#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)

#HB2706 Targets All Girls who Don’t Match Feminine Ideal (video)

Soccer 1970s

As you may have read in the news, the Arizona House passed Rep. Nancy Barto’s anti-trans bill HB2706 late on Tuesday night, after hours of rousing debate.

This is another Cathi Herrod Center for Arizona Policy bill that would require girls to submit to genetic testing and get a letter from a doctor confirming their gender, if someone doesn’t believe they are genetically a girl and challenges them. This is another one of those Republican “anybody can complain” and start an investigation or a lawsuit bills.

HB2706 is supposed to weed out trans girls and forbid them from competing in girls sports in K-12 education and college.

This bill is overly broad. Any girls who don’t fit the traditional feminine stereotype could be targeted with this bill and be forced to submit to unnecessary genetic testing to confirm their gender. This bill will lead to bullying and harassment of girls– trans girls and sis girls who are muscular, strong, and athletic. This is ridiculous.

There are national athletic standards for trans competitors. Why don’t we adopt these standards? Why did we even hear HB2706? Because Barto is challenging her moderate Republican seat mate Senator Heather Carter for the Senate seat in 2020.

One of the lawyers in the Democratic Caucus said that this bill would keep lawyers busy.

#AZHouse #Republican Bills Create Unnecessary Bureaucracy & Regulation (video)

voting

It was another late night on Wednesday, but I snuck away to my office for a couple of minutes to do a video in the daylight.

It’s about this time in the session when the Democrats start to get ornery because one bad bill after another is passed on a party line vote. If something fails, one of the good old boys or good old girls brings it back up for reconsideration, and all of the Republicans march in a line and revive the Zombie Bill, as directed. Occasionally, bills die a second time like the rodeo license plate that would have benefited the Spirit of the West Museum in Scottsdale. That died for the second time yesterday– thanks to Reps. Shawnna Bolick and Michelle Udall joining the ranks of representatives who are fed up with license plates. (I did a previous update on this topic.)

Governor Doug Ducey and Republican Legislators often pontificate about reducing bureaucracy and regulation. They then turn around and create more bureaucracy and regulations surrounding issues and services that they don’t like–for example, women’s reproductive rights, Clean Elections, voter rights, independent redistricting, the Citizens Initiative, marijuana… you get the idea. Today’s video is about three Republican bills that create new, unnecessary and redundant bureaucracy, regulations, and structure in the government.

Continue reading #AZHouse #Republican Bills Create Unnecessary Bureaucracy & Regulation (video)

How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

sleeping baby

Several times during the tax cut debates on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Ben Toma and other Republicans repeated the mantra that Arizona has a “budget surplus”. The only reason that we have funds that have not been allocated is because we have had decades of budget cuts and chronic underfunding of important programs like public education(!), the Housing Trust Fund, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and so forth. It’s not that there is no need in our state, and, so therefore, we have extra cash. We don’t have extra money.

Also, several times during the committee meeting, I reminded everybody that Arizona is worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We are not only shortchanging our school children by underfunding education, we are shortchanging small children before they ever get to school. It is highly ironic that Arizona is the country’s #1 “pro-life” state and also #50 in ACEs, due to our stingy policies and poor treatment of our children.

In my study of gaps and inequities in maternal and child health in Arizona, I took a comprehensive approach and looked through the lens of the social determinants of health. Two contributing factors to Adverse Childhood Experiences are housing insecurity and food insecurity.

Continue reading How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

Arizona Republicans Attack Voting Rights & Clean Elections (video)

Clean Elections

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.

If Arizona Is ‘Pro-Life,’ Let’s Look Beyond the Womb (video)

If Arizona is truly a “pro life” state, it’s time to think big on maternal and child health rather than thinking small. Let’s go beyond the womb with our “pro-life” ideals and help Moms and their children lead healthier, safer lives.

I have met with more than 100 people and analyzed the data, the needs, the costs, and the gaps in services in maternal and child health in Arizona for more than a year.

The bottomline is that Arizona has stingy policies, cumbersome bureaucracy, and unnecessarily lengthy application procedures that cost money and lives and limit access to healthcare. I ran on this issue in 2015, and five years later, I am shocked at how right I was.

Did you know that Arizona is dead last– #50 — in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)? ACEs include food insecurity, housing insecurity, loss of parent(s) due to incarceration, death, addiction or abandonment and similar sad scenarios.

Did you know that only 6% of the people eligible for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Need Families) in Arizona actually get it? Not even all Arizonans living in extreme poverty get TANF.

Did you know that women, who are eligible for AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid system), are coming to indigent clinics pregnant with no prenatal care, no insurance, and no money?

