Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dominionism to rise again in AZ public policy? UPDATED 12:35 am MST 1-27-15

Multiple sources have reported to the Arizona Eagletarian that on Monday, a bill or bills will be filed for the legislature to consider yet another tax giveaway, this time property taxes which will validate the Baptist church in Tempe that houses hatemongering preacher Steven Anderson, who has advocated execution of President Obama and LGBTQ American citizens. From the Arizona Republic:
His message is that killing gays is a divinely sanctioned way to rid the world of AIDS.
"Because if you executed the homos, like God recommends, you wouldn't have all this AIDS running rampant," Anderson said on the video. [...]
This isn't the first time Anderson has created controversy. Five years ago, when President Obama was in town, the Baptist pastor says a Bible passage about how King David prayed against his enemies (Psalms 109:9-10) tells him he should hate the president.
And this excerpt from a transcript of a Steven Anderson sermon, the audio of which is posted at Crooks and Liars,
Nope. I'm not gonna pray for his good. I'm going to pray that he dies and goes to hell. When I go to bed tonight, that's what I'm going to pray. And you say, 'Are you just saying that?' No. When I go to bed tonight, Steven L. Anderson is going to pray for Barack Obama to die and go to hell.
During the 2014 regular session, about two months after the SB1062 debacle, a similar proposal (to what we expect to see this week), HB2281, was passed by both chambers but ended up being vetoed by Brewer on April 22. HB2281 would have added a new section to the tax code that read, in part,
A.  Property, buildings and fixtures that are leased to a nonprofit religious assembly or institution and that are primarily used for religious worship shall be classified as class nine property pursuant to section 42‑12009.  If only part of a parcel of real property or improvements to real property is leased to a nonprofit religious assembly or institution that is primarily used or held for religious worship, only the portion leased qualifies as class nine property.
Here's a link to Herrod's website advocacy for this provision.

Class nine property is exempt from property tax.

According to ARS § 42-11109 A.
Property or buildings that are used or held primarily for religious worship, including land, improvements, furniture and equipment, are exempt from taxation if the property is not used or held for profit.
Strip malls are owned, held and operated for profit no matter who rents the space.

Anderson's hate group meets in a strip mall in Tempe. They have to pay rent. The mall owner has to pay property tax for that space. The economics of the situation are such that the strip mall owner would get a tax break, but there's no guarantee the break would be passed on to the hate group (or other similarly situated church/religious group).

The Cathi Herrod minion who introduced HB2281 in 2014 is ALEC state chair Debbie Lesko. I don't know who the first sponsor is for the expected 2015 bill.

When the line separating church and state in America is blurring rapidly, when Dominionist advocacy in pulpits evades scrutiny and becomes more brazen and open every year, why would we tolerate the State of Arizona validating Steven Anderson's hatemongering?

Whenever the bill does show up, sponsors no doubt hope Scrooge McDucey (who has had Herrod as an inner circle adviser at least since early in the election campaign) will sign the legislation this time.

Challenge the legislature and challenge McDucey. Advocating against so many citizens in our communities does NOT promote "opportunity for all," one of McDucey's Kochtopus inspired nifty campaign (and state of the state) catchphrases.
Echoing Charles Koch’s opposition to the minimum wage, it asserts that free market, low-regulation policies “create the greatest levels of prosperity and opportunity for all Americans, especially for society’s poorest and most vulnerable.” Yet, the memo says, “we consistently see that Americans in general are concerned that free-market policy — and its advocates — benefit the rich and powerful more than the most vulnerable of society. …We must correct this misconception.”
And while we're at it, we should also challenge the corporate media (I'm talking to you Brahm Resnik) to make McDucey spell out exactly how he thinks laissez-faire economics and austerity could possibly foster "opportunity for all."

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Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped outLe Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century


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And please consider contributing to my GoFundMe campaign to enable me to cover and report on the upcoming Supreme Court oral arguments in the two redistricting cases.

UPDATE           UPDATE          UPDATE

Apparently, the 2015 bill in question is HB2128. The first sponsor is Mattress Mitchell (R-LD13/somebody's mattress in a Democratic leaning LD) but there are 16 other sponsors, all GOP, including last year's sponsor, Debbie Lesko, ALEC recruiter in chief for the AZ Legislature. The bill was heard on Monday in the House Ways and Means committee which is now chaired by Mr. Mattress. It appears to be substantially the same as last year's bill.

HB2128 received a Do Pass Amended recommendation from Ways and Means by a 6-3 vote, with all three Democratic Reps. voting NAY.

The proposed amendment appears intended to ensure the tax break is only granted if an affidavit is filed every year asserting that the church group is still entitled to IRS 501 (c) 3 nonprofit status. However, an ambiguous expression says the affidavit must also attest to the fact that the "sole economic beneficiary" is the religious group.

I don't see how that half-ass attempt to justify giving a tax break to a strip mall owner does anything to protect every other taxpayer and citizen from funding a for-profit property owner or protect us from hatemongers like Steven Anderson.

However, HB2128 may be on a fast track to Scrooge McDucey's office for signature, given the number of GOP sponsors.

Reportedly, House Democrats have asked the Joint Legislative Budget Committee for a fiscal analysis to try to get a handle on amount of the tax burden the GOP intends to shift to every other taxpayer for this Dominionist legislation.

