View from the Left Side

With HB2724, #AZ Republicans Attack Clean Elections… again! (video)

Pamela Powers Hannley

HB2724 is another Republican attack on the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Due to misleading ballot language, voters were tricked into voting Yes on Prop 306 in November 2018. (I have old videos with 306 details.)

Prop 306 prohibits Clean Elections candidates from buying any services from a political party (like access to the VAN voter database or basic support services like organizing volunteers). Voters were led to believe that Clean Elections candidates were donating to the Democratic Party, but that is already illegal. (Candidates who run traditional do donate some of their campaign funds to their parties.)

Prop 306 also weakened the campaign finance watchdog function of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) by placing it under the Governor’s Regulatory Review Commission (GRRC). GRRC’s members are appointed by the governor, and most of them are lobbyists!

Let’s put the formerly independent campaign finance watchdog commission under a group of Republican political appointees. What could go wrong?

Continue reading With HB2724, #AZ Republicans Attack Clean Elections… again! (video)

#AZHouse Republicans Censor Dems to Block Speech on #ERA, Women’s Rights (video)

Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Arizona was in the news and in the streets this week. ERA supporters launched an ambitious 38 Mile March for the ERA through the streets of Phoenix– starting at the Capitol on Monday, March 11 and ending there on Wednesday.

After the speeches, supporters filled the gallery of the Arizona Senate, and a contingent of 30 or so supporters went to the Arizona House. In the Senate, there was a motion to suspend the rules and vote on the ERA. In the House, Democrats attempted to introduce the ERA supporters in the gallery and were shut down when the Republicans decided to police the content on our speech– in addition to strictly limiting our time to one minute.

The news stories covered the Senate action because that was the official vote. They didn’t cover the censorship fiasco in the Arizona House.

I gave one of the first ERA introductions and was allowed speak. Later introductions were cut off by the Republicans.

Patriarchy and suppression of speech were on full display. You can watch the whole scene here on the official video. Points of Personal Privilege start at around 2 minutes. Note the lengthy introductions that are allowed for people who are representing other groups– not the ERA.

Rep. Athena Salman starts the ERA introductions at about 10:28 minute mark. She and I both got through our introductions without interruption. Things heat up when Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez (at the 13:16 minute mark) tries to introduce an ERA marcher from Rep. Warren Petersen’s district and is gaveled down and scolded by Speaker Pro Tempore T.J. Shope. At 15:43, Shope shuts down Rep. Raquel Teran and tells the gallery to be quiet. At 17:08, Rep. Randy Friese is not shut down. At 18:14 Rep. Mitzi Epstein is shut down and protests Shope’s censorship of her speech.  At 20:25, Rep. Isela Blanc is allowed to introduce her student shadow, but when she starts the ERA introduction, she doesn’t get more than a few words into her introduction before Shope stops her. At 21:17, Salman reads the rule book and calls out the Republicans for censoring our speech. The gallery and the Democrats burst into applause and get the gavel. The rules limit the amount of time we can speak to one minute but not the content.

The scene devolved after Shope ruled Salman out of order. Friese protested the ruling of the chair and called for a roll call vote (23:05). This resulted in multiple speeches about the ERA and freedom of speech– and multiple women being called out of order for speaking truth to power. I watched the whole fiasco on video, and it is shocking how many women were disrespected– House members and women in the gallery.

Continue reading #AZHouse Republicans Censor Dems to Block Speech on #ERA, Women’s Rights (video)

Legislators Should Stand with #RedForEd: No New Tax Giveaways (video)

The Arizona House Ways and Means Committee is like an extended game of tax giveaway wack-a-mole. I have lost count how many tax giveaway bills Republicans have passed since January.

This week, we heard SB1027, which dramatically increases a tax credit that currently benefits only poor children with chronic diseases or physical disabilities.

Tax credits take money out of the general fund. SB1027 would dramatically expand this tax credit from helping poor children with certain medical conditions to helping *anyone* of any age and any income who has a chronic illness or physical disability.

