Some aspects of the Arizona legislature are highly predictable– like the ideological bills from the left and the right that are proposed to show where members stand on the issues.
For the Republicans, attacks on Clean Elections, voting rights, and the Citizens Initiative are perennial favorites.￼ There are multiple bills based upon voter suppression and unnecessary election tinkering from Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita (SB1014, SB1020, SB1032, SB1092, and SB1520) and House Elections Committee Chair Rep. Kelly Townsend (HB2043, HB2267, HB2268, HB2305, HB2306, HB2307, HB2308, HB2364, and HB2647). Although I do not have bill numbers, I hear that there are bad ballot referrals attacking the Citizens Initiative process and Independent Redistricting.
As in 2019, Rep. Leo Biasiucci from LD5 in Mohave County is carrying the anti-Clean Elections torch. Two years in a row, he proposed a bill to limit the independent watchdog function of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) by putting it under the Governor’s Regulatory Review Commission (GRRC), a political entity packed with Governor Ducey’s appointees. That bill narrowly lost in 2019 and is back again as HB2054 in 2020. It was debated in Committee of the Whole (COW) on Feb12 and will come up for a vote soon.
Biasiucci’s a second bad bill (HB2055), according to Legislative staff, would eliminate 80% of Clean Elections funding.
Why does Biasiucci hate Clean Elections? Why do Ugenti-Rita and Townsend attack voting rights… annually? Because they fear another Blue Wave in 2020. Republicans want to put roadblocks up against any Democratic paths to victory rather than compete on a level playing field of ideas.
Biasiucci is a freshman. He replaced one-term freshman Republican Rep. Paul “Lead Foot” Moseley in 2018. Biasiucci knows that his next opponent– whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat– who would likely run clean against him. In 2020, 35 Legislative candidates are running clean– 17 Republicans, 17 Democrats, and one Independent. Of those 35, only the five most Progressive Democrats run clean as incumbents: Senators Juan Mendez and Andrea Dalessandro and Reps. Athena Salmon, Isela Blanc, and me. The Legislature is fueled by big-money politics and dirty money donations; the idea that anyone would dare to buck the the dirty money system is an anathema.
You’ll remember that in 2019 as a freshman, Biasiucci proposed several bills requiring driving school because, of course, his family owns a driving school. He’s not the only one of the Republicans who proposed bills that would directly benefit their businesses.￼￼ (David Gordon of Blog for Arizona wrote about this.) He also fought to add a driving school requirement to teach people not to text and drive.
Every year when the Republicans attack Clean Elections, it’s my job to stand up and remind everybody that the citizens created the Clean Elections Commission with a Citizens Initiative. It was a direct response to corruption in the Arizona Legislature in the 1990s.￼ The Maricopa County attorney’s office did a sting operation called AZSCAM. It made national news when several Arizona legislators (from both sides of the aisle) were charged with bribery and money laundering. Then Speaker of the House Jane Hull removed them from their seats and their chairmanships. Some of them were charged.￼ The Legislature passed campaign finance reforms back then, and the voters created the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. The process to run as a clean candidate, CCEC’s voter education efforts, and the CCEC’s independent campaign finance watchdog functions were created in direct response to corruption in the Legislature. During the Tea Party Reign of Terror, some of those reforms were eliminated, campaign donations were dramatically increased, and Clean Elections was weakened repeatedly.
I’m sick of the Republican Party’s nationwide strategy of “if you can’t win, cheat” with voter suppression, gerrymandering, dirty money, and zero transparency.
Besides ignoring the will of the voters, the Republican Party is marching backwards and trying to drag the rest of us with them. Do you want our elections to be controlled by money or voters? Please voice your opinion on these bills on the Request to Speak System (RTS).
Protect Your Voting Rights by Backing the Fair Elections Act on Nov 3
If you want to protect your voting rights, make it easier to register to vote, and update Clean Elections, please support the Fair Elections Act, sponsored by the Arizona Advocacy Network. This Citizens Initiative will be on the 2020 ballot; signatures are being collected now.