I doubt that Mitchell's address was still a problem in 2014, but it's still questionable whether he should have ever been elected in the first place.

New Arizona Democratic Party elected leadership; More new redistricting friends of the court

It was a long day at the Arizona Democratic Party's State Committee meeting in Phoenix, the highlight of which was election of a new executive board.

Election results:

Alexis Tameron -- Arizona Democratic Party Chair

Bill Roe -- First Vice Chair


Holly Lyon -- Senior Vice Chair


Emily Verdugo, Jordan Ashley Hibbs and Kristie O'Brien female Vice Chairs


Doug Ballard, Jeffrey J Rogers and Aaron J. Marquez male Vice Chairs


Anne Greenberg Secretary


Rick McGuire (re-elected) Treasurer


Janie Hydrick Education Coordinator


Adrian P. Fontes Affirmative Action Moderator

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There are several VERY exciting insights on and about this new leadership team. First, tremendous diversity with four Latinos, including the new chair. Second, a great mix of youth and experience, including young passionate Democrats Jordan Hibbs, Aaron Marquez, Kristie O'Brien and Adrian Fontes. The education and experience background of the elders is also quite impressive.

They all have ideas, energy and drive to make great things happen over the next two years.

Some people asked me whether there was any drama involved in or with these elections. There was not. The question was posed, one of them told me, because of what one of this year's candidates had said in a candidate speech two years ago. At that time, the candidate engaged in what some characterized as bomb throwing (verbal bomb throwing, that is). The candidate in question made some awkward missteps in how he approached committee members this time but when he gave his speech, he was professional and appropriate.

He's a young man with a lot of potential that, in my view, started out by aiming at too high an office. The good news, to me, is that he did come back this year to try again and that he sounded more mature this time. Of course, the only people who do not make mistakes are those who never do or even attempt anything with any risk at all. Mistakes form the basis for the wisdom that comes with age. Naturally, it's not that any of us have to wait decades to try again in order to be successful.

I believe the future of Arizona is bright because of what Democratic activists are doing and will be doing in the future. The same holds for this young man. His future will be very bright and he will make his mark.

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In my email inbox on Saturday, I also received two more amicus briefs supporting the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission in the legislature's lawsuit which is now before SCOTUS. For your reading pleasure, here they are:
The list of state and local officials includes:
  • Michael Bloomberg (former Mayor of New York City)
  • Lincoln Chafee (former governor of and US Senator from Rhode Island)
  • Terry Goddard (AZ)
  • Christine Gregoire (former governor of Washington State)
  • Gary King (former AG of New Mexico)
  • Rob McKenna (former AG of Washington State)
  • Janet Napolitano (former AZ governor, as if she needs an introduction)
  • Martin O'Malley (former governor of Maryland)
  • Sam Reed (former Sec'y of State, WA)
  • Ed Rendell (former governor of Pennsylvania)
  • Jim Regnier (former Montana Supreme Court Justice)
  • Dennis Vacco (former AG, New York State)
  • Grant Woods (former AG, Arizona)
  • Kim Wyman (current Sec'y of State, WA)

There's a LOT of gravitas in that list, including three former Arizona Attorneys General.

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are scheduled for March 2, 2015. I will be attending to provide coverage and reporting. To that end, I have set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help offset the expense of that trip. Several friends of the Arizona Eagletarian have already contributed. I appreciate your thoughtful consideration to doing likewise.

Please donate at GoFundMe.com.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

How many friends does the Independent Redistricting Commission have now?

The deadline has now passed for "friends of the court" to file briefs supporting either the legislature or the commission. In my previous post, I linked to the IRC final written brief as well as the first amicus brief filed supporting independent redistricting and the people of Arizona.

Since then, nine more (supporting independent redistricting) have shown up. In no particular order, for your reading enjoyment, and perhaps also for your hopeful encouragement, here are the nine new ones.

A total of roughly 400 pages. Obviously, I can't read them all tonight. But I will try to do some comparison and analysis over the next few days.

In the meantime, a few more candidates for Arizona Democratic Party executive board have declared their intent and sent out email messages, made phone calls (I got one from Phil Lopes), and Chris Campas sent out several postcards (to each person on his list). I received three of them. The election will be this afternoon. The AZGOP reorg takes place this morning at a church in Tempe.

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Also, please support my GoFundMe campaign to offset expenses I will incur to travel to Washington, DC to attend, cover and report on the oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Thanks!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Redistricting Commission brief filed with SCOTUS; AZDEM reorg Saturday

Last week, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission filed a 117-page brief in Arizona Legislature v the AIRC detailing its final written argument defending the will of the people of our state to eliminate the inherent conflict of interest state lawmakers have enjoyed since the beginning of statehood in 1912 regarding redistricting.

As I just obtained this brief and the California Citizens' Redistricting Commission's amicus brief yesterday, I have not had the opportunity to read them yet but am confident the arguments will be persuasive and will prevail... even though the 27-page California brief states this as its conclusion.
Nothing in federal law precludes Arizona, or California from enacting, by initiative, an innovative system that provides for redistricting to be carried out by independent commissions, thus removing partisanship from that process yet still ensuring that districts satisfy federal law.
The problem with that conclusion is that partisanship is NOT removed from redistricting processes by instituting independent commissions. Rather, partisan elected officials, who have inherent conflicts of interest, ARE removed from the process, allowing the PEOPLE to assert their rightful sovereignty as intended by the Framers of the US Constitution.

