Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, May 31, 2013

1700 W. Jefferson St, Phoenix -- Shakedown City Arizona

The first regular session of the 51st Arizona Legislature began way back in January. We are now on the cusp of June with high temperatures every day for the next four months or so almost certain to exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

In these hot days, there is non-stop clamoring in the corporate media -- about the IRS being mean to the Tea Party, US Attorney General Eric Holder's latest misdeed, the Keystone XL Pipeline, whether Harry Reid is going to exercise the nuclear option to end GOP filibustering on Obama appointments to federal courts -- and countless other items which function as "shiny objects." Therefore, there's just no time, or space in the average citizen's head to realize or remember what could really be the most pressing issues of the day in Arizona.

One of those important issues, encapsulated in legislation that has long since passed out of our awareness, even for activists who want to do something about it, has to do with what I call the Lobbyist Shakedown Bill. Originally introduced on several pieces of legislation this session, the measure -- to dramatically relax limits on what individuals and PACs (political action committees) may contribute to candidates -- HB 2593 made it successfully through both chambers of the legislature and was signed by the governor more than six weeks ago.

One would have to have blinders on to not even begin to realize the quid pro quo ramifications of allowing people to contribute so much more to campaigns. Some Special Interests may have a hard time competing in this newly reformulated arena. But you can (very safely) bet that right at the top of the list of donors will be lobbyists for utilities in our state. Especially Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project.

A couple of days ago, the Arizona Eagletarian post -- about APS "thanking" state Rep. Catherine Miranda (along with Democratic state Sen. Robert Meza) by paying for a very professionally done mailer -- generated quite a bit of buzz at the Capitol. Not surprisingly, NOBODY has contacted me to deny the veracity of any part of that post.

The mailer was paid for by an Independent Expenditure committee run by GOP political operative Max Fose. IE committees are not even subject to the same kind of limits as a candidate's campaign committee.

About that buzz the other day at the Capitol. The Yellow Sheet, a gossip publication that operates on apparently much looser professional standards than a newsroom staffed by professional journalists, found the Arizona Eagletarian story on Miranda juicy enough to quote -- without giving proper attribution.
RETURNING THE FAVOR?
Exactly who is behind the Arizona 2014 campaign won’t be known until campaign finance reports are due in January 2014, but there is speculation in Dem circles that the money is coming from APS and is being spent on those lawmakers because they supported one of the utility’s bills this year. Liberal blogger Steve Muratore wrote this morning that his sources report that the pro-Miranda mailer “likely is thanks for her taking the lead in organizing a faction of five Hispanic members of the Arizona House Democratic caucus” who voted for H2485 (health & safety audit privilege). Muratore also reported that Meza (who also voted for the bill) and Miranda sat at the APS table at the May 18 Arizona Democratic Party Heritage Dinner fundraiser. Fose told our reporter that the benefactors of the IE spending aren’t based on votes on individual legislation, but are on “policies, records and positions in their entirety.” He said the committee will be doing more spending in the future.
Of course, "Liberal blogger" is the gossipy way to get out of having to identify the fact that a publication they consider to be a competitor scooped them. For them to truthfully and professionally attribute to the Arizona Eagletarian, apparently threatens their Yellow Sheet brand.

In this case, their insecurity shows through loud and clear. After all, I can't see them ever knowingly exposing the genuine relationship dynamics wrapped up in Special Interests buying influence at the Arizona Capitol. So, why would they have a problem with providing proper attribution?

I can guess... perhaps for them, legitimizing the Arizona Eagletarian, might undermine the credibility of their publication, which apparently willfully ignores influence peddling.

By the way, the Yellow Sheet did do a little bit of original reporting on that piece. They contacted Fose to get a quote from him about the situation. Note Fose's non-denial denial. With standard (bullshit) language equivalent to another shiny object, he denied the quid pro quo angle.

In this case, he minimizes the significance of the Independent Expenditure by saying it was because of “policies, records and positions in their entirety.” Translated into English, Fose is saying that Miranda and Meza are becoming nice, reliable, compliant Republicans.

But I digress.

The connection of Arizona Public Service to the five rogue members of the House Democratic Caucus hardly even scratches the surface of Special Interest influence right now at Shakedown City, Arizona.

There are several ways -- besides campaign contributions and IEs -- lobbyists interact with state lawmakers. One that is worthy of examination (that I'd love to do one of these days) is the annual softball games. Salt River Project hosts events like that at its Pera Club.

The other way lobbyists (especially the two biggest utilities) in Arizona reel in our lawmakers is with free food. During regular sessions, weather permitting, Special Interests try their hand at catching more flies with honey than with vinegar -- by hosting mass feeding events on the Senate lawn or across the street at Wesley Bolin Plaza -- for lawmakers, legislative staff and whoever else wanders by unafraid to partake* of the culinary offerings.

All of these things add up to having a huge invisible chain (or net) around lawmakers. By then, it takes an individual lawmaker having an incredible amount of resolve, rhetorical moxie and insight into whichever particular issue is being subjected to legislative action in order to resist doing the bidding of Big Money.

So, while it disappoints me to a fair degree, I'm not surprised when I read the following press release:
Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Submit Comments to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regarding Proposed Rule for Navajo Generating Station; Letter Urges EPA to Convene Public Hearings Throughout Arizona Given Dramatic Adverse Impacts of the Proposed Rule
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX (May 28, 2013) – Today, a bipartisan majority of the Arizona House of Representatives will file the attached letter with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld. The document urges the agency to conduct broad public hearings throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area and rural areas during the EPA’s public comment period for its proposed regional haze rule for the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in Page, Ariz..
21 Republicans and Sixteen Democrat Members of the Arizona House of Representatives signed the letter signaling a strong, bi-partisan opposition to the proposed rule. The sweeping nature of the EPA’s proposed rule, the legislators argue, would have significant adverse impacts on Arizona families, tribes, businesses, agricultural interests and other key industries in the state through increased energy and water rates. There also is enormous risk to Arizona’s economy as thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in lost economic activity will impact the state every year. Public hearings are needed throughout the entire state to ensure a transparent process that reflects broad stakeholder engagement and input on the rule.
“The Navajo Generating Station provides affordable energy and water to Arizona. It’s disconcerting that its operation might be undermined—or worse, shut down altogether,” said House Speaker Andy Tobin. “If implemented, EPA’s rule would drive up water rates, jeopardize jobs, and severely damage Arizona’s economy.”
The EPA’s proposed rule rejects the detailed Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) proposal submitted by NGS’s operator, Salt River Project, and would instead impose the installation of additional technology controls that could cost as much as $1.1 billion. Incredibly, the rule would yield no perceptible visibility improvement at the Grand Canyon, according to the government’s own study. The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) concluded “the body of research to date…is inconclusive as to whether [installing additional controls] would lead to any perceptible improvement in visibility.”
NGS provides energy to the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which makes renewable, affordable water available to 80 percent of Arizona’s residents—45 percent in Phoenix alone. If NGS shuts down, or has to install these costly controls, it would result in a potential doubling or tripling of water rates throughout the state. Likewise, 3,400 skilled jobs and an estimated $20 billion in economic activity over the next three decades could be in jeopardy if NGS is forced to shut down due to the rule.
“The EPA must convene multiple public hearings in geographically diverse areas of the state so the agency can begin to understand firsthand how its proposed rule will harm the livelihood of Arizona families, businesses, and communities,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “All of us have a stake in this debate, and my colleagues from both sides of the aisle urge EPA to expand its study of the issue and ensure Arizonans’ voices are heard.”

Nevermind that the letter is complete bullshit. First, for any signer that questioned SRP's (the NGS operator) intention, they need only say, "but all we're asking for is for extensive public testimony." If you want to know what those public hearings will look like, review video from the 2011 redistricting hearings. Recall the concept of ASTROTURF.

Others may have needed little persuasion other than to say, hey the Obama administration's EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) wants to kill jobs. But those claims are easily debunked.

Because they've lured them all in with honey (which is incredibly sticky, if you'll recall), the utility interests need not deal with the pesky environmental interests that want to say, "HEY -- WAIT just a doggone minute! Don't you see what's been happening with Climate Change?"

