Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team vs Arizona's NFL Alumni


One of the hallmarks of the two week period between the end of the NFL's conference championship games and the beginning of its league championship game (aka - "The Super Bowl"...you may have heard about it :) ) is the multitude of related events held in the the Super Bowl's host city (and environs).

Some of the events are directly related to the NFL; some are not.

Many, maybe even most, of the events are little more than opportunities for varieties of rich and/or famous people to hob-knob with other varieties of rich and/or famous people.

A few, however, are genuinely *good* things.

From the NFL's Super Bowl Media Guide -























The Wounded Warrior Amputee Football Team (WWAFT) will play against a team of Arizona's NFL Alumni*

Date: Wednesday, January 28

Time: 6 - 9 p.m.

Where:

     Shadow Mountain High School 

     2900 E Shea Blvd 

     Phoenix, AZ 

Cost: Adults - $10  Children and students under 18 - Free

Tickets available here


The Wounded Warriors Amputee Football Team is made up of men and women who served and now need " a prosthetic device to engage in everyday life activities."  The team plays exhibition football games against current and retired pro athletes to help show that veterans, wounded and otherwise, are ready and able to live full lives.

Arizona legislature: The coming week

This week is going to be relatively quiet (perhaps the loons are keeping a low profile until the Super Bowl, and its attendant media focus, leaves the state).  However, expect a heavy cloud of smoke (coal-based, of course) to cover the Capitol on Monday.

In other words, most of the obviously rancid and "bay at the moon" stuff won't be visible this week, but look out! next week (and thereafter)...

Notes:

All committees meetings and agendas are subject to change without notice, and frequently do.  If you plan to travel to the Capitol to observe or weigh in on the consideration of a particular measure, check with the lege ahead of time to confirm that the meeting that you are interesting in is still on schedule and your item(s) of interest is still on the agenda for that meeting.

Meeting rooms designated "HHR" are in the House of Representatives building.

Meeting rooms designated "SHR" are in the Senate building.

Some agendas are summarized as "looks harmless", but if they cover an area of interest to you, examine the agenda and the bills on it.  If I missed something significant, please leave a comment letting me know.


All House committee agendas can be found here.

All Senate committee agendas can be found here.


On the House side of the Capitol:

Elections, Monday, HHR4, 10 a.m.  At this point, presentations only, but one of those should be very interesting - it's an update on the lege's lawsuit against the independent redistricting commission (the lege hates the idea that "independent" means "free from legislative control", and they have been trying change that ever since the voters enacted the independent redistricting process).

Rules, Monday, HHR4, 1 p.m.   Except for one measure, relatively non-controversial.  The one measure: HB2174, expanding "empowerment scholarship accounts".  Better known as "school vouchers".  Rubber stamp committee; expect all measures on the agenda to pass.

Ways and Means, Monday, HHR3, 2 p,m.  Mostly bills that sound harmless, but would have the effect of reducing state revenue.

County and Municipal Affairs, Monday, HHR4, 2 p.m.  Looks mostly harmless.

Children and Family Affairs, Monday, HHR5, 2 p.m.  Looks mostly harmless.


Transportation and Infrastructure, Tuesday, HHR1, 2 p.m.  Looks mostly harmless.

Rural and Economic Development, Tuesday, HHR5, 2 p.m.  Presentation only.

Health, Tuesday, HHR4, 2 p.m.  Looks mostly harmless.

Banking and Financial Services, Tuesday, HHR3, 2 p.m.  Looks mostly harmless.


Commerce, Wednesday, HHR1, 9:30 a.m.  On the agenda: HB2413, clarifying the state's statute regarding certain internet-based fraudulent activities.  It also looks to be narrowing the scope of the statute, at least a little bit.

Judiciary, Wednesday, HHR3, 10 a.m.  On the agenda: HB2002, expanding the state's sign tampering law to cover *all* political signs, not just those signs that are for a candidate and HB2212, creating a right to sue if a municipal, county, state, or district employee bases a licensing decision on a factor or criteria that he/she isn't specifically authorized to use.

Education, Wednesday, HHR4, 2 p.m.  On the agenda: HB2066, expanding tax credits to include covering contributions to public schools in support of standardized testing (SAT, AP, ACT, IB, etc.); HB2208, expanding the circumstances under which a charter school may be established within a quarter mile of agricultural land that uses certain toxic substances; HB2353, mandating that all school districts in Arizona become part of unified school districts.  There are a couple of other bills on the agenda, HB2302 and HB2303, that seem significant, but I'm not sure of the real world impact of them.

Appropriations, Wednesday, HHR1, 2 p.m.  Presentations only.


Military Affairs and Public Safety, Thursday, HHR5, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: HB2272, allowing law enforcement officers to purchase their government-issued service weapons at less than market value.

Government and Higher Education, Thursday, HHR1, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: presentations from the state's universities and a couple of university-related bills.

Agriculture, Water and Lands, Thursday, HHR3, 9 a.m.  Looks harmless so far.


On the Senate side of the Capitol:

State Debt and Budget Reform, Monday, SHR3, 9 a.m.  Presentations only.

Natural Resources. Monday, SHR109 10 a.m.   Presentation only.  On APS' coal-based power generation. 

Rules, Monday, Republican Caucus Room, 1 p.m.  Rubber stamp of bills on their way to floor action.

Commerce and Workforce Development, Monday, SHR1, 1:45 p.m.  Looks mostly harmless, or at least silly - one of the bills is SB1047, Sen. John Kavanagh's proposal to keep the names of lottery prizewinners secret for 90 days.

Water and Energy, Monday, SHR3, 2 p.m.  Presentations only.  If you go, bring your hip boots - one of them is from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, talking about the EPA's new carbon rule.  It's going to get deep in SHR3. :)


Rural Affairs and Environment, Tuesday, SHR109, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: the first striker of the session.  Sen. Gail Griffin is proposing to change SB1194, currently a technical correction (or vehicle) bill into one that expands the student loan repayment for doctors and dentists who practice in medically underserved areas (it's a thing, look it up) to include pharmacists, physician assistants, and behavioral health professionals.

Federalism, Mandates, and Fiscal Responsibility, Tuesday, SHR3, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: SCM1005, a love letter to Congress supporting an amendment to the US Constitution requiring that any federal regulation that is opposed by 25% of Congress cannot be enacted without a majority vote by Congress.

Transportation, Tuesday, SHR1, 2 p.m.  One bill on the agenda: SB1051, specifying that drivers are not required to obtain a motorcycle license to operate certain three-wheeled vehicles.

Appropriations, Tuesday, SHR109, 2 p.m.  Looks harmless so far.


Public Safety, Military, and Technology, Wednesday, SHR1, 9 a.m.  One bill on the agenda: SB1069, barring municipalities and counties from adopting ordinances that require retail businesses to obtain and utilize any specific security measures.