Further, there have been some excellent analyses written up by law professors regarding this case recently, including this one by University of Chicago's Nicholas Stephanopolis, titled Arizona and Anti-Reform, the abstract of which states,
The Supreme Court is on the cusp of rejecting one of the best ideas for reforming American elections: independent commissions for congressional redistricting. According to the plaintiffs in a pending case, a commission is not “the Legislature” of a state. And under the Elections Clause, it is only “the Legislature” that may set congressional district boundaries.
There are good reasons, grounded in text and precedent, for the Court to rebuff this challenge. And these reasons are being aired effectively in the case’s briefing. In this symposium contribution, then, I develop three other kinds of arguments for redistricting commissions. Together, they illuminate the high theoretical, empirical, and policy stakes of this debate.
First, commissions are supported by the political process theory that underlies many Court decisions. Process theory contends that judicial intervention is most justified when the political process has broken down in some way. Gerrymandering, of course, is a quintessential case of democratic breakdown. The Court itself thus could (and should) begin policing gerrymanders. And the Court should welcome the transfer of redistricting authority from the elected branches to commissions. Then the risk of breakdown declines without the Court even needing to enter this particular thicket.
Second, commission usage leads to demonstrable improvements in key democratic values. The existing literature links commissions to greater partisan fairness, higher competitiveness, and better representation. And in a rigorous new study, spanning federal and state elections over the last forty years, I find that commissions, courts, and divided governments all increase partisan fairness relative to unified governments. At the federal level, in particular, commissions increase partisan fairness by up to fifty percent.
And third, the implications of the plaintiffs’ position are more sweeping than even they may realize. If only “the Legislature” may draw congressional district lines, then governors should not be able to veto plans, nor should state courts be able to assess their legality. And beyond redistricting, intrusions into any other aspect of federal elections by governors, courts, agencies, or voters should be invalid as well. In short, a victory for the plaintiffs could amount to an unnecessary election law revolution.
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And speaking of election revolutions, tomorrow (Saturday, January 24) the Arizona Democratic Party and perhaps the Arizona GOP also will conduct their once every two years reorganization.

Thus far, the list of candidates includes:

ADP Re-Org. Candidate Statements I've been told that Chris Campas also is running for ADP chair, but I've been unable to verify.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

When does 2 + 2 = $100 million/year?

Just a few days ago, the Arizona Eagletarian reported on two conspicuous tax break bills  (HB2152/2153) new House Appropriations Chair Justin Olson (R-LD25/Mesa) filed. Those bills have the potential to enormously expand the Steve Yarbrough Memorial School Tuition Tax Credit.
Olson's STO bills will deplete the general fund by expanding the STO (private/religious school voucher donation tax credit)...
Last evening, the Arizona Republic posted a story about local for-profit Grand Canyon University's campus renovations and then some.
But the biggest overhaul is quietly underway in talks with lawyers, bankers and prospective benefactors who could help convert the publicly traded company into a non-profit organization more like traditional colleges.
Reporter Ronald J. Hansen explains that GCU executives expect the conversion to dramatically enrich THEMSELVES.
From a business standpoint, there are millions of reasons to shift to a non-profit. 
The company presumably no longer would pay many of the taxes that currently cut into its bottom line, from federal and state income taxes to property and sales taxes. The company has sought a property tax rate cut from the Legislature that could lock in a permanently lower rate but could keep it paying those taxes even as a non-profit. It also could qualify for tax-exempt financing and lower postal rates.
GCU reported paying $56 million in taxes in 2013, according to its financial records. The company has lowered its tax bills by making tax-deductible contributions to Arizona private-school tuition organizations. But Mueller said the current growth rates mean the company will hit $100 million in taxes in a few years. (emphasis added) [...]
Mueller would stand to collect at least $31.7 million from the shares he already has at current valuation. Four other senior executives with the company would collectively take in at least $34 million from a deal at that price.
So, to recap:
  • GCU CEO Mueller would stand to collect at least $31.7 million.
  • Four other senior executives would also collect at least $34 million (aggregate).
  • GCU, in 2014, unsuccessfully sought special interest tax breaks from the state legislature.
  • GCU, according to Hansen's story, has lowered its tax bills by contributing to Yarbrough's slush fund (and/or others just like it).
  • House Approps chair Olson wants to give GCU (and EVERY other corporation owing income tax to Arizona) cart blanche to eliminate that tax burden by diverting general fund moneys -- preemptively -- to religious/private K-12 schools. 
Think of the possibilities. Grand Canyon contributes to Cathi Herrod's favorite schools. Those schools then provide a steady stream of new college students to GCU in perpetuity.

Folks, I don't have GCU's tax returns to analyze and I don't have tax analysis/data to use in order to make any kind of accurate estimate of the tax impact of these bills (HB2152/2153) but there's no limits placed on ANY of this activity. And this new effort to grant GCU and other corporations mega tax breaks will UNDERMINE our state's general fund and public K-12 school system if passed.

Last week, I heard reports that teachers and school boards contacted state lawmakers to raise hell about the civics bill, an unfunded mandate that still makes no sense to have opposed. That bill was minuscule compared to this situation.