Oh, by the way, don't forget the clever measure the legislature wants to put on next year's general election ballot to completely defund Clean Elections. Apparently, the Senate is sitting on this bill. It may be subject to Senate floor debate in the final overnight hours of the session, whenever that takes place.

The bottom line is that there is a very strong but invisible link between the behavior of Arizona's state lawmakers and Big Money. Your humble Arizona Eagletarian blog publisher will do everything possible (or, at least everything feasible) to keep you apprised of the developments.

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*NOTE -- Most of the time they can't really turn people away, but some might be too timid to just pick up a plate and serve themselves in what are usually buffet style offerings.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Herding Cats? House planning to go to the wire before dealing with state budget?

There are, no doubt, some dynamics I have yet to become aware of in the yearly drama of legislative adoption of the state budget. But some things are already known.

It has now been two weeks since the Senate passed a budget. That budget included Medicaid restoration which is one of Gov. Brewer's top priorities. The Senate proceedings included plenty of drama.  And we know that there are twice as many members in the House as in the Senate.

Many observers have been waiting with excited anticipation, knowing the House will have significantly more drama.

We know that Speaker Andy Tobin has said he does not want to proceed with the Medicaid restoration unless at least half of his caucus supports the idea. We also know that House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh will put a lot of effort into subverting the governor's plan. As will many of the other stridently hard-right leaning House Republicans.

What I've seen nobody speculate about in writing, however, is the reason Tobin wants that much Republican support. It occurs to me that one possible reason is that he does not want to have to face the possibility of being replaced as Speaker at this stage (or at any point, for that matter).

Analysis of the 36-member Republican caucus indicates that it is possible for Tobin to wrangle those 18 GOP votes. But there's no question the Kavanagh's, Steve Smith's and other tea party leaning members will also be trying to twist arms in the other direction.

Anyway, one source inside the House tells me s/he heard it will be another three weeks before they get down to seriously working on the budget. If they then make any changes at all to the Senate bills, the budget will have to go back to the Senate. Which then adds another opportunity for Senate President Andy Biggs to throw a wrench in the works.

If the Senate does not concur with House changes, we're looking at possible state government shutdown come July 1. The federal government faces this kind of thing a lot too. But the excuse in Washington is that Congress and the executive branch (president) are not all controlled by the same political party. So, will Arizona just claim the dog ate the budget bills?

This does make one wonder just what the purpose of a bicameral legislature is.

Ten years ago Phoenix New Times writer Robert Nelson suggested Arizona could benefit from the experience in Nebraska and eliminate one chamber of the legislature.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the first regular session of the 51st Arizona Legislature is not going to end anytime soon.

I hope Brewer's got more up her sleeve for leverage than simply putting the veto stamp on a few more bills.

Redistricting -- Nudging Federal Court on Legislature's Lawsuit

Apparently, it has been more than six months since anyone has heard anything from US District Court Judge Paul Rosenblatt in the matter of the Arizona Legislature v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, case number CV-12-01211-PHX-PGR.

The Arizona Legislature (actually, the GOP leadership), realizing they were unable to control the AIRC in 2011 like they did in 2001 (with chair Steve Lynn) complained to the court that: 
The Elections Clause of the United States Constitution delegates the authority over the redistricting of congressional districts to the Legislatures of the States. Contrary to this constitutional delegation, Proposition 106 (adopted in 2000) amended the Arizona Constitution – removing that authority from the Arizona State Legislature (“Legislature”) and vesting it instead with the “Independent Redistricting Commission” (“IRC”). The Legislature brings this action requesting the Court to a) declare that Proposition 106 is unconstitutional to the extent it removes congressional-redistricting authority from the Legislature, b) declare that the congressional district maps adopted by the IRC are unconstitutional, and c) enjoin the Defendants from enforcing or implementing any congressional redistricting plan from the IRC beginning the day after the 2012 congressional election is held in Arizona.
You see Judge, those damned voters in Arizona took away our toys. Redistricting isn't supposed to be done by the PEOPLE, but by US, the anointed... er, elected representatives, since WE obviously KNOW BETTER than the people.

Well, Judge Rosenblatt apparently has not considered the matter to be nearly as urgent as Andys Biggs and Tobin and their caucuses. Pursuant to local Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties, not hearing anything for six months, are allowed to politely nudge the judge to remind him of the matter before him.

Therefore, today the parties filed a Joint Notice, the entire text of which reads,
Pursuant to Local Rule of Civil Procedure 7.2(l), it has been more than 180 days since the parties have fully briefed: (1) AIRC Defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration of the Court’s June 13, 2012 Order Granting plaintiff’s Motion to Convene a Three-Judge Statutory Court filed June 27, 2012; and 
(2) Defendants Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and Commissioners Mathis, McNulty, Herrera, Freeman, and Stertz’s Motion to Dismiss filed August 10, 2012, for which oral argument has been requested. Therefore, the attorneys of record in this matter respectfully inquire as to the status of each matter. 
By the way, the AIRC filed a reply to the Legislature's complaint. Of course, the AIRC position is that the vote of the people of Arizona is the final word.

When Judge Rosenblatt makes any ruling or sets a date for any hearing, I'll let you know.

Can AZ House Democrats stay united? UPDATED 6:00pm 5-29-13

Yesterday morning, a friend asked me:
Why would an Independent Expenditure Committee (Arizona 2014) be mailing out a pro Catherine Miranda 6" x 11" flyer now? Particularly when the IE is chaired by Max Fose (a max donor to Tom Horne)? [pun not necessarily intended]






To understand this situation, it seems we need to understand who Max Fose is. On Tom Horne's campaign finance report, with Fose's $840 contribution to the oh, so honest and non-partisan Arizona Attorney General (I jest, we all know that Horne is neither honest nor non-partisan), Fose disclosed his occupation as: President, Integrated Web Strategy. Colin Shipley**, IWS Director of Public Affairs is listed on the Secretary of State's record as campaign treasurer. On the IWS website, Shipley is said to have previously served as political director for the Arizona Republican Party and as Community Relations Manager for Jan Brewer as well as having worked for High Ground.

High Ground, you may recall, is the political consulting firm run by Chuck Coughlin, sometimes on the right side of an issue (Medicaid Restoration) but usually on the wrong side (privatizing prisons in Arizona).

I'm confident there is much more to learn about Max Fose. But why does he suddenly have such great admiration for Catherine Miranda?

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A little birdie today shared with me some intriguing insight on this situation.

Of course, right now any conclusions or inferences are speculative, but certain facts are true and known.

First, Fose's IE committee is very new. It formed on May 14, just two weeks ago. Because of its newness, we do not have access to any financial disclosure reports. Therefore, we do not know who paid Fose's committee to blow smoke up Rep. Miranda's skirt. And we do not know how much the mailer cost.

The little birdie told me that the mailer likely is thanks for her taking the lead in organizing a faction of five Hispanic members of the Arizona House Democratic caucus. Those five Democrats broke from the caucus to vote with House Republicans to seal legislative approval of HB 2485 Health and Safety Audit Privilege. The final House vote was 40-19. Other than Miranda's faction, the rest of the Democratic Caucus remained unified.

The bill adds an entirely new article to Arizona Revised Statutes Title 12 (Courts and Civil Proceedings), Chapter 13 (Evidence). The ultimate purpose of HB2485 apparently was to expand on the 2012 Polluter Protection bill. Catherine Miranda, by the way, voted NO on the final vote for the 2012 bill, HB 2199, officially titled Environmental Audit Privilege.

Last year's bill added a new article to ARS Title 49 (Environment). This year's bill, putting much the same language in the statutes on court procedure apparently closes what some people must have believed was a loophole that could have been used to hold corporations accountable for harm they cause damaging the environment.

Both bills (the 2012 HB2199 and the 2013 HB2485) appear to be very close to the language and provisions in ALEC model legislation from 1996 (Thanks VERY much to Tucson activist Lisa Hoffman for the ALEC research).

Here's a clip from the Senate Public Safety Committee hearing in which HB2485 was aired. Local attorney Richard Langerman testified on behalf of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association against the bill. He succinctly sets forth the reasons the bill is problematic for Arizona citizens.


