Arizona’s 54th Legislative Session Ends: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Rep. Pam Powers Hannley

Usually, sine die is an orderly but sometimes drama-filled end to the Legislative session. Historically, the Arizona House and the Senate vote to sine die (end the session) on the same night and often under the cloak of darkness.

The second session of the 54th Legislature was… different… even before the novel Coronavirus hit the world. Although Democrats made up 48 percent of the House members in the 54th Legislature, the Republican leadership refused to work with Democrats and refused to put any bills up for a vote unless all 31 of their members were in their chairs and ready to vote in lock step with their party. The Republican leadership’s attempts to tightly control the action resulted in chaotic schedules (when all Republicans were present), several closed-door Republican caucus meetings, and long stretches of inaction because one or more R votes were missing. This is no way to run a government.

The Ugly
The Arizona House of Representatives was adjourned from March 23, 2020 to May 19, 2020, due to the COVID19 pandemic. Some of us wanted to sine die on March 23 and go back into for special session(s) focused on COVID19 public health and economic issues, later when we know the economics of our situation better. Others– mostly Republicans– wanted to stay in session and pause the action by adjourning because they had hopes that their bills would still pass during this session.

Continue reading Arizona’s 54th Legislative Session Ends: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

#AZ House Republicans Continue to Hear Pet Bills & Ignore #COVID19 (video)

Rep. Pam Powers Hannley

Today was another wacky day in the Arizona House.

We are back in session and primarily debating and voting on unnecessary Republican bills, as if the COVID-19 virus had never happened.

Yesterday, I posted about the unnecessary and non-emergency insurance industry bills that were passed, primarily on a party line vote. Today, May 20, was a repeat but not quite so ridiculous.

My deciding factor in voting is: Is this bill good for the people of Arizona? For example, I voted for the bill that allows rural electric cooperatives to offer broadband to customers in their service areas. I think it’s the great way to expand Internet access to some parts of rural Arizona, and this will help rural Arizona fight COVID19 by improving communication. I also voted for the bill that offers suicide prevention training for teachers; a bill that allows crisis helpline numbers to be printed on the backs of the student IDs; expansion of teacher training for blind and otherwise impaired students; and some relief for people whose property has been foreclosed upon, a lien placed on it, and auctioned off. I voted against deregulation of drone delivery devices and a few other bills.

Everything blew up when Reps. Travis Grantham and Steve Pierce conspired to stop debate on S1397 by having Pierce call the question before Rep. Kelli Butler could propose her amendment to improve SB1397. It requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions in the future, if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed by Congress. SB 1397 makes no mention of all of the other benefits from the ACA. Those are included in Butler’s amendment, but she was not allowed to present it, and we were not allowed to debate it at all.

Continue reading #AZ House Republicans Continue to Hear Pet Bills & Ignore #COVID19 (video)

#AZ House Passes Insurance Bills, Ignores Calls for #COVID19 Special Session (video)

OK, I’m back in the saddle again. Back in the Arizona House, that is.

To be safe, I am doing Floor sessions on the Floor with my mask and gloves but all other meetings remotely.

Today, we had a very interesting Democratic Caucus meeting in the morning. ASU data modeling scientists presented data and answered many questions about COVID19. Following that, the Grand Canyon Institute presented on unemployment insurance and what a mess it was in Arizona, even before COVID19. Both of these presentations were excellent; it was such a breath of fresh air to hear the Grand Canyon Institute speak, instead of the Goldwater Institute! It gave me a glimpse of what the Arizona Legislature could be if the Democrats took control this year. (The meeting will be available in the Capitol TV archived videos.)

At the beginning of the floor session today, Rep. Arlando Teller from the Navajo Nation proposed sine die. This would have ended the 54th session, as the Arizona Senate has already voted to do. The Navajo Nation now has a higher COVID19 infection rate than New York City. Both Teller and his seat mate Rep. Myron Tsosie talked about the friends and family who have been sick with the novel Coronavirus and those who have died. Several Democrats gave speeches about focusing on the pandemic rather than focusing on pet legislation that is not an emergency. Rep. Kelly Townsend accused the Democrats of politicizing the issue. Teller’s motion was vetoed on a party line vote.

What did the House Republicans do next? They put up 15-20 unnecessary, non-emergency bills for debate and a vote.

Continue reading #AZ House Passes Insurance Bills, Ignores Calls for #COVID19 Special Session (video)

Arizona House Resumes 54th Session on May 19. Now What?

Arizona House

The Arizona House of Representatives has been adjourned since March 23, 2020, due to the COVID19 pandemic. Some of us wanted to vote to sine die (end the session) on March 23 and come back later for special session(s) focused on COVID19 public health and economic issues. Others– mostly Republicans– wanted to stay in session and adjourn because they had hopes that their bills would still pass during this session. I say “mostly Republicans” because even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Arizona Legislature, the majority party refuses to move more than a handful of Dem bills each session.

Truth in Renting? No way. Expansion of maternal and child health?  No way. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment? No way. Fully funding P-20 education? No way.

The majority party refuses to hear these types of bills that would help the people of Arizona because these bills are not backed by special interest groups, big money donations, individual corporations, the Chamber of Commerce, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), the Goldwater Institute, Americans for Prosperity or the “Institute for Justice” (quote marks added to emphasize the irony of their name).

Continue reading Arizona House Resumes 54th Session on May 19. Now What?

Democrats Push for #Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan in Budget (video)

Arizona House Democratic Caucus, 54th Leg.

Things are moving fast at the Arizona Capital regarding the FY21 budget and a recess or sine die for the Legislature.

You may remember that last week the legislature passed a continuation of the Arizona Department of Health Services, and it included $55 million to fight the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Three options are swirling around the capital this week. There is talk about passing a “skinny budget” which would have only a few minor changes from the current fiscal year budget. There are three options: pass a skinny budget, recess for a while, and come back to everything this is on the table; pass the skinny budget and sine die (end the session); or pass the skinny budget with language about how to spend the $55 million in Coronavirus funds and sine die.

The House Democrats brainstormed about ideas and legislation to fight the spread of the Corona virus and to help people and businesses impacted by the shutdown.  Our full Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan is below. This plan was crafted into budget amendments by our staff.

We could pass the skinny budget and end the session as early as tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18. Stay tuned. Headed for the capital now. We have some Floor votes this afternoon. [Posted on Facebook on March 17, 2020.]

Continue reading Democrats Push for #Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan in Budget (video)

Is $1 Billion in New Tax Giveaways Too Much? (video)

AZ Tax Breaks

Crossover week– when hundreds of bad bills are pushed through both houses– is always difficult. In addition to four 12-hour days this past week, Democrats had the extra pressure of trying to stop the tax giveaway parade before it dances off the cliff with our state’s future.

I used to call these tax giveaways fiscally irresponsible, but with 18 tax breaks poised to pass the Arizona House and more coming our way from the Senate, we have crossed the line into insanity. Of the 18 tax giveaways, 11 have some cost estimate. Those 11 total close to $500,000 annually in new tax breaks starting next fiscal year; there are another 7 tax breaks with unknown costs. They’re not free; the Joint Legislative Budget Commission (JLBC) doesn’t know how to estimate their cost. You can read more detail about these bills these three articles herehere, and here. With so many unknowns, if they all pass, Arizona could be looking at $1 billion in new tax giveaways (AKA lost revenue) in next fiscal year or in the near future, since several of them automatically increase over time, and it takes a two-thirds majority to repeal any of them.

Continue reading Is $1 Billion in New Tax Giveaways Too Much? (video)