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The Daily Agenda: Bad news for the BRBs
Next legislative session will be long and weird ... Tucsonans are getting paid ... And some unrelated LOLs about the New York City mayor's race.
In a huge blow to the GOP-controlled legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey, the Arizona Supreme Court yesterday unanimously shot down a host of political provisions that lawmakers had packed into the state budget, including bans on school mask mandates, college vaccination mandates and teaching so-called critical race theory, to name a few.
It’s safe to call this one of the most significant rulings in the past decade, as the implications go far beyond schools.
By essentially declaring the entire budget process unconstitutional, the ruling has the potential to upend the shady way legislative leaders stuff budget reconciliation bills (BRBs) with all sorts of non-budgetary policies and then twist the arms of rank-and-file Republicans to support it.
(FWIW, we’ve been writing about this case, which we’ve dubbed the Battle of the BRBs, since our very first edition, and we also wrote a thorough explainer of the history of BRBs and implications of the case.)
Considering lawmakers have used this exact same budget process since at least 2003, we imagine there are a lot of very smart lawyers looking through the last two decades of budget BRBs for provisions they don’t like.
The fact that it was a unanimous decision is also a considerable upset for Ducey personally since he appointed five of the court’s seven justices — a record-setting feat that he accomplished by packing the court with two new seats.
Calling the Ducey-majority court a bunch of “rogue judges” wouldn’t make much sense, so the Governor’s Office issued a much milder statement that while Ducey respects the authority of the court, “the court should give the same respect to the separate authority of the legislature.”
It’s probably a huge bummer to receive such news while galavanting around Europe for your 31st wedding anniversary, which is where Ducey happens to be. But strangely, acting governor and current Democratic governor candidate Katie Hobbs didn’t say anything about the decision, even though the provisions that were struck down also stripped her of her authority to defend election laws in court.
In fact, the only gubernatorial candidate on either side of the aisle to even mention the groundbreaking decision that will potentially cripple their ability to craft budgets was Democrat Marco Lopez. You’re not exactly nailing the job interview, candidates!
So what’s a health-mandate-hating governor to do? Ducey could simply call the legislature into a special session to get lawmakers to pass the priority policies — like a ban on mask mandates — again, outside of the budget process, where they belong.
But that would require having a full House and Senate. And with the legislature suffering from the Great Resignation, there’s still one Republican seat open — leaving the GOP just one vote shy of a functioning majority in the House. (And there are perhaps more vacancies coming.)
As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, Ducey really likes executive orders — and the smart money is on a flurry of them upon his return from Europe.
Yesterday was Election Day! We don’t have anything as exciting as a governor’s race up for grabs this year, but there were a few local issues we were watching.
First, Tucson will become the second Arizona city to increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour, though the full increase — which affects everything from businesses hiring employees to individuals hiring basically anyone except a “casual babysitter” and comes with a whole new government department to field complaints — won’t be in place until 2025.
The state’s minimum wage these days is $12.15 per hour and will increase to $12.80 per hour next year, and that’s because of a citizen’s initiative that increased the state wage.
Even the city council might be getting a raise, after a separate measure to bump their pay narrowly led in early results. If it passes, the mayor would make $54,000, up from $42,000, and council members would get an increase to $36,000, from $24,000 (which is below even the existing minimum wage, assuming they work 40-hour weeks).
In the Valley, 21 school districts asked voters to approve bonds and overrides. The results are a real mixed bag — the majority of the bonds and overrides were passing, though at our last count, eight schools’ measures were failing.
Elsewhere in Maricopa County, voters in Chandler and Gilbert weighed bond requests as well, and both cities’ requests were leading in early results. Voters in Scottsdale were also poised to pass a general plan. And in Surprise, they chose to stay with EPCOR water.
And in Virginia, a state that Joe Biden won by more than 10 percentage points, Glenn Youngkin — a Republican who kept his distance from former President Donald Trump — won governor’s race.
What’s that got to do with Arizona? Well, as chair of the Republican Governors Association, Ducey put a lot of fundraising time into assisting that victory.
These jobs cannot be worth moving for: Draft legislative maps place some incumbent Arizona lawmakers into less-friendly districts and pit some incumbents against one another, the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda reports. In one example, far-right untethered-from-reality Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers is drawn into a heavily Democratic district. The maps can still change with public input, though, so the final consequences for incumbents aren’t clear, but some will probably uproot their homes to try to keep their seats for a job that pays $24,000 per year.
