Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Friday, June 28, 2013

Redistricting -- Cid Kallen appointed by House Minority Leader

This afternoon, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell appointed Yuma attorney and US Marine Corps veteran Cid Kallen to the fill the vacant seat on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

Kallen was founding president of the Hispanic Law Students Association at the Phoenix School of Law. He now serves on the board of directors for the Los Abogados Hispanic Bar Association.

There is still no word on a ruling in Harris v AIRC, a federal lawsuit challenging the legislative district map used for the 2012 election cycle in Arizona. When the Harris ruling is made, if it requires any changes to the map, Kallen will get his feet wet and will have a say in those changes.

Corporate media stories on this announcement reference former commissioner Jose Herrera,
Herrera cited a toxic atmosphere at meetings and lawsuits targeting the commission.
The fact that all of the original five commissioners appointed in 2011 lived in either Phoenix or Tucson  presented initial concerns. That controversy fell by the wayside when the firestorm surrounding selection of mapping consultant Strategic Telemetry erupted.

Among the most irritating aspects for Herrera was frequent bickering from and with Republican Scott Freeman. I suspect Kallen will not be quite as concerned if the bickering continues.








Thursday, June 27, 2013

Let's Take the Facade off of the anti-Medicaid Restoration effort, shall we?

The last couple of days have been a roller coaster of emotion with the Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act then declaring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Then you have President Obama setting some encouraging steps in motion to combat climate change. And how about Texas Sen. Wendy Davis and the filibuster heard around the world? Some genuine disappointment and a lot of rejoicing.

But there is too much work to be done for us to allow ourselves to linger in the afterglow.

I just finished watching a 17-minute YouTube clip of the June 22nd kick-off to the campaign, by hardline Arizona Republicans, to put the Medicaid restoration bill on the ballot for the people of Arizona to decide come November 2014.

All the usual suspects were featured (notably, Russell Pearce, Angelo LaFaro and Ann Heins, not to mention about a dozen of the most radically anti-Obama members of the current Arizona Legislature), but more importantly, we need to take the mask off of the man behind the curtain.

The YouTube clip was uploaded by a user known as "AforPArizona." This, of course, stands for Americans for Prosperity, Arizona. Confirming this connection, Americans for Prosperity's website shows the organization's very emphatic support for the particular referendum effort in question, with an eloquent call for 300 Spartans to fight Obamacare in Arizona. The essay is signed by Tom Jenney, the head of AFP's Arizona chapter.

So, what is Americans for Prosperitywho is Tom Jenney and why is he so dead set on killing the Medicaid restoration -- and preventing so MANY low-income Arizonans from obtaining much needed medical care?

By the way, just WHOSE prosperity is he concerned about anyway?

That might be the most salient question that must be asked and answered in order for us to really understand this particular referendum effort.

AFPs directors have strong ties to Koch Industries and executive staff boasts this,
At the state level, AFP staff and volunteers consistently fight for free market policies.  They were seen as a key leader in supporting Governor Scott Walker’s budget reforms in Wisconsin, the successful Right to Work legislation in Michigan, and reform-minded budgets in states like North Carolina and Florida.  Their goal at the state level:  provide the long-term grassroots infrastructure, funding and grassroots strength necessary to take on entrenched special interests to pass free market, smaller government policies.
"Free market policies" is code for removing any safeguards that prevent concentrated capital interests to develop market domination.

"Scott Walker's budget reforms" is, of course, code for austerity.
In economics, austerity describes policies used by governments to reduce budget deficits during adverse economic conditions... In macroeconomics, reducing government spending generally increases unemployment. 
Fortunately, Tom Jenney, along with the main faces and voices of this referendum effort, Frank Antenori and Ron Gould don't try to hide that they are all about cutting government spending. They do, however, deflect attention away from what it all means to the people who will be impacted by dramatic cuts to government spending in general and on the Medicaid restoration in particular.

The shiny object they use is the nebulous concept of "freedom," which they never define. If you tell people that their freedom is in jeopardy and make them afraid, how many of them will bother to figure out what the real, practical ramifications will be if what the mob wants to see happen actually happens?

So, in the very human practice (let's face it, we all do it) of taking short cuts in decision-making, we sometimes give the benefit of the doubt to people we trust. If we are skeptical, not so much. That's where Tom Jenney comes in. He's a major player in this entire scenario. Has anyone really subjected him to the kind of scrutiny that would rightly warrant putting trust in him?

So, back to the question, WHO is Tom Jenney?

On his personal website, he most prominently calls himself a community activist and has a picture of his handsome, smiling, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant face disarmingly displayed along with an impressive resume and list of issues he considers important.

Topping off the disarmament offensive (it's certainly not presented in a defensive manner), he states:
Prior to joining Goldwater, Jenney served for two years as Administrator for the Unique Learning Center, a faith-based after-school program in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood. He serves as an elder at the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Phoenix. (emphasis in original)
He invokes the expression "faith-based" in one sentence and then follows it (a stealthy one-two punch) with disclosure that he "serves as an elder at the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church."

This is probably a good time for a personal disclaimer. I am not holy, let alone holier than thou, or than Tom Jenney. Further, like Jesus did (as recorded in the Gospels), I associate with people (many of whom) do not profess to be holy, or believers in God or in the same things I believe or that Tom Jenney apparently believes.

About Jenney then, his faith-based service would be all well and good BUT...

Let's compare Jenney's church's beliefs with what HE goes around doing for a living. From his church's website:
We are a family of believers pursuing a personal relationship with Christ and seeking fellowship with one another, guided by the truth of the Holy Bible, and furthering God's work in Christ's name. (emphasis in bold added)
We are called to love God and our neighbors as ourselves. 
That calling, to love God and our neighbors is a direct reference to Matthew 22.
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.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
Again, all well and good. But... what about when Jesus said...
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24.
Let's speculate for a moment. Do you think that David or Charles Koch -- the driving force behind, underlying and underwriting Americans for Prosperity -- would tolerate Tom Jenney making the work of the Gospel a higher priority than promoting their political goals?

Clearly, many people do many different kinds of work. They can't all forsake everything to follow Jesus, right? Of course not. So, what standard would we look for in evaluating whether we should give deference to Mr. Jenney having noble intentions, emulating the compassion consistently displayed by Jesus Christ for the poor and especially the sick?

Along with that compassion, did not Christ consistently demonstrate contempt for the rich?

Do you remember when Jesus said, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." ?? Matthew 19:24.

What does this all boil down to? What ultimately am I getting at?

Tom Jenney is what Jesus Christ called a "whited sepulchre."
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Matthew 23:27
I do not claim to have any standing to offer advice to anyone at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Phoenix as to any decisions they should make about their elders. Or about anything else, for that matter.

However, I do have a very keen interest in what goes on at the Arizona State Capitol and in calling attention to what I see happening regarding public policy and lawmaking. And it bothers me immensely that the movement seeking to exercise the "people's veto" of Medicaid restoration is being orchestrated by a man who takes his cues from some of the richest people in the United States while giving nothing more than lip service to the genuine interests of the majority of the people of Arizona. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Redistricting -- SCOTUS gutted the Voting Rights Act UPDATED 4:00pm 6-25-13

Ultimately, the ruling handed down today by the Supreme Court of the United States -- in a 5-4 decision with the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts -- took the wind completely out of the sails for advocates of federal enforcement of Section 5. For Arizona this means, for the time being, that the expected ruling in Harris v Arizona Independent Redistrict Commission will likely require some changes be made to the legislative district map.

I expect more information to unfold over the next several days, with the AIRC issuing at least an informal statement hopefully this afternoon.