Teachers, school boards and Democratic and sane Republican (I expect there are at least a few of them) lawmakers, here's the battle you need to engage.

The Alt-Fuels Debacle in 2000 could have been prevented if the press had been paying attention. 

THIS debacle can be prevented. 

Rise UP!

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Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century

Friday, January 16, 2015

It's unfunded mandate season at the Arizona Capitol!

Yesterday, the Arizona Legislature passed, and Scrooge McDucey signed, the American Civics Act, HB2064 over the misguided protestation of Democratic members in both chambers.

The new law mandates for public schools to:
Beginning in the 2016‑2017 school year, the [High School graduation] competency requirements for social studies shall include a requirement that, in order to graduate from high school or obtain a high school equivalency diploma, a pupil must correctly answer at least sixty of the one hundred questions listed on a test that is identical to the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the United States citizenship and immigration services. A district school or charter school shall document on the pupil's transcript that the pupil has passed a test that is identical to the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the United States citizenship and immigration services as required by this section.
And to test each student for the newly required competency thus:
The school district governing board or charter school governing body may determine the method and manner in which to administer a test that is identical to the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the United States citizenship and immigration services. A pupil who does not obtain a passing score on the test that is identical to the civics portion of the naturalization test may retake the test until the pupil obtains a passing score.
Chatter from current and former (Democratic) lawmakers and their friends has included:

  • But it's an unfunded mandate (true)
  • Isn't it ironic that the Tea Party backed GOP lawmakers, most of whom complain vociferously about Common Core because they don't want the federal government interfering with what we do in this state, passed a bill to require students to pass a federal government administered test? (It is)
  • It won't do any good because it's just forced rote memorization. Students will only forget it before long. (Not a good reason to oppose the bill. Great reason to negotiate a better bill)
  • It's an odd way to begin a session in which the legislature is expected to slash 1/8th of the state budget this session. (Sure it is, but what good did complaining do?)
  • There's nothing in the material students will be required to learn about Arizona government. (It's STILL a start in a good direction.)
One wise Arizona Democrat commented that she graduated from HS in 1954 and was required to pass a civics test; she also mentioned Sandra Day O'Connor's civics initiative; and (rightfully) said this bill might be the only sane piece of legislation Republicans have passed in our state in a long time. She later suggested that Democrats now run legislation to fund the mandate.

Why opposition was an awkward miscalculation, at best:
  • Opposing a bill to require HS grads to know something about government just plain looks dumb.
  • Because the Cure for Apathy is Empowerment, the fact that this mandate is, thus far, unfunded is not nearly as relevant as it is for all-day Kindergarten. 
  • Democrats in Arizona statewide races and in CD-2 (Barber) suffered a diminution of political power because of low voter turnout last November. Low voter turnout essentially equals apathy. If people aren't voting because they believe it doesn't matter, that's because they don't understand government. The CURE for that apathy is to EMPOWER all children by requiring the taxpayer funded schools to teach them about government. Knowledge is power.
  • Therefore, requiring HS grads to have some knowledge EMPOWERS them... begins to anyway.
The House vote was 42 Aye, 17 Nay, 1 Not Voting. All 17 Nay votes were by Democrats. Several Democrats voted Aye.  

The Senate vote was 19 Aye, 10 Nay, 1 Not voting. All Republicans voted Aye; all 10 Nay votes were cast by Democrats. 

I'm disappointed that all three of my district's lawmakers voted Nay. It's not, however, the end of the world.

The caucus leaders have a great opportunity to figure out how this happened and avoid a repeat.

This was a pick your battles wisely situation. While Arizona's legislative Democrats did not choose wisely this time, I'm ready to celebrate this misstep as a wonderful opportunity. Of course, opposing the bill was still a misstep mainly because they have absolutely ZERO moral high ground on which to justify a Nay vote. But they can use this as a springboard for effective team building.

The only people who don't make mistakes are people who do nothing. I'm glad they did something. I hope each caucus determines to make itself a Learning Organization and takes important lessons and insight from this episode. 

I also hope they take Diane Von Blume's advice and now run a bill to fund the civics mandate. And I hope wise HS social studies teachers turn all Arizona high school students on to the interactive learning on iCivics.

Democrats in the Arizona Legislature CAN regain the moral high ground on this issue.

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Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What is Arizona's GOP Legislature up to so far?

While there was no SB1062 on the first day of this year's legislative session, there are already at least two House bills (H2152 and H2153) filed (by new Approps chair Justin Olson) to further enrich Yarbrough.

You may recall that last year, brazen self-servative Sen. Steve Yarbrough introduced the Cathi Herrod Dominionist legislation on the first day.

Olson's STO bills will deplete the general fund by expanding the STO (private/religious school voucher donation tax credit), in this case allowing a credit for ALL (no ceiling, or upper limit) of the luxury tax liability (H2152) for liquor producers and state corporate income tax for all corporations (H2153). Key language from H2152:
A.  A credit is allowed against the luxury tax liability incurred pursuant to this chapter and payable by a wholesaler pursuant to section 42‑3353 or 42-3354 or by a farm winery, manufacturer, microbrewery or craft distiller pursuant to section 42-3355 for contributions to a school tuition organization for the purposes of scholarships for low-income students as provided by sections 43-1183 and 43-1504.
B.  The amount of the credit is the total amount of the taxpayer's voluntary cash contributions.
Key language from H2153:
A.  A credit is allowed against the taxes imposed by this title for the pro rata amount of contributions made by a business pursuant to section 43‑1183, subsection F or section 43-1184, subsection F, or both.  To qualify for the credit:1.  The aggregate contribution by the business to the school tuition organization in the taxable year must be at least five thousand dollars.

