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

#AZHouse HHS Committee to Hear Experts on Opening Economy on May 14 (video)

COVID19 computer models

Amid the nationwide controversy regarding when it is safe for states to open up their economies during a pandemic, the Arizona House Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee will meet to hear presentations from open up experts. What about hearing from the public health experts, too?

The HHS meeting will be Thursday, May 14 at 1 p.m. The meeting was a total surprise to the Democrats on HHS. Why is this a surprise? Because the House has been in adjournment, with committee hearings paused, since March 23.

The agenda just popped into our inboxes on Tuesday and in the past 24 hours additional speakers have been added. The meeting is a collection of presentations by out-of-state experts who support opening up Arizona’s economy: Aaron Ginn, who is the co-founder of the Lincoln Network; Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (Stanford Health Policy), who has developed an antibody test, conducted research on the spread of COVID19 in the community and death rates, and whose research methods have been critized; Dr. Neeraj Sood (USC Sol Price School of Public Policy), who also did research on COVID19 community spread and death rates and whose results were released prematurely and without his knowledgeLanhee J. Chen (Hoover Institute and Stanford University School of Public Policy), a FOX commentator and former Romney advisor, who has been critical of WHO and supports bring college students back to campus; Avik Roy, who is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and who advocates for young people going back to work because mostly old people will die from COVID19; Dr. Joel W. Hay (USC Shaeffer Center), whose Twitter feed rails against state economic lock downs and cites Sweden (who has a higher death toll than neighboring countries) and sparsely populated South Dakota as success stories because they didn’t lock down their economies to stop the spread.

HHS Dems sent a letter to HHS Chair Nancy Barto asking to hear from some Arizona experts, rather than just listen to people from California tell us what we should be doing. (What happened to “don’t California my Arizona?”) For example, the HHS Democrats also would like to hear from these Arizona experts and get their thoughts on what the others have to say: Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS); Will Humble, former ADHS director and current executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association; Dr. Dan Derksen, from the Rural Health Office; and Dr. Tim Lant, from Arizona’s university-based COVID19 modeling team.

Continue reading #AZHouse HHS Committee to Hear Experts on Opening Economy on May 14 (video)

Ducey’s May 4 ‘Open Up #AZ’ Decree Is Risky Business (video)

Save our billionaires

Did you all see the photos from the Open Up Arizona rally on Friday, May 1 at the Capital? Wow! On two recent Fridays, there have been large public rallies at the Arizona Capital to promote ending the executive order that closed businesses and told people to shelter in place due to the COVID19 outbreak.

The social media promotion for this past weekend encouraged people to rally at Wesley Bolin Plaza on Friday, have a party in the park with friends on Saturday, and “rev it up” by going to church on Sunday.

Many anti-vaccine folks are participating in these rallies because they don’t want the government to require Coronavirus vaccines (which don’t exist). Think about this. What could go wrong? A bunch of people who don’t believe in being vaccinated decide to go to participate in three days of large public events… during a pandemic! You can’t make this stuff up.

Continue reading Ducey’s May 4 ‘Open Up #AZ’ Decree Is Risky Business (video)

Computer Models Predict Dire #COVID19 Conditions for #AZ Residents & Prisoners (video)

COVID19 computer models

For the politicians and businesses who are in a hurry to open up Arizona’s economy… SOON… the data, the computer models, and the small-government Arizona Way are not on your side.

Arizonans are suffering through a perfect storm of economic, ideological and medical circumstances that are working against us as our state government limply responds to the Coronavirus outbreak. First and most glaring, Arizona’s small-government Republican governors and legislators have been cutting taxes for corporations and the rich and balancing the budget on the backs of the people for decades. This has resulted in:

  • One of the most volatile state budgets in the country
  • An over-reliance on high sales taxes at state and local levels
  • Extremely low corporate taxes
  • Annual budgets riddled with corporate carveouts and tax giveaways
  • Economic vulnerability when there are interruptions in retail sales
  • Wages that are 85% of the national average
  • Far too many residents holding multiple gig economy jobs
  • Stingy social safety net programs (TANF, childcare subsidies, pre- and post- natal care, housing assistance)
  • High poverty
  • Underfunded public health, public education, and higher education systems
  • Statewide healthcare provider shortages
  • Counties declared as healthcare deserts
  • The worst rate of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the US
  • The least transparent state Legislature.

So… even before the novel Coronavirus hit the planet, many Arizonans were living on the edge economically, thanks to the Republican Party’s fixation with small, stingy government, privatization, deregulation, and tax giveaways. Add the state’s slow response to the COVID19 pandemic to the ideological economic mess we were already in, thanks to years of austerity, and it’s obvious why Arizona’s COVID19 cases are still increasing and getting “back to business” isn’t happening soon.

