Before each Legislative session, out-of-town legislators, like myself, have to find living quarters in Phoenix for roughly six months.
Shopping for apartments and combing through corporate websites to look for affordable housing with no hidden fees is a laborious process. No matter how careful I am, the corporate landlords seem to always stick me with me with something.
A few years ago, I made the mistake of renting a “smart” apartment. I saw on the website that the smart apartment option was available. I didn’t realize until I showed up with the movers and a truck full of furniture that I couldn’t get out of that option. A smart apartment is one that tracks your every entry and exit with your smart phone, tracks your utility usage, and tracks who knows what else. My smart apartment had sensors hung here and there throughout the apartment, including closets and cupboards. The sensors were easy to see – and a bit creepy. What wasn’t easy to see was the smart apartment section of the lease which said by signing the lease I was giving an unnamed subcontractor permission to collect, store and use my personal data. I couldn’t get out of the $40 per month fee for a smart apartment, but I chose not to download and activate the app.
The smart apartment now seems like a quaint, old fashioned attempt at surveillance mostly because the tracking was so obvious, and by accepting a bit of inconvenience, I was able to get around most of the surveillance.
Today, with social media plus 5G, smart phones, smart watches, and all sorts of wi-fi or bluetooth enabled devices from refrigerators to car radios, we are surrounded by devices and software programs that are tracking us, collecting data, building profiles and using what they have learned about us to influence our behavior.
It is a tribute to the women representatives who became my friends in the past four years but have now moved on to other career adventures or to the Senate.
Serving in the Legislature is a tough job. It’s good to have colleagues who have your back and who are willing to lend an ear. Thank you to former Reps. Isela Blanc, Gerae Peten, Winona Benally, Kirsten Engel (now a Senator) and Rosanna Rodriguez Gabaldon (now a Senator). Blanc, Peten, Benally and Engel were four of the eight “Feisty Freshmen” from 2017. Only four of us are still in the House: Reps. Kelli Butler, Mitzi Epstein, Athena Salman and me.
Many of us were elected in 2016 because we fully utilized social media and communicated with constituents regularly. In the House, we kept talking and Tweeting. The Republican men did everything they could think of to shut us up, but they were never successful.
We had strength in our solidarity and our speaking skills and our passion. Thank you for being there.
Drama, rumors, secrecy, backroom deals, coup attempts, flexible rules, and a bit of chaos are commonplace during the waning days of each session of the Arizona Legislature. This is the atmosphere in which our state’s budget is crafted each year.
The First Session of the 54th Legislature ended in the wee hours of May 28, 2019. The new budget took effect on July 1, 2019. New laws that had “emergency clauses” are already in place. All other laws take effect 90 days after the end of the session, which is August 27, 2019.
Here is a peak behind the curtain during the last days of the session and some high and low points in the legislation that was passed.
The Game Plan
In 2019, secrecy and chaos reigned supreme as the Republicans desperately clung to their standard game plan: hear and pass primarily Republican-sponsored bills; ignore all Democratic ideas, bills and constituents; make enough pork barrel deals with their members to get 100% of them on one budget; and ram the budget through in the middle of the night when voters are asleep and Legislators want to be.
There was more chaos than usual in 2019 because a few Republicans realized that the slim D-R margins in both the Senate and the House gave each R a lot of power. (Rep. Kelly Townsend showed the Republican leadership her power back in March when she starting voting “no” on every bill one day. Here’s the blog post and video.)
The chaos was amplified by totally random floor schedules…
Although we had a short floor calendar on May 1, we had some rousing debates. The highlight was a two-hour debate on SB1085, association health plans. (Watch the action here, beginning at 19:32 min.)
The Republicans have had three bills this year to lower healthcare insurance costs by encouraging people to leave the healthcare marketplace. I agree that the Affordable Care Act is too expensive, particularly for sole proprietors (like my husband who was offered a silver ACA plan for more than $1000 per month just for him.) This is why I voted for direct care contracts. I believe those are a better deal for sole proprietors than association health plans.)
I get that costs are too high, but the association health plans are not the way to go. They could, indeed, lower costs for business owners, but they could be risky due to limited coverage. There are reasons why these plans will likely be cheaper. Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”. If sole proprietor business owners want to take a risk with their own insurance and their own health, I have a mind to let them take their own risk. (Just don’t ask me to help you later with a Go Fund Me Request if it turns out I was right on limited coverage under cheap junk insurance plans.)
Where I object is when businesses are making these risky insurance decisions for their employees— just to save money.