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Before taking questions from committee members, Langerman summed up his testimony by saying,
APS (Arizona Public Service) is behind this bill. And the question is, what is it that they are trying to hide? They haven't told us the answer to that question, no matter how many times we've asked. And until we know why we're doing this, we urge you to vote no on Representative Carter's bill and protect Arizona citizens, the people you represent.
Apparently, APS was not the least bit coy about pushing this particular bill. Captain Al Melvin, chairman of the (ironically named?) Senate Public Safety committee, gave a clue right at the start when he asked if this bill applied only to Palo Verde (Nuclear Generating Station).

Folks, WHY is Arizona giving the operator of the largest nuclear facility in the nation the statutory right to hide health and safety problems? Has it been so long since Fukushima that we no longer are aware of the inherent risk of catastrophe? Does ANYONE at the state capitol realize how close Palo Verde is to Phoenix? The nation's sixth largest metropolitan area (in population, according to the 2010 census) is downwind only about 45 miles.
Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company] admitted for the first time on October 12, 2012 that it had failed to take stronger measures to prevent disasters for fear of inviting lawsuits or protests against its nuclear plants.
If there is no risk at Palo Verde, WTF are they in such a hurry to hide? If APS (which operates Palo Verde) is afraid to take stronger measures to prevent disasters (like Tepco admittedly was), doesn't that more realistically raise the urgency sky high for converting Arizona to genuinely renewable energy sources?

It might seem quaint just to say it, but when there's a SOLAR energy SPILL, isn't that just a typical Arizona nice day?

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Back to the final vote in the Arizona House on HB 2485. Reportedly, mention was made during the House Democratic Caucus meeting on this bill that it was, in fact, ALEC model legislation. Why, then, would Miranda, Lydia Hernandez (this is NOT Lydia Guzman*), Lupe Contreras, Juan Carlos Escamilla and Mark Cardenas all vote Aye on the bill?

I cannot definitively answer that question. But I can clearly point to this situation as an example of what I described about two weeks ago in reporting on the effort made to keep the Senate Democratic Caucus unified.
There IS speculation as to whom those other Democratic votes might be. Right now, I don't know enough to name them, but traditionally, legislative Republicans have been able to obtain support from members from Northeast Arizona in exchange for appropriations to build special projects on the Navajo and/or Hopi Reservations. I do NOT know who Biggs is trying to buy right now, so, I am not calling out Senator Jackson.
This is only an example. In the 1990s, I saw it work like this, when I served as an accountant with the Arizona Department of Economic Security. The special appropriations were funneled through that agency in several fiscal years.
We do know that this HB2485 was pushed aggressively by Arizona Public Service. We also know that at the recent Heritage Dinner, an Arizona Democratic Party fundraiser, Catherine Miranda and Sen. Robert Meza (D-LD30) sat with the delegation (lobbyists) from Arizona Public Service. Meza was one of only two senate Democrats voting Aye on HB2485.

The only dot we are unable to connect at this time between Miranda and APS has to do with who provided the funding for the mailer Max Fose sent out buttering her up.

By the way, didn't APS make a big deal about ending its association with ALEC a year or so ago? So much for that.

We are left to ponder the question of why Catherine Miranda is cozying up to Arizona Public Service and ALEC?

Another fact, likely related, is that Rep. Miranda has already established a committee "to explore" running for the seat now held by term-limited Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor. Don't let yourself be fooled, is it at all possible that -- after Fose's group sent out such a strong message of support for her -- Miranda could find fault with any position APS, Fose, or whoever was responsible for it will want pushed through the House this year and next, and the Senate after that?

Any lawmaker or candidate will tell you she or he "cannot be bought" so easily. The only thing that really means is that the lawmaker is not fully aware of the strength of the invisible chain the Big Money interest has put around them. Did Ben Arredondo or Richard Miranda (Catherine's brother-in-law) -- both of whom were recently convicted of corruption related charges -- believe they could not be so easily bought?

Would it be reasonable to infer that this was a pre-emptive strike hoping to prevent anyone from challenging Miranda in a Democratic primary in 2014 when she runs for the Senate? Could it have been anything but?



There are a number of issues tied into this situation. One of which illustrates the difficulty that House leaders on both sides of the aisle will have in getting a budget passed that includes Medicaid Restoration. There are, after all, twice as many members in the House as in the Senate. Speaker Andy Tobin and Minority Leader Chad Campbell probably feel like their jobs right now can easily compared to herding cats.

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UPDATE

Apparently, this situation has been building up like the water behind a dam. Now that the dam has been breached, the information just keeps wanting to pour over it. So, this looks to be something about which more details will be forthcoming.

Thus far, we know that there were questions about Catherine Miranda's nominating petitions and documents involved in her requests for Clean Elections funding in 2012.

Additionally, the entire concept of Independent Expenditures excludes coordination between the candidate and the group paying for the particular campaign piece, in this case, the mailer. However, the picture on the mailer may be the very same picture used by Ms. Miranda on her 2012 campaign signs. If that is the case, how did Fose obtain the picture?

Though it's only guilt by association, but ALEC documents show that Miranda's now convicted brother-in-law was, in fact a MEMBER of ALEC. On page 55 of a June 30, 2011 ALEC memo, Richard Miranda is listed as a member of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force.

LATER UPDATE

Heard around the Capitol this afternoon that utility interests (like APS) are pushing hard for Brewer's TPT (transaction privilege tax) reform bill and that Miranda's faction of rogue Democrats are said to be willing to trade their votes on it in exchange for mailers like was sent out this week for her (Miranda).

Of course, it's possible this is just an empty rumor. The rogue Dems certainly can prove the rumor false by declaring their support for cities and towns who, as the TPT bill stands now are likely to see serious negative ramifications.


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* NOTE -- Lydia Guzman is an outspoken advocate for justice and takes bold stands to do the right thing for all people. Guzman testified against Sheriff Arpaio in the civil case ruled on last week by federal Judge G. Murray Snow. She does NOT currently hold elected office. Lydia Hernandez apparently sometimes allows people to think she's Guzman. That, of course, is not a good thing.

** NOTE 2 -- I just learned that Arizona 2014 treasurer is apparently also former Republican Governor Jane Dee Hull's grandson.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

American UPRISING -- American Anti-Corruption Act

Hopefully, by now you are well aware of Move to Amend, to codify in the United States Constitution the effort to overturn, or nullify, the Citizens United ruling issued by the Supreme Court in January 2010. Last week, Ashley Sanders spoke at several events in Arizona about Move to Amend. Her speech before a small crowd in Phoenix was recorded on video. When the video becomes available, I plan to post it here for you.

Today, however, I call your attention to the American Anti-Corruption Act which I'd like to ask you to support, as I do.

When you visit the website to learn more about the Act, you will notice that support at this early stage of the process already includes people from a wide range of backgrounds. Those include Trevor Potter (former Federal Elections Commission chairman), along with a GOP strategist, a leader of Occupy Los Angeles, an investment banker, a Tea Party leader and hundreds (of thousands) of others.

Key provisions of the Act include:
  • Stop politicians from taking bribes
  • Limit super PAC contributions and “coordination”
  • Prevent job offers as bribes
  • Call all people who lobby, lobbyists
  • Limit lobbyist donations
  • End secret money
  • Empower all voters with a tax rebate
  • Disclose “bundling”
  • Enforce the rules
There's a plan (which starts with the American people, not Congress). The Act has been carefully crafted and analyzed by Constitutional scholars and attorneys. 

Please check out the American Anti-Corruption Act and join me as a co-sponsor.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Libertarian activist attorney Clint Bolick on the Arpaio Recall.

Attorney Clint Bolick, who serves as Director of the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute, has been critical of Maricopa County's nativist sheriff, Joseph Arpaio, for a long time. In the video clip below, of Arpaio's failure to investigate more than 400 sex abuse cases, Bolick declares, "This is one of the greatest failures of law enforcement I've ever seen."



