View from the Left Side

Beyond #PrayerGate: Secular Coalition Honors ‘Secular Stars’ (video)

Secular Coalition

One of the big stories of the 2017 session of the 53rd Legislature was #PrayerGate. On April 18, 2017, Rep. Athena Salman, who is an atheist, read a secular meditation on the Floor of the Arizona House. This is against the rules. According to the Majority Party (who makes the rules), the daily prayer on the Floor of the House must include seeking guidance from a higher power. 

After Salman read her inspirational statement, Rep. Mark Finchem jumped out of his seat to protest her “prayer” as “inappropriate” because it didn’t mention God or Jesus. Finchem was allowed to offer a replacement prayer with God in it. A debate about “appropriate” prayer ensued, with atheists, Native Americans and others defending traditions that have been deemed “inappropriate” by the Republicans who control the Legislature. This is not the first time that Godless prayer in the Arizona Legislature has made international news.

Secular Coalition
Secular Coalition press conference after #PrayerGate incidence in the Arizona House.

A few days after #PrayerGate, the Secular Coalition of Arizona held a press conference in support of religious freedom– even for the nonreligious. I was glad to stand with Salman, the Native Americans, the Secular Coalition, other Unitarian Universalists, and those who practice Christian or non-Christian religions or no religion.

At the press conference we jointly read the secular meditation that Athena read on the floor of the House.

I stand with the Secular Coalition on this issue because I believe in the separation of church and state and because I am a Unitarian Universalist. We’re the “It’s Complicated” religion because we accept refugees and outcasts from many other religions, and we accept nonbelievers. We are guided by our seven principles which include honoring the inherent self-worth of others, the interconnectedness of life, democracy and fairness, the search for truth (even if it means believing in science!), and more.

Continue reading Beyond #PrayerGate: Secular Coalition Honors ‘Secular Stars’ (video)

Dem Statewide Meeting: First Event of the 2018 Campaign

Pamela Powers Hannley

I have been back in Tucson for two weeks now, and it’s been a fun whirlwind of visits, phone calls, and events with Tucson friends and family, LD9 constituents, fellow Unitarian Universalist church members, labor union members, and Progressives.

Saturday, May 20 was my first campaign event of the 2018 season– the Arizona Democratic Party’s State Committee Meeting in Tucson. In addition to tabling, I gave Legislative updates to the Arizona Democratic Women’s Federation and to the Arizona Democratic Progressive Caucus. Scott Prior and I co-chaired the Progressive Caucus for three years. This was the first full meeting with the new co-chairs Jenise Porter (Pima County) and Joe Murphy (Maricopa County).

Here is my speech to the Progressive Caucus.

Everyone says that this session of the Arizona Legislature was “different”. There are several reasons why it was different. For one, Speaker J.D. Mesnard assigned Democratic bills to committees and allowed floor votes on many of them. According to people on both sides of the aisle, he also ran the House much more efficiently than the previous speaker. In my opinion, the real reason that this session was different is that the House Freshman Class is the largest  in recent history (or ever). Many House incumbents lost, termed out, retired, or tried to move to the Senate. For House Democrats, this meant a demographic shift with our caucus now being majority Latino, half women, and surprisingly progressive on many policy issues.

I’m here to tell you that Progressives– particularly the women– made a difference in the Arizona House this session.

Continue reading Dem Statewide Meeting: First Event of the 2018 Campaign

Save Clean Elections: Let Your Voice Be Heard (video)

Pamela Powers Hannley

Progressives, we have a situation…

If you want to get big money out of politics and you like Arizona’s Clean Elections system, it’s time to speak up to save it. Irregularities in the 2016 election prompted proposed rule changes by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. (There are three versions of R2-20-702 and a new rule R2-20-703.01 – here. You can send your comments to ccec@azcleanelections.gov or go to this link and submit comments by June 19, before the commission votes at its next meeting on June 22, 2017.)

Below is the back story and a detailed explanation of the proposed rule changes.

After collecting the requisite number of petition signatures and $5 qualifying donations from people who can vote for them, Clean Elections candidates (like me) receive lump sums of $16,000 for the primary and $24,000 for the general election– in exchange for vowing not to take big money donations. With seed money and family money, the total for a Clean Elections candidate is roughly $45,000 for a Legislative campaign. All unspent CE funds must be returned to the CE commission, and all unspent seed money or seed money overage must be returned to the individual donors.

During the 2016 election, two Democratic Party Clean Elections candidates turned over all or most of their CE funds in a lump sum to the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC) of the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) to run their campaigns, provide paid staff, and purchase/design/mail their printed materials. ADLCC provides these services to many traditionally funded candidates and offered them to CE candidates as well in 2016. A problem arose with at least two CE candidates because the party didn’t provide individual invoices for specific services rendered.