Finance, Wednesday, SHR3, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: some bills relating to state employee pension plans (which I don't understand well enough to comment on) and SB1088, indexing the state's income tax brackets to the state's inflation rate.  Which sounds good, until you remember that wages and salaries are not so indexed.  In other words, it's a backdoor revenue cut.

Health and Human Services, Wednesday, SHR1, 2 p.m.  On the agenda: SB1039, relating to the "compounding" of drugs by pharmacies in Arizona, and other related items; SB1092, requiring AHCCCS to petition the federal government for permission to implement a very specific work requirement for AHCCCS beneficiaries.

Government, Wednesday, SHR3, 2 p.m.  On the agenda: SB1102, banning the sending of text messages while driving.

Financial Institutions, Wednesday, SHR109, 2 p.m.  Presentation only.

Judiciary, Thursday, SHR109, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: SB1116, relating to fines, fees, costs, and community service sentences.

Education, Thursday, SHR1, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: SB1074, requiring public school districts with unused buildings up for sale or lease to allow charter schools to purchase or lease those facilities; SB1093, essentially requiring public schools districts to unquestioningly accept students from online schools, and their coursework; SB1131, requiring public school districts to allow students who are enrolled in online charter schools to participate in public school interscholastic activities.


As of this writing, no floor calendars have been posted.  When some are posted, they will be available here.

The Capitol Events calendar is here.

Public meeting notices from the Arizona Department of Administration here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Given the choices of "good government" and "petty and vindictive government", what do you think GOP legislators choose? Hint: the answer doesn't start with "good"...

One of the legal kerfluffles (another way of saying "brouhahas") that has faced AZ in recent months was the tendency of certain prosecutors to charge drivers with DUIs even if they were not under the influence at the time of their arrest.  The cases were built on blood tests that showed metabolites of a drug in the driver's bloodstream.

Metabolites are produced by the body when it processes a substance, *any* substance.

Most metabolites are inactive, or at least don't produce intoxicating effects.

However, that hasn't stopped police and prosecutors from using the presence of metabolites to bootstrap charges against someone who wasn't under the influence while driving.  In many cases, the ingestion of the drug in question was days or even weeks before; in some cases, the exposure to the drug was indirect.

For instance, detectable traces of marijuana can remain in blood and urine for two weeks to a month after exposure, long after any intoxicating effects have disappeared.

The targets of the ginned-up cases objected to being charged with DUI when they weren't under the influence.  Shocking, that.

In 2014, the Arizona Supreme Court put an end to the practice when it ruled that the presence of inactive metabolites in someone's bloodstream do not constitute evidence of intoxication.

Fast-forward to 2015, where certain members of the Arizona legislature have decided to "adjust" the state's DUI law, in light of that decision.

Folks, meet HB2273.

Sponsored by Republican representatives Sonny Borrelli, Regina Cobb, Anthony Kern, Brenda Barton, Noel Campbell, TJ Shope, and Bob Thorpe, it proposes to change a few words in the applicable statute.
1.  If the test results show a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, if the results show a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more and the violator was driving or in actual physical control of a commercial motor vehicle or if the results show there is any drug defined in section 13-3401 or any of its metabolite active or inactive metabolites in the person's body and the person does not possess a valid prescription for the drug, the violator's license or permit to drive will be suspended or denied for not less than ninety consecutive days.

They propose to take the word in red and with a line through it  out of the statute and replace it with the words in blue.

In case it isn't clear, the Republicans are proposing to undo the state supreme court's ruling, and again make someone criminally liable for DUI, even when they aren't under the influence.

The concern in these cases is over drugs like marijuana, but even something like chocolate has metabolites that are produced by the human body when it processes chocolate.

Maybe after this, Borrelli et. al. will seek to address the situation of driving after eating chocolate.

Look for "DUI-Kit Kat" coming to your local paper's police activity log soon...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Arizona legislature: The coming week

Lots of presentations this week, probably more of them than bills under consideration.  That will change in subsequent weeks...

Notes:

All committees meetings and agendas are subject to change without notice, and frequently do.  If you plan to travel to the Capitol to observe or weigh in on the consideration of a particular measure, check with the lege ahead of time to confirm that the meeting that you are interesting in is still on schedule and your item(s) of interest is still on the agenda for that meeting.

Meeting rooms designated "HHR" are in the House of Representatives building.

Meeting rooms designated "SHR" are in the Senate building.

Some agendas are summarized as "looks harmless", but if they cover an area of interest to you, examine the agenda and the bills on it.  If I missed something significant, please leave a comment letting me know.


All House committee agendas can be found here.

All Senate committee agendas can be found here.



On Tuesday, both chambers' Appropriations committees will meet in joint session, 9 a.m., HHR1.  On the agenda:  a presentation on the governor's budget proposal.  Recommended footwear du jour: hip waders, because it is going to get deep in there.


Also on Tuesday, both chambers' Transportation committees will meet in joint session, 2 p.m., HHR1.  On the agenda: A slew of transportation-related presentations.  Considering that one of the presenters is a Republican firm that lobbies for private industry, expect a proposal from the lege this session that takes a boatload of taxpayer money be transferred to some private company or companies (yeah, I know, that one is like predicting a sunny day in Arizona).


On the Senate side of the Capitol -

Tuesday, Rural Affairs and Environment, SHR109, 2 p.m.  On the agenda: Presentations.  No bills, as of this writing.

Wednesday, Public Safety, Military, and Technology, SHR1, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: Committee organizing activities and three bills -  SB1002 (relating to compensation for prison laborers); SB1063 (barring activating a walk signal for the purpose of slowing down drivers so that they can be solicited for a donation or for a business); and SB1073 (adding former judges to the list of people who can have certain information [i.e. - home addresses, phone numbers] redacted from public records).

Wednesday, Health and Human Services, SHR1, 2 p.m.  Items of interest on the agenda: SB1031 and SB1032.  Those measures are from State Sen. Kelli Ward (the committee's vice-chair) and seek to conscript AHCCCS contractors into the GOP's War on the Poor Drugs.

Wednesday, Government, SHR3, 2 p.m.  The agenda is short (2 items) and looks relatively harmless.  However, I say that with a big caveat: both measures are from Sen. John Kavanagh, someone who *isn't* known for his "good government" ideas (remember "show your papers before you pee"?).  This one may merit closer examination.

Wednesday, Financial Institutions, SHR109, 2 p.m. On the agenda: a presentation.

Thursday, Finance, SHR3, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: Four bills related to the state's public employee pension systems.  As I don't understand the nuances of those, I cannot comment on the substance of the bills.  However, given that these are proposed by legislative Republicans, who almost never do anything that helps public employees...

 Thursday, Judiciary, SHR109, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: SB1048, part of Kavanagh's ongoing jihad against "vexatious litigants".  His aim with this bill seems to be focused on poor litigants.

