Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, March 31, 2014

Budget's almost done, what mischief can we expect? Plenty!

By no means will it be a slam dunk getting Gov. Brewer to sign the FY2015 budget that is all but finalized by the legislature, extra $900,000 gift to the private prison industrial complex notwithstanding.

Scuttlebutt at the capitol has it that Senate President Biggs and Brewer may have a deal anyway, with Biggs possibly undoing some of the changes made by the House last week. What the bills will actually say by the time they are delivered to Brewer is still anyone's guess, however.

As the Republic story on the House budget bills indicates, there were some shady dealings going on regarding a $3 billion behavioral health services contract.
The maneuver by Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, on behalf of Magellan Health Services, got cellphones buzzing, sent rules attorneys scurrying to the floor of the House of Representatives and held up final work on the House budget package late Thursday night.
In the end, the House reversed its earlier decision and rejected Stevens' ploy to force a re-bid of the contract, which serves 75,000 children and adults with mental-health and substance-abuse problems in Maricopa County.
But the issue is not dead: Stevens and Magellan supporters said they will push their case in the Senate, where the budget debate now turns.
Beside the fact that the legislature in this, and other cases this session, is trying to take over executive branch functions by writing contract specifics into bills, Stevens does NOT represent ANY portion of Maricopa County. So why is HE involved? Can the answer to that be anything other than LOBBYISTS. Can there be any doubt that John Kaites, a former member of the legislature, now a lobbyist for Magellan is pulling Stevens' strings?

Let's see how much of a watchdog the Republic has the balls (or backbone) to be now. It's website says they are going to do even more investigative journalism. Do they really have what it takes to tackle this situation and investigate it deeply enough to root out the shadiness?

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Now, about that $900,000 wet kiss Kavanagh is giving to the private prisons. Craig Harris, Arizona Republic senior reporter, quotes House Minority Leader Chad Campbell,
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell of Phoenix was incensed by the additional money for GEO.
He voiced disappointment on the House floor late Thursday during the budget debate and again Friday, telling The Arizona Republic that the request "came out of nowhere."
Some lawmakers, he said, learned of the addition to the House budget hours before members began voting on it.
Campbell said Kavanagh is responsible for pushing the proposal through the House with support from all but one Republican: Rep. Ethan Orr of Tucson.
"This is somebody getting a handout," Campbell said. "It's unnecessary. This came out of nowhere — I mean that. No one said a word about it. It wasn't in the Senate budget, it didn't come as a request from DOC. There's something really shady here." 
But did it come out of nowhere? I don't think so.

On the Saturday prior to the start of the legislative session (January 11), I posted about our good friend John Kavanagh and his love affair with the private prison industrial complex. That post referenced a column by EJ Montini, who referenced a story by Craig Harris on the private prisons. My post also referenced a rebuttal op-ed by Kavanagh that the Republic published.

Campbell has had to deal with more than 750 House bills and resolutions, not to mention the number of Senate bills that passed and then had to be considered by the House. Might Harris, whose beat apparently includes covering prison issues, have remembered and referenced the three items published by the Republic in January on this subject? Gosh, my beat doesn't even cover private prisons and I remembered it.

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Now, we can expect the legislature to be finished with the budget possibly in just a day or two. What happened last year after they finished the budget? HB2305, for one thing.

We KNOW that there are a number of controversial bills that either or both chambers have been sitting on for a some time. I would be surprised if we do NOT see them trying to sneak several of those measures through, just like Kavanagh tried to do (and may yet have succeeded) in giving some sugar ($900,000 worth) to the private prisons.

EVERY single controversial issue could be on the table, INCLUDING individual portions of what was included in HB2305, including Montenegro's (HB2281) companion bill to SB1062 (pun intended), to expansion of the taxpayer giveaway to private schools, to expansion of Yarbrough's nest egg (STO bill, HB2291) and many more.

So, BE ON THE LOOKOUT. You can count on the Republican legislature vigorously trying to sneak through some bad bills.

Friday, March 28, 2014

AZ Govt Budget -- wonder if Brewer will sign it; Mendez explains his opposition

To many, watching legislative debates can be tremendously dull. They certainly are not scripted by television producers wanting to keep viewers captivated. But in some ways, it's better reality TV than what passes off as reality on American television these days.

However, Speaker Andy Tobin, who is running for Congress this year, may have a sore arm from bending it so far to pat himself on the back claiming these budget bills are so great for Arizona. That claim, of course, is bullshit, which is also a fair way to describe some reality shows on broadcast television.

On the other hand, there were some gems from tonight's debate. One was state Rep. Juan Mendez' (D-LD26/Tempe) explanation of his vote in opposition to the "feed bill" (primary budget bill HB2703). A rough transcript of that explanation is posted below, along with additional detail on what Mendez wanted to see in the budget.

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Too many people have shared their stories with me, too many people who soon might have to find some other means of health care after they find themselves at the end of their 5-year lifetime enrollment cap on AHCCCS, while still at the edges of so many other decisions, crucial and now alone as we vote for a budget that not only turns our back towards those in need but leaves us all with a deficit next year.
All but guaranteeing that the light at the end of our silo-ed Human Services is turned off as their budgets have been choked or bled while we recklessly neo-liberally sign blank check tax breaks trying to convince the public that there are "Job Creators" who sit on thrones blessing us with jobs. When we all know a healthy working class who can contribute to our economy with real demand is what creates jobs.
Rich people investing less taxes into our state does not create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small.
What does lead to more employment is a circle-of-life-like feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers with healthcare and a living wage can set in motion this virtuous cycle of increasing demand and hiring.
A healthy consumer is far more of a job creator than some perverse selfish ivory tower removed from society ideology.
I ask you to think about your vote. Please do not toss cutbacks to insurance corporations who've already partnered with our state and cannot guarantee to bring more jobs than the ones they’re already bringing.
I ask that you envision our state and your role as something more than only limited to administering poverty and managing social discord so that neither interferes with corporate profits.
Because too many students from underfunded schools who will soon be playing Hunger Games for funding under the title Student Success have shared their frustration for the lack of investment in their potential and for the blindness that refuses to acknowledge that the new national geography of jobs is based on the locations which can turn out the most college educated workers.
States with a higher percentages of skilled workers offer high wages not just because they have many college educated residents and these residents earn high wages.
A worker’s education has an effect not just on her own salary but on the entire community around her. The investment in crucially preparing all of our students for success and not just those already succeeding changes our local economy in profound ways, affecting both the kinds of jobs available and the productivity of every worker who lives there, including those who do not choose higher education. 
The absence and uncertainty of investment in our community is what ultimately reduces the number of competitive industries which choose to do business with us. Which limits what we can offer to retain students after we invest in their education.
We must scrap this budget and put together a more respectful budget. 
Childcare Subsidy:
Funding for the childcare subsidy which will take many low-income working poor families off the waiting list and provide those families with subsidies for childcare.
Since 2008, the state has reduced spending on childcare subsidies by more than $70M.
The number of low income working poor families receiving subsidies has been reduced from 27,400 to 7,600 since 2004.
More than 400 childcare centers and regulated in-home childcare providers have closed since 2012.
Housing Trust Fund:
Funding for the Housing Trust Fund will provide for the development of affordable permanent and transitional rental housing units, homelessness prevention, aid for disaster-related housing needs, funding for the rehabilitation of existing units, and developing and preserving housing in rural Arizona and on tribal lands.
Dental Coverage under AHCCCS:
During the recession, dental programs that existed under AHCCCS were eliminated. One was the emergency dental program for the regular AHCCCS population. ER visits for oral pain and infection have skyrocketed in the last several years due to the elimination of the emergency dental program. Reinstating this benefit will shift these patients back to dental offices, which are equipped to provide appropriate treatment and services, and will reduce the cost shifting and treatment burdens on ERs and hospitals.
We must put together a budget that grows the kind of environment that businesses, which are competing for educated workers saddled with debt are proud to move to.
If we want someone to move their business to Arizona that business has to ask their workers to put their kids through our overwhelmingly underfunded schools.
If we want workers to move here for education or work they need to know they are protected with more than only 5 years of AHCCCS.
Please recognize how this budget limits our shared prosperity.
A budget you can force past us today means nothing if it undermines the conditions on which prosperity tomorrow depends. 
Ask yourself if your vote today is to ensure that our shared long term public goods are not undermined by short term private interests.
I understand the extreme right has been active in championing the pursuit of unbounded consumer freedoms, elevating consumer sovereignty above social goals and actively encouraging the expansion of the market into different areas of people’s lives.
Precisely what we’re told government isn’t supposed to do.
With a responsibility to protect jobs and to ensure stability ask yourself if your vote is securing our shared prosperity and not prioritizing the economic growth of one sector or the bleeding of another.
Instead of a state narrowly framed as the protector of market freedom in the unbounded pursuit of profit over people lets work on a meaningful vision of protecting our shared prosperity.
Our role of government should be to provide the capabilities for people to flourish within our ecological reality, our budget should reflect more vision.
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Now, the budget bills go back to the Senate. Those that are not identical to the Senate version will be subject to a final vote in that chamber. The Arizona Republic quoted Sen. Majority Leader John McComish (R-LD18/Ahwatukee) as saying, "My belief is we'll swallow hard and vote it out."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

