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 It requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions in the future, if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed by Congress.￼ SB 1397 makes no mention of all of the other benefits from the ACA.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.
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.
Using their data, they say that the risk of death for the general population is much lower than previously thought, but the death rate for seniors is still exponentially higher than the rest of the population. The crux of their argument was that we should have stringent procedures in long-term care facilities to keep Grandma and Grandpa safe, and everyone else should get back to school and to work.
I drove to Phoenix last Thursday (May 7) because Speaker Rusty Bowers and President Karen Fann had called the Legislature back for a sine die vote (a vote to end the second session of the 54th Legislature). We have been adjourned and working remotely since March 23.
Unfortunately, I made that trip for nothing. On May 7, after the morning email notice to report for work, House Republicans held a closed-door caucus for several hours (as long as six hours by some reports). At about 8:20 p.m. on May 7, when I was already in Phoenix, Bowers sent a second email saying that the House would not reconvene on Friday (May 8) for the sine die vote. (I drove two hours to a canceled meeting, and Rep. Myron Tsosie drove 5.5 hours from Navajo.)
The Republicans are in complete disarray. For the second Friday in a row, Republicans have scheduled a sine die floor session and canceled it because they can’t agree. I would have driven to Phoenix last Thursday (April 30), also, but that was the day of the LD9 town hall. The May 1 Legislative floor vote was called and canceled before I got in the car.
Bowers has a revolt on his hands, obviously.￼ There is a small but vocal group of Arizona representatives and senators who want to buck Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order to stay home and keep businesses closed. Ducey has flip-flopped several times in recent weeks due to pressure from Libertarians (who, regardless of the public health costs, want to open up the state for business, force people back to work, and rescind Ducey’s executive order closing the economy) and Democrats (who are clamoring for more testing, more contact tracing, more transparency in the data, workplace protections, continued shelter in place, and not opening up too soon). The Open Up Arizona Republicans are marching in lock step with ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). In fact, 11 Arizona Legislators signed an open ALEC letter to President Trump asking him to open up the economy: Senate President Karen Fann, Senators Vince Leach, Rick Gray, David Livingston, and Reps. John Allen, Walter Balckman, Nancy Barto, Ben Toma, Becky Nutt, Frank Carroll, and Leo Biasiucci. Continue reading #AZ Senate Votes to End Session. What about the House? (video)
The Legislative District 9 Team– Senator Victoria Steele, Rep. Randy Friese, and myself– held our first virtual town hall on Thursday, April 30, 2020. Except for getting hacked at the end [more on that below], it was a great meeting. Many LD9 precinct committee people were on the call. Over the course of the hour, 125 people jumped on the virtual meeting, and for most of the meeting there were close to 90 participants. If you have been to one of our town halls, we’re lucky to get 25 people, so the attendance was amazing, as far as we are concerned. If you were unable to attend online, I broke the town hall into three videos. You can view them below the fold.
Since it’s Wednesday, I am wearing red, and today’s video about public education funding.
Yesterday, I was filling out an endorsement questionnaire, and one of the questions was: do you support raising sales taxes to pay for public education?￼
This question is so January 2020. When we were in session, there was much discussion about extending Prop 301 (Governor Jan Brewer’s “temporary sales tax to save public education”) and raising it to one cent.
This is April 29, 2020. The novel Coronavirus is running rampant throughout the United States and throughout the state of Arizona. We are seeing firsthand what a bad idea it is to balance the state budget on the backs of consumers. Arizona has high sales taxes and low corporate taxes compared to other states. With the shelter in place order and high unemployment, sales and sales taxes are down across the board. Consequently, state and local revenues are down across the board.￼