Thursday, Education, SHR1, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: a presentation from Diane Douglas, the state superintendent of public instruction (bring your popcorn :) ) and two bills - SB1052, expanding the ability of the state's community college districts to establish charter schools; and SB1065, adjusting the guidelines for school facilities projects (this one is from Sen. Jeff Dial, so it was probably written by some industry lobbyist ).


On the House side of the Capitol -

Tuesday, Ethics, HHR5, 1 p.m.  On the agenda: organizational activities.

Tuesday, Rural and Economic Development, HHR5, 2 p.m.  On the agenda: presentations.

Tuesday, Health, HHR4, 2 p.m.  Agenda looks harmless.

Tuesday, Banking and Financial Services, HHR3, 2 p.m.  On the agenda: presentations.

Wednesday, Commerce, HHR1, 9 a.m.  Agenda: looks harmless.

Wednesday, Insurance, HHR4, 10 a.m.  On the agenda: organizational activities.

Wednesday, Federalism and States' Rights, HHR5, 10 a.m.  On the agenda: organizational activities and a presentation from an ALEC-associated group that seeks to amend the US Constitution to take authority away from the federal government and give it to state governments (perhaps because those are more easily influenced [OK, more "cheaply bribed"]?)

Thursday, Military Affairs and Public Safety, HHR5, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: HB2089, making holders of "elective public office" a specially-protected class whereby a simple assault on one (normally a misdemeanor) is legally considered aggravated assault (a class six felony)

Thursday, Government and Higher Education, HHR1, 9 a.m.  Agenda: looks harmless.

Thursday, Agriculture, Water, and Lands, HHR3, 9 a.m.  On the agenda: a presentation.


As of this writing, no floor calendars have been posted.  When some are posted, they will be available here.

The Capitol Events calendar is here.

Public meeting notices from the Arizona Department of Administration here.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Governor Doug Ducey: pro-education...until the rubber hits the road


Many folks are weighing in on Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's FY2016 budget proposal.  They are using a lot of words.

Tonight, I believe in the old saying about pictures being worth a thousand words.  :)

Ducey's steps to the budget proposal, illustrated (source documents here):

1. Proclaim the awesome things that you are doing for K-12 public education -























2. Contradict yourself.









































Ducey claims that he wants to allocate nearly $160 million dollars more to K-12 education but tries to gloss over the fact that in his proposal, most of the funds come from...wait for it...K-12 education.

And at that, even the putative increase to education spending seems to be predicated on the state obeying a court that ruled that the state must allocate more for spending.  They (the governor and the lege) have been fighting the ruling.  If the judge backs down, expect the funding to disappear.

But not the cuts.



3. Screw over higher ed, expecting the Arizona Board of Regents to make up the lost funding with tuition increases.


































The hypocrisy here is that he spent most of his gubernatorial campaign blaming his opponent, former Regent chair Fred Duval, for tuition increases necessitated by previous cuts to higher ed funding.

4.  Make sure your pals in the private prison industry are taken care of.




















Even if it is at the expense of the state's education system.























Other information -














This next one is just wishful thinking (aka - fairy tale math).  It also looks like an easy way for the Ducey admin to give out a lucrative contract to some FOD* with little to no oversight -
















* = "Friend of Dougie"

Doug Ducey, less "pro-education" and more "pro-incarceration"

Friday, January 16, 2015

AZ lege and Doug Ducey showing their priorities. Guess what *isn't* one of them

Arizona has made the national news again, this time as the first state to require that students pass a civics test before they can graduate high school (HB2064).

From Time Magazine -
Arizona on Thursday became the first state in the nation to pass legislation requiring high school students to pass the U.S. citizenship test on civics before they can graduate — part of a growing nationwide effort to boost civics education.

The swift action by the Arizona Legislature comes as states around the country take up similar measures. The proposal requires high school students to correctly answer 60 of 100 questions on the civics portion of the test new citizens must pass.

What didn't they pass and see signed into law by the new governor?  Legally adequate (and judicially required) education funding.

Other things the lege is proposing:

- Preventing residency challenges to electeds and candidates (If this one passes, expect it to be challenged in court and/or at the ballot box)

- Increasing the size of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors from the current five members to seven (I thought the Rs were champions of "small government"?)

- Adding elected officials to a specially protected class of persons where a simple assault on them (a misdemeanor) is legally considered to be aggravated assault (a felony) (Sources indicate that at its beginning, this measure was intended to protect judges, but, as written, it covers all elected officials from the governor down to precinct committeemen.  Who doesn't it cover?  Judges...)

- Moving the date of Arizona's primary election date from November to May (Nice to know that every other problem facing the state has been addressed)

- Taking control of funds granted to Arizona by the federal government from the governor and giving it to the legislature (this one is an annual effort.  It has passed in the past, but since it needs the governor's signature to be enacted, don't hold your breath waiting for this one to become law)

- Adding (and here) the position of "lieutenant governor" to the list of Arizona elected officials (as written, the proposal would make the position an appointed one, not an elected one [in practical terms])

- Forcing schools to cut spending on maintenance and operations

- Restricting the ability of Arizona citizens to put ballot questions before the voters or to recall wayward elected officials

- Repealing Clean Elections (here, too) (another bill proposal that's seen annually)

- Banning the activation of a pedestrian "walk" signal at a traffic light if the purpose of that act is to slow down traffic in order to solicit drivers for money or for a business

- Regulating the size of political signs

- Keeping the names of the winners of winners of prizes in the Arizona lottery private


What isn't a proposal supported by the legislature and governor?

Paying the bills.



Note: On an related note, the governor's proposed budget will be released at 2:30 and will be available here.  As I am not an insider, I don't know the details of it yet, but have been told that the financial starvation of the state's education will continue under Doug Ducey's budget.


Note2:  Regarding the civics test law, follow the money.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Arizona legislature: The coming week

This week sees the opening of the 2015 session of the Arizona legislature.

Each week, I will list the coming week's committee and floor schedules posted as of the time of writing, with an overview of bills to watch.

The schedule this week, as with all weeks, is subject to change without notice (and as the session progresses, schedule volatility increases).

Having said that, this is going to be an easy week, schedule-wise.

Note:  "SHR" indicates that a meeting room is located in the Senate building; "HHR" indicates that a meeting room is in the House building.


Monday -

The session convenes, with the members of both chambers of the legislature being sworn in, at approximately noon.

At 2:00 p.m., the governor will give his State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature.

After that, there will be a "First Read" session in each chamber where proposed bills are formally introduced and assigned to committees.


Tuesday -

Senate Rural Affairs and Environment will meet at 9 a.m. in SHR109.  On the agenda: committee organizational activities and a presentation from the American Lands Council, an (ALEC-backed?) organization that is pushing for the transfer of federal lands to the control of state governments (which will almost certainly then transfer such lands to the control of corporate interests, hence ALEC's interest in the subject).  Background info on the American Lands Council from the Center for American Progress here.