ALEC exposure in Arizona: recent shenanigans

From ProgressNow Arizona
Hidden-Camera Investigation Shows ALEC Wining & Dining Arizona Politicians
PHOENIX – With a tip and assistance from ProgressNow Arizona, KPHO-TV 5 News aired an eye-opening hidden-camera investigation Tuesday night that reveals how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wines and dines Arizona politicians to advance its right-wing corporate agenda.
KPHO investigative reporter Morgan Loew crashed a lavish back-room ALEC recruitment dinner attended by at least 17 Republican state legislators at one of the finest chop houses in Phoenix. ALEC is an out-of-state right-wing corporate bill mill that has wielded heavy influence in Arizona and at state legislatures around the country. The report – “Hidden cameras catch lobbyists and lawmakers wining and dining” – can be seen HERE. A highlight of the investigation was Senate Appropriations Chair and Tea Party hero Don Shooter of Yuma – who has faced ethical issues for allegedly intimidating a teacher at his grandson’s school and for padding his mileage expenses – strutting through the restaurant carrying a full bottle of bourbon shouting “as promised!” and then later telling a cameraman “hey, put that away!”
“For years Arizona has been one of the most wholly owned subsidiaries of ALEC. Now the public can finally see how the system really works,” said Robbie Sherwood, ProgressNow Arizona Executive Director, who tipped off KPHO and sat at the restaurant bar as lawmakers came and went. “ALEC has spread its right-wing agenda throughout the country by skirting ethics laws and taking politicians on lavish junkets, where the public and media are not allowed. That’s where corporate lobbyists craft model legislation for politicians, who dutifully return home and introduce it in state legislatures. The public and their constituents play no significant role. This week, Arizonans got a taste for how ALEC recruits and operates thanks to some excellent investigative reporting by KPHO News.”
In addition to Shooter and local ALEC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Lesko, Arizona lawmakers spotted at the dinner included Senate President Andy Biggs Reps. Eddie Farnsworth, John Kavanagh, Carl Seel, Brenda Barton, Bob Thorpe, David Livingston, J.D. Mesnard, Justin Olson, Michelle Ugenti, T.J. Shope, Adam Kwasman, Jeff Dial; and Senators Nancy Barto, Chester Crandell and Don Shooter. There were no Democratic lawmakers seen at the event.
Arizona has consistently had one of the highest participation rates in ALEC in the nation, with the majority of the Republican caucus counting themselves as members and attending luxurious out-of-town policy retreats each year. Those expense-paid retreats – where bills are written and shaped without public input -- have had profound results for ALEC’s corporate backers. 
Arizona Legislators have strongly backed several ALEC priorities, including the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070, efforts to undermine public schools through expansion of private-school vouchers and charter schools, expanding private prisons and numerous attacks on wage protection, workplace rights and retirement security.
In late December, a major expose by The Guardian revealed that ALEC is facing a membership and fundraising crisis. The downturn comes in the wake of dozens of corporations dropping their memberships in the wake of Trayvon Martin killing and scrutiny of “Stand Your Ground” laws, which ALEC helped spread around the country. ALEC even flirted with the idea of asking legislators to sign oaths of loyalty to ALEC over their constituents, but ultimately dropped the proposal.
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By the way, KPHO reporter Morgan Loew told me last night that the bills he refers to in his story are:
  • HB 2291 Empowerment Scholarship Account (massive) expansion 
  • HB 2476 one more attack on the right of workers to organize
  • SB 1267 the strike all amendment is the ALEC "ag-gag" bill 
  • HB 2509 the "Freedom to not be covered by health care insurance" bill
  • HB 2316 blocks Arizona from implementing Common Core education standards
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But really, ALEC's influence is not limited to legislation.

