what did we do in the first 100 days? Here are a few examples of bills that have been signed by the governor. Below is the complete list of 33 video updates that I have created in 2021 … so far.

The Legislature passed two massive corporate tax giveaways that will primarily help Maricopa County — the qualified facilities tax credit (HB2321) and the data center tax incentive (HB2649).  Fun Fact: according to the Financial Advisory Committee, 90 percent of the job creation touted by Governor Doug Ducey has been in the Phoenix metro area. Bills like HB2321 and HB2649 perpetuate the inequitable system that exists in our state.

We passed a passed another Ducey priority, the  massive expansion of gambling (HB2772/SB1797), which legalizes sports betting, fantasy sports betting, and app-based Keno. In exchange for additional casinos and a portion of the app-based gambling action, the tribes backed and heavily lobbied for expanding off-reservation gambling. Since most of the new tribal casinos and all of the major league sports teams are in Maricopa County, the millions generated from gambling will disproportionately benefit Maricopa County. I have serious concerns about the negative public health and privacy aspects of this dramatic expansion. Gambling will be everywhere, and gambling apps will be hounding people on social media — thanks to HB2772. Every click, every bet, every win, every loss, and every betting location on every app-based gambler will be collected, stored, and used to advertise more gambling.

Ducey surprisingly vetoed Cathi Herrod’s bad bill which put ideological guardrails on what can be taught in sex education (SB1456). A second Center for Arizona Policy bill which criminalizes doctors and patients for even talking about abortion (SB1457) is awaiting the governors signature (or veto) at the time of this writing.

Many bills are stuck in the process somewhere, which is a good thing. Arizona would be in terrible condition if all of the tax giveaways, voter suppression schemes, and education privatization bills passed. In my opinion, Democrats should push for a speedy end to this horrible session, so the Legislature doesn’t do any more damage to our state or take away more of our rights.

There are many other examples. Check out the good, the bad and the ugly. Below is a list of my video updates for 2021 … so far.

Continue reading What Did #AZLeg Do in the First 100 Days?

Unions: A Perennial Target in #AZLeg (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

It wouldn’t be the Arizona Legislature without at least one attack on unions. This year’s union-busting bill is SB1268, from Senator Warren Petersen. (Not surprising.)

SB1268 is similar but worst than Petersen’s union-busting bill from 2020, which died due to the pandemic. It requires lots of unnecessary bureaucracy and redundant paperwork. Republicans are against bureaucracy — except when they can use it against people and groups they don’t like. SB1268 allows union members to go outside the contract and choose their own health insurance. This would be destabilizing on the union health plans because they are negotiated on behalf of large numbers of employees and can get better prices because of the volume.

Continue reading Unions: A Perennial Target in #AZLeg (video)

AZ Voters Said NO! to ESA Expansion & YES to Public Ed (video)

Save our Schools

In 2018, 60% of voters — 1.5 million people — said “no” expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Awards (ESA) at the ballot box. In 2020, 1.7 million voters said “yes” to Prop 208, which provides dedicated funding for public education by requiring Arizona’s 1% to pay their fair share toward public education. Ever since that November 2020 vote, republican legislators have been on a path to neutralize prop 208 and featherbed Arizona’s wealthiest residents.

Today in Ways and Means, we debated SB1452, yet another attack on public education. SB1452 Is another dramatic expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Awards program. It would triple the number of students available to receive an ESA but does not give a dime to the department of education to run a dramatically expanded program. Yes, you heard that right. Republicans are pushing for a bill that goes against the will of the voters in 2018.

Continue reading AZ Voters Said NO! to ESA Expansion & YES to Public Ed (video)