"This title" in H2153 refers to the Arizona Income Tax Code.

Translated into English, House Appropriations chair Justin Olson (R-LD25/Mesa) wants to put as much taxpayer money into private/religious schools. By the way, so does Scrooge McDucey. So much so that any and all luxury tax amounts that liquor farmers, manufacturers, microbreweries or craft distillers are liable for collecting and paying may -- when this bill is passed into law -- divert EVERY last one of those tax dollars AWAY from the general fund (away from PUBLIC schools) so that they can enrich Steve Yarbrough (R-LD17/Chandler) and private/religious schools... and if corporations (not limited to the liquor industry) donate at least $5,000.00 to the private school schemes, the owners of the corporations get to split the credit based on percentage of ownership of the corporation.

I dare anyone to provide ANALYSIS that contradicts my reading of either HB2152/2153, Scrooge McDucey or Justin Olson. That includes the Arizona Republic's resident irrational editorial writer Doug MacEachern.

Fact: the two House bills expand the School Tuition Organization (STO) tax credits.

Fact: every dollar, according to the language in the bills, that wineries, manufacturers of alcoholic beverages (wine, beer, spirits/hard liquors) in Arizona wish to donate to STOs can be used to offset luxury tax liability. EVERY DOLLAR.

Fact: Arizona corporations, currently subject to among the lowest corporate income tax rates in the country, if they donate at least $5,000.00 to STOs, can reduce the amount of tax they must pay Arizona by that amount.

Fact: these taxes normally go into the general fund. The general fund provides most of the funding for our state's public schools, state government, and a portion is paid to cities and counties to fund their functions and services. Authorizing taxpayers to NOT pay those taxes puts further burden on every other taxpayer to pick up the slack.

Just how much are you willing to let the GOP-led Arizona government get away with?

The phone number for the governor's office is 602-542-4331. In Tucson, 520-628-6580. His office email is by way of a contact form on his website.

Justin Olson's office phone number is 602-926-5288. His office email is jolson@azleg.gov

Let them know what you think about this harebrained scheme.

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I don't have a nifty segue, but either US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been meeting regularly with Scrooge McDucey or both of them are using brand new Koch-tainted talking points about "economic opportunity for all."

Rubio was Jon Stewart's guest last night on The Daily Show. He has a new book out (trying to see if he can run for President?) titled American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for All.

McDucey's website has a page for his priorities. At the top of his list is "Opportunity for All."

This new meme is probably the GOP talking point response to Robert Reich's 2013 movie Inequality for All. Except, of course, that McDucey's claim is all show, no go. He has promised austerity.

I'm going to keep saying it whether anyone in the "center" or "right" listens or not. You cannot kickstart the economy with austerity. The GOP knows what Keynsian economics is. They are reluctant to admit their own addiction to it. Yet the massive US federal government budget deficits didn't really become overwhelming until the 1980s when Reagan took office. In the 1990s, Clinton oversaw elimination of budget deficits and then there was GW Bush and his unfunded wars of choice.

Anyway, if you want to hear Rubio trying to explain the concept to Stewart, you can view it here.

Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Many thanks to Arizona Eagletarian readers and the Phoenix New Times

In its Best of Phoenix edition in September, the Phoenix New Times honored the Arizona Eagletarian designating it the Best Left-wing Blog for 2014.
Arizona Democrat Steve Muratore doesn't suffer fools gladly, whether he's wondering whether Attorney General Tom Horne is a "psychopath," accusing a spokeswoman for schools Superintendent John Huppenthal of polishing a piece of merde, or calling out the Capitol Times for kissing up to pro-plutocrat legislators. What makes him different from some online blowhard on a blog like, say, the Daily Kos is that he does a lot of his own reporting and research and offers unique analysis, not just fighting words. He's also fiercely local, focusing on issues such as redistricting that in these days of strained newspaper budgets, do not receive the attention they deserve. Cantankerous and principled, Muratore is a fighter whose motto "The KEYBOARD is mightier than the sword" is especially true when he's typing his latest entry.
In the mail this weekend, I received this plaque from the New Times.

Elections have consequences, right? UPDATED 1:00 am MST 1-13-15

[UPDATED legislation counts in the second and third paragraphs below as of the end of the first day of the legislative session.]

But elections do not give the winning political party carte blanche to do what they want without scrutiny. However...

On this eve of the start of the 2015 regular session of the Arizona Legislature, 67 87 pieces of legislation (bills and resolutions) have already been filed for consideration in the House of Representatives and 38 46 bills (no resolutions yet) in the Senate. We can expect at least roughly a thousand more bills to be filed before the deadline for new bills arrives in February.

Of the bills already filed, 7 13 senate bills and 42 44 house bills are "striker busses." With "technical correction" in the bill title, the changes ostensibly proposed in the original version of each are essentially meaningless.