Yesterday, prominent local law firm Snell & Wilmer issued a legal alert, first published on the Washington Legal Foundation's Legal Pulse website. The alert ties in with ALEC legislation. [For readers not interested in reading the entire alert, I provide a brief summary below it.] The alert, by the way, is posted here pursuant to Fair Use Doctrine.
It has long been assumed that under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Upjohn Co. v. United States, reports generated during an internal investigation undertaken at the direction, and under the supervision, of corporate attorneys are protected from discovery by the attorney-client privilege. It came as a significant surprise then that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently held that the privilege does not apply when an investigation is conducted pursuant to a legal requirement, and not purely for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. Unless reversed, this decision could pose a significant new dilemma for regulated companies, and especially for government contractors, that perform internal investigations to determine whether “credible evidence” of actual wrongdoing exists.
The decision in United States of America ex rel. Harry Barko v. Halliburton Company, et al. is the latest in a long-running False Claims Act (FCA) suit against Halliburton and its former subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR). In the course of pre-trial discovery, the relator sought the production of reports created by KBR in the course of conducting internal investigations into alleged violations of the company’s Code of Business Conduct (COBC). KBR objected to the production of the COBC reports, contending they were protected from discovery by the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine. On the relator’s motion to compel, the court rejected KBR’s argument that Upjohn was dispositive of the issue, and ordered that the reports be produced. The court reasoned that because the KBR investigators who prepared the reports were not lawyers, and because the subject investigations were done pursuant to legal requirements and corporate policy, and not solely for the purpose of obtaining legal advice, the reports were not privileged.
More specifically, the court explained that the KBR case could be distinguished from Upjohn because while the internal investigation at issue in Upjohn was conducted only after company attorneys conferred with outside counsel, KBR’s COBC investigations were routine compliance investigations required by law and corporate policy. As such, held the court, the COBC investigative reports did not meet Upjohn’s “but for” test because the investigations would have been conducted regardless of whether legal advice was sought, and the COBC investigations “resulted from the Defendants [sic] need to comply with government regulations.”
U.S. ex rel. Barko is important in that it not only contradicts Upjohn, but is counter to a string of more recent cases in which similarly conducted internal investigations were held to be privileged. By ruling that investigations conducted pursuant to legal requirements are not privileged, even if conducted at the direction of legal counsel, and even if at least in part for the purpose of legal advice, the decision seems to completely abrogate the rule that has guided corporate investigations for more than three decades. If upheld, this decision could deprive most federal government contractors of the benefits of the attorney-client privilege when conducting internal investigations because virtually all contractors are subject to legally or contractually required internal controls and investigations obligations.
This decision, however, would appear to go beyond the government contracting context, affecting most publicly traded companies as well by depriving such companies of the benefits of the attorney-client privilege when conducting internal investigations. This is because Sarbanes-Oxley and other laws require publicly traded companies to maintain a system of internal controls and a mechanism for conducting internal investigations. Moreover, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines provide for an offense level reduction where a corporate defendant establishes standards and procedures to prevent and detect criminal conduct. Thus, this decision, which seems to penalize companies that actually follow legally imposed investigatory requirements, will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on corporate efforts to detect internal wrongdoing. This cannot be in line with Congress’s intent or the desire of governmental agencies to have companies investigate wrongdoing thoroughly and provide concise voluntary disclosures as appropriate.
In response to this decision, KBR has petitioned the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for a writ of mandamus directing the district court to vacate its order. But, until and unless the district court’s decision is reversed, public companies, and especially government contractors, must choose between ignoring internal investigation requirements imposed by federal statutes/regulations/contracts, or following these requirements, knowing that the attorney-client privilege may not apply to any internal investigation conducted pursuant to thereto. Either choice is fraught with peril. This new reality might be very good for qui tam plaintiffs, but it presents an unenviable dilemma for companies intent on following the law.
The bottom line, at least for now, is that all government contractors and other companies subject to internal investigation requirements should review and revise existing policies and procedures for handling internal investigations to ensure such investigations fall under Upjohn decision and not the KBR decision.
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WLF says about itself,
WLF is more committed than ever to continuous advocacy for a sound free market economy, a reasonable legal system, competent and accountable government, and a strong national defense.
Free market economy, of course, is code for "we want the government to keep its paws off of Big Business." Reasonable legal system? Reasonable according to whom? Might it only be reasonable when we win?

Competent government accountable to Big Money, of course. And that strong national defense? Well, that's how taxpayers keep defense contractors, notably in this case -- "Halliburton and its former subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR)" -- in business.

The alert ties in with ALEC and the Arizona Legislature by way of Polluter Protection legislation. Case in point is HB2485 from 2013, otherwise known as "Health and Safety Audit Privilege". Privilege, or the right not to have to disclose bad things they find out when they actually pay attention to what's going on at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, was signed into law on April 29.

As the legal alert points out, normally attorney-client privilege -- including in-house counsel -- precludes disclosure of the findings in an internal corporate investigation. You know, to find out and document whether or not the company is in compliance with applicable laws, rules and regulations. God forbid any corporation would be held accountable for health and safety (environmental) laws and rules.

Qui tam refers to whistle-blowers that may collect a percentage of any amount a court or government agency might impose as a fine on a corporation found to have violated applicable legal requirements.

But really, Snell and Wilmer's legal eagles seem to present a false dilemma. Can a corporation's only rational alternative to vulnerability to a qui tam situation be to refuse to pay attention, document or investigate whether the company is doing what it's supposed to be doing? That might seem rational to an MBA, but it doesn't to me.

If corporations are people, and they fail to control bodily functions, will they be compelled to obtain appropriate medical (psychiatric) intervention?

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My intent in including the legal alert and discussion of HB2485 was to show the subtle but genuine significance of the impact of ALEC's influence on public policy in Arizona. In most cases, in 2014, the problem in Arizona is almost exclusively with Republican lawmakers. In other states, and in Congress, the problem is not as limited to just the one political party. In Arizona, however, "it is what it is."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Redistricting update; AZ House budget FAIL

Andy Biggshot's quick and (very) dirty Senate budget (SB1485-SB1494), ramrodded through that chamber last week, was met with consternation and apparently unmovable opposition in the House on Monday.

At around 7:30pm, Minority Leader Chad Campbell tweeted,
Shortly thereafter, he followed with,

Shortly after 8pm, he tweeted again,
Live online streaming video continued from the House floor in anticipation of ending the recess and resuming budget debate. House staff, at one point even took their seats in front of the Speaker's chair. They didn't stay there long.

Two hours after recess began, Campbell posted (on Facebook, apparently from home), "Completed 12 hour day at the legislature..."

So much for news reports over the weekend that Gov. Brewer and GOP House leadership had found enough common ground with the Senate to attempt finishing the budget bills last evening.

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One year ago today, on March 25, 2013 a three-judge panel chaired by District Court Judge Roslyn O. Silver convened a five-day trial in Harris v Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The primary question was whether the AIRC unlawfully infringed on the Voting Rights of White Republicans in Arizona by lumping too many people in some GOP leaning legislative districts.

The outcome was highly anticipated. Key word being "was." Even though a ruling has NOT yet been handed down, anticipation seems to have waned tremendously. The fact that a year has transpired seems to indicate deep division among the three judges. Leading up to the trial, Judge Silver admonished counsel for both sides to not dilly dally. She explicitly expressed heightened urgency so that if the map had to be adjusted/corrected the court wanted to give the AIRC as much time as possible to make those changes.

Nevertheless, the AIRC says there has been no indication from the court that it is ready to issue a decision in Harris.

Meanwhile, in Maricopa County Superior Court, the pending Leach v AIRC case is still in the discovery phase, with counsel reviewing documents that have been exchanged. No trial date or any other information is available for update on Leach at this time.

In Arizona Legislature v AIRC, a federal court panel last month ruled for the defendants (AIRC, dismissing the claim). The Legislature has filed notice that it wants the Supreme Court of the United States, to review (and they hope to have the ruling reversed) in that lawsuit. AIRC staff said that Legislature has until April 28 to file it's briefs explaining why the district court ruling was wrong. AIRC will then have until May 28 to reply.

Bottom line, neither the Congressional nor legislative district maps currently in effect will be modified or replaced before the 2014 election. Remember, candidates are already collecting nominating petition signatures, which they may begin filing with the Secretary of State in 35 days (April 28). The deadline to file nominating petitions is 5pm, May 28.