So, I asked Bolick today whether he has made any public statements about US District Court Judge G. Murray Snow's ruling Friday against Arpaio? I also asked him if he supports the recall effort? Bolick replied,
No I haven't. Our focus has been on different issues. I had not supported the recall previously because he had just been elected and there was nothing new on which to base a recall. But this ruling certainly provides a basis
GI [Goldwater Institute] rules prohibit staff from being formally involved in election campaigns. But I will sign a petition and let folks know I have done so. (emphasis mine)
In 2008, for the Goldwater Institute, Bolick issued a position paper titled, Mission Unaccomplished: The Misplaced Priorities of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. In the executive summary, it states (in part):
The Maricopa County Sheriffs Office is responsible for vitally important law-enforcement functions in one of the largest counties in the nation.  It defines its core missions as law-enforcement services, support services, and detention.
MCSO falls seriously short of fulfilling its mission in all three areas.  Although MCSO is adept at self-promotion and is an unquestionably tough law-enforcement agency, under its watch violent crime rates recently have soared, both in absolute terms and relative to other jurisdictions.  It has diverted resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration and in reducing crime generally, and to extensive trips by MCSO officials to Honduras for purposes that are nebulous at best.  Profligate spending on those diversions helped produce a financial crisis in late 2007 that forced MCSO to curtail or reduce important law-enforcement functions.

Bolick's perspective on the recall is certainly notable. I hope that conservative leaning voters in Maricopa County will consider it, go beyond simply echoing standard nativist talking points and join in the recall effort by signing a petition in the next few days.

More information can be found on Respect Arizona's website.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Did anyone ask Rep. Steve Smith the key question?

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." -- Mahatma Gandhi    


Photo credit AP/Ross Franklin

State Rep. Steve Smith* (Pharisee, LD11) on Wednesday -- perhaps without even thinking about the content of the secular invocation delivered at the start of Tuesday's floor session in the Arizona House of Representatives -- declared that Rep. Juan Mendez had offended God. And he got national attention for doing so.

That day therefore, Smith offered a prayer in repentance.
At Wednesday's session, Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, lit into Mendez, saying if Mendez did not want to offer a prayer, he should have skipped his turn in the traditional rotation among members.
To make up for Mendez's omission, Smith insisted Wednesday on offering a second prayer to start the session, on the heels of the one led by Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, whose turn it was.
Smith's prayer was offered, "for repentance of yesterday," and asked colleagues to stand and "give our due respect to the Creator of the universe."
The flap comes as the U.S. Supreme Court agreed earlier this week to weigh in on the larger question of whether it is even proper to offer prayers at the start of public meetings.

You may ask, why does what Smith did bother me? Here's a little bit of my personal history. Born into a blue-collar Italian Catholic family in Rochester, NY, as a young adult I explored other Christian groups and traditions, spending 12 years in what I considered (at the time) dedicated study of the Bible.

Today, I do not attend a church but remain close friends with a number of people from that religious time in my life. I had grown weary of people who did not seem to walk the walk along with talking the talk.

I certainly am not holier than Steve Smith. But just as certainly, I do not identify with his brand of Christianity.

So, what was Smith complaining about on Wednesday anyway?

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Having known Juan for a couple of years now, I happily worked with other LD26 activists to get him elected (along with Andrew Sherwood in the House and Ed Albeser in the Senate) in the 2012 general election. Since he represents me faithfully (in terms of public policy) in the Arizona House, I am thankful and proud of him.

A couple of months ago, after "sharing" one of those poignant and pithy sayings on Facebook -- one that just happened to come from a group having something to do with atheism -- a friend, a Christian I have known for more than 30 years, asked me pointedly if I was still a Christian. Perhaps a reasonable question. From a person I still very much consider a friend. But for some reason, it made me uncomfortable. So much so that I still remember it a few months later.

To this friend, I responded by disclaiming any connection to the group from which the saying had come while emphasizing that I appreciated the message it conveyed nevertheless.

But why should it even matter?

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Back in the early days of our Republic, Thomas Paine wrote some incredibly provocative pamphlets. If not for Paine's Common Sense, the Founders might never have declared independence from the British Crown. However, Paine was not satisfied only with forming a new nation in which all of the rights spelled out in the Constitution applied only to roughly 8 percent of the people.

Over the course of the rest of his life, Paine wrote other essays that challenged the foundations upon which the United States of America were initially formed. Firmly opposed to slavery from the beginning, Paine penned the Rights of Man. Agrarian Justice, first published in 1795 was the initial blueprint for development of what we now know as Social Security.

The pamphlet that earned Paine the most contempt may have been Age of Reason. In it, Paine strikes at the heart of what he believed dominated religion in his day -- superstition. The essay begins:
TO MY FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
I PUT the following work under your protection. It contains my opinions upon Religion. You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.
The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.

In my opinion, Paine's writings provided the fuel, or rational underpinning for massive changes in American society and all of Western Civilization. His influence may have reached even farther, but I am not familiar with other societies. Paine considered himself a Deist. From the Age of Reason:
The circumstance that has now taken place in France of the total abolition of the whole national order of priesthood, and of everything appertaining to compulsive systems of religion, and compulsive articles of faith, has not only precipitated my intention, but rendered a work of this kind exceedingly necessary, lest in the general wreck of superstition, of false systems of government, and false theology, we lose sight of morality, of humanity, and of the theology that is true.
As several of my colleagues and others of my fellow-citizens of France have given me the example of making their voluntary and individual profession of faith, I also will make mine; and I do this with all that sincerity and frankness with which the mind of man communicates with itself.
I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.
But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

And in this declaration and in spelling out those things which he did not believe -- with his reasons -- one of the most influential writers (maybe THE most influential) of his day, quite literally became persona non grata in much of the world he knew. From wikipedia:
At the time of his death, most American newspapers reprinted the obituary notice from the New York Citizen, which read in part: "He had lived long, did some good and much harm." Only six mourners came to his funeral, two of whom were black, most likely freedmen. The writer and orator Robert G. Ingersoll wrote:
Thomas Paine had passed the legendary limit of life. One by one most of his old friends and acquaintances had deserted him. Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred – his virtues denounced as vices – his services forgotten – his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul. He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken. He was still a soldier in the army of freedom, and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death. Even those who loved their enemies hated him, their friend – the friend of the whole world – with all their hearts. On the 8th of June, 1809, death came – Death, almost his only friend. At his funeral no pomp, no pageantry, no civic procession, no military display. In a carriage, a woman and her son who had lived on the bounty of the dead – on horseback, a Quaker, the humanity of whose heart dominated the creed of his head – and, following on foot, two negroes filled with gratitude – constituted the funeral cortege of Thomas Paine.
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Back to the issue of my religious tradition(s). Though I very strongly have identified and fellowshipped with Christians and Christian groups for many years, I currently am quite comfortable also considering myself Deist. Of course, I don't hang out with or engage in activities or projects focused on Deism. But I have come to realize and recognize that there is so much outside of what any human can perceive or know.

The Bible still holds important insights on many things for me. Most importantly at this point in my life and in our society, that book does not even come close to meaning what Pharisee-like ministers of the Religious Right claim it means. I do not see a vengeful God looking to punish anyone who refuses to toe the line.

On the other hand, stories in the Old Testament and New expose hypocrisy of small-minded preachers and politicians... like Steve Smith.

Though I long ago ended all association with the Roman Catholic Church, I have to appreciate the new Pope. Francis I on Wednesday (is there such a thing as coincidence?) -- the same day Steve Smith demonstrated his small-minded religiosity -- as reported by USA Today:
Atheists and other nonbelievers largely welcomed Wednesday's (May 22) remarks by Pope Francis that performing "good works" is not the exclusive domain of people of faith, but rather a place where they and atheists could and should meet.
In a private homily, Francis described doing good not as a matter of faith, but of "duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because he has made us in his image and likeness."
Then, referring to non-Catholics and nonbelievers, he said, "if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good." 
As to Steve Smith, I can't know what goes on between his ears, but what I can see from his words and deeds, he doesn't seem to represent his God very well.

By the way, what is the key question and did anyone pose it to Smith?

What would Jesus do?

Again, I might be presumptuous to predict an answer, but I can point to some related things Jesus said, as recorded in the Gospels.