In the meantime, the 68-page ruling will be dissected by legal analysts and advocates for equal voting rights throughout the country. The bottom line appears to be that Section 4, the basis for determining who is subject to the Section 5 preclearance process, has been declared unconstitutional.

UPDATE

No formal statement will be forthcoming from the AIRC regarding today's ruling by the Supreme Court. However, the best information I've been able to dig up thus far indicates that the ruling should NOT have any bearing any potential outcome of the Harris case.

Recall that the Harris trial wrapped at the end of March. Because today's SCOTUS ruling does not change what was in effect when the current Arizona legislative district map was drawn, the three-judge panel hearing that case should make its determination based on law as it was prior to today.

However, IF the district court orders any changes to the map anyway, those changes would need to consider the law as it is NOW. That is, unless Congress moves quickly to replace the stricken Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Knowing how difficult it is to get Congress to move quickly on anything, odds are they will not get that done anytime soon.

Another possibility is that if the legislative map will be redrawn as a result of litigation, the new map could end up having a more competitive balance than is currently the case.

In the meantime, expect (Arizona) House Minority Leader Chad Campbell to make a selection later this week, or early next week, to fill the vacant seat on the AIRC.  


Saturday, June 22, 2013

What will it take to get a referendum on the ballot?

This evening on Facebook, a friend posed the following:
Why does it take only 86,405 signatures to get the anti-Medicaid referendum on the ballot but more than 330,000 signatures to get Joe Arpaio recalled?
So, as my manner is, I went about looking for the answer. Here's what I found.

First, calculation of the number of signatures required to force the Maricopa County Sheriff into a recall election is determined by Arizona Revised Statutes § 19-201 A.
Every public officer holding an elective office, either by election, appointment or retention, is subject to recall from such office by the qualified electors of the electoral district from which candidates are elected to that office. Such electoral district may include the whole state. A number of qualified electors equaling twenty-five per cent of the number of votes cast at the last preceding general election for all the candidates for the office held by the officer, even if the officer was not elected at that election, divided by the number of offices that were being filled at that election, by recall petition, may demand the officer's recall. (emphasis added)
The total number of votes cast by all voters for the office of Maricopa County Sheriff in the November 2012 general election was 1,342,221. Twenty-five percent of that number is 335,555.25.

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News sources/columnists, including Laurie Roberts, have reported that the number of signatures required to get the Medicaid restoration bill put on hold until the 2014 general election (in other words, successfully refer the question to Arizona voters) is 86,405.

That number is derived from the state Constitution, Article 4, Part 1, Section 1 subsection (1):
The second of these reserved powers is the referendum. Under this power the legislature, or five per centum of the qualified electors, may order the submission to the people at the polls of any measure, or item, section, or part of any measure, enacted by the legislature, except laws immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or for the support and maintenance of the departments of the state government and state institutions... (emphasis added)
The number of qualified electors (active registered voters) in Arizona as of the last totals published by the Secretary of State is 3,225,517. Five percent of that number is 161,276.

However, Donna Gratehouse, publisher of Democratic Diva called my attention to subsection (7) which says:
Number of qualified electors. The whole number of votes cast for all candidates for governor at the general election last preceding the filing of any initiative or referendum petition on a state or county measure shall be the basis on which the number of qualified electors required to sign such petition shall be computed.
According to the official canvass for the 2010 general election, the total votes cast for all candidates for governor was 1,728,081. Five percent of that number is 86,404.05.

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So, Roberts' column for Saturday (June 22) suggests that Republicans likely will hope the referendum effort seeking to block the Medicaid restoration fails. She notes, reasonably so, that the effort will be:
It’s a chance for the right wingers who control the Arizona Republican Party to show us what they’re made of – whether they have what it takes to sabotage their own party, not to mention innocent people whose lives may well stand in the balance.
My guess is they don’t. But it won’t be from lack of trying.
The newly formed United Republican Alliance of Principled Conservatives today begins circulating petitions aimed at blocking nearly 300,000 low-income Arizonans from joining the state’s Medicaid program and kicking another 63,000 people off the program at year’s end.
The group will need 86,405 voter signatures by Sept. 11 to block Medicaid expansion until voters can decide the issue in November 2014. 
Mohave County Republican Party Chairman Ron Gould, who is heading up the referendum campaign with ex-Rep. Frank Antenori, acknowledges that the group doesn’t have the money to pay for petition circulators. But he predicts they’ll succeed using volunteers, many of them party operatives who are experienced at collecting signatures.
Notably, both Ron Gould and Frank Antenori are former members of the Arizona Senate. And both have been known, at times, to try to prove they are big time kooks.

Roberts interviewed Chuck Coughlin, Gov. Brewer's front man on the Medicaid restoration effort this year. He said,
“This is the segment of our party that is just angry and bitter and hates Obama and all things Obama and doesn’t even want to listen to the rational argument as to why this is a good idea …,” he said. “It constitutes about 25 to 30 percent of the core Republican Party and they just don’t have the manpower and the legs to make it happen.”
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A number of other factors may be lining up to provide good opportunities for Democrats to win back statewide offices and more seats in the legislature. Of course, Gould and Antenori's effort, if successful will almost certainly boost Democratic fortunes in 2014. Additionally, the potential for a marijuana decriminalization measure and a referendum on HB2305 to make the ballot can also provide pretty significant boosts.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Who the hell is J.D. Mesnard, anyway?

Here are excerpts from the front page on Mr. Mesnard's 2012 campaign website:
I have the honor and privilege of serving in the Arizona House of Representatives, having been elected in 2010.  I am running for re-election this November 6, 2012, for LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 17 (Chandler, Gilbert and Sun Lakes).
I ran for office two years ago because I was tired of politicians running for office on promises they were unable (or unwilling) to keep, claiming to be "different" only to turn out like everybody else: part of the system; part of the problem.  I did not make grandiose promises, but pledged to keep an open door and an open mind. 
I was also made Chairman of the prestigious House Commerce Committee. 
I also received the Open Government Leader of the Year award. Serving as your Representative has been a distinct honor and I hope you will vote to extend that honor another two years. (emphasis/highlights in original)

JD doesn't tell us (at least not on the first page of his campaign website) who bestowed the open government award upon him. Therefore it's not readily available for us to evaluate just what he had to do to earn said award.

However, on the question of grandiousity, it's incumbent upon us to consider his comments last week when explaining his vote on HB 2305, the VOTER SUPPRESSION bill.

But first, let's consider the significance the concept of irony.
i·ro·ny  (r-nr-)n. pl. i·ro·nies
1.a. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.
b. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.
c. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect.
2.
a. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs: "Hyde noted the irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated" (Richard Kain).
b. An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity.
So, consider Mr. Mesnard's word in the clip below in light of his award for open government.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Is it at all possible that Mr. Mesnard does not see the irony in his advocacy for raising the barriers to keep everyone but Democrats and Republicans off of ballots for legislative, Congressional and statewide offices, after having apparently "earned" an Open Government award.

While the measure doesn't present insurmountable obstacles to Democratic candidates, the ONLY beneficiaries of Mr. Mesnard's largess are Republican candidates.

To illustrate, review the chart (below) showing pre- and post-HB2305 nominating petition signature thresholds from an earlier blog post.
The bottom line is that the changes will make it tremendously more difficult for candidates to get on the ballot except for those affiliated with the Republican Party.