Finally, with the legislature busy fussing about the FY2015 state budget, it appears likely the AIRC will have it's request (submitted through the governor's office last summer) for $1,115,100 approved. (See page 62 of HB2703) Apparently at this point, nobody in legislative leadership thinks it wise to approve an appropriation for less than that amount. Of course, if any court ruling ultimately requires changes be made to either map, that amount will certainly go up.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hey Doug Ducey, don't be coy about your health policy advisor!

It must be true, since the National Journal picked up the press release from the Arizona Democratic Party and published it online.
For Immediate Release: March 18, 2014 Phoenix, AZ-DJ Quinlan, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, released the following statement today regarding comments made by former U.S. Congressman, John Shadegg, a top healthcare advisor to Doug Ducey: "Last night during a tele-town hall conducted by gubernatorial candidate Doug Ducey, Ducey's top healthcare advisor, former U.S. Congressman John Shadegg, called Governor Brewer's expansion of Medicaid a 'Ponzi Scheme' and suggested that we should 'get rid of Medicaid' and 'should not have a single government-run healthcare program, period.' Government-run healthcare programs that Arizonans rely on today include Medicare, Veterans Administration healthcare, and Medicaid."
Just like we have called on John Huppenthal to proudly proclaim his scheme to send public school students to private schools on the taxpayers' dime, so too do we congratulate Doug Ducey for being so open about his plans for decimating Arizona. Let us encourage him to continue doing so, every day between now and the election.

In a press release announcing his campaign last month, Ducey set forth his goals.
Ducey’s campaign will focus chiefly on three issues: a full-strength economy that increases job creation; solutions-driven governance that embraces results and isn’t afraid to close the door on ineffective ideas; and educational excellence across the state.
Notice that Ducey (and his handlers, since obviously he didn't write it) include several key dog-whistle code words in that statement clearly aimed at the extreme right-wing of the current Arizona Republican Party.

What do Republicans mean when they say "economy that increases job creation?"
In 2010 the Republican Party seized the House of Representatives by promising to do all they could to create jobs for the American people. They didn't.
You don't really believe Doug Ducey can do any better, do you? "Economy that increases job creation" is code for tax cuts for the rich, isn't it? You know, what President Reagan called "trickle-down economics." We've been cutting taxes for the wealthy ever since Reagan took office in 1981. In Arizona, it took until Fife Symington was elected in the early 1990s, and Arizona has been doing it with gusto ever since then. But if it is such a successful strategy, why, after more than three decades, do we not have full employment in America or Arizona?

What do you think "governance that ... isn’t afraid to close the door on ineffective ideas..." might mean? Refer back to the opening paragraph. What was it that Ducey's TOP HEALTH ADVISOR said? "We should not have a single government-run healthcare program, period." Might they be using code to tell GOP primary election voters that Ducey intends to "shut the door" on the Medicaid restoration passed in June last year?

Frankly, I don't know why Dougie doesn't just come right out and say it -- wear it as a badge of honor -- because everybody's going to figure it out anyway. Boldly proclaiming his intent in plain English will at least earn him praise for being up front with voters.

In case you think the Democratic Party executive director DJ Quinlan was exaggerating, check out what Shadegg's bio says on the law firm website where he now hangs his law license. It's LOADED with code words.
Mr. Shadegg consults on matters related to energy, healthcare and healthcare reform, as well as telecommunications.  He also focuses on a variety of issues in state and federal trial and appellate courts, in state legislatures and Congress, and before regulatory agencies. 
During his 16 years in Congress, Mr. Shadegg served on the Energy and Commerce Committee and a variety of its subcommittees, including Energy and Power, Environment, Health, and Telecom.  Mr. Shadegg was also named to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.  In addition, he served on the Budget, Financial Services, Natural Resources, and Government Reform committees and the Select Committee on Homeland Security.  Mr. Shadegg was an advocate for American-made energy, and his efforts to promote hydroelectricity spilled over into his fight to save and preserve Lake Powell located in Northern Arizona.  As a member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Mr. Shadegg led a delegation of House members to ANWR in August 2008.  He also accompanied then Speaker Dennis Hastert on a tour of nuclear generating facilities in Japan in 2009.
Along with his focus on energy and environmental policies, Mr. Shadegg is passionate about healthcare reform.  He introduced legislation signed into law that encourages and assists states in covering people with pre-existing conditions and introduced legislation that allows the sale of health insurance across state lines
First, consider that last line. Introduced legislation that allows the sale of health insurance across state lines. Is it lawful for Arizonans to buy insurance policies from companies not licensed in Arizona? I don't think so. "Introduced legislation" isn't quite the same as writing bills that became law.

Additionally, that standard GOP mind fuck (selling insurance across state lines) is nothing more than a strategy to avoid state regulation of insurance companies. Tell me, just what would a reasonable person expect from an insurance company if the laws, rules and regulations they are required to comply with are eliminated? THAT is what you'd get from John Shadegg's notions of healthcare reform.

By the way, in that language from Shadegg's law firm bio, it sounds like he's a real environmental warrior, doesn't it? A regular tree hugger. Except when you translate ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge).  If Shadegg had his way, it would be Arctic National Wildlife Refugees.

Oh, and about that Ducey statement, "educational excellence across the state" can he mean anything OTHER than expediting the demolition of Arizona's public education system by massive expansion of the so-called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts? If it hadn't been for what we've learned of John Huppenthal's plans over the last month, it might seem like an exaggeration to suggest that's Ducey's intent. It's no exaggeration. Ducey's all about privatization.

With top advisors like Cathi Herrod and John Shadegg, how could Arizona possibly go wrong with Doug Ducey?

So THANK YOU Doug Ducey, for being so up front with Arizona voters. Keep up the good work. I wish you well in your pursuit of the GOP nomination for governor of Arizona.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Does the Republic just not get any letters from gun proponents that make any sense?

Maybe it was the green beer. Was it flowing all day in the Arizona Republic newsroom yesterday? The local newspaper published, on its website, the following letter, at 9:39pm March 17, 2014
Regarding "Guns may be coming to the local library" (Valley & State, Saturday):
Laurie Roberts' column about guns in libraries shows gross ignorance about guns.
There has never been a shooting in a library or school by a law-abiding, gun-packing citizen.
To ban guns from any place where people gather is to invite crazies into the gun-free killing zone.
Shame on you, Laurie Roberts.
Ken Hilderbrand, Yuma

This is a classic example of circular reasoning.

In deconstructing this bullshit argument, let's first figure out if there has ever been a shooting in a library. Of course, we KNOW there are too many examples of school shootings for me to have to even consider citing references.

June 2013, dateline Santa Monica, CA.
A fifth victim of the horrific shooting spree in Santa Monica, Calif., was confirmed dead Sunday as law enforcement officials revealed the name of the suspected gunman. [...]
The [Santa Monica] police chief said Saturday that law enforcement officials had an unspecified brush with the man seven years ago, but Seabrooks did not comment on the 2006 incident because he was a juvenile at the time. 
To society, until the day he went on his murder/shooting spree, this gunman was a law-abiding citizen.

Having debunked the support for Hilderbrand's claim, will he now simply say, or more importantly, do the editors at the Arizona Republic actually believe, that the fact the Santa Monica shooter murdered people, including at a library, proves the conclusion that gun bans "only invite crazies into gun-free zones?"