House Health will meet at 2 p.m. in HHR4.  On the agenda: committee organizational activities, a couple of presentations, and a couple of bills that look to be harmless.

Wednesday -

Senate Financial Institutions will meet at 2 p.m. in SHR109.  On the agenda: committee organizational activities.

Thursday -

House Government and Higher Education will meet at 9 a.m. in HHR1.  On the agenda: committee organizational activities.

House Agriculture, Water, and Lands will meet at 9 a.m. in HHR3.  On the agenda: committee organizational activities.

Senate Education will meet at 9 a.m. in SHR1.  On the agenda: committee organizational activities, a presentation, and one bill: SB1029, a proposal to change graduation requirements for Arizona high school students.  Under the proposal, students would be required to correctly answer 60 out of the 100 questions on the civics portion of the US' naturalization test in order to earn a high school diploma.  This proposal is being fast-tracked (as evidenced by its committee consideration during the first week of the session) and has a matching bill on the House side - HB2064.


Friday -

The governor releases his proposed budget for the next fiscal year.  Expect further cuts to the state's education system and remaining public safety net.  The state faces a large deficit, but the new governor, Doug Ducey, has already promised that no taxes will be raised to close the gap.


There are no floor calendars posted as of this writing.

The lege's calendar of registered events at the Capitol is here.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The President Speaks About Housing in Phoenix




President Barack Obama spoke in Phoenix today (January 8, 2015).  His topic was housing.

The speech video is above, courtesy the White House's website; the text is below, also courtesy the White House's website -


THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Arizona!  (Applause.)  Hey!  (Applause.)  Happy New Year, Arizona.  (Applause.)  Go, Bobcats. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)

It’s good to be in Phoenix.  (Applause.)  And I mean that, because I was in Detroit yesterday, which is a great city but it was 60 degrees colder.  (Laughter.)  So it feels pretty good, this weather right here.  I had a couple staff people who said, we’re going to miss the plane.  (Laughter.)  They’re just going to try to get stranded here for a while.  (Laughter.)

But I went to Detroit, I went here -- I guess between the Lions and the Cardinals, this is my post-wild card consolation tour.  (Laughter.)  As a Bears fan, I want you to know that, first of all, you guys did a lot better than we did.  (Laughter.) You got a great coach; you got a great team.  You had some bad luck.  And there’s always next year.  So keep your chin up.  Keep your chin up.

I want to thank Secretary Castro not just for the terrific introduction, but for the great job he’s doing every day.  (Applause.)  I want to thank your Congressman, Ruben Gallego.  (Applause.)  Where’s Ruben?  Where is he?  Ruben, I already liked him, and then he told me he was from Chicago originally, before he got smart and moved to warmer weather (Laughter.)

I want to thank your Mayor, Greg Stanton.  (Applause.)  He was there.  There he is.  Greg is doing a great job.  I want to thank your principal, John Biera, Jr.  (Applause.)  And your superintendent, Kent Scribner.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank all the students and staff and faculty who may be here.  We really appreciate your hospitality.

One last acknowledgement.  I had a chance to meet a couple of really good friends -- Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords. (Applause.)  This was a remarkable meeting for me because it was four years ago today that Gabby and some other wonderful Arizonans were gunned down outside a supermarket in Tucson.  It's a tough day for a lot of folks down there.  We keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

But Gabby is doing great.  She looks wonderful, and she’s got the same energy and passion that she always has had.  Even as she’s waged her own fight to recover, she’s fought to prevent the next tragedies from happening to others.  She’s a hero, and she is a great Arizonan.  (Applause.)  So we’re really proud of her.  And her brother, who is also an astronaut -- her brother-in-law, who’s also an astronaut, is going to be in space for a year. He was just on the cover of Time Magazine, which I know there’s some folks in Washington who wish I was going to be in space for a year, but -- (laughter) -- but I'm still around.  (Applause.)  Because I got some work to do.

Now, I am here because one of my New Year’s resolutions is to make sure more Americans in Phoenix and in Arizona and all across the country feel like they’re coming back.  Because the country is coming back, but I want everybody to feel like things are getting better and we are moving in the right direction.  And let there be no doubt -- thanks to the steps we took early on to rescue our economy, to rebuild it on a new foundation, America is coming back.  (Applause.)

And that’s not just my own opinion.  Here are the facts.  2014 was the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  (Applause.)  We’ve had 57 straight months of private sector job growth, created nearly 11 million new jobs.  (Applause.)  Since 2010, we’ve put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every advanced economy combined.  (Applause.)  American manufacturing is growing at the fastest pace since the ‘90s.  We’re now the number-one producer of oil, of gas.  And by the way, you’re saving about a buck-ten a gallon at the pump over this time last year.  (Applause.)

Although I was in Detroit and I told folks yesterday, gas prices aren’t going to be low forever, so don’t start suddenly saying you don’t have to worry about fuel efficiency.  If you’re going out shopping for a new car, don’t think it’s always going to be this low, because then you’ll be surprised and you’ll be mad at me later -- (laughter) -- and I’ll be able to say, I told you don’t get a gas guzzler because gas is going to go back up. But while it’s low, enjoy it.  And feel free to spend some of that money on local businesses, who then will hire more people and put more folks back to work.  (Applause.)

Meanwhile, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year alone.  (Applause.)

We’ve done all this while cutting our federal deficit by about two-thirds.  And I’m going to repeat that, because they did a poll the other day and like 70 percent of the people think the deficit is going up.  No, 70 percent of the people.  You stop people on the street -- 7 out of 10 think the deficit is going up.  The deficit has gone down by two-thirds since I was President of the United States.  (Applause.)  So we’re doing all this in a fiscally responsible way.  (Applause.)

And maybe closest to my heart, after 13 long years, our war in Afghanistan has come to a responsible end, which means more of our brave troops spent time with their families this holiday season, right here back home.  (Applause.)

So these last six years required hard work and sacrifice by everybody.  But as a country, we have a right to be proud that all that hard work paid off.  America’s resurgence is real.  And now that we’ve got some calmer waters out there, if everybody does their part, if we all work together, we can make sure that the tide starts lifting all boats again.  We can get wages and incomes growing faster.  We can make sure the middle class is growing, that the ladders of the middle class for folks who are struggling are firm and steady and have a lot of rungs to them.  Because it’s the middle class, it’s working families that power America’s prosperity.  That’s always been the case; that will be true for decades to come.  (Applause.)

And I’ve got a State of the Union address in about two weeks and that’s what I want to talk about -- building on the progress we’ve made.  But of course, why wait for the State of the Union? It’s sort of like you’ve got presents under the tree, you kind of start shaking them a little bit.  (Laughter.)  I want to kind of give you a little sense of what I want to talk about.  So we’re going to start this week laying out some of the agenda for the next year.

And here in Phoenix, I want to talk about helping more families afford their piece of the American Dream, and that is owning their own home.  (Applause.)