PartyStatewide Voter Reg        Current                HB2305
Amer Elect26715,376
Democrats979,1714,8965,376
Green5,119265,376
Libertarian23,9261205,376
Republican1,141,7005,7095,376
Other1,075,3345,3775,376
total3,225,517

But there's more irony in this situation. While the Republican Mr. Mesnard laments the fact that a couple of Republican Congressional candidates lost in 2012 by fewer votes than the Libertarian in those races garnered, he seems oblivious to the fact that the most egregious and intentional exploitation of the ability of third party candidates to intentionally play the spoiler was JOHN MILLS -- when Mills was on the payroll of the Republican caucus of the Arizona House. From an October 2011 Arizona Eagletarian post:
On the other hand, Weiers was the beneficiary of John Mills' efforts to recruit bogus Green Party candidates to dilute the Democratic vote in his district a few years ago. 
A website I linked to in that October 2011 post is no longer live, so I'm looking for those specifics elsewhere.

Nevertheless, Mills has been linked to recruiting sham Green Party candidates on behalf of his former boss, Jim Weiers as well as in the old Tempe LD17.

The irony in Mesnard's remarks is that the Libertarian candidates he views as responsible for Republicans losing races for Congress in 2012 were all very clearly and obviously genuine Libertarian candidates. The candidates Mills recruited to run on the Green Party ticket against Democrats had no prior involvement with the Green Party at all.

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Let's just say that Mr. Mesnard had no idea that Mr. Mills was the primary perpetrator of GOP largess that he now claims he wants to prevent. Consider our next vocabulary word, "noblesse oblige."

Mr. Mesnard speaks as if he (and the entire cohort of elected Guardians of Privilege in Arizona) are entitled to make the rules about whom to allow entrance to the electoral system.
noblesse oblige [nəʊˈblɛs əʊˈbliːʒ (French) nɔblɛs ɔbliʒ]nOften ironic the supposed obligation of nobility to be honourable and generous
[French, literally: nobility obliges]
There's that word IRONY again. If he genuinely wanted to be taken seriously as a member of a "ruling class" in our state, Mr. Mesnard would have to take a markedly different approach to his role as Representative.

The Yellow Sheet (6/18) quotes Mesnard:
Some Republicans did cite their recent election losses as a reason for supporting the bill. On the House floor, Mesnard alleged that some people have manipulated the elections process through “sham” candidates. “I believe that, if you look at the last election, there was at least one, probably two, congressional seats that may have gone in a different direction … if this requirement had been there,” he said. But Mesnard later told our reporter that he supports the new requirements out of fairness. The bill does give an advantage to Dems and Republicans, he said, but it’s appropriate since we have a two-party system. If Libertarians and Greens want to get on the ballot, he said, they should win over more supporters. “Why should they not have to have the same requirements? … We’re all ending up on the general election ballot, equally before all voters. So, it seems to me that everybody should at least pass some kind of hurdle of equal value in getting there. And the hurdle we have in place, in part, is signature requirements,” he said. Mesnard denied that he supported the bill as a way to help Republican electoral fortunes, but acknowledged that his comments in the House might give people that impression.
How completely ironic that Mesnard would seek to give credit (blame) to his Democratic colleagues for this disaster of a bill. The final House vote, 33 Ayes, 26 Nays, 1 Not Voting had ALL 24 Democrats voting NAY. Republican Steve Smith was not there to vote and two Republicans, Heather Carter and Michele Ugenti voted NAY. ALL House votes in favor of the measure were cast by Republicans.

On the other hand, how ironic is it for the Yellow Sheet to let Mesnard essentially say, yeah I said that, but it is NOT what I meant?

The final vote in the Senate had a touch more drama. The first "final" vote had the bill defeated 13-16-1. All AYE votes were cast by Republicans. All 13 Democratic senators voted NAY. Rick Murphy was not there to vote. Republicans originally voting NAY included John McComish, Steve Pierce and Rich Crandall.

Following lobbying from Daniel Scarpinato, former Republican staffer at the Arizona House of Representatives, who now works for the National Republican Congressional Committee, McComish executed a parliamentary tactic, making a motion for reconsideration. When that motion succeeded, the final final Senate vote was 16-13-1. Pierce, Crandall and McComish each changed their vote to AYE.

The Yellow Sheet (6/18) also noted another exquisite irony.
Gallardo noted that last year, Republicans such as [US Sen. Jon] Kyl and [Maricopa County Attorney] Bill Montgomery were among those rallying against Proposition 121, the top-two primary initiative, and that one of the main reasons some Republicans argued against the measure was because it would ensure that few third party candidates ever appeared on a general election ballot again. In the 2012 publicity pamphlet from the secretary of state’s office, Lesko wrote that third-party candidates “won’t have a chance,” while Biggs said smaller parties “will be shut out of the general election process entirely.” Tobin wrote that voters will have fewer choices. “Currently it’s possible for an Independent, Libertarian, or third party candidate to qualify for the general election ballot. A top-two system means the days of an Independent candidate appearing on the general election ballot are over,” Tobin wrote. All three voted for H2305. (emphasis mine)
Of course, if Mesnard and the rest of the GOP caucus (in each chamber) had embraced the perspective of the servant leader, rather than the narcissists that they have proven themselves to be, they might have been able to avoid what will be the most likely ultimate outcome.

The last word for today's vocabulary lesson is HUBRIS.
hubris or hybris (ˈhjuːbrɪs) — n
1. pride or arrogance
2. (in Greek tragedy) an excess of ambition, pride, etc, ultimately causing the transgressor's ruin
Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts, on the HB 2305 saga, wrote
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, the Gilbert Republican responsible for the change, didn’t return a call to explain his motivation. But it’s not terribly difficult to figure out what’s going on here.
Republicans – still smarting from losing three swing congressional districts last year –believe that more congressional and legislative seats will fall their way once Libertarians stop soaking up votes. Their aim: the congressional seats now held by Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Ron Barber and Kyrsten Sinema.
Libertarian Barry Hess says Republicans are miscalculating. His party draws from both the right and left and even those inclined to lean R would likely take a pass now, given this sneak attack, he says.
“They believe they’ve got a Republican majority, with Libertarians climbing over onto their bandwagon,” Hess told me. “That’s not going to happen.  … This is going to be a big issue. The governor, she was the only one who could have stopped what I think is going to be political war.”
Look for the war to start soon. Democratic Party activist John Loredo says his party is working with Libertarians and the Green Party to mount a referendum to put HB 2305 on hold until the November 2014 election.
That would be bad news for Republicans who already have to worry about a potential Medicaid referendum on the ballot, one that would bring out all thousands of angry people newly tossed out of AHCCCS.
Add in a referendum on HB 2305 and you’ll see angry Libertarians and angry Latinos also flocking to the polls next year, when all statewide offices are up for grabs.
“This will wind up being one of the stupidest political moves of all time,” Loredo told me.
And here's one for those "righteous" Bible Believing "Pro-Life" lawmakers to consider when they look at themselves in the mirror to get ready to "serve" the people of Arizona another day.
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18 
I'm wondering, would it be sexist to say that, in the vernacular, Eddie Farnsworth and GOP legislative leaders pretty much tripped over their d**** ... um, machismo

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By the way, if Loredo is correct -- and I think he is -- a referendum could work, in this case, to stuff the GOP hubris back where it belongs.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Redistricting -- Still no ruling in Harris v AIRC

Almost three weeks into June and we still have no ruling from the US District Court in Harris v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which challenged the legislative district map alleging dilution of the Republican vote. Trial wrapped at the end of March and both sides, at least informally, had hoped for a ruling before the end of May.