It is morally unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible to deny basic healthcare, food security, housing security, and a solid education Arizona’s children and their parents.

Continue reading If Arizona Is ‘Pro-Life,’ Let’s Look Beyond the Womb (video)

What’s on the #AZHouse Ways & Means Agenda? More Tax Cuts! (video)

Republicans

The alternative headline for this blog post could be: Are eight tax cuts in two weeks too many? I think so.

Last week, I said that the State of Arizona should change its motto from Ditat Deus (God Enriches) to Tax Cuts R Us.

Looking at this Wednesday’s Ways and Means Committee agenda with four more tax giveaways on it, I stand by my assertion. Eight tax cuts in two weeks? That is fiscally irresponsible.

Today’s video is about HB 2732 (tax credits; affordable housing), but HB2404 (prime contracting; exemptions; certificates), HB2409 (small business investment credit; extension), and HB2629 (TPT; exemption; pacemakers) are also on the agenda. (On the pacemakers, the Dems are wondering why those aren’t already sales tax exempt, since they are medical devices.)

For the last few years, the Legislature has considered (but not passed) tax credits for developers who agree to build affordable housing. I have voted against this every year because there are better ways to make sure that people can afford a place to live– like paying a living wages, fully funding the Housing Trust Fund, and eliminating tax giveaways for luxury apartments.

HB 2732 is a bit less generous with the developers than previous versions of this bill, but this bill still takes millions from the general fund over the next ~20 years. This tax credit is capped at $8 million a year for 10 years. If we pass this, the first year cost would be $8 million, $16 million the second year, $24 million the third year, and up from there to $80 million in year 10. The question is, will we be able to afford $80 million out of the general fund in 2031? (After all, the Republicans have proposed eight tax cuts in the past two weeks! Is there plan to break the bank on the general fund? Their proposals are fiscally irresponsible.)

Continue reading What’s on the #AZHouse Ways & Means Agenda? More Tax Cuts! (video)

Tax Cuts R Us… #WhatCouldGoWrong (video)

revenue neutral

Instead of “Ditat Deus” (God Enriches), Arizona’s motto should be “Tax Cuts R Us.”

Today in the Ways and Means Committee, we heard three tax giveaway bills: HB229 (corporate welfare for utility companies); HB2355 and HB2356 (increases to the 25% charitable tax credit passed in 2019); and HB2358 (increases to the dependent tax credit).

HB2293 exempts the purchase of electric storage units from sales tax (AKA Transaction Privilege Tax or TPT) and from use tax. When I asked Rep. Tim Dunn, the sponsor of the bill, who benefits from this, he said the utility companies benefit from it, but consumers will see a financial benefit because their rates will go down. (Really? When has that ever happened?)

The industry lobbyist made many circular arguments trying to convince us that giving utilities a tax break was good for consumers. Currently, there are eight rate increase cases before the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), including rate increase requests from APS and other electric utilities. When I started talking about rate increases and the relationship to infrastructure investment by utility companies, Committee Chair Ben Toma said that I was off-topic. Dunn and the energy lobbyist were the ones that said giving APS, TEP and SRP a tax break was going to lower costs to consumers. I believe that I was totally on topic when I said that these things were likely to raise our rates in the long term, not lower them.

Continue reading Tax Cuts R Us… #WhatCouldGoWrong (video)

House Republicans Push to Suppress Speech & Change Ethics Rules (video)

Arizona House

The Arizona House Republican leadership wants to change the House rules again this year. We have not voted on their proposed changes… yet…and if we do, there will be a floor battle because the Democrats don’t like the changes and neither do some of the more reasonable Republicans.

The suggested GOP changes would further suppress members’ speech by prohibiting photography, video or livestreaming from the floor, limit the number of House staff on the floor, and make it harder for people who are not House members to file ethics complaints against House members. On the photography issue, Republicans particularly don’t want us to photograph the votes on the board. What are they afraid of? Their voters? Voters have a right to know what we are doing, what we are saying and how we are voting.

You may remember the huge floor battle in 2019 over the Republican changes to the House rules. They cut speaking times to suppress speech, brought brought back the non-germane striker, and made other changes like making introductions of guests super short and not allowing us to say *why* a person was at the capital. (For example, we were not allowed to say that the people who marched 38 miles for the ERA want the Arizona Legislature to ratify the ERA.)

Continue reading House Republicans Push to Suppress Speech & Change Ethics Rules (video)

FY2020 Budget & #AZLeg Session Wrap-Up: What Just Happened? (video)

Arizona House

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.

The Chaos

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…

Continue reading FY2020 Budget & #AZLeg Session Wrap-Up: What Just Happened? (video)