Now, let me just say, right now Michelle and I live in rental housing.  (Laughter.)  We don’t own where we live.  We’ve got two years remaining on our lease.  (Laughter.)  I’m hoping I get my security deposit back.  (Laughter.)  Although Bo and Sunny have been tearing things up occasionally -- we’re going to have to clean things up a little bit.  (Laughter.)

But I’ll never forget the day we bought our first place, a place of our own -- a condo, back in Chicago.  And for us, and millions of Americans like us, buying a home has always been about more than owning a roof and four walls.  It’s about investing in savings, and building a family, and planting roots in a community.  So we bought this place -- it was about, I guess, probably about 2,000 square feet.  It was in this complex called East View Park.  It was sort of like a railway apartment. And it felt huge when we moved in.  And then Malia and Sasha were born, and their toys got everywhere.  (Laughter.)  And then it felt small because they basically took over the whole dining room with their toys.

But I have such good memories not just about the place itself, but all the work we had to do to save to get in there, and then to fix it up, and that sense of accomplishment that you were building something for your family and for your future.

And that's always been true.  When my grandfather came back from World War II, this country gave him the chance to buy his first home with a loan from the FHA.  For folks like him, a home was proof that America was a place where if you worked hard, if you were responsible, it was rewarded.

But we all know what happened in the last decade when responsibility gave way to recklessness.  Families who did the right thing and bought a home that they could afford, and made their payments each month, and did everything right, when the market plummeted they got hurt.  Even though somebody else was acting irresponsibly -- whether on Wall Street, or folks who weren’t responsible in terms of how they were dealing with their real estate -- ordinary families got hurt bad.  And that was especially true here in Arizona.

There were folks who borrowed more than they should have.  There were lenders who really were just worried about making profits and not whether the people they were lending to were going to be able to keep up their homes.  So home values plunged. Americans sank underwater.  Foreclosures skyrocketed.  Builders stopped building.  Construction workers lost their jobs.

And when I came into office, I believed we could not let this crisis play itself out.  If we could save more families from losing everything they had worked so hard to build, we had to make the effort.  So less than a month after I took office, I came here to Arizona to lay out my plan to get responsible homeowners back on their feet.  And I said that healing our housing market wouldn’t be easy, it would not be quick.  But we were going to act swiftly, we were going to act boldly, we were going to try everything that we could to help responsible homeowners.  If something didn't work, we’d try something else.  But we were going to try to keep folks in their homes.

And we ended up helping millions stay in their homes.  We helped millions more save thousands of dollars each year by refinancing.  We helped folks who didn’t want to buy a home or who weren’t ready to buy find an affordable place to rent.  We kept up our fight against homelessness.  And by the way -- there’s some homeless advocates here -- since 2010, we’ve helped bring one in three homeless veterans off the streets.  (Applause.)  And I want to make sure everybody knows -- under Mayor Stanton, Phoenix is leading the way in that effort.  (Applause.)  Phoenix is doing a great job.  (Applause.)

So as a result of all these efforts, today, home sales are up nearly 50 percent from where they were in the worst of the crisis.  Homebuilding has more than doubled.  That's created hundreds of thousands of construction jobs.  New foreclosures are at their lowest level since 2006.  Since 2012, nearly 10 million fewer Americans have their homes underwater.  Rising home prices have put hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth back in the pockets of middle-class families.

Now, I want everybody to be clear -- this progress is not an accident.  It is not luck.  It’s what happens when you have policies that put middle-class families first.  (Applause.)

And what’s true in Arizona is true all across the country:  We’ve still got some more work to do, our job is not done, but what we're doing is working.  And we’ve got to keep at it.  We’ve got to stay at it.

Today, here in Phoenix, I’m going to take a new action to help even more responsible families stake their claim on the middle class and buy their first new home.  Starting this month, the Federal Housing Authority will lower its mortgage insurance premium rates enough to save the average new borrower more than $900 a year.  (Applause.)  Now, that's $900 that can go towards paying the groceries, or gas, or a child’s education.  Or, depending on what your mortgage is, it might be a month’s mortgage payment.

And for those who aren’t familiar with FHA, FHA underwrites, it guarantees, it’s the backstop for a lot of loans around the country, especially for middle-class folks.  So a lot of people pay these fees, and if they’re saving $900 that’s money that’s going to be going throughout the economy.
Over the next three years, these lower premiums will give hundreds of thousands more families the chance to own their own home, and it will help make owning a home more affordable for millions more households overall in the coming years.

And just to give you an example, earlier today, Secretary Castro and I visited Nueva Villas.  It’s a new neighborhood here in Phoenix where a lot of families are buying homes with the help of the FHA.  And we actually -- this was a big development that wasn’t finished or wasn’t all sold; the crisis came, half the homes were still unsold.  Folks lost their homes.  It started getting boarded up.  People were feeling insecure.  It was starting to get depressed.  Nonprofits, with the help of HUD, came in, purchased some of the properties, hired local residents to rehab them.  Now people are building them -- beautiful homes. And with the help of the FHA, we can now make sure that more people are getting access to these homes.  And today’s action will mean more money in the pockets of families like the ones that we’ve met.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Is this about housing?  (Laughter.)  All right.

And keep in mind, hundreds of thousands of new buyers is going to mean a healthier housing market for everybody.  So how many people here own their own home?  (Applause.)  All right.  So even though you’ve already got your mortgage or your loan, already have your home, if your neighbors are buying more homes, that’s lifting the whole market here, which means the value of your home starts going up.  And that’s good for you.  (Applause.)  It means fewer foreclosure signs as people fix up old properties.  It means more construction, which means more jobs, which means a better economy.  So this is the kind of boost that we need to keep the momentum that we have seen over the last several years -- keep it going here in Phoenix and all across the country.

So I want to be clear.  If you’re looking to take advantage of these lower rates, that’s great.  On the other hand, don’t buy something you can’t afford.  (Applause.)  You’re going to be out of luck.  These rates are for responsible buyers.  We’re not going down the road again of financing folks buying things they can’t afford.  We’re going to be cracking down on that.  We put in place tough rules on Wall Street and we created a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and we’re really policing irresponsible lenders luring folks into buying stuff they can’t afford.  (Applause.)

And we designed a mortgage form that’s written in simple language so that people understand what the commitments are when you buy a home.  We’re cracking down on some of the worst practices that led to the housing crisis.  We’re going to protect middle-class families from getting ripped off.