Continue reading Save Clean Elections: Let Your Voice Be Heard (video)

Queue the Spooky Organ Music: It’s Budget Time in the #AZLeg (video)

Arizona Legislature

The much-anticipated FY2018 Arizona state budget was dropped this week. On Tuesday, just before 5 p.m. both the Republican and Democratic Appropriations Committees heard the JLBC review of the Republican budget.  Thus begins the mysterious whirlwind of the Arizona budget finalization process, which is scheduled to end in the wee hours of Friday morning.

As a citizen, I always scratched my head as to why the Arizona budget is always passed in the middle of the night. Obviously, the suspicion is that there is something the majority party wants to pass, and it doesn’t want you to know or to be there when it happens. There’s an element of that, for sure, because we have seen some scary stuff passed in the middle of the night by Republicans– like the voter suppression omnibus bill and blowing the doors off of campaign finance by dramatically boosting campaign limits. The majority party schedules the third day of the budget process just after midnight because they don’t want their members to go home between the debates in the Committee of the Whole (COW) and the 3rd Reading vote. If members go home, someone could say, “What are you thinking?” and change votes.

Check out the budgetary known knowns, known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns below.

Continue reading Queue the Spooky Organ Music: It’s Budget Time in the #AZLeg (video)

#AZGOP Ducks ERA Vote: If Not Now, When? (video)

Pamela Powers Hannley ERA

The Arizona House Democrats made history on April 27, 2017. Through a ninja parliamentary procedure, we forced members of the Arizona House of Representatives to voice their opinion on equal rights for women and, specifically, on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

AZGOP blocks ERA
The men + Rep. Townsend confer after the motion.

I made a motion for immediate third reading of HCR2012 ratification; equal rights amendment, which temporarily caused muted chaos at the dais.  ERA backers in the Democratic Caucus had conferred with the rules attorneys and the Clerk in advance of the motion; so, we knew we were on solid parliamentary grounds.

Predictably, Speaker J.D. Mesnard offered a substitute amendment to recess, which stopped the up-or-down vote on the ERA. Democrats had anticipated this move on the chess board. By calling for a roll call vote on the substitute amendment, everyone opposed to the up-or-down vote on the ERA was put on record as stopping the vote. (Watch video clip of the motion, the quiet chaos that ensued, Mesnard’s motion, and my speech here. It will start automatically after a pause.)

During the vote explanation exercise, nearly every Democrat and several Republicans stood up and gave their opinion on the ERA, equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, equal protection for women under the Constitution, the nuances of Article V of the Constitution, and the reasons why American women need the ERA (or not).

“I want to clarify that a vote for this substitute amendment to recess is really an up-or-down vote on the Equal Rights Amendment, ” I started.

“The Equal Rights Amendment is a simple, one-sentence statement: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.

“Members, there is a dramatic wage gap in the US between men and women. You may have heard the statistics that overall women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Over a lifetime that translates to a $500,000 in lost wages for the average working woman. The wage gap has narrowed only 13 cents per hour since 1980, I continued.

Continue reading #AZGOP Ducks ERA Vote: If Not Now, When? (video)

#AZ House Democrats Hold Budget Town Hall on Saturday

Democratic Caucus, Arizona Legislature

Reps. Randy Friese, Kirsten Engel, Isela Blanc and I will be participating in a public town hall, organized by the Arizona House Democratic Caucus, to discuss the Arizona budget proposals. The event will be held today, April 8, at the University of Arizona Modern Languages Building, Room 350. Doors open at 12:30.

We have seen Governor Doug Ducey’s budget, majority party’s budget, and the Democrats’ “Minority Report.” Come to the town hall and learn the details. The governor and the Legislative Republicans agree on some principles, but there are many decisions in play right now. Rep. Friese will be making the formal presentation, and the rest of us will be there to answer questions.

Here are some background links:
AZ Legislative Democrats FY18 Education Policy and Fiscal Priorities
Arizona House Democrats Say Their Budget Priorities Are Ignored By Republicans
ICYMI: Arizona Budget Town Hall in Flagstaff

 

Nevada Becomes 36th State to Ratify ERA. Is Arizona Next? (video)

Equal Rights Amendment

Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was proposed in eight states in 2017: Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Missouri, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and Illinois. On March 22, 2017– the 45th anniversary of Congress starting the ratification process in 1972– Nevada became the 36th state in the US to ratify the ERA.

To make the ERA the next amendment to the US Constitution, we need two more states to ratify it and the Congress to extend the deadline, which they have done before.

On the Floor of the Arizona House on Wednesday, when I announced the ERA’s success in Nevada, I said, “Arizona, I’m looking at you.”