For example, HB2053 proposes to change the word "which" to "that" in Arizona Revised Statutes § 48-1101.
A.  The board of supervisors of a county which THAT meets the requirements of this subsection may establish a television improvement district for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, improving, extending, maintaining and operating television translator and relay facilities to service the communities of the county.
Additionally, such districts are "for the purpose of acquiring, operating and maintaining television translator facilities in the county." Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-LD6/Flagstaff) also proposes to add two words, "and relay" after the word "translator" to the existing language in another subsection of the statute. In both instances, the new wording causes no change to the substance and practical meaning of the statute.

Title 48 governs Special Taxing Districts in Arizona. 48-1101 authorizes Arizona counties, if they meet certain conditions, to establish "television improvement districts."

Television improvement districts provide those counties with translator equipment to allow, for example, news and network programming from Phoenix area Channel 5, KPHO to reach rural Arizona homes by rebroadcasting the signal, simultaneously on the same (relay) or different (translator) channel from a facility much closer to those homes than Phoenix.

We don't learn, from the posting of these bills and reading the language as introduced, what the sponsoring lawmaker actually wants to do with the bill.

The longstanding practice of the Arizona Legislature with "strikers" (aka strike all amendments) is to bypass committee hearings, thereby giving the general public and journalists dramatically less time to evaluate proposals and let people know what lawmakers are trying to cram down our throats.

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Of the actual policy bills that have been filed thus far, it should surprise no one that John Kavanagh's (R-LD23/Fountain Hills) SB1002 deals with the slavery industry in Arizona. Well, he wouldn't characterize it that way, I suspect. We know he has a deep and abiding interest in human warehousing, being the most outspoken advocate for expansion of the private prison industrial complex.

Comes now, Sen. Kavanagh to empower the Arizona Department of Corrections to raise the ceiling on what it is allowed to pay its slaves.
The compensation shall be in accordance with a graduated schedule based on quantity and quality of work performed and skill required for its performance but shall not exceed ONE DOLLAR fifty cents per hour unless the prisoner is employed in an Arizona correctional industries program...
We should rejoice for the noble work Kavanagh does for our slave population, right? I mean really, tripling the maximum amount that can be paid to each!

Of course, there is merit to the proposal. But my concern is that Arizonans come to grips with the role of institutionalized slave labor in our state. Obviously, there are other ways that private employers exploit the labor of workers, but I won't get into that here.

However, in light of the fact that the border zealots are overly concerned about how undocumented immigrants drive down the wages private employers are willing to pay actual American citizens to perform necessary tasks, the slave industry (prison labor) may have a much more dramatic impact. Undocumented immigrants at least spend money in the general economy to live here. Slaves don't spend their "wages" at local or even chain stores.

For those who might think I'm exaggerating when I characterize prison labor as slavery, I offer this. Section 1 of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution states:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in the punishment for a crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
It's as plain as day in the Constitution. The 13th Amendment did NOT abolish slavery. It institutionalized it and made Congress responsible for establishing the institution.

So, the next time you're at the Arizona Capitol and see a bunch of people in orange jumpsuits with gardening tools, this is what that's about. It's about having slaves do work for (still) not more 50 cents/hour as opposed to paying the Arizona minimum wage of $8.05/hour to state employees or workers provided by a temp agency. Oh, and taxpayers, you're still on the hook for room and board for those slaves.

There's so much more to the story with regard to the criminal justice system and whether the laws which justify imprisonment are genuinely just and warranted.

Shiela Polk and Bill Montgomery mindlessly argue against decriminalization of marijuana possession and use. That is, even though it is well established that marijuana is FAR less harmful to individuals and to public safety than alcohol. Crime reporting statistics demonstrate that a great deal of the money taxpayers spend on police work, criminal prosecution and storage/warehousing of convicted persons is the result primarily of marijuana possession charges.

It's difficult to overlook that slave labor is one of the underlying reasons for America not, for practical purposes, really being the land of the free.

As to the point of elections not being the final word, today the Arizona Republic reports that goofball legislation to force Arizona to go on Daylight Savings Time with the rest of the country is already dead -- because of feedback Rep. Phil Lovas (R-LD22/Peoria) received after his proposal was reported by local corporate media.  

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Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century.

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Please note the "Feed the Writer" link in the left hand column of the blog. Thank you.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why is Brenda Barton so angry that she got found out?

Arizona Capitol Reports (the Capitol Times' daily report during legislative session season) reported yesterday (January 7),
In an email yesterday, [Rep. Brenda] Barton [R-LD6/Payson] accused the Arizona School Boards Assn of dishonesty, partisanship and turf protection after the group voiced opposition to her proposed legislation that would require schools to offer full-day kindergarten. “Do not punish Arizona children because two conservative Republicans (Jeff Dial and I) are championing legislation that will permanently extend classroom time for Arizona’s kindergartners,”.... ASBA lobbyist Janice Palmer told our reporter today that the group’s opposition has nothing to do with partisanship. She said the most charitable reading of the legislation it [sic] that public schools are mandated to offer the extra class time and would then be coaxed into using the lawsuit funds, thus undermining four years of litigation to uphold the intent of the voters. The worst case scenario would be an unfunded mandate. Palmer said fighting unfunded mandates is a cornerstone of ASBA.... Palmer expressed her group’s opposition to the legislation in an email sent to its membership on Monday. “You may have come across media articles that outline a plan, supported by the Arizona School Administrators and three business leaders, to mandate traditional and charter schools offer full-day kindergarten if they now offer half-day kindergarten and fund it with funding resulting from the Cave Creek v. Ducey inflationary litigation; if these funds did not materialize, the law would not take effect,” Palmer wrote.
Here's a screenshot of the text of the proposal in the not yet filed bill (therefore, there is no bill number),


Key language amends ARS § 15-901.02 to MANDATE all schools, public and charter that provide Kindergarten classes now make all-day K classes available for all families who so choose that option for their children; and that any required capital expenditures (buildings, furniture, computers, etc.) be provided by the school district or charter school. That's the very definition of unfunded mandate.