And that’s why we had the Justice Department fight for buyers who were discriminated against or preyed upon, and we won a settlement that awarded more money to victims in one year than in the previous 23 years combined.  (Applause.)  That’s why we worked with states to force big banks to repay more than $50 billion to more than 1.5 million borrowers who had been treated wrongly -- and that was the largest lending settlement in history.  (Applause.)  And that’s why I’ve called on Congress to wind down the government-backed companies known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

So the bottom line is we don't think there’s anything wrong with pursuing a profit, but we want to make clear the days of making bad bets on the backs of taxpayer money and then getting bailed out afterwards -- we're not going back to that.  (Applause.)  We've worked too hard, and everything we’ve done to heal the housing markets we want to preserve.  But we do want to make sure that the housing market is strong and that responsible homeowners can get a good deal.  For people who have saved, done the right thing, now are looking to buy their first home, we want to make sure that they get a little bit of help.

In the end, everything we've done to heal the housing market is about more than just restoring housing values.  It's about restoring our common values.  It's about who we are as a country and who we are as communities.

And I want to just tell you a quick story.  Lorraine Cona, from Sun City, next door, she did everything right.  She had a good job as a librarian.  She bought a home she could afford.  She wanted to retire in that home.  She made her payments on time.  Then, five years ago, through no fault of her own, she was laid off, and she started falling behind in her payments.  She knew foreclosure was coming.  She said, “I’d look out the window and I’d see somebody taking pictures of my house.”

But when things seemed darkest, Lorraine learned about something called the Hardest Hit fund –- it's a program that we created to help folks in states like Arizona that had been especially hard hit by the real estate crash.  And they helped her make her late payments -- because she had a great track record until she had lost her job.  They set her up with financial counseling so she could stay on track.  It wasn’t easy, but Lorraine repaired her credit.  She refinanced her mortgage.  And today, after a lifetime of hard work, Lorraine is retired, she’s back to making her payments every single month.  She’s in her home.  She was able to accomplish that.  Even though it was scary at times, she got it done.  Lorraine came back, just like Phoenix has come back.  (Applause.)  Just like Arizona has come back.  Just like America has come back.  (Applause.)

It’s not just the economy turning around.  It’s turning around the lives of hardworking people, making sure that that hard work finally pays off.  (Applause.)  It’s making sure you finally get that job you’re looking for, or the raise you deserve, or a little bit of security, or the retirement that you’ve earned, or being able to send your kid to college so their lives are better than yours.  (Applause.)  That's what this is about.

So I just want everybody to know that we have been through some tough times, but we are moving.  There are workers today with jobs who didn’t have jobs last year.  There are families who have got health insurance who didn’t have health insurance before.  (Applause.)  There are students who are in college right now who didn’t think they could afford it before.  (Applause.) There are heroes who had served tour after tour who are finally home with their families.  There are autoworkers who are building great American cars now when they thought that those plants were going to shut down.

America is coming back.  (Applause.)  And the key, Arizona, is for us all to work together to make sure we keep it going.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

2015 Arizona legislature: getting ready for the "same old, same old"

Update on 1/8 for a correction: eagle-eyed reader and fellow blogger Steve Muratore (Arizona Eagletarian and Blog for Arizona) noted an error in this post.  The "Allen" who sponsored HCRs 2001 and 2002 is state representative *John* Allen, not state senator *Sylvia* Allen.

Corrected where appropriate, with thanks to Steve and apologies to readers.

End update.

It's early (the legislative session hasn't even started yet), but even though less than 70 bill proposals have been posted on the lege's website, a few familiar patterns have emerged -

1.  One of the GOPers' attacks on the majority of civil society will be an attempt to impose "tyranny of the minority".

Reps. Phil Lovas, TJ Shope, and John Allen, are pushing HCR2001 and HCR2002.

HCR2001 would change judicial retention election requirements so that judges subject to such elections would need the votes of 60 percent of the voters in an election to retain their offices.

HCR2002 would change the process of amending the state constitution so that proposed amendments would need the support of 60 percent of the voters in an election to be approved.

Hmmm...

If the first one was in force for the 2014 elections, no state supreme court or appellate level judges would have been voted out, and four Maricopa County judges would have lost their jobs (in reality, one, Benjamin Norris, was not retained).

The three that would have lost their jobs include one who probably should have lost his job (he was considered to be qualified, but marginally so) and two were nowhere near unqualified.

Of course, one of those two was Bill Brotherton, a former Democratic state legislator.

Just a guess here, but Lovas et. al. probably wouldn't lose any sleep over Brotherton losing his job, notwithstanding his fitness for the job.

Having said that, this probably is less a personal attack on Brotherton and more one of the lege's annual attacks on the independence of the judiciary.

Note: Evaluations from the Arizona Commission on Judicial Performance Review are here.


As for HCR2002, I am totally unsure of what they are trying to do here.  If enacted, it would effectively block almost all amendments to the Arizona constitution, including most supported by the sponsors.  Such as 2014's Proposition 122, the neo-secessionists' proposal about the state being able to nullify any federal law, regulation, or rule that the lege doesn't like.











My first impression, subject to change (assuming these measures move forward), is that the sponsors of the measures have looked at the US Senate and its gridlock (it takes 60 percent of the 100-member body to do almost almost anything beyond waking up in the morning) and decided that's a good model for Arizona to follow.

Of course, if they (Lovas, Shope, and Allen) really thought 60 percent was so wonderful, they would propose changing election rules so that legislative incumbents need to earn 60 percent of votes cast to win reelection.

Not holding my breath waiting for that one...


2.  The quadrennial windmill tilt has already started.

Every four years, some bright-eyed and bushy-tailed type vents his umbrage at the fact that Arizona is not the first state to hold its presidential preference primary.

This year, Rep. Lovas (him again! :) ) has proposed HB2015, changing the date of the state's presidential preference election to that of the date of the Iowa caucuses, unless Iowa's are no longer the first in the nation.


3. There are going to be a *lot* of strikers this session.

44 out of the 62 measures currently posted on the lege's website are "technical correction" bills, which exist primarily to serve as "vehicle" bills for strikers.


4. The "bay at the moon" caucus is still peeved over the 2011 recall of disgraced former Senate president Russell Pearce.

To stop that from ever happening again, they have proposed HB2048, which would turn recall elections into partisan elections (primary and general).

In 2011, no Democrat ran against Pearce in his recall election and the sponsors of this bill apparently think that Pearce would have won a purely partisan affair (they seem to be blithely ignoring Pearce's 2012 primary election loss by the same percentage as his 2011 recall election loss).


5. Attacks on the poorest Arizonan will continue much as they have in recent years.

Already submitted: HB2051, barring recipients from using TANF EBT cards at fast food restaurants (with a very vague definition of "fast food".


Summary: whatever we've seen from this bunch in years past will be back; the names of the legislators have changed, but the culture of contempt for their constituents has not.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Incoming state rep looking to write a sequel to "The Scarlet Letter"

In high school (for me, anyway; I don't know what's on the high school reading lists currently), one of the books that everyone had to read and study was "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

It was (and remains) as classic piece of American literature (not to be confused with the other-than-classic 1995 movie based on the book).

Written in the middle of the 19th century, it was set in the middle of the 17th century in Puritan-era Boston. 