Matthew 22:34-40
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 7:1-5
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
And how about this one? It can be a tricky one for sure. Because if the reader forgets the lesson in Matthew 7, he (Steve Smith) might be inclined to use it to judge Juan Mendez, rather than himself.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
13 Now all has been heard;    here is the conclusion of the matter:Fear God and keep his commandments,    for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.
Oh, and a bit more insight on just who were the Pharisees and why is Steve Smith like one of them.
A politico-religious sect or faction among the adherents of later Judaism, that came into existence as a class about the third century B.C. After the exile, Israel's monarchial form of government had become a thing of the past; in its place the Jews created a community which was half State, half Church. A growing sense of superiority to the heathen and idolatrous nations among whom their lot was cast came to be one of their main characteristics. They were taught insistently to separate themselves from their neighbors. (emphasis mine) 
Can you say, "Build the dang fence?"

My hunch is that Steve Smith has plenty in his own life that he would do well to get right with his God. I don't think he has legitimate standing to tell me that what my state Representative said when offering the daily invocation was improper. And from what I see, even if Smith didn't give much thought to Mendez' words, a whole lot of other people did and find them full of wisdom that believers and non-believers can and should agree on.

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*Note that prior to redistricting, which took effect for the November 2012 election, Smith served in the state Senate from LD23.




Friday, May 24, 2013

Why all the buzz about a secular invocation?

I have plenty to say on this subject... but if I get started writing it now (12:40am Friday morning), I won't get to bed before dawn. So, in case you're wondering, I expect to post about it this weekend, hopefully before Friday night is over.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Redistricting -- AIRC vacancy, now what? UPDATED 2:30 pm 5-22-13

With the potential for the Jose Herrera's resignation to either be a big deal, or not, depending on the outcome of litigation, let's explore what will take place in order for the vacancy to be filled.

Pursuant to the Arizona Constitution (cited in today's earlier post), determination will be made by the Appellate Courts Commission on Appointments as to how it will proceed. Supreme Court chief communications officer Jennifer Liewer said this afternoon that Commission staff is working this evening to put together information and expects a full explanation to be posted at azcourts.gov tomorrow.

Additional qualifications for membership on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission include those listed in this subsection of the Constitution:
The independent redistricting commission shall consist of five members. No more than two members of the independent redistricting commission shall be members of the same political party. Of the first four members appointed, no more than two shall reside in the same county. Each member shall be a registered Arizona voter who has been continuously registered with the same political party or registered as unaffiliated with a political party for three or more years immediately preceding appointment, who is committed to applying the provisions of this section in an honest, independent and impartial fashion and to upholding public confidence in the integrity of the redistricting process. Within the three years previous to appointment, members shall not have been appointed to, elected to, or a candidate for any other public office, including precinct committeeman or committeewoman but not including school board member or officer, and shall not have served as an officer of a political party, or served as a registered paid lobbyist or as an officer of a candidate's campaign committee. (emphasis mine)
One possible course of action the Appellate Commission may take is to renominate names remaining eligible from the list of 10 Democratic nominees developed in the fall of 2010. That list included:

  • Robert L. Cannon (Maricopa County),
  • Eric B. Henderson (Navajo County),
  • Lawrence C. Mohrweis (Coconino County),
  • Mark D. Rubin (Pima County),
  • Jimmie D. Smith (Yuma County),
  • Marshall A. Worden (Pima County).
  • Marcia J. Busching (Maricopa County)
  • Jose M. Herrera (Maricopa County)
  • Linda C. McNulty (Pima County)
  • William G. Roe (Pima County)
Of the ten, only four are potentially even still qualified. Because there are already three commissioners from Pima County (McNulty, Stertz and Mathis), Rubin and Worden are not eligible.

Busching ran for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission as a Democrat in 2012 and is therefore no longer eligible to serve on the AIRC. Roe is currently chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party and is thus disqualified. McNulty continues to serve (and hopefully will remain on the commission through the end of her term in 2021).

Recall that in November 2011, when Mathis had been temporarily removed from the AIRC, the Appellate Courts Commission opened the process for new applicants to be considered. Because Mathis was reinstated by the Arizona Supreme Court, that process was truncated before development of a list of qualified additional nominees.

The need for quality candidates to fill the open seat remains high. When I last wrote about the Harris v AIRC case challenging the legislative district lines, I believed a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering changes to the map, was a long shot. This situation calls for more than just a vague hunch. Preparation for every possibility must be considered.

The current composition of the Appellate Courts Commission, with at least one vacancy and another three members apparently serving beyond the expiration of their terms, adds up to even more uncertainty.

Stay tuned. Obviously, there will be lots more to come.

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I suppose it's not surprising -- since I've had my head into Arizona's redistricting so much over the last two and a half years -- that my name has come up as a natural choice to take Herrera's place on the AIRC. First and foremost, I'm flattered that friends would seriously think of me in this situation. (And that others would jokingly suggest it too)

However, in 2012, I became an elected Precinct Committeeman. That fact alone disqualifies me. No doubt, however, even if I had not done so, there's no question I would still be controversial. That fact means the likelihood I would have made a short list after consideration by the Appellate Courts Commission is low anyway.

No doubt, I would have enjoyed the bantering back and forth with Mr. Freeman and Mr. Stertz. The dynamic in commission meetings would undoubtedly been different. Nevertheless, it will not play out that way.

UPDATE 5-22-13

From AZ Courts chief communications officer Jennifer Liewer:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

STATE SEEKS APPLICANTS FOR INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION

Applications are currently being accepted by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments for a vacancy on the Independent Redistricting Commission, which is charged with mapping Arizona’s congressional and legislative districts. This vacancy was created by the resignation of Commission Vice Chair Jose M. Herrera.

Residents of all Arizona counties are eligible to apply. To be eligible, applicants must be registered Arizona voters who have been continuously registered with the Democratic Party for the last three years. People who have held or run for a public office (other than a school board), served as an officer of a political party or a candidate=s campaign committee, or worked as a registered paid lobbyist during the past three years are not eligible.

Application forms are available at www.azcourts.gov/jnc/IRCNominations/ApplicationInfo.aspx , by calling (602) 452-3311, or at 1501 W. Washington, Suite 221, Phoenix, AZ.

Applications must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on June 10, 2013.

Redistricting Commission members are barred from seeking or holding any public office in Arizona or for registration as a paid lobbyist during their term on the commission and for three years following.

The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments will review the applications and nominate a pool of three candidates. Representative Chad Campbell, Minority Leader in the Arizona House of Representatives, will appoint the new member of the Redistricting Commission.

Redistricting -- Democratic Commissioner resigns

Democratic Commissioner Jose Herrera today resigned his seat on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, saying that after the maps were adopted in January 2012, "meetings have been unproductive and, at times, toxic."

AIRC chair Colleen Coyle Mathis issued this statement in response to Herrera's announcement:
I thank Mr. Herrera for his service on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and his family for their many sacrifices. He served the citizens of Arizona with honor, dignity and dedication. I wish him well and will miss his energy, humor and passion.
This Commission is made up of unpaid volunteers who have busy lives. After a map drawing phase which included extensive input from citizens all over the state, Arizona received U.S. Department of Justice preclearance for both of its maps on the first try in April 2012. Despite this historic achievement, the time commitment to date and stresses associated with ongoing litigation have been significant.
Herrera's resignation sets in motion a Constitutional process for identifying a replacement.
(11) If a commissioner or chair does not complete the term of office for any reason, the commission on appellate court appointments or its designee shall nominate a pool of three candidates within the first thirty days after the vacancy occurs. The nominees shall be of the same political party or status as was the member who vacated the office at the time of his or her appointment, and the appointment other than the chair shall be made by the current holder of the office designated to make the original appointment. The appointment of a new chair shall be made by the remaining commissioners. If the appointment of a replacement commissioner or chair is not made within fourteen days following the presentation of the nominees, the commission on appellate court appointments or its designee shall make the appointment, striving for political balance and fairness. The newly appointed commissioner shall serve out the remainder of the original term.
Herrera's resignation also throws a potential kink in a prospective process, should the federal court ruling in Harris et al v AIRC (expected soon) require any changes to the legislative district map.

Redistricting -- big news to be announced this afternoon

The Arizona Eagletarian learned this afternoon that a significant event regarding the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has taken place. Details to follow as soon as I have them.