There are plenty of people who still do and will believe that conclusion. The important thing here is that there was NO logical argument made to support that conclusion.

My contention is that since there has been a dearth of social science (academic) research into causes and interventions into violent behaviors, we do not know whether Hilderbrand's conclusion makes sense or not.

We do know, however, that there IS a positive correlation between the number of guns owned by citizens in a given state and homicide (which includes suicides, accidents and intentional violence) rates.

Since the Republic MUST realize that this letter is completely fallacious, why did they publish it?

Perhaps there is a clue in the picture they posted with the story. It looks like a visual dog-whistle*, if you ask me.



Is the Arizona Republic really THAT hard up for customers that it has to pander to the likes of Alan Korwin in order to stay afloat?

If you read this, Alan, I'd be happy to publish a well-reasoned rebuttal. But you'll have to do a helluva lot better than Ken Hilderbrand.

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*NOTE: I do not suggest the Republic is implying anything with any racial overtones or undertones. However, code-words that act as dog-whistles are not limited to race. Cathi Herrod uses code words like "religious liberty" when she means to establish the legal right to discriminate against the LGBT community or limit access to birth control. Tea Partiers and other groups have both extensively used, responded to and rallied around dog-whistles related to race, religion, and guns.

Why else would calls for closing the gun show background check loophole cause uproarious consternation? Why else would, in the wake of the Tucson shootings or Sandy Hook, can we NOT get Congress to take even one-step in the direction of outlawing 30-round gun magazines? And why have we not, as a country, awakened to the reality that overwhelming proliferation of firearms has NOT protected Americans from the rising tide of gun violence?


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Legislating by grudge -- Rick Murphy takes aim at CPS again

Tomorrow afternoon, in the Senate Judiciary committee, chairman Rick Murphy (R-LD21/Glendale) apparently intends to introduce a strike all amendment to HB2093. The current subject of HB2093 is more or less immaterial because of Murphy's intention to change the subject entirely.

Here's what Murphy wants to enact:
Strike everything after the enacting clause and insert:
“Section 1. Title 41, chapter 7, article 8.1, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 41-1234, to read:
41-1234. False or unauthorized information; prohibition
A. A LOBBYIST, A DESIGNATED PUBLIC LOBBYIST OR AN AUTHORIZED PUBLIC LOBBYIST SHALL NOT PROVIDE INFORMATION TO ANY PUBLIC OFFICIAL AS TO ANY MATERIAL FACT PERTAINING TO ANY LEGISLATIVE OR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION KNOWING OR HAVING REASON TO KNOW THAT THE INFORMATION IS FALSE.
B. A LOBBYIST, A DESIGNATED PUBLIC LOBBYIST OR AN AUTHORIZED PUBLIC LOBBYIST THAT REPRESENTS A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE SHALL NOT PROVIDE INFORMATION TO ANY PUBLIC OFFICIAL OR STATE EMPLOYEE IN SUPPORT OF OR IN OPPOSITION TO ANY LEGISLATIVE OR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION WITHOUT RECEIVING PRIOR APPROVAL FROM THE POLITICAL SUBDIVISION'S GOVERNING BODY BY MAJORITY VOTE IN A PUBLIC MEETING.”
The notion of prohibiting lobbyists from lying, especially on the record in legislative committee hearings is a great idea, right?

But just how could this possibly be enforced?

Wouldn't you like to have confidence that public officials' annual financial disclosure statements are accurate and complete? Arizona public officials are required to file annual financial disclosures, to allow the general public to identify and understand who pulls the strings that guide those elected officials, the decisions they make and the votes they cast.

We know, however (as a result of the Fiesta Bowl controversy in 2011) that those disclosures often omit important information. But all the lawmakers did, for the most part, is say, "oops, sorry."

What makes ANYone think it would be possible to do a better job enforcing this lobbyist restriction? There's no penalty for a violation. The requirement is broad and vague, just like for the financial disclosure reports.

There can be little question that subsection A was included as a shiny object to distract away from what has to be Murphy's primary objective with this amendment.

Subsection B, on the other hand, takes primary aim at lobbyists for government agencies and government bodies of political subdivisions. The distraction (shiny object) in this case is the proposed requirement to prohibit such public body lobbyists from providing information to the legislature without prior approval from the governing body by majority vote in a public meeting.

Lobbyists for the Arizona League of Cities and Towns will undoubtedly argue the burdensome nature of that provision. They will point out that city and town councils have already delegated to administrators the responsibility for carrying out the responsibilities of that municipality.

Murphy will be forced to either further amend the bill (the strike all amendment) to eliminate the prior approval requirement or forget about the bill (and therefore kill it) altogether. Further amending the bill would then leave state agencies as the sole target of the new restriction on public lobbyists. And we all know about Murphy's personal entanglements with Child Protective Services (now known as the Division of Child Safety and Family Services). From Murphy's personal campaign website:
I know first-hand of multiple cases where a case worker intentionally lied in documents or in court and kept their job, even after they were caught. This climate of mediocrity is bad for everyone except the bad workers who just want to keep their guaranteed paycheck.
Additionally, just last Thursday, the Senate passed, and sent to the House, Murphy's SB1365, a "CPS accountability" measure that appears even more directly a result of that "first-hand" knowledge. SB1365 reads, in part:
F. IF AN EMPLOYEE OF THE DEPARTMENT FAILS TO COMPLY WITH A COURT ORDER ISSUED PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION, THE EMPLOYEE IS SUBJECT TO:
1. DISCIPLINE BY SUSPENSION OR TERMINATION.
2. CIVIL DAMAGES CAUSED TO ANY PERSON AGGRIEVED BY THE FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH THE COURT ORDER.
G. THE COURT'S DETERMINATION THAT THE DEPARTMENT FAILED TO COMPLY WITH A STATUTE OR RULE IN A SPECIFIC CASE MAY BE ADMITTED IN ANY ACTION THAT EXAMINES THE MERITS OF THE SPECIFIC CASE AS EVIDENCE OF BAD FAITH BY THE DEPARTMENT.
It's not easy to determine with any degree of certainty that "a caseworker intentionally lied in documents or in court." But that this is a personal, grudge-related issue for Murphy is hard to deny.

I'm ALL for accountability in government actions and regulation. It's difficult for me to believe, however, that this gets at the real issues and problems in Arizona's Child Protective Services. Firing an overworked, overly stressed case worker and giving Rick Murphy standing to sue for civil damages just because he can passionately argue the agency acted in bad faith in its investigation of his family is not going to solve anything.

The problems at CPS are deeply financial and agency policy related. This appears to do NOTHING to address those concerns.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Sen. Michele Reagan, SOS wannabe -- are your pants on fire? UPDATED 5:30pm MST 3-17-14

Candidates for secretary of state weigh in with views on SB 1062

Dateline: March 13, 2014 1:54am

Along with Democratic former Attorney General Terry Goddard and Republican state Rep. Justin Pierce (LD25/Mesa), current state Sen. Michele Reagan (R-LD23/Scottsdale) responded to inquiry by the Arizona Republic on the topic:
Here's how candidates running for the No. 2 spot in state leadership view Senate Bill 1062. The bill, which Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed last week, would have provided a legal defense against lawsuits if service was denied based on the service provider's sincerely held religious belief.
Of course, all three agreed that the bill was rightfully vetoed, but there is so much more nuance in their responses, including the degree to which they agree with the underlying question of discrimination against anyone on the basis of "religious liberty." By the way, (hard-line) "Republican candidate Wil Cardon opted to not respond" to the Republic's request for comment.

