Podcast: Updates from Taxes to Reproductive Rights & COVID … What’s the Latest?

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One of my pet peeves is reading a cliff-hanger news story, only to be left hanging when there is no follow up. Several stories reported in my previous podcasts have had newsworthy developments since those episodes aired.

To catch you up on the details, Episode 8 is a compilation of updates.

Many of my podcasts referred to petition drives and court cases that were trying to stop bad Republican bills from being enacted. These issues were decided last week. Why last week? Because September 29, 2021 is the 91st day after June 30, 2021, which was the end of the Legislative session. Unless passed with an emergency clause or stopped by the courts or the voters, bills passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor are enacted 90 days after the end of session.

Three previous guests return to discuss the status of the contested laws – particularly the flat tax, the alternative tax to get around Prop 208, the voter suppression bills, the bills attacking the power of the Secretary of State and the power of the governor, Arizona’s latest radical anti-choice bill SB1457, and mandated COVID public health protections.

The good news is that progressives had some wins in the courts. We also had some disappointments. Needless to say, the struggle to beat back oppressive legislation continues. Of course, Governor Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich are appealing cases that the state lost. Brnovich is even appealing the court’s ruling that Republican Legislators acted unconstitutionally when they stuff dozens of unrelated failed bills into the budget. Who is paying for these unnecessary lawsuits generated by unconstitutional or burdensome laws enacted by Republicans? You are. The taxpayer.

Continue reading Podcast: Updates from Taxes to Reproductive Rights & COVID … What’s the Latest?

Podcast: COVID19 in Arizona: Where Are We Now? 18 Months Later (video)

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Eighteen months ago the Arizona Legislature shut down due to the COVID19 pandemic and the governor’s shelter in place order. Arizonans have traveled a rocky road since then.

Throughout most of the pandemic, Arizona’s government has been willing to sacrifice lives in order to hew faithfully to the right’s anti-science ideology, which dovetails neatly with the “open for business” mantra. Pressure from the Chamber of Commerce, COVID deniers, and the Trump administration caused Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to jump the gun more than once and open the state up for business too soon. In the summer of 2020, Arizona was worst in the world for COVID19.

My guests today are Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association and former director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, and Rep. Melody Hernandez, who is paramedic. Humble provides a brief overview of where Arizona has been and where we are now with the pandemic. He breaks down the history, the science, the policies, the politics, and the personalities. In contrast, as a frontline healthcare worker throughout the pandemic, Hernandez tells stories of tragedy, death and perseverance.

Continue reading Podcast: COVID19 in Arizona: Where Are We Now? 18 Months Later (video)

Podcast: Labor Day, How Unions Are Organizing Arizona

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Work has changed dramatically in the past 40 years.

In the 1980s, President Reagan busted the air traffic controllers’ union, corporations began closing factories and offshoring American jobs to countries with cheap labor, and trickledown economics dictated tax cuts for the rich and the dregs for the rest of us.

It the 1990s, banking deregulation paved the way for the Wall Street crash of 2008 by eliminating financial protections enacted after the Great Depression.

During the Great Recession, which dragged on for years, almost 9 million Americans lost their jobs. Unemployment hit its peak at 10% in 2009. Although, many governors tout robust recoveries from the 2008 Wall Street crash, the jobs Americans have today are dramatically different from jobs in the 1970s – before union busting, offshoring, and tax cuts for the rich became commonplace. Before politicians cared more about fundraising and getting elected, than about the people they claim to serve.

Continue reading Podcast: Labor Day, How Unions Are Organizing Arizona

Podcast: Arizonans Fight Back Against #AZGOP with Six Referenda (video)

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If you followed my Legislative video updates during the 2021 session, you already know that it was a grueling session that lasted two months longer than the 100-day target for Legislative sessions in Arizona. Republicans generally prefer to push bills through the process as soon as possible before the people catch wind of what they are proposing and show up to protest.

Why did the Republicans drag out this session? Because they spent two months twisting members’ arms on the budget and making individual backroom deals to buy votes.

With their extreme hubris and entitlement on full display during the 2021 session, Republican Legislators acted as if their one vote margin was a mandate to impose authoritarian government and crushing austerity on future generations, while suppressing the vote, further reducing women’s rights, and secretly pumping up mandatory sentencing. (The failed mandatory sentencing laws that Republicans unconstitutionally stuffed into the budget were discussed in Episode 1 of this podcast.)

The result was that some of the most extreme bills proposed in my five years in the Arizona House were debated and passed — or inappropriately shoved into the budget. Stuffing multiple Republican Legislators’ failed pet bills into the budget just to buy their votes on the Flat Tax, the alternative tax for small business, and other fiscally irresponsible ideas is a dangerous trend. Instead of negotiating with the 29 Democrats in the House, the 31 Republicans did everything they could to pass laws to take away the financial benefit of Prop 208 Invest in Ed to public education and automatically eliminate more than one billion dollars a year in new tax revenue from future budgets.

Continue reading Podcast: Arizonans Fight Back Against #AZGOP with Six Referenda (video)

Grand Canyon Inst – AZ Budget Priorities: Tax Cuts v. Productivity & Prosperity

The Grand Canyon Institute is a “centrist think tank” that provides a great service to our state by analyzing economic issues and producing independent reports.  (You can read many of these reports at this link on their website.)

Below is June 8, 2021 press release from the Grand Canyon Institute. It incudes key findings from an research paper about educational funding and attainment and related declines in state revenue and productivity. You’ll note that decline in educational attainment among Arizona residents tracks with the state’s decline in school funding and the decline in state revenue. In 1970, Arizona had 18% more college graduates than the national average; by 2018, we had 9% fewer college graduates than the national average. When I moved to Arizona in 1981, I remember reading a quote in the newspaper from then Governor Bruce Babbit. He said the state’s economy was poised for greatness because Arizona had so many college graduates. Well, decades of budget cuts took care of that!

If you scroll all the way down at the bottom of the ASU graphic you’ll find the “money quote” in tiny type: “It is highly likely that the state’s relative declines in educational attainment contribute to declines in productivity and prosperity and have increased Arizonans enrollment in public assistance programs.”

The graphic also notes that if Arizona had not continued to cut taxes each year — thus maintaining the tax base — “the state general fund would have taken in 44% more in revenue.”

As I have said many times: the state of Arizona creates its own problems with short-sighted decisions that are rooted in ideology … not in data, science, or compassion for the people.

Continue reading Grand Canyon Inst – AZ Budget Priorities: Tax Cuts v. Productivity & Prosperity

Should Community Colleges Offer 4-Year Degrees? (video)

Picacho Peak, rural Arizona

Should Arizona community colleges be allowed to offer four-year degrees? I would like to hear your opinions on this. I am on the fence.

“COVID orphan” bill HB2523 would allow Arizona community colleges to offer four-year degrees. According to supporters, besides being cheaper (because students would be local and rates would be lower), expanded capabilities for community colleges would allow them to offer degrees in subjects not offered by the universities.

I asked the sponsor Rep. Becky Nutt what subjects they would offer, and she said it was up to them. The problem with that reply is that the Legislature eliminated the community college oversight board several years ago. The university system has the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) to oversee the system. Community colleges have no ABOR. I think they need oversight and coordination if they’re going to be allowed to expand like this.

Continue reading Should Community Colleges Offer 4-Year Degrees? (video)