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 It requires insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions in the future, if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed by Congress.￼ SB 1397 makes no mention of all of the other benefits from the ACA.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.
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 knowledge; Lanhee 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.
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.￼
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.￼￼
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.