Michele Reagan's response went beyond tone deaf and deep into the territory of WTF!

Here's what (the Republic published from what) she said:
"I'm pleased that the governor had the courage and good sense to veto SB 1062. It was the right decision. I regret specifically that the members of the Senate were not fully educated or informed of this legislation." (Reagan voted for SB 1062.)
"Personally, I thought the bill was unnecessary and our current laws were sufficient, but there were several constitutional law attorneys who suggested otherwise — similar to the situation during the last legislative session when a nearly identical measure sailed through the process. Not one person stood up or spoke out in opposition to this bill during its Senate committee hearing. Misunderstanding of the bill's possible consequences, the overheated rhetoric, and negative publicity were truly unexpected results. ...
"Unfortunately, our foresight was not as good as our hindsight."
Translation of the first paragraph: "Hindsight is 20/20. But it was not my fault, mahn." However, she DID vote FOR SB1062.

The second paragraph is largely evasive drivel but the claim that, "Not one person stood up or spoke out in opposition to this bill during its Senate committee hearing," is brazenly untrue.

Sen. Gail Griffin (R-LD14/Hereford), chair of the Government and Environment committee, on January 16, heard testimony regarding SB1062 for 50 minutes.  Griffin said that she would allow three people to testify in favor of SB1062 and three who opposed it, and (in addition to bill sponsor Yarbrough) did so.

Tory Anderson, representing the Secular Coalition of Arizona, Tracy Stewart, representing the Anti-Defamation League and Rebecca Wininger, president of Equality Arizona, all spoke out in opposition.

All three made intelligent, coherent arguments against passing SB1062. Just before the roll call vote at the end of debate on the bill, names of others signed in on the legislature's online Request to Speak system, both opposing and supporting, were read into the record. At the 55:15 mark of the recording, Sen. Judy Burges (R-LD22/Sun City West/Tinfoil Hat caucus) read my name and that of Victoria Lopez of the ACLU into the record as opposing SB1062.
The absent are never without fault, nor the present without excuse. Benjamin Franklin
GOP members of the Arizona Legislature, on SB1062, almost to a person, have been clinging to the excuse that fault lies with the opponents of the so-called religious liberty bill. How anyone can actually believe that excuse baffles me.

That line of deflection (I find it impossible to fairly characterize it as "reasoning" because it's NOT reasonable nor is it rational) began with the bill's sponsor, when he presented it to Griffin's committee that day in January. Right off the bat, he blamed opponents for distorting the bill.

Yarbrough said, "Misleading newspaper headlines have certainly created unnecessary angst for some folks,"

Never mind that on January 16, the controversy had not even started. [Apparently, I am unable to embed more than one excerpt from the Jan 16 Senate GE committee video. You will find Yarbrough's bizarre claim about opponents distorting the implications of SB1062 at the 11:34 mark on the recording. The link to watch the entire hearing can be found here.]

If it actually had been reported on in newspapers throughout the state, many people might consider that something was fishy for Yarbrough to make such a claim that early in the game. Again, the date was January 16.

Had any newspaper yet published ANY headline about SB1062 at that time?

Maybe I don't know how to search to find out when the earliest newspaper coverage of the SB1062 controversy appeared, but I don't find anything prior to January 19, which is not prior to the January 16 hearing.

For the record, here's Ms. Anderson, Ms. Stewart and Ms. Wininger testifying OPPOSED to SB1062.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Specifically, Stewart cites several scenarios that would be likely to occur if SB1062 had been enacted.

The closest anyone came to refuting those scenarios was when a so-called expert -- again using misdirection -- simply claimed he did not know whether the US Supreme Court would ultimately decide if people were justified in discriminating in those ways. Most definitely weak arguments that did not address the heart of the issue. Namely, that people claiming to be exercising their religious liberty WOULD discriminate against any number of different groups or individuals. He just didn't know if they would ultimately get away with it.

For their part, Sen. Begay (D-LD7) and Sen. Hobbs (D-LD24/Phoenix) were diligent to ask probing questions trying to get to the heart of the matter. Though they did not succeed at thwarting the bill in committee, they too spoke definitively in opposition.

Given the stark reality of Michele Reagan having absolutely no clue that there had been citizen testimony emphatically opposed to SB1062 at the senate committee hearing, one really has to wonder how she thinks she could possibly be qualified to be the chief elections officer, Secretary of State, for Arizona.

So, Michele Reagan, this is for YOU! Well, for your buddy Yarbrough too.


UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE     UPDATE

A reader pointed out the possibility that Ms Reagan may have been referring, in her response to the Arizona Republic's inquiry, to LAST year's bill (SB1178) that was "virtually identical" to SB1062 when she said that nobody had stood up to oppose it. So, to obviate her excuse, if that's what she might claim, I offer the following.

SB1178, (original subject was Long-term Disability in the Arizona State Retirement System) was sponsored solely by Yarbrough. It passed the Senate on February 6, 2013 by a vote of 19-9.

On the last day, last week meeting (March 21) of the House Judiciary committee, Yarbrough's bill was retrofitted with a strike all amendment which completely changed the subject. Perhaps because striker amendments to a retirement system/LTC bill may not be subject to quite as much scrutiny, or very much advance notice, there was no testimony opposing the amendment.

However, Linda Brown, then representing the Secular Coalition of Arizona, and Joseph Seelye (representing himself) did make their opposition known by way of the Request to Speak system. Their names were thus read into the record as opposing SB1178.

IF Reagan wishes to make the claim that she was simply referring to last year's bill and House Judiciary committee hearing, it would still be quite disingenuous. Discussion, Yarbrough's testimony and the vote on SB1178 all took place between the 1:27:50 and 1:33:22 marks on the linked video.

Additional UPDATE 6:15pm MST 3-17-14

"Virtually identical" apparently means "materially different" these days for Republicans like Michele Reagan and Yarbrough.

A HUGE difference between last year's bill (SB1178) and this year's SB1062 is the expansion of the definition of "person" to mean essentially any business entity, large or small. Last year, as sneaky as SB1178 was with the striker strategy, it did not attempt to broaden the legal protection for those discriminating against the LGBT community to include ALL businesses.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

House Education Cmte -- private schools with taxpayer money bill (SB1237) resurrection delayed one week UPDATED 10:55pm MST 3-12-14

To remind and update you on the sneaky goings on regarding the so-called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, one of the bills (SB1237) had been killed in the House Education committee on March 3rd.

SB1237 had been put on the committee's agenda for this week (Monday, March 10) for reconsideration. But that hearing was cancelled.

The committee's March 17 agenda has now been posted and SB1237 again appears.

As the Arizona Eagletarian previously noted, related bills with the meaty part of the plan to expand the unaccountable ESA private school giveaway, including SB1236 (which has not yet been subject to floor debate) and HB2291 (which has been thrice scheduled for floor debate but skipped every time) are still pending and definitely not yet dead.