This bill is overly broad, and it has an unknown cost and no sunset date. Most of the committee testimony focused on one physical therapy center and gym in Tucson that serves clients with Parkinson’s disease, but there are many chronic diseases, most notably diabetes. More than 600,000 Arizonans have diabetes, and another 1.8 million have prediabetes.

The public health problem of helping people lead healthier lives with chronic disease goes far beyond what would be fiscally responsible to fund through tax credits. Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurance cover some services. If more is needed, the Health and Human Services Committee should look at it– instead of going to Ways and Means for a tax credit.

Continue reading Legislators Should Stand with #RedForEd: No New Tax Giveaways (video)

#AZLeg Should Include Healthcare in Workforce Development (video)

The Arizona House has begun debating HB2657, a high-tech workforce development bill which would funnel money through the Arizona Commerce Authority to community colleges to train workers in “high-demand” fields. The CEO of the Commerce Authority would manage the fund created by this bill, and they would determine what to fund.

As it is currently written the bill would “support career and technical education programs and courses that prepare a capable workforce for manufacturing in information technology and related industries.”

Why are we focusing only on manufacturing, financial services and technology? Previously, we saw this with CTED (formerly JTED) classes. In the last session, proposed legislation would have funneled 9th grade students into select industries like machine tooling, aerospace, and automotive services, while they left healthcare, coding and other careers by the wayside.

To meet the needs of our state, workforce development could and should go beyond tech. Why is healthcare not included in HB2657? We have a need for expanded access to care particularly in rural Arizona, and we do not have enough medical and health professionals to fill the gaps. We could train rural Arizonans to be community health workers, certified nursing assistants and home health aides. When I taught health education at the University of Arizona, I had many students from rural Arizona, particularly tribal lands, who were studying in Tucson and planned to take their new skills back to rural Arizona to help their people. How can we foster this?

Arizona has five rural counties — Cochise, Gila, Graham, Santa Cruz and LaPaz– that are considered maternal and child health deserts because of lack of medical personnel and health services in those areas. The face of premature birth in Arizona is young, brown and rural. Every preemie birth that is funded by AHCCCS costs the state between $500,000 – $1 million.

We could improve access to care, foster workforce development, save money and tackle urban/rural health disparities if we put as much effort into the healthcare workforce as we do into tech.

[In the photo, I am posing with the doctor of the day from Banner Univerity Medical Center.]

Why Does AZ Need 60+ License Plate Designs? (video)

Republican Legislators love specialty license plates. The House has bills for six new license plates in the queue. My big question is: Why are we doing this?

Specialty license plates are a way to funnel taxpayer dollars into designated charities or pet projects with seemingly innocuous bills for a license plate with a great-sounding name and a cool design. Any organization– or corporation– can get a specialty license plate. All they need is around $33,000 to design the plate and a Legislator who will propose it.

Once the plate has been approved and placed on the ADOT website, motorists can choose your design and pay an extra $25 a year to have that plate. Of that $25, $17 goes to the cause or charity that got the plate through the Legislature.

A charity can rake in $250,000 per year on a specialty plate, and the plates exist forever.  This is the ultimate in picking winners and losers. Why should one charity be on the state gravy train– forever– and not another? Why are we using license plates to funnel money to charity anyway? What groups are making the most from the plates?

Continue reading Why Does AZ Need 60+ License Plate Designs? (video)

Townsend Shows Bowers The Power of 1

Crossover Week in the Arizona Legislature is always hectic, but Crossover Week 2019 was also full of drama.

Besides rousing debates on the sub-minimum wage, wineries as agritourism, water, license plates and fake meat, there was a Republican tiff brewing between two conservatives– Reps. Kelly Townsend and Anthony Kern– last week.

On Wednesday, Townsend started voting NO on every Republican bill because Kern wouldn’t let one of her Elections Committee bills out of his Rules Committee. It is rare to see any Republican defy their leadership so publicly and effectively. Speaker Rusty Bowers depends on all 31 Republicans voting in lock step to pass their ideological bills — like the $7.25/hour minimum wage, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of occupations, and risky water deals.