Say hello to saying goodbye: And while we’re on the topic, we want to bring up a perfectly hilarious quote from a former lawmaker who knows the pain of redistricting. Former Democratic Sen. Olivia Cajero-Bedford got drawn into a much redder district in 2011, and she didn’t feel good about it. “I’m screwed,” she told Hank, way back when he had hair. “Say goodbye to Olivia.” She moved and was subsequently reelected multiple times.
Nearly an A+: Many hospital employees faced a Nov. 1 deadline to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and the vast majority of employees met them. Area hospitals reported vaccination compliance at or above 95%, which is far higher than Arizona’s overall vaccination rate, reports KJZZ’s Katherine Davis-Young.
Might do a re-request: Though the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office rescinded a request for National Guard troops to help with jail staffing last week, the office may still request the assistance because they still need it. The prior request was rescinded because it hadn’t been reviewed by Sheriff Paul Penzone, 12News’ Brahm Resnik reports.
The move from carrot to stick: More than 1,900 Pima County employees could be fired if they don’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, though some of these employees are already vaccinated. The county decided that 1,912 of its 6,305 employees work with “vulnerable populations” and need to be vaccinated by Jan. 1, 2022, the Arizona Daily Star’s Nicole Ludden reports. So far, the Sheriff’s Department has the lowest vaccination rate, coming in at 62% compared to the county workforce’s overall 82% vaccination rate. As we previously reported, it’s impossible to compare this to Arizona cities without vaccination requirements because no one is tracking it.
Deals deals deals: Democrats in Congress struck a deal on a prescription drug pricing plan that U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema supports, possibly opening up room for an agreement on the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan, the Republic’s Ronald J. Hansen and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez report.
If you need help, here it is: Arizonans who are behind on their mortgages and other home-related bills can now apply for help from a new program that has $197 million to spend to assist homeowners, the Republic’s Catherine Reagor reports. And there’s a not-small number of Arizonans who could use the help, as the Arizona Department of Housing says about 30,000 people here are behind on payments or in forbearance.
At least there are no hurricanes and tornadoes: The metro area has become an attractive place for data centers, reports the Republic’s Russ Wiles, because the electricity here is affordable-ish and we don’t have many natural disasters, which is really about the best thing we have going for us.
#LockHerUp?: Meanwhile, that threat of holding the Senate in contempt of court for not getting records from the Cyber Ninjas is still ongoing. The Arizona Capitol Times’ Kyra Haas has the latest, including that the Senate is refusing to pay Cyber Ninjas, and Senate President Karen Fann’s lawyer says she is powerless to get the records the court has ordered. American Oversight’s lawyer declared the court should throw them all in jail. Just another day in the audit!
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission set dates for public input on its draft maps and put up public comment forms online. This process happens only once per decade and charts the course for political battles that affect who represents you in the Arizona Legislature and Congress, so, needless to say, it’s important. And if you want to have your say, now’s the time. The public comment meetings start on Saturday with a virtual town hall then move to different locations around the state. All details can be found online here. You can find the approved draft maps here. To submit comments about the legislative maps, use this form. And to submit comments about the congressional maps, use this one.
Our laugh today isn’t about Arizona, but if we told you that either of these things happened in Arizona, you would probably believe us. We’re talking about the New York City mayor’s race.
First, we love a good stakeout, and this one, outside of New York City mayoral winner Eric Adams’ Brooklyn apartment that he maybe does/maybe doesn’t live in, has all the trappings of a perfect one. The team at Curbed found Adams at his apartment, but he was illegally parked, and then saw him drive onto the sidewalk. And when we say “drive onto the sidewalk,” we don’t mean like he put one wheel up on the curb. Check out the photos in the story — he fully drove on the sidewalk like it was the street.
Not to be outdone, Republican contender for mayor and red-beret-wearer Curtis Sliwa tried to bring Gizmo, one of his many, many rescue cats, to the polls as he voted today while wearing a campaign jacket, leading to a verbal spat with poll workers.
Arizona, you’ve got a run for your money on this one.
Activist group Just Democracy made a creepy “psychological thriller” trailer called “The Betrayal,” about U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. The group will show the trailer and hold a panel discussion at FilmBar in downtown Phoenix tonight at 5 p.m.