The bottom line for today and tomorrow is to again contact Cathi Herrod's puppet Doris Goodale to express your concern about SB1237. My concern is deep and grave.

Rep. Goodale can be reached at (602) 926-5408 and dgoodale@azleg.gov.

You probably already realize this, but these bills are central to Huppenthal's scheme to undermine public K-12 education in our state, which Laurie Roberts has dubbed Operation Take Down.

By the way, if you're registered to post comments on the legislature's online Request to Speak system, your position and comments will be made a part of the record of the committee hearing, if Goodale allows a vote on reconsideration of SB1237. Here's what I submitted,
How much hubris does it take to so brazenly undermine Arizona's public schools?
Have you measured the public outrage over expansion and revision of the so-called "Empowerment" Scholarship Accounts?
Safe Republican House and Senate seats might not be in jeopardy, but everyone of the statewide offices are.
How badly does the GOP want the next firestorm to continue until after the November election?
The HB2305 firestorm may have been effectively extinguished. You might still be smarting a little over SB1062.
But if what Laurie Roberts dubbed Operation Take Down continues with this year's ESA expansion, do you really think Arizona voters will tolerate it?
UPDATE

I just learned that Arizona Horizon host Ted Simons moderated a discussion yesterday (March 11) between ALEC-owned GOP Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-ALEC state chair) and House Minority Whip Eric Meyer on this bill and the related bills, notably HB2291.

Dear John... Huppenthal that is. Why get upset with Channel 12?

Well, our state's de facto chief private school promoter, John Huppenthal's been at it again. Much more than he initially let on last month. But now he's upset with 12News reporter Brahm Resnik.
Huppenthal, aided and abetted by the Greedwater Institute (right-wing advocacy cabal) and the Republican legislature, recorded a 30-second robocall message that was reportedly broadcast today to 15,000 households promoting Hupp's effort to further undermine public schools.
Apparently, the robocall campaign is part of a $250,000 media campaign promoting "Empowerment Scholarship Accounts," state money that pays for private schools and supplies, according to Resnik. He also reports that the legislature is poised to expand those ESAs to include more than half of all students in Arizona. "Giving private schools potentially a new way to siphon off a lot of students from public schools."
As revealed by emails exchanged between Huppenthal, his staff and benefactors, the target population was more than three times the number of households originally reported. ProgressNow Arizona executive director Robbie Sherwood obtained the emails as a result of a public records request.

On January 30, Huppenthal's chief of staff, Merle Bianchi emailed Arizona Dept. of Education (the state agency Huppenthal oversees) public information officer Jennifer Liewer indicating "John has agreed to make this call to 48,000 households."

Liewer, former chief PIO for the Arizona Supreme Court, initially raised concerns over the legality of the script. ADE lobbyist Aiden Fleming warned against endorsing Goldwater's "askamom.org."

Anyway, instead of standing tall in furthering his mission of undermining Arizona's public schools, Huppenthal became quite testy yesterday with Resnik, saying that "all of the reporting coming out of Channel 12 is completely an illusion."



That Huppenthal fantasy, of course, matches the denial expressed by Cathi Herrod and her legislative supporters regarding the SB1062 firestorm. The problem with that, according to Herrod and several GOP state lawmakers wasn't a problem with the bill but in that their opponents lied about what was in the bill. Herrod's story, however, has been shown repeatedly and convincingly to be, in itself, a complete fabrication.

Same with Huppenthal. But WHY, John would you not BE PROUD of what you're doing?

Anyway, Robbie Sherwood provided additional analysis in his press release yesterday (published by Blog For Arizona) as did the Arizona Republic's Laurie Roberts, in her March 12th column.

Sherwood's conclusion:
So far only about 600 students use the “empowerment scholarships.” But if HB2291 is approved with a proposed amendment from the Goldwater Institute, all children in Title I schools would be eligible for private school vouchers. That would extend the voucher program eligibility to 73 percent of Arizona’s public schools and nearly 900,000 students. With marketing assistance from Huppenthal and the Alliance, the program is likely to grow exponentially, sending thousands of students and millions of taxpayer dollars to private and parochial schools with no accountability.
Roberts wonders aloud why our GOP-controlled legislature hates Arizona's public schools.
Operation Take Down, as I’ll call it, began a few years ago, as the Republican-controlled Legislature began sucking money out of the public schools. Total spending on K-12 education was $412 less per student last year than it was in 2009, according to a recent report by the Arizona auditor general. And that’s in a state where our $7,500 in per-student operational spending already trails the national average by about 42 percent – or more than $3,000 per student.
Meanwhile, the Legislature in 2011 began a narrowly focused voucher program, aimed at allowing children with serious physical and mental disabilities to attend private schools using public funds. It was a decent thing to do for a small group of disabled children whose needs the public schools couldn’t or wouldn’t meet.
Then the program was expanded to the children of active-duty military. And to foster-care children and those adopted out of the foster-care system. And to children attending public schools that received a D or an F rating from the state – because, heaven forbid we actually fix our failing schools.
Then came certain kindergarteners.
Now this year come a series of bills that would dramatically expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account program, as it’s called — from the current 761 students to 28,000 within five years, and eventually to every child in public or charter schools.
Roberts' pegged it squarely when she called it Operation Take Down. Taking major amounts of funding away from public schools is nothing new for Huppenthal. Nor is being cornered by a pesky, journalistic inquisitor. Back in 2010, he gave this interview to a high school student, who flummoxed him with questions about his vote in favor of a bill (that passed) dramatically cutting funding for CTE (career and technical education) programs.



Intention or no intention, there can be no question that Huppenthal and his benefactors' plans, if implemented will have severe adverse ramifications on both the economic viability and quality of life in Arizona.

But then again, John Huppenthal, if you believe so much in what you're doing, why be upset with Resnik?

WEAR IT PROUDLY -- every day from now until election day in November.

-----

Special thanks to Lisa Hoffman who provided research that contributed to this post.

Monday, March 10, 2014

More ALEC-inspired CRONY CAPITALISM in the Arizona Legislature

HB2485, based on ALEC model legislation to provide technology-based instruction for English language learners, was introduced by Rep. Rick Gray (R-LD21/Sun City) to establish extremely narrow parameters for which apparently only one vendor could possibly submit a qualifying proposal.
Lobbyist Warde Nichols admitted to Capitol Media Services that HB2485 came from Imagine Learning, a Utah-based firm whose specialties include program [sic] to help “English language learners,” students who come to school speaking another language and who are not proficient in English. And Imagine Learning even paid for a group of Arizona lawmakers to visit their Utah offices and Utah schools last fall where the company already has sold its product.
The legislation... is quite specific on what has to be in the software.
For example, it requires not only immediate feedback for students but says the software “must provide scaffolding through illustrations, front-loaded vocabulary, audio support, interactive glossary words, instruction feedback, strategic questions and adaptive content that provides extra practice as needed.”

Warde Nichols represented Chandler and Gilbert in the Arizona House from 2003 through 2010. On his House bio page, he described himself as "self employed, runs a pool serve and repair business." Apparently, no longer needing to be a pool man, he represents Imagine Learning in the Arizona House.