Meanwhile, back at the Change Machine!

On Sunday night, we considered the notion of change including contemplating cognitive, social and cultural inertia.

There is plenty to contemplate with numerous great people to look to for inspiration on how we each can fulfill our calling to BE the LEADERS we've been waiting for. Notably, we must learn from two of the most important 20th Century icons, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

In the meantime, we can examine some causes for cognitive and cultural inertia and identify how to apply the necessary force to overcome the inertia.

In the case of the op-ed penned by Glenn Hamer and Steve Macias, identifying likely causes of their cognitive inertia may not be very difficult.

The Arizona Republic identifies Hamer as the chairman and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Macias chairs the Arizona Manufacturers Council.

The Arizona Manufacturers Council is an arm of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Quite a bit of the verbiage on the Chamber's website is in code. Public Relations code, that is. Also known as ALECspeak (okay, maybe I just now coined that expression, but hopefully you get the idea).

Here's what you can easily take at face value: both the Chamber and the Council are all about providing a strong voice for their members at the State Capitol.

Here's some of what you have to take with a grain of salt: Hamer's professional experience as executive director of the Solar Energy Industries Association; Macias' page on the Arizona Commerce Authority website having icons for and links to the Arizona Solar State website and the Arizona Innovation Challenge. Neither is at all interested in advocating for solar energy development. Their op-ed demonstrates blatant cognitive inertia regarding solar. Why can't they challenge their prevailing assumptions about solar given the our state's overwhelming competitive advantage?

Come on! What happens when there is a solar energy spill in Arizona? Isn't it just considered a NICE DAY?

According to his bio, Hamer has been CEO of the Chamber since 2006. Before that he served as chief of staff to former [and now current] Congressman Matt Salmon, executive director of the Arizona Republican Party and legislative assistant to Sen. Jon Kyl. Hamer's Chamber bio says his work with the Solar Energy Industries Association was before he came to Arizona. In other words, an ancient time as far as solar technology development is concerned. Since then, he has been FAR removed from advocacy for alternative energy and related issues.

Now, why did these two BIG business lobbyists write an op-ed revealing their clients to be threatened by the idea that Nancy LaPlaca may become a Corporation Commissioner? Or at least being threatened by the reality LaPlaca set forth in her op-eds?

The Chamber's website recognizes six BIG corporations that "participate in the Corporate Membership program at the 'Arizona Trustee Level.'" They are: Apollo Group (parent of the University of Phoenix), Arizona Public Service,  Cox Communications (cable, internet and telephone provider), Freeport McMoRan* (mining conglomerate), Salt River Project and Southwest Gas.

The membership fee schedule is on this page. There are increments based on the number of employees in the member organization. For corporations with more than 500 employees, the form simply instructs the prospective member to call the office.

Reasons for joining the chamber are spelled out:

Your Voice. The Arizona Chamber is your voice on state and federal issues. We are the only full-time, business-oriented public policy organization fighting anti-business government policies and promoting positive economic development on a statewide basis. Our experienced team of lobbyists ensures the voice of Arizona business will be heard loud and clear during legislative sessions and ballot proposition campaigns.  
Your Resource. Through our programs, events, and committee meetings, you have direct access to the government policymakers whose decisions affect your bottom line. We arm you with the facts through timely and informative newsletters, policy papers, political analyses and action alerts. We also track and analyze political, societal, and economic trends to bolster our public policy agenda.
Your Bottom Line. The legislative and regulatory measures that impact your profit centers are at the core of our public policy advocacy efforts. Your participation in our policy making committees ensures that the voice of Arizona business is heard. Through your participation in our comprehensive policy agenda process, you help us develop an agenda that focuses on the needs of your business. We also help your bottom line with human resources and environmental education programs developed by top experts in their fields. 

The Chamber bills itself as a strong voice AND claims to be the "only full-time, business-oriented public policy organization fighting anti-business government policies..." "...you have access to the government policymakers whose decisions affect your bottom line." "Your participation in our policy making committees ensures that the voice of Arizona business is heard."

In other words, they claim to be like ALEC only better.

APS, SRP and Southwest Gas have major interest in utility issues in our state. SRP as a whole is not directly regulated by the ACC, but transmission line siting is. SRP is an owner and the operator of Navajo Generating Station. LaPlaca's op-ed pieces/guest blog posts go to the very heart of the issues regarding NGS.

The Chamber's website does NOT publicly disclose the cost of membership at the trustee level. But you have to figure it is likely the highest membership fee level. Therefore regardless of how much the Big Business lobby wants to claim it's about innovation, what Hamer and Macias did by writing that column was bold and brazen resistance to change. It certainly also demonstrated a profound lack of vision as well as a gap in understanding economic development issues.

Without either candid public disclosures from the Chamber or tedious pursuit of open records related to rate cases and required disclosures made to the ACC, I can't get any more specific about the monetary amounts at stake in this situation. But we already have adequate information to make reasonably informed inferences about the motivation behind the cognitive inertia displayed by Hamer and Macias. Their statement was an awkward and unsuccessful effort to undermine LaPlaca's call for visionary leadership to address Arizona's energy future.

There can be no question Hamer and Macias intended their op-ed to be a pre-emptive attack on a potential LaPlaca candidacy. I'm not sure they realize how magnificently they failed. Knowing LaPlaca as I do, I'm confident she relishes the opportunity to address these issues before voters throughout Arizona.

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*Some perspective on Freeport McMoRan: Today's Arizona Republic ran a brief story based on a press release the company (New York Stock Exchange: FCX) posted on May 20, 2013.

Freeport-Mc MoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE: FCX) and Plains Exploration & Production Company (NYSE: PXP) today announced that the shareholders of PXP approved FCX’s acquisition of PXP at a special meeting held today. A majority of the outstanding shares approved the transaction.
The transaction is anticipated to close on May 31, 2013. Following completion of the transaction, there are expected to be approximately 1,038 million shares of FCX outstanding.
Upon closing of the merger, FCX will be a premier U.S.-based natural resource company with an industry leading global portfolio of mineral as sets, significant oil and gas resources and a growing production profile. FCX is the world’s largest publicly traded copper producer.
The Republic's story said (print edition, page B6):
After being promised addi­tional $3 per share dividends, shareholders of Plains Explo­ration and Production Co. ap­proved an acquisition by Phoe­nix- based Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc. on Mon­day.
Freeport announced an ad­ditional dividend for Plains shareholders before the vote on Monday, and also said if the deal with the Houston company was approved, it would pay an additional $1 per share divi­dend to all shareholders.
That comes on top if its more than 31-cent-per-share quarter­ly dividend.
Freeport announced the ac­quisition in December, along with a separate deal to acquire McMoRan Exploration Co. of New Orleans.
Freeport-McMoRan said it will pay $17.2 billion for Plains and $2.4 billion for McMoRan in cash, stock and the assump­tion of debt.
With FCX acquiring significant gas production capacity, might there be incentive for the Chamber's "trustee level voices" Glenn Hamer and Steve Macias to develop vision for developing a natural gas generating unit at NGS? Just sayin'.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Guest Blog Post -- Clean Energy means more, better jobs


In last night's blog post, I referred to an op-ed in a local newspaper written by two business interest lobbyists who seriously lack entrepreneurial vision to meet the energy and political challenges facing Arizona today. On May 6, I had posted in response to a press release issued by the Arizona GOP.

From where I sit, the fact that the Guardians Of Privilege have recognized the legitimacy of Nancy LaPlaca's candidacy for a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission is great news. So, I now say thank you to AZ GOP chairman Robert Graham.

LaPlaca, in response to publication of the GOP press release in the Yellow Sheet Report, a subscription only gossip sheet put out by the Arizona Capitol Times, wrote the op-ed posted below, which I am pleased to present to you.

-----

The Arizona Republican Party recently issued a press release stating that I want to “eliminate 1,000 coal jobs” on Navajo land. That statement is so far removed from reality that it warrants a direct response.

The issue that raised their ire was my asking whether spending $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion of ratepayer money -- to purchase the departing ownership shares of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and NV Energy, and update the air quality systems at the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) -- is a wise investment. Given that our neighboring states and utilities around the country are abandoning coal and investing heavily in natural gas and renewable energy generation, is sinking good money into a 40-year-old plant our only choice?