Now comes news that the US Supreme Court is expected next week to announce its decision in Shelby County, Alabama v Holder. At issue is the requirement for covered jurisdictions (like Alabama and Arizona) to seek Department of Justice preclearance for any changes to law or district maps that may impact minority rights pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Regarding the upcoming Section 5 ruling, Roll Call reported today,
In this case, [one option is] the justices would rule the provision unconstitutional, most likely because it violates the equal protection clause or states’ rights. Privately, most of the experts interviewed — Democrats and Republicans — see this as the most likely outcome.
They argue that a high court ruling from earlier this week paved the way for the justices to strike down Section 5. Justice Antonin Scalia authored the 7-2 opinion ruling that states may not ask for proof of citizenship before registering people to vote. Voting law experts speculated that this would give the court leeway to strike down the full law next week in what is expected to be a controversial ruling.
Expecting the ruling to be controversial might just be the understatement of the century.

That the District Court ruling in Harris is still pending in light of the potential Section 5 Supreme Court ruling seems to foreshadow increasing possibility that the AIRC will need to gear up to make at least some changes to the legislative district map. As unpalatable as that possibility may be, it's better to be ready for it than to be blindsided.

This makes Chad Campbell's upcoming appointment to fill the vacancy on the AIRC all the more important. I have not spoken with any of the candidates to get a feel for the different perspective each would bring to the commission and to the process for updating the maps. I say "maps" plural -- even though Harris v AIRC only challenged the legislative map -- because if Section 5 is struck down, or even weakened, there may be additional pressure brought to bear for a do over on both maps.

And if the Congressional maps will need to be changed as a result of no longer needing to ensure Grijalva and Pastor have sufficient minority voters in the districts they represent, Campbell will certainly hear from every one of Arizona's Democratic Congressional delegation with their "concerns" about the upcoming appointment to fill the vacancy. Campbell told me he's more likely to wait until close to the deadline (14 days from when he received the list) than to make his selection in the next couple of days.

This situation also makes Gov. Brewer's upcoming decision on whether to sign, veto or allow the voter suppression bill to become law without her signature all the more important.

Speaking of the voter suppression bill, GOP statewide office wannabes -- like gubernatorial hopeful Ken Bennett -- are already trying to see who has the shiniest tinfoil hat going into the 2014 election season. Apparently, our illustrious birther Secretary of State appeared on Arizona Horizon on Tuesday evening to rationalize the need for the voter suppression bill.

Even though the 2014 primary election in our state is still 14 months or so from now, Bennett seems to know his best shot at moving up two floors in the Executive Tower is to pander to the right-wing. At least that's what he must think he needs to do to emerge from the GOP primary.

But this gives Democrats an excellent opportunity to win back the governor's office. The biggest challenge being to get and keep Arizona voters focused on a vision for the Arizona we want.




Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Voter Suppression bill HB2305 UPDATED 4:40pm MST 6-19-13

SEE UPDATE at the END of this post

I don't know how much left over good will/kumbaya Gov. Brewer will have after the signing ceremony for the Medicaid restoration bill on Monday morning, but I hope it's enough.

As Howie Fischer reported in the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson):
The real lasting legacy could be some of the more politically moderate legislators in the Republican Party ignored their own more conservative leadership and found common ground with the Democrats, which could open the door for more cooperation and less partisan bickering.
"We need to have more respect for each other," said Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott. "It's been gone down there."
He said Brewer can help restore that, and predicted more bipartisan cooperation next session.
That's also the assessment of House Minority Leader Chad Campbell.
"We put aside the politics," he said. "We put aside the rhetoric, at least some of us put aside the rhetoric."

HB 2305 is incredibly insidious. While I have not been able to talk with a legislative analyst about it yet, and there is still no fact sheet or summary posted on the legislature's website, I've taken a first look at changes to nominating petition formulas the bill makes if enacted.

The Arizona Democratic Party began work on a spreadsheet showing the current law and requirements as they stand with current voter registration counts and then with the changes. The spreadsheet needs some tweeking and when it is completed, I hope to post it for you to see exactly what changes mean in petition signatures required by office/district for the legislature, for Congress and for statewide offices.

The bottom line is that the changes will make it tremendously more difficult for candidates to get on the ballot except for those affiliated with the Republican Party.

Party Statewide Voter Reg Current law HB2305
Amer Elect 267 1 5,376
Democrats 979,171 4,896 5,376
Green 5,119 26 5,376
Libertarian 23,926 120 5,376
Republican 1,141,700 5,709 5,376
Other 1,075,334 5,377 5,376
total 3,225,517


Voter registration by party for all districts statewide is the first column. Current law requires candidates for statewide offices get the minimum number of signatures in the second column, based on registration for that party. The third column is the required signature threshold if HB2305 is enacted. The GOP gets off with easier access to the ballot. Every other recognized party has much higher barriers.

Speaking briefly with Sen. Steve Gallardo on Monday afternoon at the screening committee meeting for AIRC applicants, he pointed out the severability clause at the end of the bill.
Sec. 19.  Severability If a provision of this act or its application to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of the act that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are severable.

The practical ramifications of severability is that it is Eddie Farnsworth and Michele Reagan DARING voter interests to take this bill to court. Preferably, however, Brewer will veto the bill and the controversy will die then and there.

To that end, Sen. Gallardo is hosting a press conference this morning at 10am:
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senator Steve Gallardo will host a press conference with the leaders of Arizona political parties urging Governor Brewer to veto HB 2305
WHO: Senator Steve Gallardo
Barry Hess, chair of the Arizona Libertarian Party
Angel Torres, co-chair of the Arizona Green Party
DJ Quinlan, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party
WHEN: Tuesday, June 18th at 10 a.m.
WHERE: Senate Democratic Caucus Room, on the first floor just past the elevators.
More to come on voter suppression efforts by the Arizona Republican Party as they develop. But if what Fischer reported, and Sen. Steve Pierce was quoted as saying is true, then maybe Brewer will veto this incredibly divisive piece of legislation.

UPDATE

On Wednesday, June 19, Gov. Brewer signed the Voter Suppression bill into law. As I write this update, Sen. Steve Gallardo (D-Maryvale) is holding a press conference on the subject. When I spoke with him on Monday, he alluded to the possibility of a referendum.
Her signature Wednesday on House Bill 2305 ushers in a wave of changes, from limits on who can return a voter’s ballot to the polls, to stricter controls on citizen initiatives, to tougher requirements for minor-party candidates to qualify for the Arizona ballot.
Matthew Benson, the governor’s spokesman, said the legislation is “common-sense.”
“This measure enjoyed the broad support of county clerks and recorders across the state of Arizona, as well as the Secretary of State’s Office,” he told The Arizona Republic. “It’s viewed as a critical election reform bill that will help make sure that Arizonans don’t have to wait weeks on end for election results every two years.
He said concerns that the legislation will disenfranchise voters “are overblown. For the most part, these are common-sense recommendations.”
To properly interpret Benson's statement on behalf of the governor, it's important to understand that his job is to justify decisions Brewer makes, not to be at all candid. For example claims that this measure was supported by the Secretary of State and county elections officials, to be properly understood, must have context (that Benson doesn't provide). County elections officials are looking out mainly for themselves, not the voters. They want to simplify what they have to do for elections. Anything that can artificially suppress the complexities that caused them to mess up so badly last fall is good -- in their eyes.

Look for MUCH more on this subject in the days to come. This will not easily blow over.