Further, the LEGISLATIVE INTENT section of the bill specifies "the legislature encourages school districts and charter schools to use a portion of the inflation funding that will be distributed" pursuant to Cave Creek Schools v Ducey to provide this all day Kindergarten instruction. Well, that word, "encourages" is meaningless. Once the condition is met, enactment is mandated... with no funding provided by the legislature to provide the instruction.

Barton barked about the blowback she and Dial are getting from the School Boards Association, but really this proposal represents NOTHING but unfunded mandate and micromanagement of school boards. In other words, she's got NO SKIN in the game. If she wanted to do right by Arizona's kindergarten-age children, she'd advocate for the funding to make it happen.

Cave Creek Schools v Ducey is about funding that the legislature effectively stole from the schools. The PEOPLE of Arizona mandated, more than a decade ago, the legislature to provide the additional inflationary funding. That the legislature defied the lawful order of the people makes this proposed legislation and Barton's reaction to the push back a cheap shot.

By the way, this is an example of what corporate media is SUPPOSED to do. So, kudos to the Arizona Capitol Times for taking the ball and running with it this time.

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Today it is a case of the grasshopper pitted against the elephant. But tomorrow the elephant will have its guts ripped out. Le Loi, Vietnamese emperor, 15th Century.

Monday, January 5, 2015

How many different ways can you say, "Unfunded Mandate?"

Sunday evening, the Arizona Republic's website posted an op-ed under the byline of five school district superintendents, titled "School leaders: Why we support all-day K bill."

Of course, there is no bill... yet. But apparently there will be, sponsored by RWNJ Rep. Brenda Barton (R-LD6/Payson) and lobbyist whore (and Sen. elect) Jeff Dial (R-LD18/West Chandler) who is Rodney Glassman's BFF.
Gov.-elect Doug Ducey has said, "Any new funding for public schools must go directly into the classroom, identifying what works and focusing on English literacy for all students in this state." No proposal more squarely aligns with Ducey's vision than additional classroom time for kindergartners.
Working with Phoenix attorney Rodney Glassman, we are sponsoring legislation titled "Additional Classroom Time for Kindergartners."
Our bill requires that every kindergartner in Arizona be provided the opportunity to attend full days of studies at our public schools. The individual choice of "full vs. half day" will continue to rest solely in the hands of each student's parent. To avoid administrative difficulties, separate curricula for half-day and full-day classes will not be required.
First, any claim that Scrooge McDucey has vision for anything other than eliminating the state income tax and decimating Arizona's economy is a pipe dream.

Second, an aside, the December op-ed under Barton and Dial's byline says, in a tag line at the end, that it was also signed by [faux Democrats] Carlyle Begay and Catherine Miranda as well as fellow Republicans Karen Fann and Doug Coleman.

Third, Barton and Dial make a valid point about the importance of early childhood education,
Students suffer — facing greater academic and social challenges — when they do not receive the proper foundation of early childhood education. Research shows that once kids fall behind, they almost never get back on track.
Rather than providing any additional funding for the mandate in the bill, their proposal to make the school districts pay for it out of the funding expected in settlement of Cave Creek Schools v Ducey is diametrically opposed to local control... as if the additional funding wasn't already needed to address overburdened teachers and too large class sizes.
With valuable feedback from Senate President Andy Biggs and House Speaker David Gowan, we have refined our vision into a clear and concise one-page bill. Once law, this legislation will guarantee every kindergartner throughout the state receives additional classroom time to learn their ABCs, the basic rules of English and the basic concepts of math.
The Joint Legislative Budgeting [sic] Committee has concluded that our bill will have no fiscal impact on the state budget, and our legislation will not go into effect until the inflation-funding lawsuit, Cave Creek Unified vs. Ducey, is resolved.
"Once law..." awfully cocky statement by Barton, Dial, Miranda and Begay.

In other words, the GOP legislature whipped Arizonans into a frenzy because of policy measures implemented under the Napolitano administration (all-day K was one of them). Now, however, that the courts have determined the legislature must comply with the voter mandate and dramatically increase K-12 funding, our Republican legislature no longer is interested in local control.

Of course all-day K is a great idea. But come on, Ducey has no substantive vision* for school improvement and these lawmakers, along with pretend Democrat Glassman think they can pull one over on the courts, on school administrators and on Arizona citizens.