There are many themes to explore in the book, not least of which is ineffectiveness of the use of ostracization as a punishment.  And the pettiness and hypocrisy of its advocates.

Which brings us to early 21st-century Arizona.

From the Associated Press, via the Arizona Republic -
A newly elected Arizona state representative says he's drafting legislation to add a "non-citizen" designation on driver's licenses issued to young immigrants participating in an Obama administration program enabling them to avoid deportation.

Rep.-elect Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, said he wants to protect the integrity of the voting system, while Democratic state Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, said Lawrence's proposal spells trouble for Arizona in the wake of past controversy over a 2010 immigration-enforcement law.

The 17th century Puritans in Hawthorne's novel wanted to ostracize, even demonize, anyone of whom they didn't approve and use that fear of the "other" to bolster their position of authority.

And Lawrence, perhaps trying to make a "splash" with his new colleagues in the lege, seems to be running plays out of that 17th century playbook.

Perhaps it's time to add a new clause to AZ law to require sitting legislators to wear a henna tattoo in the middle of their foreheads, kind of like


pic found at Democratic Underground.  Not sure where the poster there found it.

Using henna because it is temporary (like legislative terms), but because it is temporary, the "L" tats would have to be refreshed periodically.  Since henna tats usually last 2 - 4 weeks, let's go with requiring refreshers twice a month, perhaps at the beginning of each legislative pay period.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Short attention span musing - not quite riding off into the sunset (and more, and worse) edition

...Most of this post will focus on the goings-on/bad behavior of some of Arizona's Republicans, but I have to lead off with one positive note:

Congratulations to Randy Keating, friend and immediate past chair of the LD26 Democrats (Tempe and West Mesa) on his election as 2nd Vice Chair of the Maricopa Democratic Party!  His energy and smarts will help guide the MCDP in its quest to restore some rationality to Maricopa County politics.  Plus he's a hell of an organizer and knows a lot about what LDs here want and need to do to make gains.

...Apparently, outgoing AZSOS Ken Bennett has no desire to drift back from whence he came (aka - Prescott).  He's the newly-elected chair of the LD24 Republicans (mostly east and central Phoenix) -














...Perennial candidate Vernon Parker also isn't fading away.

From the website of the Maricopa County Republican-








Don't be shocked if Parker (or a proxy) goes after Rep. Eric Meyer (D-LD28) in 2016.  The Rs in that district absolutely *hate* the fact that there is a Democratic legislator from that district and go after him hard every cycle.  I expect Parker to use his deep-pocketed contacts to fund a run at Meyer.


...Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio may not be feeling too festive this holiday season.

From the Arizona Republic, written by Sean Holstege -
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow was telling him [Sheriff Joe Arpaio] Thursday that there was "a very real possibility" he would refer the popular sheriff to the U.S. Attorney's Office for criminal prosecution on contempt-of-court charges, later noting, "I fully intend to."

It was the latest showdown in a class-action civil-rights case that has dragged on since 2007.

That case, brought on behalf of Latinos who said immigration sweeps by the Sheriff's Office violated their civil rights, ended with a settlement and the imposition of a federal monitor to ensure it doesn't happen again.


...The unofficial title of the chief of staff for Governor-elect Doug Ducey (R) should be "Director of Dark Money".

From the Associated Press, via ABC15.com
Governor-elect Doug Ducey has chosen former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams to be his chief of staff when he takes office next month.

Adams is already serving as co-chair of Ducey's transition committee and will continue in that role.

The "dark money" part?

From an op-ed published by the Arizona Republic in 2012, written by David Berman, a senior researcher at the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy -
Americans for Responsible Leadership, an obscure Arizona-based 501(c)(4) non-profit headed by former Arizona House Speaker Kirk Adams and with no history of political activity in California, contributed funds to two political action committees there. One committee supported an anti-union initiative and the other opposed a tax increase, both on the California ballot in 2012.
 
The money, ultimately spent on political advertising, came to Americans for Responsible Leadership through a convoluted network of dark-money non-profit groups in Virginia and Iowa associated with the Koch brothers.


...The Arizona House of Representatives announced the committee assignments for the upcoming session.

From a press release -

Agriculture, Water and Lands (Thursday morning)
Chair – Brenda Barton, Vice Chair – Darin Mitchell, Regina Cobb, Karen Fann, Steve Montenegro, T.J. Shope, Jennifer Benally, Rosanna Gabaldon, Lisa Otondo


Appropriations (Wednesday afternoon)
Chair – Justin Olson, Vice Chair – Vince Leach, John Allen, Russell “Rusty” Bowers, Rick Gray, Warren Petersen, Tony Rivero, David Stevens, Michelle Ugenti, Lela Alston, Mark Cardenas, Stefanie Mach, Eric Meyer, Andrew Sherwood


Banking and Financial Services (Tuesday afternoon)
Chair – Kate Brophy McGee, Vice Chair – Jeff Weninger, John Allen, Eddie Farnsworth, Jill Norgaard, Diego Espinoza, Rosanna Gabaldon, Debbie McCune Davis


Children and Family Affairs (Monday afternoon)
Chair – John Allen, Vice Chair – Kate Brophy McGee, John Christopher Ackerley, Regina Cobb, Phil Lovas, Kelly Townsend, Sally Ann Gonzales, Juan Jose Mendez, Rebecca Rios


Commerce (Wednesday morning)
Chair – Warren Petersen, Vice Chair – Jill Norgaard, Jay Lawrence, Tony Rivero, T.J. Shope, Diego Espinoza, Charlene Fernandez, Stefanie Mach


County and Municipal Affairs (Monday afternoon)
Chair – Doug Coleman, Vice Chair – Tony Rivero, Paul Boyer, Karen Fann, Rick Gray, Lela Alston, Reginald Bolding, Rosanna Gabaldon


Education (Wednesday afternoon)
Chair – Paul Boyer, Vice Chair – Jay Lawrence, Doug Coleman, Jill Norgaard, Bob Thorpe, Reginald Bolding, Lisa Otondo


Elections (Tuesday morning)
Chair – Michelle Ugenti, Vice Chair – J.D. Mesnard, Heather Carter, Jeff Weninger, Ken Clark, Jonathan Larkin


Energy, Environment and Natural Resources (Monday afternoon)
Chair – Frank Pratt, Vice Chair – Russell “Rusty” Bowers, Brenda Barton, Heather Carter, Mark Finchem, Vince Leach, Ken Clark, Macario Saldate, Victoria Steele


Federalism and States’ Rights (Wednesday morning)
Chair – Kelly Townsend, Vice Chair – Noel Campbell, Mark Finchem, Darn [sic] Mitchell, Bob Thorpe, Rebecca Rios, Ceci Velasquez, Bruce Wheeler


Government and Higher Education (Thursday morning)
Chair – Thorpe, Vice Chair – Ackerley, Phil Lovas, Justin Olson, Warren Petersen, Kelly Townsend, Lela Alston, Jonathan Larkin, Macario Saldate