And as I reported several days ago,
Following reportedly heavy lobbying by the Republican National Committee, McComish executed a parliamentary procedure that allowed him to bring the bill up for reconsideration. The bill passed on reconsideration 16-13-1. Pierce, Crandall and McComish changing their votes. If I can find a citation for the connection between the RNC lobbying and the reconsideration, I'll update this post. In the meantime, it's just something I had heard. But it is certainly plausible that the RNC would be very interested in suppressing the expected increasing power of the Latino vote in Arizona.
This afternoon, the Arizona Capitol Times reported (here are excerpts), 
Sen. Steve Pierce was under tremendous pressure from forces within and outside the state Capitol – including at least one official from the National Republican Congressional Committee –during the hours before sine die as lawmakers and others tried to influence his vote on a controversial election bill.
Pierce told the Arizona Capitol Times that Daniel Scarpinato, the national spokesman for the NRCC, called him that evening to discuss HB2305. The Prescott Republican initially voted against the bill but then cast the decisive sixteenth vote on reconsideration that approved the legislation.
Several GOP lawmakers told the Capitol Times that Scarpinato helped facilitate a call between Pierce and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. Other Republican lawmakers said they’d heard rumors that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and other national GOP leaders may have been involved in discussions with Pierce, whose initial no vote had effectively killed the bill’s chances of passing the Senate.
Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said Pierce told him that he was under pressure “from Boehner’s office and the NRCC” in a message via Twitter.

Several lawmakers were seen badgering Pierce on the Senate floor before, during and after his initial vote against HB2305. The measure gained notoriety after it was amended to include several measures supported by Arizona county recorders that Latino organizations said will suppress minority voters.
But the little-known provision equalizing candidate signature requirements for all parties sensationalized debate on the bill just before the Legislature adjourned, as GOP lawmakers ferociously pushed to guide the legislation through the Senate.
Lawmakers such as Rep. Adam Kwasman, R-Oro Valley – considered a likely congressional candidate in 2014 – were seen on the Senate floor arguing with Pierce, who repeatedly told lawmakers and the press that he voted no because he gave his word to do so.
Pierce relented and cast the necessary sixteenth vote in the Senate to approve HB2305 on reconsideration, but only after he was released from his promise, he told the Capitol Times.
Many hoped that such brazen power grabs by Arizona GOP lawmakers was gone as the supermajority that party enjoyed in the previous legislature (2011-2012) evaporated. But it's clear that any party that operates with that much power is going to abuse it. In this case, they cleverly snuck through, at the very last minute, this measure that had faced tremendous opposition for months.

This must be seen as an abuse of power and the people of Arizona shown just how unabashed the efforts to disenfranchise every voter except Republicans truly has been.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Redistricting vacancy -- short list

Twelve of the thirteen applicants interviewed very briefly today with the screening committee charged with naming three persons to a short list from which House Minority Leader Chad Campbell will select a replacement for Jose Herrera. Herrera resigned last month after apparently growing weary from what he experienced on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

Highlights from this afternoon's meeting of the Appellate Court Commission on Appointments include that the chairwoman, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca Burch explaining to several applicants that this was much like a version of speed dating.

One applicant, Frank Verderame, withdrew his name this morning and declined to be interviewed. A friend later asked me how he had done in the interview. The friend said he had been surprised Verderame had applied because he had previously expressed interest in running for office. A person who serves on the AIRC is banned from running for certain offices until three years after the ten year term is finished.

The applicants who had answered NO to the question on availability for IRC meetings, when asked about it in the interview, all indicated that had been a mistake on their part. Two of those three did not make it to the short list. The third, Jimmie D. Smith from Yuma was chosen for the list.

The candidate who interviewed the strongest, Joe Thomas, was immediately ruled out once the committee members started discussing the candidates and the interviews. Thomas has served for several years as a vice-president of the Arizona Education Association (teachers' union). In that capacity, out of an abundance of caution, he (and others similarly situated in the AEA) had filed with the Arizona Secretary of State as being a lobbyist. It is possible (perhaps even likely) that a court could or would have ruled (in the event of a lawsuit) that Thomas did not lobby such that he should be precluded from serving on the IRC. Nevertheless, rather than run the risk of unnecessary litigation, he was not considered further.

Several (but not all) of the other applicants showed strong potential for successfully serving on the commission. One of the most important qualifications was not discussed at all. Namely, being able to stand up to the bickering from Commissioner Scott Freeman. That, of course, was one of the frustrations for Herrera.

Beside Mr. Thomas, in my view, the strongest candidate was Lisette Flores. She's an attorney, currently mostly practicing immigration law with the local non-profit Friendly House. Flores also spent several years working as a prosecutor. There's no question she would have been able to stand up to Freeman. Alas, there was just no interest at all in naming her to the list.

In fact, the only name discussed other than Thomas and the three who did make the list was Andrea Esquer. But only two committee members (out of ten in attendance) voted to even consider her.

So, beside Jimmie D. Smith, the other two individuals on the short list are Cid R. Kallen and Jo Ann Martinez.

Smith applied in 2010 and made the list of 10 eligible Democrats from which Campbell and then Senate Minority Leader David Schapira chose Jose Herrera and Linda McNulty respectively. Smith is an attorney who has been a sole practitioner in Yuma for decades.

Kallen is a US Marine Corps veteran, attorney in private (sole) practice in Yuma and is an Hispanic male.

Martinez is a program director at Arizona State University -- Downtown. She holds a Master's degree in Education and is an Hispanic female.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell now has 14 days to make a decision on which of the three to select. If he does not appoint one of those persons in that time, the Appellate Courts Commission will do it for him.
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.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Voter Suppression bill sent to Brewer; Complaint sent to DOJ

Less than 24 hours after the Arizona Legislature passed HB2305, sending it to Gov. Brewer for her signature, former state Assistant Attorney General Vince Rabago filed a 53-page complaint with the Chief, Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice alleging specific instances of voter suppression from the 2012 general election in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties in Arizona.

Rabago's complaint includes affidavits from persons who received robocalls in Spanish with false information about last fall's election; affidavits from a Latino candidate for sheriff in Yuma County, his wife and another relative, detailing troublesome elections practices and officials; copies of the Congressional Record from confirmation hearings for former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist detailing his participation in voter suppression activities in Arizona prior to being appointed to the court; news reports from last fall of Maricopa County elections officials having released Spanish language documents citing an incorrect date for the general election and other dubious elections practices; and news reports about efforts earlier in the regular legislative session to pass voter suppression legislation.

Of course, as some observers suspected, a highly contentious bill -- HB2305 -- was amended in a conference committee and passed at the eleventh hour, shortly before the session adjourned sine die.

As I reported last month,
Standing together, they (along with the more sane Republicans) can kill the Elections Ominous bill. Among the sinister provisions of that bill, Michele Reagan's bills to throw voters off of the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) and making it a felony for activists to collect and deliver signed and sealed (and therefore NOT tampered with) early ballots to polling places or county elections offices.
As I understand it, there is no uncertainty among policy analysts that the intent of such bills is to suppress minority voter rights. At minimum, such a bill would be subject to court challenge even if the US Supreme Court strikes down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (decision expected next month on that issue). Court challenges mean -- at minimum -- sinking large amounts of taxpayer funds into attorney fees.
As it turns out, the first vote in the Senate on HB2305 DID kill the bill. 13 Aye, 16 Nay, and 1 not voting. The "sane Republicans" in this situation being Steve Pierce, Rich Crandall and John McComish.

Following reportedly heavy lobbying by the Republican National Committee, McComish executed a parliamentary procedure that allowed him to bring the bill up for reconsideration. The bill passed on reconsideration 16-13-1. Pierce, Crandall and McComish changing their votes. If I can find a citation for the connection between the RNC lobbying and the reconsideration, I'll update this post. In the meantime, it's just something I had heard. But it is certainly plausible that the RNC would be very interested in suppressing the expected increasing power of the Latino vote in Arizona.