The school superintendents who wrote the op-ed recognize the unfundedness of this proposal.
This legislation creates a permanent mandate without a funding mechanism. As educators with nearly two centuries of combined experience, it's a mandate our state must support. Arizona's commitment to our youngest students cannot ebb and flow with state revenue. Additional classroom time must be the responsibility of every school and an option for every parent.
While school districts have a myriad of needs ranging from aging school buses and outdated text books to ever-growing student-teacher ratios and STEM education aspirations, there is no greater priority than kindergarten classroom-time to develop effective social skills, teach the fundamentals of English and math, and set trajectories for future success.
But they dance around the fact that it was the Republican legislature that ELIMINATED the all-day K that Dems had worked hard to get implemented several years ago.

For perspective, consider the ruckus the legislature has raised over the 2013 Medicaid restoration passed by a bipartisan coalition. One of the most vigorous objections was that the enhanced federal funding MIGHT eventually be eliminated by Congress, which then would shift the funding burden to the state legislature.

On the subject of unfunded mandates, on the federal level legislation was enacted in 1995.
Federal legislation enacted by the United States Congress and regulations promulgated by federal agencies often compel or prohibit certain activities by state, local, and tribal governments and by the private sector. To comply with or carry out these laws and regulations, subnational entities usually incur expenditures and sometimes suffer revenue losses. Enacted as an amendment to the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (“UMRA”), aims to promote informed decision-making by focusing congressional and administrative deliberations on the costs incurred by intergovernmental entities and the private sector in order to comply with federal legislation and regulation. UMRA’s primary purpose is “to end the imposition, in the absence of full consideration by Congress, of Federal mandates on State, local, and tribal governments without adequate Federal funding.”
The legislature decided several years ago to require JLBC to estimate the impact on the STATE general fund for legislation that may have a fiscal impact on the STATE government. BUT... they do not provide that analysis for the fiscal impact on political subdivisions (counties, cities and towns, school districts, etc.). This allows the legislature to claim they are enacting fiscally responsible measures when they are simply shifting the cost from state agencies to cities, counties and school districts. The result sometimes has been that county and school district property taxes increase when the legislature cut income taxes.

Congress acted in 1995 because "subnational" government representatives knew the issue and advocated for change. On the state level, in order to enact unfunded mandate reform, voters would have to demand it from lawmakers. That's far less likely because corporate media isn't doing its job of informing the electorate adequately on the issues.

On an ironic note, I found some insight on micromanaging, which is another angle on this particular proposal, from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB). The organization generally supports the stupid stuff done by the Arizona legislature but it tells it straight about micromanaging.

The micromanager is the manager who must personally make every decision, take a lead role in the performance of every significant task and, in extreme cases, dictate every small step the workers take. To many employees the micromanager is, in modern parlance, a control freak.

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* NOTE: the only thing McDucey would say about "his vision" for improving school performance, during the election season, was that he wanted to make all the schools like the Arizona high schools that made a nationwide list of the best schools. He offered no details that I've been aware of. Of course, making the thousands of public schools in our state that good would take massive funding increases. We know that won't happen. The billion dollars the court says the legislature must come up with won't fund expansion of programs.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Tell Scrooge McDucey that the Koch-fueled state government brings nothing but disaster

Yesterday morning, the Kansas City Star highlighted 31 hours of bad news that Gov. Sam Brownback's misguided agenda of government downsizing and extreme tax cutting brought to light last week.

Brownback, of course, is McDucey's Koch-fueled hero and role model. From the Kansas City Star:
Gov. Sam Brownback promised Kansans that his deep income tax cuts favoring the wealthy would bring lots of great new things to the state.
Instead, Brownback — and residents — have been enduring a steady drumbeat of bad news after the cuts took effect. [...]
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report showing how jobs had grown in metropolitan areas across America.
Unfortunately for Brownback, the report showed that the Missouri side of the state line had gained jobs at four times the rate of the Kansas side. And yes, that’s after including new employment in Johnson and Wyandotte counties.
So much for Brownback’s promise that jobs would be fleeing Missouri-side cities for Kansas after the tax cuts.
Shortly after noon Tuesday, a judicial panel in Shawnee County released a ruling that Kansas was inadequately funding K-12 education.
That could mean the state would need to pump in $500 million extra a year or more to bring schools up to par.

Does that sound at all familiar so far, my fellow Arizonans? Back to the Kansas City Star:
Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, Kansas officials released figures showing the state had collected $15 million less than expected in December.
And that was after the state in November had dramatically lowered revenue expectations for the rest of this fiscal year.
Now that 2015 has started, the governor and the Legislature need to avoid repeat bouts of bad news on jobs and revenues.
It's not like any of this is a surprise... to readers of the Arizona Eagletarian anyway. It was foreseeable and foreseen.

Now with McDucey, Brnovich, Douglas and Reagan set for swearing in on Monday, the chickens come home to roost.

This is no time to be passive. Speak up and speak out.

If McDucey chooses to not fight the legislature's lawsuit on the Medicaid restoration, rural Arizona will be the first to take massive job cuts, as hospitals statewide will face immediate crisis.

Arizona's going to be in a world of hurt unless we get those boneheads to change course.

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Perhaps we can identify with Patrick Henry's famous speech to the Second Virginia Convention, at St. John's Church in Richmond, VA in 1775. Henry went on to become the first post-colonial governor of that state.
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us... Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat, but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable -- and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry peace, peace -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in  the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take: but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/yael-t-abouhalkah/article5332056.html#storylink=cpy