Arizona women deserve equality and equal pay for equal work. We won’t get that until we pass the Equal Rights Amendment because the ERA puts teeth in the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

The ERA has been proposed at least five times in the Arizona Legislature– first in 1972 by then Arizona Senate President Chief Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; three times (two ratification proposals, one deadline extension) by Rep. Victoria Steele; and this year jointly in the Senate and the House by Senator Martin Quezada and me.

In Arizona and Utah, the 2017 bills were never heard. My bill HCR2012 was assigned to the Judiciary Committee but never put on an agenda. Quezada’ ERA mirror bill was assigned to the Government Committee but never heard by the chair.

Along with other state legislators across the country, I will propose ratification of the ERA every year until it becomes law. I hope Arizona remembers its Progressive roots and helps add to finally add the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.

AZ House: Left & Right Converge on Funding Issues (Sometimes) (video)

HB2492

Everyone keeps telling me “things are different this year” in the Arizona House of Representatives.

From my perspective, there are many possible reasons why things are different, but the three most obvious are: 1) Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard has chosen to run the House efficiently and fairly; 2) 23 House members (including 13 Democrats and 10 Republicans) were elected for the first time in 2016; and 3) the Democratic Caucus is highly diverse, with half of the members being women, more than half Latino, and several Progressive.

The result has been some interesting votes on funding issues. On several spending votes, fiscally conservatives (who don’t like to spend money) and fiscally conservative Progressives (who don’t want to spend money on non-essentials until the schools are made whole) are voting together for different reasons. (This phenomenon is being reported at the Congressional level also— with both far-right Republicans and Progressive Democrats voicing extreme dislike for TrumpCare.)

As the Arizona House moves from hearing bills in committee and voting on the floor to debating and voting on the budget, it will be interesting to watch the Conservative/Progressive budget hawks.  A hint of things to come can be found in a recent article from the Capitol Times: Ducey determined to pass university bond plan lawmakers dislike.

As outlined in his address to the Arizona Legislature on Inauguration Day, Governor Doug Ducey wants to increase funding for building construction and repairs at the three universities by giving them back the tax they paid on the purchases they made. (The proposal is to refund their Transaction Privilege Tax or TPT– essentially sales tax.)

The universities would split the roughly $30 million per year proportionally and use those funds to pay interest on roughly $1 billion in bonds.

There are multiple reasons I don’t like this idea…

Continue reading AZ House: Left & Right Converge on Funding Issues (Sometimes) (video)

Arizona Legislature: Tax Cuts R Us

Pamela Powers Hannley

Last week in the Arizona Legislature was crossover week, which means bills passed by one house started to be heard by the other. The House began hearing Senate bills on Monday and vice versa. In advance of crossover week come two weeks of cramming as many bills into the pipeline as possible.

By mid-February, the House had passed the 200-bills-passed threshold and had two late nights during the week of February 20– 7 p.m. on Tuesday and 11:30 p.m. on Thursday (the deadline to hear House bills). If you want to hear some late-night speechifying, check out the debate on the Citizens Initiative— which the Republicans and the Chamber of Commerce want to kill and the Democrats defended. (When you go to the video, the agenda of the debate appears below, so you can scroll in to the sections you want to view.)

There have definitely been some themes so far in this session. Besides the push for fingerprinting citizens, the jabs at environmental protection, and the elimination of oversight and transparency by cutting all citizen review boards, the big theme has been giving away tax revenue (AKA, tax cuts, tax credits, tax subtraction, tuition waivers, economic development or trickle down economics).

Ironically, on many of these giveaway bills fiscally conservative Republicans (who don’t like spending money) and the fiscally conservative Progressives (who don’t want to give away tax revenue as long as the schools are underfunded) voted together. In the past two weeks, there have been maybe as many as 10 bills where some combination of Progressives and Conservatives voted against spending money that we don’t have.

Continue reading Arizona Legislature: Tax Cuts R Us

Bills! The Good, the Bad, the Ugly & Mine

Moms

After the first three weeks of the 53rd Legislature, things are starting to heat up. Hundreds of bills have been filed, and as usual, they run the gamut from boring to hopeful to dangerous.

I want to personally thank Speaker J.D. Mesnard for assigning some Democratic Party bills and some more moderate Republican bills to committee. (In recent Legislatures, bills from these sponsors were never assigned to committee. Of course, it’s up to the committee chair to put the bills on their agendas, but getting assigned to a committee is a welcome first step, in my book.)

Assignment to committee and very orderly and cordial floor meetings are positive notes in what has been a fast-paced time. Last week we shift from third gear to fifth gear and floor debates start on Tuesday, January 31. If you like reality TV, you should watch your Legislature in action. (The Arizona Capitol Television link on the Arizona Legislature’s website will take you to live proceedings and archives.)