Further, as of this posting, there is still no updated legislative fact sheet or summary at azleg.gov for HB2305.

I hope to be able to speak with an analyst about this bill on Monday.



Friday, June 14, 2013

Redistricting applicants

In the order listed on the Arizona Supreme Court website, here are the applicants hoping to fill the vacant seat formerly held by Jose Herrera:

Lanette Campbell, a community outreach specialist for Health Choice. Black female, married to former state Rep. Cloves Campbell Jr.

Laura Casas, teaches third grade in the Isaac School District (west Phoenix). Ms. Casas is an Hispanic female who earned her Bachelor's degree in 2009. To the application question, "Will your employment and/or personal circumstances permit you to attend meetings of the Independent Redistricting Commission in their entirety?" Ms. Casas answered NO.

Wil Counts, a pharmacist who also holds a Ph.D. in Psychology (1977), is a Black male.

Bernard J. Dougherty, a retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge, is a Caucasian male.

Andrea M Esquer currently practices law, overseeing the Homeowner Advocacy Unit of the Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law (ASU) Civil Justice Clinic. She has served as Public Information Officer for former Attorney General Terry Goddard and is an Hispanic female.

Lisette Flores earned her law degree in 2003 and is a member of the Valley Leadership Class 34 (2013). Ms. Flores, an Hispanic Female, is director of legal services for local non-profit Friendly House.

Cid R Kallen, an attorney (JD 2009) with his own private practice in Yuma, is an Hispanic male and veteran of the US Marine Corps. Having volunteered that he has sought an extension on filing and paying his 2012 income tax returns, there may be a question of personal organization and/or workload management.

Jo Ann L. Martinez, an Hispanic female, holds a Master's degree and serves as a program director at ASU Downtown.

Jimmie D. Smith, another Yuma attorney with his own practice, is a Caucasian male who also applied to serve on the AIRC in 2010. To the application question, "Will your employment and/or personal circumstances permit you to attend meetings of the Independent Redistricting Commission in their entirety?" Mr. Smith answered NO.

Joseph H. Thomas teaches government in Mesa high schools and is a leader in the Arizona Education Association. Joe is a Caucasian male.

Frank Verderame is an attorney in Phoenix (partner in his own small firm). Mr. Verderame (a Caucasian male) has connections, from his undergraduate studies at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA., to the Rose Institute (to which, mapping consultant bidder National Demographics Corporation is affliated).

Ronald E. Warnicke, (Caucasian male) served as former Gov. Bruce Babbitt's first chief of staff and is now of counsel at the law firm of Gordon Silver in Phoenix.

Joshua Zaragosa is an Hispanic male and works for Mario E Diaz and Associates, which he says is a Government and Public Relations firm. I wonder if Mr. Zaragosa realizes that "government relations" is another way to say "lobbying." He has worked on campaigns for Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor as well as current Phoenix City Council candidate Warren Stewart. To the application question, "Will your employment and/or personal circumstances permit you to attend meetings of the Independent Redistricting Commission in their entirety?" Mr. Zaragosa answered NO.

There you have it. Thirteen applicants for one vacant seat on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Three of the applicants, Casas, Smith and Zaragosa, appear to have eliminated themselves right off the bat by indicating they would not be available for all meetings that may be required.

Mr. Verderame's interest in the Rose Institute raises a potential red flag, as does Mr. Kallen's answer regarding his income tax filings. That Mrs. Campbell is married to a (recent) former member of the Arizona House of Representatives makes her candidacy questionable.

Among the remaining seven applicants, there are some very strong qualifications.

As a reminder, the Appellate Courts Commission on Appointments meets at 12:30 pm this coming Monday afternoon to interview the applicants in public and to discuss the qualifications of each, at the Arizona State Courts building, 1501 W. Washington St., Phoenix.

I will try to be there and report back to you on Monday evening.











AZ Lege adjourned Sine Die; and about that Redistricting Vacancy

After following the drama closely the previous night regarding FY2014 state budget and Medicaid restoration, I wasn't up on the specifics of the bills voted on in the final hours of the first regular session of the 51st Arizona Legislature.

But I am VERY glad they have adjourned the session and therefore cannot cause any more mischief with changes to Arizona Revised Statutes or by putting any more troublesome measures on the 2014 general election ballot. At least not until the next regular session starts in January. Unless Gov. Brewer calls them into special session for any pressing matter that cannot wait until 2014.

One piece of legislation just now on its way to Brewer is a voter suppression bill, HB 2305. There appears to NOT be a summary/fact sheet posted for the Conference Committee adopted amendments to the bill. I suspect this to be a problematic piece of legislation. Passed in the final hours of the session. As predicted. So, that will require additional analysis and, if Brewer declines to veto it, may become subject to litigation and a protest pursuant to the Voting Rights Act. Lots of variables but most certainly an important situation to sort out.

If there is anything else that comes up regarding legislation passed this week, I'll try to post about it as soon as I can. In the meantime, there is the matter of 13 applicants hoping to become redistricting commissioners.

-----

I have skimmed through the 13 applications and did see some promising candidates. Only two are from outside of Maricopa County. There are several women, several Hispanics and Blacks, and a couple of old white guys. The old white guys are a retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge and a chief of staff under former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt. All 13 are and have been registered to vote as Democrats for the last three years in Arizona. Or so they say. That is one thing that can be checked relatively easily.

Someone asked me a few days ago if any of the candidates might be "ringers." Depending on how one might define the word "ringer," I'd say it's possible that a couple of them may.  I'll try to post a brief description of each in the next day or so.

The Appellate Court Commission on Appointments meets on Monday, June 17 at 12:30 pm at the State Courts Building, 1501 W. Washington St., Room 345, in Phoenix. The applicants will be interviewed at that public meeting. If you would like to send comments about any of the applicants to the commission ahead of time, you may call Vanessa Haney at 602-452-3098 or e-mail vhaney@courts.az.gov.







Thursday, June 13, 2013

AZ House Passes Budget at 3:39 am

During floor debate on the budget bills on Wednesday evening in the Arizona House of Representatives, Robbie Sherwood tweeted:
The #AZHouse #Medicaid opponents' gift for overstatement, melodrama and hyperbole is UNMATCHED IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.
Besides the fact that Robbie may have a future in comedy writing, that may be the most poignant characterization of the drama.

-----

At the end of a marathon session that went about 18 hours, the Arizona House of Representatives passed ten special session budget bills at 3:39 am on June 13.

Much of the time was spent on floor debate, aka COW, aka Committee of the Whole. The so-called conservative wing of the House Republican caucus bloviated endlessly, at least that's what it felt like.

To listen to most of them, they have been disrespected, they have been insulted, they have been subject to a massive betrayal and the undermining of all that is good and right with America and Arizona.

For instance, Farnsworth pontificated about this being just a massive redistribution of wealth and completely unconstitutional. He's someone who apparently just cannot grasp the irony in what he and all of his ALEC-owned colleagues complained about Wednesday evening. Irony, in this case, in that GOP policies have consistently redistributed the wealth generated by the labor of more than a hundred million American men and women to the 1 percent.

In fact, most of Farnsworth's caucus mates sounded like they could not grasp the irony in their protestations about having their constituents disenfranchised. That is, because they believe they are entitled to all of the political power in Arizona, just because 35 percent of registered voters choose to be affiliated with their party.

And then it came time for the biggest blowhard among the 60 members of the House to have a say during floor debate.