When studies show that for every $1 spent, clean energy creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels, what’s wrong with looking into alternative investments?

Clean energy can increase the number of available jobs and address environmental and health issues people are concerned about. We know that coal fuel and compliance costs are going to continue to increase as time goes on, so why invest in technologies that only increase the cost of electricity?

Why restrict the Navajo economy when diversifying the energy mix at NGS by adding wind, solar PV or solar CSP could create 3,000 new jobs?

What I want is to diversify and transform the Navajo economy by expanding the mix of energy. This will create even more jobs that can be filled by Navajo and Hopi people. I want them to earn higher wages, enjoy better working conditions, lead healthier lives and have better career options for generations to come.

Leave it to the Arizona Republican Party leadership to want to limit the economic, employment and investment opportunities in Native American lands by willfully ignoring new opportunities and energy trends.

One thing that has been sorely missing from Arizona in recent years is an open and honest dialogue about our energy future.

The energy market in the U.S. is moving away from coal and toward other forms of generation, including renewables and natural gas. A diversified energy portfolio that employs renewable energy at NGS will employ more people at higher wages than work there now.

We should explore and discuss this opportunity rather than dismissing it out-of-hand for purely political (cultural inertia) purposes.

Think about it: Arizona has far more to gain from increasing clean energy than it has to lose from reducing coal-fired power. As the sunniest state in the U.S., Arizona should lead the way — and have an open discussion.

Nancy LaPlaca served as policy advisor to former Arizona Corporation Commissioner Paul Newman and has formed an exploratory committee to consider running for a seat on the ACC in 2014.

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Like Nancy, I welcome the attacks... er, open dialogue in Arizona media on these issues critical to citizens and utility ratepayers. In fact, I'm thrilled that the "entrenched interests" feel threatened enough already to verbally engage on the issues.

Nancy LaPlaca has the vision and determination to lead the way on critical changes for Arizona.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Arizona UPRISING -- Change happens... or does it?

Newton's First Law of Motion states:
Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
This is also known as the Law of Inertia.

Inertia is not limited to the realm of physics. There is cognitive inertia.
Cognitive inertia refers the tendency for beliefs or sets of beliefs to endure once formed. In particular, cognitive inertia describes the human inclination to rely on familiar assumptions and exhibit a reluctance and/or inability to revise those assumptions, even when the evidence supporting them no longer exists or when other evidence would question their accuracy. The term is employed in the managerial and organizational sciences to describe the commonly observed phenomenon whereby managers fail to update and revise their understanding of a situation when that situation changes, a phenomenon that acts as a psychological barrier to organizational change. 
Then there is social inertia or cultural inertia, where cognitive inertia takes over small or large groups or societies.

The common thread is resistance to change.

Cultural inertia is the reason it took until Lincoln's presidency before slavery -- in spite of the Founding Fathers declaring decades earlier that  "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." -- to abolish the unquestionably evil practice of slavery.

Cultural inertia is the reason it took until August 1920 -- with ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution -- before women were granted the right to vote throughout the United States.

The United States, by the way, was NOT the first nation to recognize that right. Note that the (Progressive) State of Arizona did so with the passage of a ballot measure on November 5, 1912. That was the first general election after Arizona obtained statehood.

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Let's cut to the chase. Change happens.

Does it matter how or why change happens? Or doesn't happen?

Why do I bring this up now? Pointedly stated, we are at the most important moment in human history: NOW.

How quaint, right? Can we change the past? Notwithstanding those who would rewrite history, what happened, happened. Can we predict the future? Can we change the future?

I'm thinking that there are people who have the ability to predict, or at least envision what is likely to take place in the future based on a current course of action or set of events. There are also people who can present a vision of what a person or group may want to make happen in the future, and based on collective intelligence or resourcefulness, the group may be able to take steps at a given moment (a certain "now") to increase the likelihood their vision of the future will actually take place.

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As a society, there are some pretty fierce and seemingly insurmountable crises on the horizon.

First and foremost, we MUST Move to Amend the US Constitution to overturn or nullify the Citizens United ruling. US citizens have demanded amendments before and when the cultural inertia was overcome, change happened.

For several decades, scientists and engineers have seen climate change and other consequences of industrialization approaching.

Because of this understanding, rapid development of new technologies available to meet and overcome related challenges and crises have also been in the works for decades. When we overcome the cultural inertia, food production, manufacturing and transportation technology as well as energy usage practices will change.

Remember, overcoming inertia is only accomplished by application of an external force.



WE are the leaders we've been waiting for. -- Bob Edgar

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Technological change in society can also be often incredibly disruptive. Such is the case before us with the Navajo Generating Station in Northern Arizona. The need for crucial, long ranging decisions about NGS was thrust upon our state when out-of-state utilities holding substantial ownership percentages in NGS announced intent to divest.

The decisions announced by Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Nevada Energy are out of the hands of Arizonans. Other related decisions can and should be influenced by the people of Arizona and what is in OUR best interests. Which brings us to Arizona's political environment and makes election campaigns for statewide offices in 2014 most urgent NOW.

Several people are already considering or planning to compete for the two expected open seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission. But only one candidate thus far has impressed me as having the vision and determination to lead Arizona through the challenges we face. People like Glenn Hamer and Steve Macias already recognize that situation also. They wrote:

In her recent “My Turn,” [which was also published by the Arizona Eagletarian as a guest blog post] Nancy LaPlaca touted Los Angeles and Nevada for their plans to abandon coal-fueled electricity (“Coal is poor investment in state’s energy future,” May 6).
She encouraged Arizona to follow suit with little to no regard for the economic implications of her suggestion, which would undoubtedly result in higher energy and water rates for the state.
LaPlaca has already provided data to show how wrong Hamer and Macias are. I plan to publish some of that information over the next few days. But when I started writing this evening, it became apparent that the most urgent thing to convey was how Hamer and Macias represent inertia or resistance to change. A resistance, by the way, that is undoubtedly futile.

If the two of them were genuinely advocates for Arizona businesses, rather than commit themselves to remaining in a state of cognitive inertia, perhaps the organizations they work for would be better served if the two would set forth an entrepreneurial vision recognizing the business opportunities this situation represents.

For a little chuckle, view this clip. But please, don't take it too seriously. We are not the United Nations, after all. Wink, wink.


Above all, do not forget that Arizona was built upon a very progressive foundation.

Friday, May 17, 2013

State budget halfway home, includes Medicaid expansion

At 9:00 pm Thursday, the Arizona Senate adjourned until Tuesday after having passed a series of budget bills for Fiscal Year 2014. Despite early reports of potential divisions among the Senate Democratic Caucus, the members remained steadfastly united throughout floor debate and Third Read votes.

There were ample portions of "drama" on the video feed broadcast online, but none of it was from or about weak links among the 13 members of the Minority (Democratic) Caucus. Shortly after adjournment, Democratic political consultant and former Arizona House Minority Leader John Loredo summed it up.
Tonight Senate Democrats along with a handful of courageous Republicans passed a reasonable, responsible budget. Dems learned that when you have serious leverage, you can hold out for some pretty amazing victories - if you don't throw in the towel too early. Dems held their votes on Medicaid until the R[epublicans] agreed to remove permanent cuts to public education, stop the voter suppression BRB [SB 1493, the elections ominous bill], removed a sweetheart deal for Arpaio and passed several other amendments. 
By the way, the $1.5 million the GOP proposed for Arpaio had no specifically stated purpose. It was "just because." Thankfully, Senate Democrats saw to it that the brown nosing the hardline Republicans had in store for the Maricopa County Sheriff was stopped dead in its tracks. Much like Arpaio will once the recall petition signatures are officially filed.

The drama witnessed online was all about whining by Senate President Andy Biggs and his extreme right-wing colleagues. Ultimately, the 13 Democrats, together with a coalition of a handful of Republicans made this happen. Earlier today, floor debate took place. Notably, Biggs introduced a dozen or so amendments to the Medicaid expansion bill. Most of those amendments died as a result of 12-18 or 13-17 votes.