Health (Tuesday afternoon)
Chair – Heather Carter, Vice Chair – Regina Cobb, Paul Boyer, Jay Lawrence, Randall “Randy” Friese, Eric Meyer


Judiciary (Wednesday morning)
Chair – Eddie Farnsworth, Vice Chair – Sonny Borrelli, Anthony Kern, J.D. Mesnard, Randall “Randy” Friese, Albert Hale


Military Affairs and Public Safety (Thursday morning)
Chair – Sonny Borrelli, Vice Chair – Mark Finchem, Noel Campbell, Eddie Farnsworth, Anthony Kern, Frank Pratt, Richard Andrade, Mark Cardenas, Stefanie Mach


Rules (Monday afternoon)
Chair – David Stevens, Vice Chair – Steve Montenegro, David Gowan, David Livingston, Bob Robson, Bob Thorpe, Albert Hale, Ceci Velasquez, Bruce Wheeler


Rural and Economic Development (Tuesday afternoon)
Chair – T.J. Shope, Vice Chair – Russell “Rusty” Bowers, Brenda Barton, Vince Leach, Frank Pratt, Jennifer Benally, Sally Ann Gonzales, Juan Jose Mendez


Transportation and Infrastructure (Tuesday afternoon)
Chair – Rick Gray, Vice Chair – David Stevens, John Christopher Ackerley, Sonny Borrelli, Noel Campbell, Karen Fann, Richard Andrade, Charlene Fernandez, Victoria Steele


Ways and Means (Monday afternoon)
Chair – Darin Mitchell, Vice Chair – Anthony Kern, J.D. Mesnard, Justin Olson, Michelle Ugenti, Jeff Weninger, Mark Cardenas, Andrew Sherwood, Bruce Wheeler


 - No commentary on these yet...


...Finally, the LD26 Republicans seem to have established a new holiday season tradition.

Honor the massacre of 27 people by Adam Lanza (his mother, 6 school staff members, and 20 children) in Newtown, CT by giving away an AR15, a higher-end version of the weapon used in the massacre.

From the announcement webpage for their holiday "party" -






















For those who can't quite make out the small print -
















Not the first time that they've done this.  From 2013 -


















And doing this in a school?  Kind of craven, even for this bunch.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

AZ Lege 2015: the first one out of the gate is...

Well, you can tell the start of a new legislative session is nigh when legislators start "pre-filing" bills.

Generally speaking, such early bills are no more successful than bills that are filed once the session starts (for various reasons, most bill proposals don't go anywhere).

However, they serve as good discussion fodder during the political equivalent of baseball's "hot stove" season.

This year, the first legislator to have bills posted on the lege's website is Representative, and soon-to-be State Senator, John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills).

He has filed SB1001, "nuclear emergency appropriations; assessments" and SB1002, "prisoners; compensation for labor performed".

SB1001 is a relatively non-controversial measure to fund nuclear emergency planning for two fiscal years, with the funds coming from an assessment (aka - tax) on the operators of the state's nuclear power generating station.  Versions of this have passed before; this one will probably see smooth sailing and pass in 2015.

SB1002, however, could see some major headwinds.

It would triple the maximum compensation that a prisoner in a state, or privately-operated, prison could receive for their labor, with certain exceptions.

Don't get too excited - the current limit is 50 cents per hour; tripling that still leaves the compensation at barely above "slave wage" levels.

Even that, though, may be too rich for legislators who like to score political points by beating up on appearing tough toward those that they consider to be weaker than them.

More importantly, given Kavanagh's close relationship with the private prison industry and the fact that this bill would cost the industry money, the bill probably won't pass as is.

Caveat: there could be some backroom finagling going on here, some nuance to this that I do not see right now where the ultimate beneficiaries of this are the private prisons, or the companies that contract for the use of prison labor.

It could just die a quiet death (not get taken up by a committee, or not see floor action if it does pass committee).

It could be watered down (increase the compensation limit, but by a smaller amount).

Finally, it could be utilized as a "vehicle" bill (have the guts of the bill stripped out and replaced the text of another, via a "strike everything amendment", aka - a "striker").

Whatever the ultimate fates of these two bills, they are just the first of 1000?  1200?  more? proposals that the lege will consider.

Can't say that I think it will be a "fun" ride, but it should be an interesting one...


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ferguson thoughts...

While I try to make this blog an informative one (especially on the subject of the doings of the Arizona legislature), its genesis was as a place to vent.

One of the reasons that I haven't written about the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri is that there are so many thoughts trying to get out that I haven't been able to organize them.

However, the time that has passed hasn't done anything to help those thoughts simmer down, so it is time to return this blog to its roots - as a vent.

Here goes -

1.  Have no doubt: the prosecutor in the case, Bob McCulloch, tanked the case.

There's an aphorism about prosecutors being able to indict a ham sandwich.  I don't know if it is 100% accurate, but if that ham sandwich was stolen, almost all he would have needed to indict Wilson would have been to show that Wilson was in the same time zone as the sandwich when it went missing.

Nearly all grand juries do exactly what the prosecutors leading them want done.

Of course, given that McCulloch is the president of an organization that raised money for Wilson's defense, that appears to be exactly what happened in this case.


2. There have been people, perhaps people of good intent, who have looked to rationalize the police response to this situation by saying something along the lines of "well, the police deal with people at their worst so that it isn't a surprise" that Wilson thought that Brown was a demon, before Wilson shot and killed Brown. Those same people use the same "logic" to rationalize police predisposition to violence toward members of minority communities.

Believe it or not, that can be worked with - if it is acceptable to pass judgement on an entire community based on the bad behavior of a few individual members of that community, then it *is*.

As Darren Wilson is a bigoted murderer; so are all members of the "blue wall".

Don't like it?  (And you shouldn't)

Too bad.  That's how stereotypes work.


For the record: I believe that in our society, there is no one more worthy of respect than a good cop.

As for my definition of  "good"?  Well, the Darren Wilsons of that world and the "go along to get along" types who have aided and abetted him need not apply...


3.  As horrific as it is, police violence toward minorities (and non-LEO folks who aren't 1%-ers) isn't the most pressing issue.

Sad to say, but there are always going to be bad apples in any group.

In other words, even in a group that is mostly decent human beings and honorable public servants, there is always going to be an element that is bigoted, vicious, and/or corrupt.

The biggest problem is the pervasive "code of silence" that suffuses the LEO subculture.  Until that is addressed, until their loyalty is given to the civil society pays their salaries and grant them their authority before it is given to the blue wall, then the Darren Wilsons of the world will continue to be the face of the American law enforcement community.


And as long as Wilson and his ilk *are* the face of American law enforcement, the LEO community will have more authority than credibility.  That's not just a problem for the LEO community; it undermines trust in society overall.