Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sigh... we tried to tell the voters before the election!

The fallout from electing only Republicans to Arizona statewide offices in 2014 has begun in earnest.

Scrooge McDucey's effort to stiff public schools and pump the money into private prisons has begun and he apparently has no shame when it comes to pulling the wool over the eyes of those who elected him. Where, pray tell, will he get the $70 million he wants for this, as the legislature is going full bore on cutting taxes even more this year? Has ANY one in the GOP caucuses of either chamber even started talking about the additional funding for K-12 public education required by the Cave Creek Schools lawsuit?
PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey has begun his push for lawmakers to spend an additional $70 million a year to house more inmates in private prisons.
The initial request from the Department of Corrections is for an immediate $5 million to start the process of seeking bids. Then there’s another $52.4 million for operations in the first year.
But that is only for the first 1,000 new beds. Ducey wants to add another 2,000 on top of that.
The size of the request, which would eventually add up to $70 million per year, got the attention of members of the Senate Appropriations Committee...

Sen. Sylvia "The Earth is only 6000 years old" Allen thinks it's a great idea to massively gut the Arizona Open Meeting Law. She filed SB1435 a few days ago to do just that. I wrote about it already and am glad the Associated Press is on the case.
Republican Sen. Sylvia Allen of Snowflake, who introduced the legislation this week, said approval of the bill would improve government because elected officials could talk to each other privately before public meetings begin.
"There's better government if elected officials, the ones that are responsible and accountable, can have the freedom to be able to talk," said Allen, a former member of the Navajo County Board of Supervisors.
The bill would gut the state's open meeting law and reduce accountability and transparency, said Dan Barr, attorney for the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona.
"Some people are distrustful of government — except when they're in government," Barr said. 

Mark "I am NOT a CROOK" Brnovich caught some flack and blowback this week when reports surfaced that his office had filed a motion for dismissal of the civil suit against the Department of Corrections brought by a female teacher who was raped by an inmate. The motion essentially said it was the teacher's fault because she knew the risk and could have declined the task of administering a GED test to seven inmates. The Arizona Republic has given him serious grief about it already. That part's a good thing.

In Laurie Roberts' latest column, she notes that Brnovich doesn't "sound too happy about his office's handling of the case." But local political consultant and former Brewer spokesman Matt Benson (@MatthewWBenson) was all over twitter this afternoon rationalizing the AG motion. Here's some of what Benson had to say.

Benson's employer, Veridus, says this about him (in part),
Matthew Benson is one of Arizona’s leading figures in media relations and communications. With unique experience working at the highest levels of government and professional media, Matthew is a trustworthy source for reporters on deadline and a credible voice for organizations in need of communications guidance.
Maybe this was just a bad day for Benson, but if I were a Republican wanting someone helping me keep my image untarnished by stupidity, I wouldn't want that guy to stumble over himself doing it.


Then there's the accelerated pace to DEFUND Arizona government. This is not budget slashing but speeding up the already insane pace of tax cutting. Ranking (Democratic) Ways & Means committee member Andrew Sherwood (D-LD26/West Mesa/Tempe/Salt River Community) analogously describes the Republicans in the House thus,
They've welded the gas cap shut, punctured the tires and poured sugar in the engine. Now they are telling people that the car is unreliable.
For example, JD Mesnard introduced HB2061 which will, if passed, reduce state income taxes by the same amount the state will collect in sales taxes on internet commerce transactions, in the event Congress authorizes those internet sales taxes. Arizona government is ALREADY too heavily reliant on regressive sales taxes. Democratic member of Ways/Means, Mark Cardenas (D-LD19/West Phoenix) said "the net gain to the financially strapped state could be $190 million."


On the plus side, Sen. Steve Farley's latest effort to institute a ban on texting-while-driving is getting at least a modicum of traction this year. SB 1102, though assigned to multiple committees (generally a sign that Andy Biggshot wants to kill the bill) was heard in John Kavanagh's Senate Government committee, receiving a Do Pass Amended recommendation 7-0. Clearly, it's still an uphill battle but Farley is hoping the 9th time is a charm.


And last (for tonight) but not least, Cathi Horrid's bill to provide a tax break to strip mall owners who rent space to hatemongers (and other religious groups) passed the House on third read today and was sent to the Senate. On Wednesday, a handful of protesters gathered at the Capitol to express their concern over the bill. LD26 Democrats chair Sam Pstross was there. The Evil One (in the red jacket) managed to also get in the picture with Sam. Thanks Sam for representing!

The Secular Coalition for Arizona issued a press release, stating in part,
HB 2128, which still needs to pass the Senate, provides a tax exemption to churches and religious groups by requiring property owners to pass the tax savings along to their religious tenants. A nearly identical bill passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by then Governor Jan Brewer. A fiscal note from Arizona's Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimated that the 2014 bill could shift a $2.1 million tax burden from religious groups to the general taxpayer.
Religious Favoritism
“The bill unfairly privileges religious groups by not offering the same exemption to all nonprofit organizations in Arizona that lease property,” said Tory Anderson, lobbyist for the SC Arizona.
“A talking point on the website of the religious lobby and HB 2128 supporter, the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP), states that ‘Churches provide countless benefits to our communities’ …and that is why they are exempted from paying property tax,” said Anderson. “Well, there are many other nonprofit, nonreligious groups all over the state that lease property that provide the same, yet are not afforded the tax luxury included in this bill.”
By no means is this the full extent of the problem legislation and executive branch action at the Arizona Capitol this year. I'll try to keep my ear to the ground and let you know when I learn more.

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