After Townsend voted NO on several Republican bills, the House recessed. Republicans went into closed caucus to figure out what to do, and Democrats went to our conference room to strategize.

When we went back into session about an hour later, Townsend was gone for the day. This left the House Republicans without vote #31. The 29 Dems killed the bills we didn’t like— thanks to Townsend’s absence— before the leadership stopped all voting. The rest of the day was spent in COW debate. (The Republicans will likely try to bring these dead bills back as zombie bills. In the photo above, you’ll note that GOP Whip Rep. Becky Nutt voted no. Since she voted on the prevailing side, she can bring it back as a zombie bill.)

Townsend’s protest shows the Republicans’ vulnerability. If one of their members doesn’t get what they want or decides to take a stand on a bad bill, that one person can easily throw a wrench into the Republican machine.

The House has moved at a snail’s pace this session because Bowers won’t bring bills for a final vote without all 31 of his members present. In the 53rd Legislature, members floated in and out, took vacation days, and missed votes. Not so in the 54th Legislature. Attendance is everything– for both parties.

As of Wednesday during Crossover Week, we had passed only 100 bills out of the House. There are easily another 100 House bills waiting for us on Monday. Since many of the bills that the Legislature passes are unnecessary or just benefit one corporation, passing way fewer bills is not a bad thing.

Thanks, Kelly, for showing us the power of 1.

#AZ House Republicans Pass $7.25/hour Minimum Wage for Students (video)

The worst vote of the 54th session has to be the Republican passage of the sub-minimum wage on Thursday. Rep. Travis Grantham’s HB2523 would allow employers to pay full time students, who work part time and are under 22, the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour, instead of the voter-approved minimum wage of $11/hour.

Republicans and Democrats debated HB2523 for more than one hour the day before during Committee of the Whole (COW) and again when we explained our votes on Thursday. It passed on a strictly party line vote.

After mulling over the speeches from both sides of the aisle, I think there are some of the Republicans who truly believe paying $7.25/hour to full-time students is good idea. I wonder how many of them own restaurants, farms, retail stores, or other small businesses that would benefit from cheaper labor. Hmmm…

This vote needed 3/4 on HB2523 because it is an attempt to change the voter-approved Prop 206 Citizens Initiative that raised the minimum wage in 2016. During the COW debate, I proposed an amendment to add a Prop 105 vote to HB2523, but Republicans said it was not necessary. (The Rules Attorneys said it was necessary. Who are you going to believe?)

Continue reading #AZ House Republicans Pass $7.25/hour Minimum Wage for Students (video)

John Nichols of ‘The Nation’ Returns to Tucson (video)

John Nichols

For many years, author and historian John Nichols has been coming to Tucson for the Festival of Books. In addition to his popular appearances at the Book Festival, Nichols has a tradition of speaking on Saturday evening at a free event hosted by Progressive Democrats of American (PDA Tucson) and the Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF).

2019 is no exception. Nichols will appear at the IBEW Hall on Saturday, March 2, with doors open at 6 p.m. and the event beginning at 6:30 p.m. Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley will warm up the crowd with local political news from the Arizona Legislature. Powers Hannley was recently named “most valuable state Legislator” by The Nation magazine.

Nichols is a consummate storyteller and political historian. He writes for The Nation and is a frequent commentator on MSNBC and Democracy Now. He is the author of Uprising, Dollarocarcy, and more recently Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guid to the Most Dangerous People in America.

If you have never heard Nichols speak, I urge you to take advantage of this free event– away from the crowds and parking hassles of the University of Arizona. Here are a few video clips from past years. The 2019 event is sponsored by PDA Tucson, PALF, and Our Revolution- Arizona for Bernie Sanders. Facebook event here.