All action and inaction on the floor of the House and Senate is televised– as are the Democratic and Republican Caucus Meetings (10 a.m. on Tuesdays, where we discuss the bills with staff, audience members, and paid lobbyists) and all committee meetings. Representatives have TVs on our desks, so we can keep up with the action while doing email, etc. Rep. Randy Friese’s motorcycle bill (HB2046) crashed and burned in the Transportation Committee but not without over an hour of testimony pro and con (bikers vs doctors). It was TV worth watching– as was the lengthy preemption discussion about local IDs and “illegals”.

When a variety of bills are heard, more constituent voices are heard. Here are a variety of bills that are coming down the pike this week (or in the near future). This is by no means an exhaustive list. Every committee meets every week, and agendas can include any number of bills. (Translation: there’s a lot happening.)

My Bills

HCR2012 (Powers Hannley) ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment in Arizona. (Assigned to Judiciary Committee in the House, headed by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth.) We only need three states to ratify the ERA to meet the requirement for a new amendment to the US Constitution. The ERA deserves to be debated in committee and on the Floor of the House and the Senate. Senator Martin Quezada has sponsored SCR1003— a mirror bill in the Senate (assigned to Government, headed by Senator John Kavanagh). Farnsworth and Kavanagh are blocking the ERA in the Legislature. If you think women’s rights should be debated and voted on in the Arizona Legislature, contact those two and your representatives and senators this week to get it on an agenda.

HB2172 (Powers Hannley) offers medical treatment instead of arrest in overdose situations. (Assigned to Judiciary, Farnsworth, again.) Thanks to the Arizona Republic‘s EJ Montini for giving a shoutout to this bill every time it has been proposed. Yes, this will save lives. Unfortunately, Farnsworth told me that he “doesn’t want to offer immunity to criminals” and refuses to hear this. If you think drugs addicts deserve a second chance at life, contact his office and encourage him to allow public testimony on this. There are several Moms lobbying Legislators to hear this bill– including the two pictured with this blog post.

HB2336 (Powers Hannley) allows terminally ill patients to make the decision to take their own lives with the help of their physician and medical team. (Assigned to Health Committee.)

HB2401 (Powers Hannley) requires medical providers to reveal the services they will not provide due to their religious beliefs. This is a major issue for women, particularly pregnant women. If you’re in a pregnancy-related emergency, you don’t want to end up in a hospital with services restricted by religious beliefs. Also – we should know which pharmacies dispense medications based upon the religion of the pharmacist and not based upon what is best for the patient. (Assigned to Health Committee.)

HB2400 (Powers Hannley) lengthens the renewal period for medical marijuana cards from every year to every five years. We have heard multiple bills to make other newals easier and less cumbersome, why not make the medical MJ card easier to renew? If you have arthritis, it’s not going away in a year– so why do patients have to renew every year and get a new ID card every year. Seems like too much bureaucracy to me. (Not assigned to committee.)

HB2439 (Powers Hannley) requires home health aides to have the same training, regardless who pays for the care. Currently, in Arizona, home health aides whose care is paid for my Medicare or Medicaid have to meet certain basic training requirements, but there are no standard training requirements for home health aides who are otherwise funded. (For example, an individual could pay for home health themselves.) There has been a rise in elder abuse cases, and I think better training could help that situation. This is a topic that the Health Committee has tried to fix in the past but didn’t have the votes for change. (Not assigned to committee.)to committee.)

HB2531 (Powers Hannley) expands the Clean Elections system to county and local, unpaid boards. There was a backlash against big money politics in the 2016. The original “chosen candidates” with the most money– Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush– lost. Multiple Clean Elections candidates beat traditionally funded candidates in Legislative races. I think candidates running for county and unpaid boards (like school boards, water boards, etc.) should have a Clean Elections option. (Not assigned to committee.)

HB2532 (Powers Hannley) establishes a feasibility study to create a state public bank. The Arizona Legislature is hearing multiple economic development bills that theoretically boost our economy by giving away more taxpayer funds. The basic premise behind all of them is giving a tax break to someone who will develop land. Is development our only economic development tool? When will we jump off this merry-go-round? At every level– city, county and state– politicians say we don’t have the money we need to have the schools and roads we want. Then… why do we continue to give away tax money? Setting up a public bank would give us an alternative, sustainable economic development tool. We could offer low-interest loans to local, small businesses and college students, while strengthening our community bank system. The return on our low-interest loans who go back to the state to pay for public education and/or transportation infrastructure. (With our current economic development system based upon giveaways, there is not direct return on investment of taxpayer funds… only promises of jobs and prosperity in the future.) I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the trickle down.

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Here are some other bills you may be interested in.

Continue reading Bills! The Good, the Bad, the Ugly & Mine