Many (okay, ALL) observers realized a year ago, when the AIRC approved the new maps, that things would change in 2013 at the State Capitol. Of course, that is why the faux outrage from irrational extremists. And why the AIRC still must defend lawsuits from Republicans who cannot accept the will of the People of Arizona.
Anyway, in November, the names and faces of the new legislature became clear. But few may have grasped the extent to which the political climate would (can ACTUALLY) really turn around.
How many will have dared to proclaim that the Minority Party would begin to set the agenda in 2013?
On opening day, Gov. Jan Brewer declared that Obamacare is here to stay and it is up to Arizona lawmakers to prepare for it. In spite of expected opposition from her own Party, in that proclamation, she spelled out her plan to accept the Obama administration's Medicaid expansion which provides for federal funding at a 90/10 match rate. Particulars of Brewer's speech addressed head on several expected objections. Others will write in detail about the plan and Brewer's speech.
My intent, however, is to look at an aggressive and largely UNDER the RADAR move that new LD26 state Sen. Ed Ableser has taken to introduce what can be key economic development and ethics/accountability legislation leading up to today's session.
SB 1005 provides Green Technology and Manufacturing incentives for adding jobs in Arizona.
SB1016 says that Public Power Entities serving an annual retail load of 300,000 megawatts per year must make NET METERING available to customer generators if they contribute excess electricity generated by solar, wind or biomass facilities on the customer's premises to the grid. This would appear to apply to Salt River Project.
Consider that with customer generators feeding more and more electricity into the grid during PEAK load times (daytime during the long, hot Arizona summer), the need for SRP (as well as Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power) to import electricity from the Pacific Northwest would be minimized. And in so doing, put DOWNWARD pressure on electric rates when they are highest in Arizona. THANK YOU, Sen. Ableser for introducing this legislation. Of course, this is only the first step.
Those two bills were filed before the session even started. But TODAY, Tempe's Sen. Ableser introduced another key bill that I believe will require widespread popular support throughout Arizona to get it passed and signed into law.
SB1043 Legislators; Disclosure of Interest
Includes the following (new) text:
A. A legislator who casts a vote with respect to any bill, memorial or resolution on the floor of the house of representatives or the senate in which the legislator has a direct financial interest shall prepare a written statement that identifies the bill, memorial or resolution, the legislator's vote and the nature of the legislator's direct financial interest. The legislator shall file the statement with the chief clerk of the house of representatives or the secretary of the senate. The statement shall be posted on the internet web page corresponding to the legislator as found on the legislature's website. The web page for each legislator shall have an area entitled "disclosure of direct financial interest" for each statement to be posted.
B. A legislator shall report the direct financial interest as soon as possible after the legislator's vote in the house of representatives or senate.
Arizonans have been subject to some very blatant opportunism and self-serving legislation, especially in connection with K-12 school finance/contracting issues.
Tom Boone, who resigned from the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board in 2011, besides previously serving as assistant superintendent for business services in that district, also served in the Arizona House of Representatives. During his time in the House, Boone served on Education, Government and Retirement, and Appropriations committees. ALL of which are prime spots for an official positioned (and connected to HUGE dollar contracting functions) as Boone was.
From an apparently well documented blog post on the Sonoran Alliance website:
A state lawmaker [Tom Boone], who also serves as a governing board president and as a self-appointed executive for a related government entity that acts on behalf of up to 21 school districts, is again being accused of conflict of interest violations. These allegations now include violations of open meetings laws, financial accounting irregularities and violations under the state procurement code. The Attorney General’s Office has issued a written request to Deer Valley and Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) to produce documents by October 13th related to the expanded allegations....
On September 8th, at a Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board meeting, State Representative Tom Boone (R-Glendale), who also serves as Governing Board President, was asked by a parent to explain his association with VSMG, where Boone serves as Chairman and CEO. Boone also appointed himself to serve on the VSMG Board of Management that oversees VSMG. As a governing board member, Boone oversees the district’s contract with VSMG and was accused of using his role as a state legislator and governing board member to pass legislation that would benefit himself, his family and his business associates. (emphasis added)-----
Local political journalists have, for years (this year is no exception), matter of factly reported that Democratic state lawmakers will struggle to even have the slightest degree of influence at the Capitol. And Arizona based advocates (for environmental and childrens' issues, for example) have hedged their bets and supported GOP lawmakers that they KNOW would rather die than promote legislation these groups favor.
Everyone that follows Arizona politics knows that Republicans have smaller majorities in each chamber of the legislature this year than last. But few people seem to think this will result in substantially more influence from Democratic lawmakers.
Perhaps Sen. Ableser believes that introducing a number of good bills before very many other senators even get started will increase the chances of making a difference this year.
Well, Democratic activists, the fact that 2013 is not an election year does NOT let YOU off of the hook. NOW is the time for ALL Democrats and (mainstream?) Republicans to demand that YOUR lawmakers give proper consideration to good legislation even when it comes from legislative minorities.
In February 2012, US Sen. Bernie Sanders and journalist John Nichols spoke at a well attended fundraising dinner and called for an UPRISING in Arizona similar to what we saw in Wisconsin after Scott Walker and ALEC-owned state lawmakers attacked the rights of working class families.
It is NOW time for civic minded activists in Arizona to organize in support of common sense legislation like Ableser has introduced.
It is NOW time to SET the agenda and stop letting the Andy Biggses and Andy Tobins of Arizona define the issues.
Rise up, Arizona! RISE UP!