Continue reading John Nichols of ‘The Nation’ Returns to Tucson (video)

Republicans Push Ideological Bills through House in Late-Night Agendas (video)

This is the last week to hear House bills in the House and the Senate bills in the Senate. This means that despite the fact that the Democrats hold 48% of the seats in the Arizona House, we are spending this week hearing hundreds of nonsense bills from the Republican Party. How many rights can they restrict or how many taxes can they cut for the rich in just a few days?

Although we have had several weeks with very little action on the floor of Arizona House, like college freshman facing a big exam, the Republicans are going to push forward in after- hours meetings.

In Ways and Means on Wednesday, we heard another Republican run at “almost revenue neutral” tax conformity (which would generate $10 million instead of $0. The $0 plan was vetoed by Governor Ducey.) HB2526 passed along party lines with Chairman Ben Toma calling full tax conformity (which would generate $150-200 million for the state’s general fund) an “illegal tax increase.” When I explained my vote, I reminded everyone that the Legislative Council ruled full conformity was not a tax increase. If HB2526 passes, everyone who has filed their income taxes already will have to do an amendment; it also decouples our tax forms from the feds, which makes filing less convenient. The Republicans also passed HB2703 to delay the filing date for state income taxes to June. This just gives them more time to push their tax cut agenda.

In the Health and Human Services Committee today, we are hearing three anti-vaccine bills: HB2470, HB2471 and HB2472. Similar bills were killed in the Senate Health Committee. I’m not sure of the outcome in the House committee.

You can still make your opinions known on social media and on the Request to Speak System. Pro- and anti-vaccine people are running neck and neck on RTS when I looked yesterday.

The Republican and Democratic Caucuses are scheduled to meet from 3-9pm on Thursday. What bills are so important that we have to be there at 9 o’clock at night— when no constituents are present? Are the Republicans intending to force us to vote after 9 o’clock to pass some of their legislation? I’m going to take issue with that if that happens. We have accomplished almost nothing on the House. Only 50 bills have voted on and passed in six weeks. Only two of those 50 bills were democratic bills, although we control 48% of the House.

What bills are they leaving behind in the rush to pass their ideological measures? The Equal Rights Amendment, for one. Speaker Bowers told me in a private meeting that he would do *nothing* to advance the Equal Rights Amendment. That means we have to do it on our own. Tell them you want HCR2030 passed in Arizona!

Speaker Bowers: It’s Time to Hear the People’s Agenda (video)

Arizona Flag

The Arizona House is moving at a snail’s pace this session. In fact, Senator David Bradley has quipped that the Senate should take a one-month vacation so the House can catch up.

According to the Chief Clerk, as of Friday, the end of the fifth week of session, 744 House bills were dropped. Forth-seven percent of the bills (349)– including the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)– have not been first read (the first step in the process). Only 50 bills (7%) have been third read (the final vote). We voted on about half of those 50 on Thursday afternoon. The coming week will be NUTS because it is the final week for the House to hear House bills and for the Senate to hear Senate bills. At this point, there are a lot of bipartisan bills on the cutting room floor in the Speaker’s office.

With a 29-31 (D-R) split in the House, Speaker Rusty Bowers has been extremely cautious about what bills get to the floor for debate and a vote. Except for tax conformity, nothing controversial has made it to a “third read” vote. The vast majority of the bills we have voted on thus far passed through committee unanimously and passed the floor unanimously (or with just a few dissenters from one side or the other). We have had lively debates on ideological bills in my committees– Regulatory Affairs, Ways and Means, and Health and Human Services– but those bills haven’t made it to the floor yet. For example, Republicans on the Regulatory Affairs Committee passed a sub-minimum wage for workers under 22 who are also full-time students. Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee passed two different an income tax breaks to the wealthiest Arizonans. Republicans on the Health and Human Services Committee passed a bill labeling pornography as a public health crisis. (What about gun violence as a public health crisis?)

What has been left unheard in committee or on the floor? Plenty.

Continue reading Speaker Bowers: It’s Time to Hear the People’s Agenda (video)