That would be Rep. John Kavanagh, House Appropriations chairman. He went so far as to actually claim that when his caucus was in charge, they NEVER rolled over Democrats like he and his (non-"Brewer") caucus were steamrolled (Wednesday evening/Thursday morning). He can't possibly believe that, can he? Did somebody reformat his hard drive to completely erase all recollection of the GOP supermajority he enjoyed during the 50th Legislature (2011-2012)? Astounding, really.

Rep. Justin Pierce, in explaining his vote (during third read), completely misstated the concept of the federal government that was embraced by the Founders when the Constitution was adopted. He, and so many others, like to describe the concept behind the Articles of Confederation. That document was all about "states' rights." Then the Founders realized THAT WON"T WORK. So, in 1789, the Articles were replaced by the Constitution. States' rights are still a part of the Constitution, but subordinated to the need to maintain a strong federal government.

What a breath of fresh air it was when Democratic Rep. Debbie McCune-Davis became the first member of the majority "Brewer caucus"* to explain her vote, which was AYE on HB 2010, the Medicaid restoration bill.

In explaining her vote, Rep. Victoria Steele (D-LD11/Tucson), thanked her Republican seat mate, Rep. Ethan Orr, for standing strong in the face of a lot of opposition. Steele also made the first mentioned of provision in this budget for mental health first aid. That's something that should have been highlighted earlier, but I'm glad she mentioned it. That was one of the things many people talked about after the January 8, 2011 Tucson shooting.

Rep. Andrew Sherwood (D-LD26/West Mesa) said, when explaining his vote, the coalition that made it happen came about not because of a gang of eight, but a gang of thousands. He put in perspective that all of the GOP protestations made it sound like the majority was taken advantage of by a minority, but in fact those who made it happen in the House tonight actually represent far more Arizonans than the conservatives did.

Rep. Catherine Miranda thanked the 24 and 9* (the "Brewer caucus") for being PRO-LIFE tonight because this bill will save thousands of lives. She said that right after Rep. Steve Smith finished bloviating about the evils of abortion. Smith obviously is clueless about what the concept of being "pro-life" actually means... and how anti-life he and his GOP colleagues usually are.

When the recordings are posted from last night/this morning's House session, I'll post excerpts to allow readers to catch highlights without having to sit through so many hours worth of video.

In the meantime, I'm proud of the Democratic caucus and the rest of the "Brewer caucus." It was tedious for me to stay glued to my computer for so long. I can't imagine how it must have been in their shoes (or chairs). I'm reminded of what Andrew Sherwood posted to facebook on Monday.
Not expecting all the grandstanding from Republicans against Medicaid today. It was disgusting. I felt like those tourists at Sea World who don't realize they're in a splash zone - I just got politician all over me.
He was reminded of Sea World. It made me think of the movie Ghostbusters or Men in Black or a reasonable facsimile.



Because he's Speaker, Andy Tobin got to have the last word explaining his vote on the Medicaid restoration bill. His tone was far less confrontational than many of his colleagues (in the conservative wing of the GOP caucus). His comments boiled down to that he believes they could have done better, with the process and the final bill. I'm confident that more will be written about his perspective in the next day or so.

I understand the Senate is expected to do a third read sometime today. There's a fair chance both the regular and special sessions will then adjourn sine die and we'll be done with the shenanigans until January 2014.

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* "Brewer caucus" is an expression coined by the "conservative" House Republicans -- apparently meant in derision -- to characterize the coalition of 24 Democratic Members who welcomed the 9 Republicans to form the majority that enabled the budget bills to bypass Kavanagh's committee and get passed by the entire body.

The Republican members of the "Brewer caucus" included Bob Robson, Jeff Dial, Doug Coleman, Doris Goodale, Ethan Orr, Kate Brophy-McGee, Heather Carter, Frank Pratt and T.J.Shope.

Frank Pratt took the brunt of the abuse from the rest of the GOP members.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

FY2014 State Budget Special Session Drama

As you know, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called a special legislative session because her patience had run out with continuing House procrastination over the Senate budget bills that had been passed nearly a month ago.

After introducing the bills and conducting first read last night, the real action is taking place today. Live video of the proceedings can be found online here.

Bottom line is that Committee of the Whole (floor debate), taking place as I write this, finds that (usual) Majority Republicans are wailing and gnashing their teeth. ALEC chair Rep. Debbie Lesko just now proclaimed that she feels like she was "punched in the gut." Speaker Tobin and Senate President Biggs seem to be among the loudest complainers in each chamber.

Among the bullshit claims is that the Majority Republicans' constituents are being disenfranchised by this special session process.

One of the reasons for that claim is that Senate bill sponsor Sen. Steve Pierce and House bill sponsor Rep. Frank Pratt are consistently refusing to yield to questions in floor debate.

The other (stated) main reason for the indignation is that in each chamber, rules were suspended by a majority of members. In so doing, the special session bills were brought to the floor for Committee of the Whole debate without regular committee (Appropriations) hearings. Rep. JD Mesnard decided to call Minority Leader Chad Campbell the "new Majority Leader." That, of course, was a dig.

Eddie Farnsworth decried the Republican governor rolling over lawmakers in her own party, saying that in all of his experience (he said he may be the most senior member of the House) he has never seen any of this happen. He's embarrassed. Yada, yada, yada.

John Kavanagh gets to the essence, (btw, he's embarrassed too) by making the inevitable claim that it is actually the "people of Arizona" that are losing because of this process.

Of course, translated into English, what this all boils down to is that Brewer decided to help the House "s**t or get off the pot."

The Arizona House of Representatives had a month to give the Senate budget bills hearing in committee, but they did nothing but sit on their thumbs. Now they are all sorts of indignant because they are no longer in control and were completely caught off guard.

Other than the fact that they have had the rug pulled out from under them, you can read a summary of the special session budget bills can be found here.

I have to figure that the irony of these indignant Republicans is lost on them. Since the now minority members of the House represents far fewer Arizonans of any political affiliation, why they are so concerned with disenfranchisement of voters ONLY NOW and not during the first five months of the regular legislative session -- and even more so during the redistricting process over the last couple of years -- is nothing less than mind boggling.

Look for those indignant Republicans to be given voice in corporate media coverage for their Orwellian claims.

Members and staff in the House seem to expect final passage of these special session budget bills sometime after midnight tonight/Thursday morning.





Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Brewer: Time for Action is NOW! UPDATED 12:15am 6-12-13

Just after posting earlier this evening, I learned that Gov. Brewer had called a surprise special session of the legislature to get the BUDGET ball rolling. The Arizona House had been procrastinating for close to a month and Speaker Tobin had earlier in the afternoon adjourned his chamber until Thursday.

Appropriations chair John Kavanagh, ever the tough guy -- or at least he talks like it -- had scheduled his committee to meet Thursday morning to essentially pour sand in the gas tank by introducing strike everything amendments to all nine of the Senate budget bills that had not yet been heard in committee.

Apparently, Brewer had a few tricks up her sleeve and called Kavanagh's bluff.