From Howard Fischer's story,
Nichols insisted that the requirement for the state to buy “technology-based language development and literacy intervention software” is not written so that only Imagine Learning can bid on it.
That’s also the contention of House Majority Whip Rick Gray, R-Glendale, one of the legislators who went on that Utah trip and the sponsor of the legislation. [...]
Stephen Gardner, the Tucson-based senior vice president for sales and marketing for Scientific Learning, said that’s the way it appears to his firm.
He said that HB2485 sets up not only goals, but very specific methods of how instruction must be offered and the software must work.
“We don’t do it exactly that way,” he said.
Lawmakers are supposed to be in the business of setting public policy but NOT writing the RFPs (Requests for Proposals). Gray, when confronted by Fischer tried to weasel his way out of this by saying he would be willing to amend the bill to accommodate multiple bidders. But let's face it.

Crony lobbyist and former House member brings an ALEC model bill to ALEC-member Rick Gray and somehow "convinces" him to run his bill. Did I mention the amounts of money at stake in this process? 
Gray’s original measure sought $12 million a year for the next three years for statewide implementation. But he agreed to instead create a three-year pilot program for 10 school districts and five charter schools.
How much that will cost is not known: The legislation approved by the House has a blank where the funding should go, a fact that bothered Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, who voted against the plan.
It might sound vulgar for me to bring up the K word (kickbacks), but given the nature of the relationship between lobbyists and ALEC-owned Arizona state lawmakers, is it really unreasonable?

Well, I AM going to bring up the idea of kickbacks because the APPEARANCE of impropriety already exists and it stinks to high heaven.

About that ALEC connection? Fischer reports,
Key provisions of HB2485 are taken nearly word-for-word from model legislation approved by the business-supported American Legislative Exchange Council. And Imagine Learning is one of the top funders of ALEC, as shown by its “chairman’s level” status along with tobacco giant Altria, Peabody Energy, Chevron and drug maker Bayer.
Gray said he had not seen the ALEC model legislation. But he said there is no reason to reject the idea just because it came from ALEC — and from one of its prime members.
“It’s interesting when it comes to all this uproar about ALEC,” he said.
“Like, legislators shouldn’t be listening to the business,” Gray continued. He said everyone at the Legislature from both parties needs to listen to all sources, including constituents, lobbyists and the business community.
“That’s how we function and learn,” he said.
Besides the fact that Gray was repeating bullshit that has been said by lawmakers for eons, "that's how we function and learn" is incredibly tone deaf. For crying out loud, Rick, do you not hear yourself?

Remember that bubble Jennifer Dokes wrote about in the Republic in the wake of SB1062?
They were either clueless or arrogant. Either way, they didn’t bother to venture outside their bubble, which is not a good position from which to move a changing, diverse state forward.
Had Gray, on this bill, bothered to venture outside of the bubble in which he and his colleagues operate, he would have been able to figure out that he was writing the procedures, not simply the policy. It REALLY does NOT take a rocket scientist to figure that one out.

By the way, Gray got quite a few Democrats (13 House and Senate Dems signed on as sponsors and 8 House Dems voted Aye to send the bill to the Senate) to tag along for the ALEC-inspired ride this time. When they signed on as sponsors, they probably didn't realize the specificity with which they would be complicit. But by the time they voted it out of the House, they had had ample opportunity to figure it out.

Passing by a vote of 34-24, without fooling those 8 education minded Democrats to vote with him, Gray's bill would have failed to make it out of the House. 

Because of crony capitalism, Warde Nichols and Imagine Learning are well on their way to a reserved seat, no competition necessary, at a multi-million dollar feeding trough courtesy of Arizona taxpayers.

By the way, kudos to Fischer for digging up and digging in to this story. It's an important one.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Responsible steps to prevent (some) gun violence in Arizona


For that matter, when a child shoots an adult or another child, some adult or another is responsible.

Remember this from last summer when a 35-year old Prescott Valley man was shot and killed by his four year old son who was playing with a gun that had been left unsecured at a friend's house?

Or just days ago,
AMADO, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - A 3-year-old boy is recovering after accidentally shooting himself in the lower torso on Monday afternoon.
Pima County Sheriff's Deputies are continuing to investigate how the toddler got his hands on a loaded weapon in his own home.
Those incidents involve curious toddlers. What about teenagers, not exactly known for good judgment, when they are confronted with major emotional upset?
A 15-year-old boy fatally shot his ex-girlfriend before turning the gun on himself Friday in a north Phoenix neighborhood, authorities say.
Anastasia Greer, 16, was said to have recently ended a romantic relationship with Matthew Bolton, her apparent killer. Bolton and Greer were classmates at Sandra Day O’Connor High School.
Phoenix police were called to a residential block near 40th Drive and Happy Valley Road following reports of gunshots shortly after noon and found the teens’ bodies outside a home where Greer, moments earlier, had been visiting a friend.
How can we prevent such tragedies without infringing on the right to own firearms AND without putting our children in greater danger?

State Rep. Victoria Steele (D-LD9/Tucson) introduced two bills that do, in fact, hold potential to make great strides in addressing these problems.

The first, HB2490 will provide $250,000 to the Arizona Department of Health Services to begin providing Mental Health First Aid training for people who routinely work with adolescents (high school teachers, counselors and coaches, for example). There appears to be broad support in the legislature for passing this bill. It could actually happen.

Then there's HB2542 which will make it a crime to leave an unsecured firearm where a minor can gain access to it.
A.  It is unlawful for a person to store or keep any loaded firearm on any premises under the person's control if the person knows or reasonably should know that a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the minor's parent or guardian, unless the person either:
1.  Keeps the firearm in a securely locked box or other container or in a location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure.
2.  Carries the firearm on his person or within such close proximity to his person that the person can readily retrieve and use the firearm as if it was carried on his person. [...]
D.  A person who fails to securely store or keep a loaded firearm in violation of subsection a of this section is strictly liable for damages if a minor obtains the firearm and causes injury or death to himself or another person.
E.  A violation of this section is a class 1 misdemeanor, except that if a minor obtains a firearm that is stored or kept in violation of subsection A of this section and the minor either:
1.  Kills himself or another person, it is a class 3 felony.
2.  Injures himself or another person, it is a class 4 felony. 
Exception is made if the firearm had been reported stolen or obtained by the minor as a result of an unlawful entry into the premises.

HB2542 was not even given a hearing by House Judiciary committee chairman Eddie Farnsworth.

Apparently, Eddie is just fine allowing children to kill or be killed with unattended firearms.

Kudos to Steele for daring to address this controversial but very important and urgent topic.

SHAME on Eddie Farnsworth for refusing to hear HB2542.

Eddie should get an earful from dissatisfied Arizona voters at (602) 926-5735; and a full email box at efarnsworth@azleg.gov. The Speaker of the House should also be put on notice that the people want these matters addressed. Now. Reach Tobin at (602) 926-5172 and atobin@azleg.gov

Please help Eddie and Speaker Andy Tobin get the message. Call both of them today.

If they fail to act, it will mean that when the next child is shot in Arizona by a gun left unattended, Eddie Farnsworth and Andy Tobin will have blood on their head (and hands).


Check out a listing of more recent "accidental" shootings in Arizona in the Phoenix New Times.