Biggs tried to attach a "Prop 108" clause to the Medicaid bill (SB1492), which if he had succeeded would have required 20 votes in the Senate and 40 votes in the House for the bill to be enacted into law. Self-enrichment attorney and Sen. from Chandler, Steve Yarbrough read a long and prepared statement that sounded like a legal brief or pleading he might file in a court. But this was not a court, it was a political arena. The motion to add the Prop 108 clause failed by a 12-18 vote.

The significance of that potential amendment looms large. SB1492 passed on Third Read 19-11. With a  Prop 108 clause included, it would have still been one vote shy of passage.

As it was, Biggs and friends threatened litigation. Additionally, on Third Read, Yarbrough in tremendously dramatic fashion declared "Mark my words!" He went on to say that the federal government (which he did not explain would actually be Congress, IF it happens) would "renig" on the promise to provide 90 percent of the funding to cover those eligible by way of the expansion. He also, apparently believing himself to be a prophet or something, said that when the feds back out of the promise to provide the enhanced match rate, there will be no political will in Arizona to rescind the coverage for expanded Medicaid eligible population.

Which brings me to another point of the drama. At the end of his time introducing and trying to win adoption of his floor amendments, Biggs also tried to wax prophetic.

The Arizona Republic characterized the situation:

Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, a steadfast opponent of the governor’s proposal, fought unsuccessfully to kill it with a slew of amendments, including requiring a two-thirds vote for approval, eliminating a hospital tax that will help pay for expansion, converting all state employee health insurance to Medicaid and repealing expansion if even one Medicaid patient is found to be an undocumented citizen.
“This is the most important policy decision that we’ve encountered in a generation,” Biggs said during a rambling floor speech that included lessons about why the federal government — “a dubious partner” — should not be trusted.

I'll agree that this is (among) the most important policy decision(s) we've encountered in a generation. And I absolutely agree that Biggs floor speech can be fairly characterized as rambling, among other things.

But he also emphatically claimed that by 2018 there would be an additional 600,000 Arizonans eligible for Medicaid. I'm not sure anyone else picked up on that. Sure, it might have been hyperbole but he DID SAY it. Now, perhaps the most important policy QUESTION that should be asked in a generation is, "WHY would there be 600 thousand ADDITIONAL Arizonans eligible for Medicaid?"

For that to actually happen, wouldn't there have to be a mass employer exodus OUT of Arizona... more than are already leaving (like US Airways, which is merging with American Airlines and moving its headquarters to Dallas)?

WHY would such a mass exodus take place? Can you say, extreme right-wing austerity? If the GOP ever succeeds in regaining a supermajority in the Arizona Legislature, you can safely bet they will decimate K-12 and Higher Education. That's just for starters.

By the way, in an attempt simply to frustrate the prevailing side in today's floor debate, Sen. Rick Murphy was going through a series of motions at the end trying to get the (possibly two dozen or so) failed amendments reconsidered and subject to roll call votes.

After the sixth such motion, Rich Crandall, one of the rebellious Republicans made the motion to call the previous question, which put a stop to Murphy's (and Biggs') shenanigans. Biggs had to take a couple of minutes to consult with Senate staff to find out if he could declare that motion out of order. He then summoned the Senate Rules attorney to further inquire.

Upon realizing that Crandall's motion was fully appropriate for the situation, and took precedence, Biggs had to allow a vote on it. Crandall's motion passed 18-10, after which Biggs was (according to observers there in person) noticably upset, banged his gavel hard and declared the Senate to be at recess for 45 minutes. They didn't reconvene for two and a half hours.

Here's the Friends O'Farley update:
Howdy, Friends O'Farley,
Here's the brief update I promised you during the last Farley Report:
I have served seven sessions in the Legislature. I have never before experienced a day like today. Together with five brave Republicans -- Majority Leader John McComish, Majority Whip Adam Driggs, Rich Crandall, Steve Pierce, and Bob Worsley, we 13 Senate Democrats amended and passed budget bills to invest in Child Protective Services, K-12 and Higher Education, State Parks and Arts Commission grants, Adult Education and Literacy, and above all, the Governor's Medicaid restoration plan to cover 300,000 more people in poverty, save our hospitals and boost our economy. The bills now move to the House for consideration.

The drama was immense, as this coalition proved our strength in vote after vote and reconsideration after reconsideration as we held firm together, across party lines. Through it all, we stood tall for all our constituents.
This is why I got into public service in the first place -- to create bipartisan, common-sense solutions to make Arizona a better place. Tonight, we actually accomplished that on the floor of the Arizona Senate. After seven years in the minority, losing vote after vote, it was a revelation to be part of a bipartisan moderate majority adopting good amendments, and voting for good budget bills that pass.
This is the type of work the people of Arizona have been waiting for -- we put the partisan games aside to do what is right. I hope and believe that this is a glimpse of a better political future for our state.
Have a wonderful evening. I'm heading back home to Tucson.

Thanks for your faith in me as your Senator.

Steve
Steve Farley
Senator, District 9, Tucson
I'm thankful for and proud of ALL 13 Democratic senators (especially the one who represents me, Ed Ableser) as well as the five Republican senators (listed above) who did the right thing today. I should mention that most of the bills passed on Third Read by at 19-11 margin. The 19th vote came from Michele Reagan (R-Scottsdale).

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts noted and thanked those who did the right thing this evening, both on azcentral.com and facebook. Of course, Roberts has consistently disrespected elected Democrats in the legislature as having no significance, even as far as being quoted in the Guardian (UK) (just after last fall's general election):

The Republican advantage in the senate shrank to 17-13, giving Democrats some muscle in looming fights over Medicaid expansion and the state's much-criticised immigration laws.
However, in a tight vote, the surviving Republican senators on Wednesday promptly dumped their president, Steve Pierce, whom some had blamed for the senate's failure to pass additional bills against illegal immigration.
They replaced him with the harder-line Andy Biggs, reflecting an ideological split between moderates and conservatives. Moderates gained some leverage with the election of John McComish as majority leader and Adam Driggs as majority whip.
"Biggs' win suggests that the ideologues will run amok at the Capitol next year. However, the wins of McComish and Driggs suggest that some see the value in a more balanced crop of leaders, so there is hope yet," wrote Laurie Roberts, an Arizona Republic columnist.

She doubted pragmatic Republicans would be able to restrain their more radical colleagues. "Why … do I feel like de-kookification just took a major hit?"

Recall that Ms. Roberts was among the journalists expressing the most emphatic (and certainly hyperbolic) indignation over the strong stand Legislative District 26 Democratic legislative candidates took against Republican Jerry Lewis in the 2012 general election.

Should we ask Ms. Roberts how much more easily tonight's outcome would have been if the Senate had 18 Republicans and only 12 Democrats.

But I digress.

Let's close with some feedback from chief kook/tea party activist Wes Harris who expressed his "appreciation" for the stand the rebel Republicans took.
“Not one of them deserves the position they occupy. Sorry, but expansion of Medicaid just creates huge budget deficits and benefits no one, least of all the, so called, poor. We will spend 2.5 Billion to get back 10 cents on the dollar from Washington...why is Washington involved anyway. It is totally unconstitutional.”
Harris left this comment on Roberts' facebook post (linked above). I then posed this question for him, "Wes, how in the world can you even say that Medicaid expansion "...benefits no one, least of all the, so called, poor." Do you have even the most minute grasp on reality?

Not surprisingly, Harris chose not to answer the question.

Another person posed this for him, "last time I checked SCOTUS ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional. So Wes how can a law be unconstitutional when the SCOTUS ruled otherwise...?" No response from Harris.

Isn't it wonderful that Wes Harris is such a reliable foil? He has, after all, made so many off-the-wall statements, not to mention that he is the first named plaintiff in the GOP lawsuit that challenged the legislative district maps.

Anyway, that's the view from where I sat to observe Thursday's drama in the Arizona Senate.

At the moment, it appears the budget bills will be on House Speaker Andy Tobin's desk when that chamber reconvenes on Tuesday. All of the work it took to get the budget (and Medicaid expansion) through one chamber will begin anew next week. And since there are twice as many Members of the Arizona House, it's fair to say the process will be at least as complicated as it was this week in the Senate.