From coverage by the Arizona Republic:
Fed up with weeks of debate and delay on her top legislative priority, Gov. Jan Brewer called lawmakers into an unprecedented special session late Tuesday, bypassing the leadership of her own party to push through Medicaid expansion and the 2014 budget.
The governor’s surprise move comes after House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, adjourned until Thursday, stalling efforts by a bipartisan House coalition to pass Brewer’s 2014 budget and Medicaid expansion.
Many legislators were on their way home when Brewer called key lawmakers to a meeting in her offices, where the special session plans were organized. They agreed to unseat the speaker and Senate president, if necessary, to get Medicaid expansion and the budget passed.
Brewer issued a special session proclamation at 5 p.m., and by then Democrats and the expansion-friendly Republicans were already gathering on the House floor.
Matthew Benson, the governor’s spokesman, said Brewer had waited long enough, and that Tobin adjourning the House until Thursday “was the final straw.”
Bipartisan coalitions in the House and Senate that have backed Brewer’s expansion plan for months will push it through, starting tomorrow, along with nine bills that make up the fiscal 2014 state budget.
The rules give broad authority to a simple majority of the 60-member House. Including the power to bring bills to the floor, create committees and replace leadership.
The House Medicaid coalition includes at least 32 members, and there are at least 18 in the Senate.
The Republic also reported that Chandler Republican Rep. Bob Robson believes neither Biggs nor Tobin will have to be removed from their positions in charge of each chamber because they will allow the bills to be acted on. This special session will apparently bypass Kavanagh's Appropriations Committee and bring the budget bills directly to the floor.

Sen. Steve Farley sent out his weekly Friends O'Farley report this evening.
When 5pm rolled around we discovered that the Governor decided she had had enough. Here is her tweet from a few minutes later:
"It's time to complete the people's business. No more delays. No more stall tactics. No more games. #SpecialSession #AZMedicaid"
At 7:15pm we President Biggs gaveled us into Special Session, but no other Medicaid opponents were on the floor. We first-read the Governor's budget bills and Medicaid expansion, then adjourned for the evening.
These budget bills are basically the Senate budget with a few changes for the better, including removal of the sunset date for the Medicaid restoration, and the restoration of the Department of Housing. (emphasis mine)
The plan as it exists now is for us to come in tomorrow (regular session floor at 10:30am, special session at 11am), second read the bills, debate in Committee of the Whole, then third read and send to the Governor for signature after midnight on tomorrow night/Thursday morning. Stay tuned.
So how did we get here?
We did virtually nothing for the rest of last week until yesterday, when only two bills were heard in the House Appropriations Committee -- the Senate budget's Health bill (SB1492), and a strike-everything bill allowing warrantless searches of abortion clinics, and needlessly restating the federal Hyde Amendment that precludes federal funding from going towards abortions (SB1069).
[SB]1069 was heard first -- it is primarily another ideological effort to divide the moderate bipartisan coalition that supports the Senate budget. Despite its clear violation of the U.S. Constitution's ban on unreasonable search and seizure, the bill obtained a party-line 7-4 approval. It was scheduled to be debated on the House floor today, but it was retained on the calendar for a future date. I hear there will be an effort to further amend the bill to make it marginally better. The topic may be moot now that the special session has changed all the dynamics.
The Medicaid restoration, as contained in the Senate Health budget bill, was heard next. The arguments weren't much different than we had heard on the Senate floor when we passed it a few weeks ago. Proponents like AHCCCS Director Tom Betlach laid out the state's four options:
1) Continue freezing out single childless adults, despite the violation of the voter-approved law to the contrary. This would cost us $880 million in taxpayer dollars over three years, confirmed by the Legislature's own budget advisory committee.
2) Restore coverage for all childless adults, but do not cover those earning between 100% and 133% of the poverty level. This would cost us $1.3 billion over the next three years, even with federal matching funds, but would be consistent with voter-approved law.
3) Drop coverage for all childless adults -- the 63,000 people currently covered, including 5,000 cancer patients and 2,000 people with severe mental illness. This would cost us nothing but our souls, public safety, and the death of our healthcare system from the cost of unreimbursed care. The Governor calls this option "morally repugnant and fiscally irresponsible."
4) The Governor's plan to restore coverage for 240,000 childless adults in poverty and expand coverage to 57,000 more adults earning up to 133% of the poverty line. This actually EARNS us $100 million in the General Fund over the next three years.
So there it is: Pay nearly a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the next three years to NOT cover 297,000 people and drive our hospitals into bankruptcy, or rake in $100 million more to our state treasury while covering them all. Any other choice but the Governor's plan amounts to wasting taxpayer money, human lives, and the Arizona economy to make a political point.
The arguments against this were basically twofold: 1) We hate Obama and Obamacare, so we should be willing to hurt ourselves in order to prove how much we hate him and his policies; and 2) We can't guarantee the Feds will keep giving us these matching funds four years from now, so we shouldn't cover anyone in the meantime so we won't have to drop them if the money ends in the future.
The first argument is not worth rebutting due to its raw and fearful partisan nature. The second argument makes no sense -- wouldn't those nearly 300,000 people who currently lack healthcare rather have coverage for the next four years than to not have coverage at all? Additionally, the same people making this argument had no problem chopping 130,000 childless adults and 60,000 kids in poverty three years ago when the budget picture looked bleak. Why would they have any trouble doing the same in the future?
A particularly interesting argument was offered by Rep. David Livingston (R-Peoria), which was that since Republicans control all branches of government, they should adopt a "Republican budget". I would argue that the Governor has amply proven her Republican credentials, and she supports the Senate budget. In any case, the Arizona people don't need a Republican budget or a Democratic budget, -- we need a budget that works for everyone, regardless of party.
Livingston has proposed his own "People's Budget", which simply cuts 5% across the board from everything -- health care, roads, hospitals, schools, CPS, developmentally disabled services, everything -- then hoards away hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to do nothing for the Arizona citizenry. Not sure which "people" he is talking about to whom he dedicates this slash-fest, but I know I've not met any of them.
In that Monday Approps Committee, the Senate Health budget bill was defeated on another party-line vote 4-7. As as it turns out, it looks like that may have been the beginning of the end of the Governor's patience on this issue.  
I expect to be able to watch House floor debate live online and hope to report on the action Wednesday evening.

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I was told that 15 House Republicans refused to attend the opening of the special session this evening, opting instead to sit in the House gallery (where citizens sit to observe the live proceedings). If I can obtain a picture, I'll post it.

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On a different topic, the application deadline to fill the vacant seat on the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission passed on Monday (June 10). Thirteen names are listed with their applications on the Supreme Court's website. I'm told the Appellate Courts Commission on Appointments plans to meet on Monday, June 17 and hopes to forward a list of three names to House Minority Leader Chad Campbell from which he will be able to make a selection. I'm not sure about candidate interviews or other aspects of the vetting process.

I will try to verify the date, time and location of the meeting and obtain further details. When I have them, I post the information to the blog.

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UPDATE




In what appears to be a protest of the start of the Special Session, "conservative members" of the House GOP caucus sit in the gallery rather than at their desks on the House floor.  John Corey Wentling commented, "We came up two short to deny them a quorum."

Of course, Wentling appears ignorant of House Rules which state:
RULE 6: ROLL CALL, QUORUM, CALL OF THE HOUSE
A. Every member shall be present within the Hall of the House during its sitting, unless excused by the Speaker prior to roll call or necessarily prevented; and shall vote on each question put, unless the member has a personal financial interest in the question, as set forth in Rule 36, or unless the member is excused from voting in accordance with Rule 14.
As we understand it, the House was prepared to oust Andy Tobin from his position as Speaker if he were to allow any shenanigans. So, Wentling, apparently a friend of whited sepulchre Tom Jenney, doesn't know his elbow from his a******... er, from the House Rules.

Jenney listed the GOP members in the gallery, but for simplicity's sake, I'll note that John Kavanagh is the nearest and Eddie Farnsworth is at the far end of the first row in this pic.

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Video from KPHO Channel 5/CBS in Phoenix shows a little bit more of the drama from this evening.

WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather