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The Arizona Agenda's Daily Agenda: Water reality sets in...
But it's been raining so much! And our reporters deliver an earnest plea about cowboy hats.
Welcome to our daily rundown of the biggest news in Arizona government and politics. It’ll arrive in your inbox Monday through Thursday mornings.
A long-awaited fear came true: Arizona received its first water cutbacks from the feds as Lake Mead dipped low enough to trigger reductions. It stands at about 35% full (pessimists would say 65% empty).
The move wasn’t surprising, we’ve long been pulling more water out of the Colorado River than is sustainable, though it may serve as a reality check for many.
The Tier 1 cutbacks will hit Arizona especially hard. Nevada and Mexico will also see some cutbacks. California won’t yet because it has more senior rights to the water than we do.
“This is a sobering moment in that it’s real, it’s here, it’s not a possibility,” University of Arizona water expert Sharon Megdal told the Washington Post. “(W)e could be looking at Tier 2 sooner than anybody ever imagined.”
Farmers will be forced to keep fields fallow instead of growing crops. Farmer Will Thelander told the AP’s Felicia Fonseca that he’ll be cutting staff and farming less, focusing on more profitable crops. He might leave farming, and his family’s generational farming heritage won’t continue with his children.
But don’t call what the West is experiencing a drought, scientists say. Instead, aridification is the new preferred phrase, as this is a long-term parching. And one rainy summer won’t undo decades of drought and overuse.
Since most of us urban dwellers get water from our cities, we won’t be immediately affected. But if water levels continue to drop, we won’t be spared.
Things we will believe when we see: Arizona Senate President Karen Fann says the Cyber Ninjas are finishing up their report. For real this time! Then the Senate will review it for “accuracy and clarity” (LOL) and release it to the public.
In case you thought this was a real audit: As a check on the ill-prepared Cyber Ninjas’ work, the Arizona Senate hired its own independent lawyer to audit the auditors’ audit, the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl reported. And who better to do an unbiased investigation into whether the audit is legit than Bryan Blehm, who was most recently Cyber Ninjas’ attorney? You know he’s trustworthy because he’s working on a “verbal contract” for free.
Calendars are a pain in the ass: School districts are taking note and planning emergency meetings to implement mask mandates after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge sided with Phoenix Union High School District on Monday, allowing the district’s mask mandate to stay in place since the state law banning mask mandates can’t be enforced until Sept. 29, when the law Gov. Doug Ducey signed to ban school mask mandates actually takes effect.
Ducey loves a good ban: The governor handed out another executive order on Monday, this one banning cities and towns from implementing vaccination requirements. It came a few days after Tucson announced plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine for employees.
But Tucson isn’t backing down: Mayor Regina Romero called the order “legally meaningless” and noted that the last time the state and Tucson had a standoff over mask mandates, Tucson won. “The Governor must stop prioritizing his political aspirations over the health and well-being of Arizonans,” she wrote on Twitter.
Dude, where’s my everything: The Republic’s Jessica Boehm spent more time in the streets documenting Phoenix police and sanitation workers’ routine “cleanup” of the homeless encampment down the street from the Capitol building — one of the many suspect practices that has the city’s police department under the Department of Justice microscope.
They’re not Californiaing our Arizona: Census results showed the Phoenix area growing at a gobsmacking pace, a fact that anyone trying to buy a home or afford a rental could tell you. Though the state is growing more diverse, that doesn’t directly transfer into more votes for Democrats, an analysis from Republic reporter Stacey Barchenger found.
Get the jab, grab a concert: A bunch of Arizona music venues will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to go to shows, starting by Sept. 20.
Cowboy hat season is upon us: That time in the political calendar when wannabe elected officials don their best Western gear to hit the campaign trail and talk to the regular folks. We absolutely love seeing people in hats and boots who look like they’ve never worn hats and boots before. If anyone wants to take us along as they shop for their Western wear before hitting the campaign trail, we stand ready. This is a sincere plea! Let us come shopping with you/your candidate!
The state budget ain’t just numbers. Lawmakers use Budget Reconciliation Bills, or BRBs, to insert dozens (hundreds?) of non-budget policy changes into the budget, often after those ideas failed as standalone bills.
The practice has always been legally questionable (and a longstanding pet peeve for the Republic’s conservative columnist Robert Robb). But education and child welfare groups are challenging the practice of packing budgets with non-budgetary policies in a lawsuit that could have huge ramifications. We’re calling it The Battle of the BRBs.
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee recently released a handy little roundup of the policy provisions lawmakers snuck in the budget. Which one is your favorite?
Four Republican lawmakers will hold a press conference today at 1:45 p.m. on the Senate lawn to launch a citizen’s initiative aimed at requiring ID to vote by mail.
(You already have to show ID to register to vote, but Republican Rep. J.D. Mesnard is attempting to resurrect provisions of his failed SB1713 as an initiative, hoping that voters will be more supportive than his colleagues of his plan to require voters to include their driver’s license number with their mail-in ballot. Mesnard told us he expects the measure, which is backed by the Free Enterprise Club, to be one of several election integrity initiatives seeking access to the 2022 ballot.)
Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers will join a Pennsylvania senator for an audit rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, this evening at 6:30 p.m.
Scottsdale Unified School District’s governing board meets today at 7 p.m. to discuss COVID-19 guidelines.
Submit your events to us and we’ll throw ‘em in this calendar! You can use this Google Form.