Continue reading Computer Models Predict Dire #COVID19 Conditions for #AZ Residents & Prisoners (video)

#AZLeg, Inquiring Minds What to Know: Are We Done Yet? (video)

Arizona House

Many of you have recently asked me what the Legislature is up to. After all, we haven’t been at the capital since March 23.

Today’s video is meant to answer the question: Are you done or what?

OK. We’re not done for the year. On March 23, the Legislature passed a “skinny budget” with the Senate bipartisan plan that included $50 million to fight the Coronavirus. After that, we voted to adjourn until April 13 (or until needed or it’s safe). Legislators and their assistants are all working remotely.

There is a lot of speculation about the Legislature, now that President has given up on his prediction that everything will be back to normal by  Easter and is promoting staying at home through the month of April. The Legislature could vote remotely or come back with a skeleton crew and sine die (end for the year) or extend the adjournment.

The Capital Times is reporting that if we did indeed sine die now, only about 60 bills will have passed and been signed into law this year. Traditionally, the Legislature passes more than 300 bills a year. (More than 95 percent of these bills are Republican bills, even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Legislature.) As a long-time Arizona voter, I remember asking myself how in the world can they could pass so many bills every year, particularly when the Republicans promote themselves as party of small government, and they’ve been in charge for decades.

Now, as a two-term Democratic representative, I know that the vast majority of the new laws passed by Arizona Republicans are totally unnecessary and often harmful to segments of Arizona’s  population. They are NOT the party of small government, obviously,

I relish the idea of passing ~60 bills in 2020, rather than 300. Legislation to enable pet projects, pet vendettas and sweetheart tax deals for utilities and multinational corporations seem completely irrelevant and wrong-headed during a mismanaged public health crisis. 

It would be a great thing for the citizens of Arizona if the Legislature passed fewer bills. In 2020, Legislators proposed a record number of bills, more than 1700. If we end the session now, hundreds of bad bills that would have passed in a normal year will be dead! This includes ~20 voter suppression bills; >18 tax giveaways that could total a $1 billion per year of lost future revenue; a bill that allows pawn brokers to become payday lenders; a bill that criminalizes people from standing on the median; a bill that forces us to buy license plates more often just so 3M can sell the state of Arizona more reflective coating, the reefer madness ballot initiative, more vanity license plates; several one-off Republican pet projects related to education (other than public education, of course); multiple attacks on Clean Elections, the Citizens Initiative, representative government, local control, and professional credentials, and whatever else is on the Republican to-do list from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Goldwater Institute, the Institute for Justice, Americans for Prosperity, Arizona Tax Research Association, the Chamber of Commerce or President Trump. 

It is completely unrealistic that April 13 would be a safe return date to the capital. I think we should sine die by remote vote. We could come up with a bipartisan, mutually agreed upon short list of bills that deserve to pass. Let’s identify 10 bipartisan bills (other than Coronavirus response bills) that deserve to pass– including earned release credits, the grandparent stipend, more money for caregivers in the ALTCS system, and increased district direct assistance for schools. All the bad bills would die. We would leave a few hundred million dollars sitting on the table (because the tax giveaways wouldn’t pass).

With so little commerce going on right now because of the Coronavirus, there is little sales tax being collected. Our state runs on sales tax. We’re going to need those extra funds in the coming months, along with the billion dollars that we have in our rainy day fund.

The Legislature can always come back for a special session.

#HCR2020: Should the Government Be Run by Political Appointees? (video)

Doug Ducey

On Thursday afternoon, we debated HCR 2020 in the Arizona House. This is the Republican Party’s latest attempt to create … wait for it … more government!

You may remember that since Democrat Katie Hobbs became Secretary of State, Governor Doug Ducey decided to remove the Department of Administration from the secretary of state’s job duties and create a new top-level government position as head of ADOA and appoint former Speaker of the House Andy Tobin to the position.

The next step in the grand plan is to pass HCR 2020, which is a ballot referral creating a lieutenant governor’s position. I spoke against and voted against this bill.

With HCR2020, after the gubernatorial primaries, the Democratic and Republican candidates will pick a lieutenant governor as a running mate, and they run as a team for the top two slots in our government. If something happens to the governor, lieutenant governor becomes governor and that person has the ability to choose their successor– another lieutenant governor. This would give us to appointed people in the top spots of our state, removes the voters from the process, and keeps the party in charge. I disagree with this idea because it is a way to game the system. There are far too many political appointees in the government, thanks to the changes that Governor Jan Brewer and Ducey have made. Our government should be run by people who are elected by the people not by political appointees.

Continue reading #HCR2020: Should the Government Be Run by Political Appointees? (video)