The Daily Agenda: Ducey's plan to spread more COVID hits a federal snag
Stop the spread, don't subsidize it ... Resignations abound ... And if you like Twitter toxicity, you're gonna love Governor Kari Lake.
Gov. Doug Ducey’s clever plan to use federal COVID-19 dollars to pay schools to not require students and teachers to wear masks is, shockingly, not what the anti-COVID money was meant for, the U.S. Department of Treasury said in a letter to Ducey.
The Treasury took umbrage at that program and Ducey’s plan to pay parents to take their kids to private schools if their public schools are doing too much to stop the spread of COVID.
The state signed an agreement that it would use the dollars as proscribed — to fight COVID rather than help it spread — and the Treasury said the two programs “undermine evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Ducey has 30 days to respond to the letter and fix the problem, or Arizona will lose the federal dollars. It’s not clear how he can fix the problem, exactly, since the state has already spent at least $109 million of the $163 million it received for efforts to boost per-pupil funding toward propping up the programs, according to the Republic’s Stacey Barchenger.
It’s not the whole $2 billion that Arizona received from the American Rescue Plan that’s on the line — just about $175 million that Ducey had set aside for the two programs.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton first flagged Ducey’s proposals to Treasury, saying in August that the deeply flawed plan violates the law and puts children at risk.
But Ducey shot back yesterday that mean old Joe Biden is trying to take away power from Arizona families. Of course, Arizona has one of the strongest school choice programs in the nation, and even without his pro-COVID plans, families have a multitude of choices on how and where to educate their children.
AZPM @azpublicmediaThe U.S. Treasury Department told Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday that he cannot deny federal funds to schools that require students to wear masks. https://t.co/ZFxjvMJppk
He said Arizona’s top post-pandemic priority is to catch kids up on the schooling they missed in the past 18 months, and that’s exactly what his anti-mask and pro-private school plan does.
“Why is the president against that?” he tweeted.
Arizona lawmakers have been leaving their posts in droves lately, and most of those who are running for higher office next year will probably quit soon, too.
Former Democratic Sen. Tony Navarrette’s resignation amid felony child molestation charges kicked off a cascade of resigning lawmakers.
Democrat Raquel Terán vacated her seat in the House to fill Navarette’s Senate seat. Democratic Rep. Aaron Lieberman resigned to run for governor. Republican Rep. Bret Roberts moved out of state. Republican Rep. Frank Pratt passed away. Democratic Sen. Kirsten Engel resigned to run for Congress. Most recently, Democratic Rep. Randy Friese said he would resign after dropping out of the same congressional race.
But with statewide elections right around the corner, we’re likely to see a whole new stream of vacant legislative seats.
Already, 10 lawmakers have announced they’re running for higher office — usually a good sign they aren’t gonna stick around to finish their terms.
That list includes Republican Reps. Walt Blackman, Shawnna Bolick, Mark Finchem and Jeff Weninger, Democratic Reps. Reginald Bolding, Daniel Hernandez and Diego Rodriguez, Republican Sens. David Livingston and Michelle Ugenti-Rita and Democratic Sen. Martín Quezada.
We emailed all of them twice asking if they planned to resign, warning that we’ll take silence as a “probably.” Blackman, Bolick, Hernandez, Quezada and Weninger, to their credit, all replied with some version of “I was elected to do the job, and I’ll finish the job.”
Don’t count on the other five — Finchem, Bolding, Rodriguez, Livingston and Ugenti-Rita — sticking around to finish the job voters hired them to do.
We won’t be resigning from our jobs as ‘sletter slingers anytime soon, but we need paid subscribers to stay in business. It’s a steal at $7 per month.
Another day, another heap of Sinema takes: U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s holdout on the Biden spending plan continues to grab headlines around the country. An abbreviated list:
CNN says Sinema “may be unnecessarily moderate for her own electoral good,” citing Arizona’s current political makeup.
The Wall Street Journal called her a “bad maverick,” drawing comparisons to the late U.S. Sen. John McCain.
The New York Times analyzed Sinema’s political turnabout and shared a story about an odd press event in 2018.
Fox News is mad at the people who aren’t mad at the bathroom confrontation.
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney called the protests against her disheartening. “It reflects so poorly on the bullies and abusers,” he wrote on Twitter.
It wasn’t a joke after all: Sure, we made it our daily laugh once, but now it’s reality. Former notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he’s running for mayor of Fountain Hills. He wants to bring in new businesses, increase tourism and reduce regulations, while also “continu(ing) his fight against illegal immigration,” whatever that means for a suburban mayor.
Don’t call it a redemption tour: New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi traveled to Kansas to try to understand why former Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham would write a tell-all book, something she criticized heavily while a staffer. It’s complicated, but Grisham doesn’t expect the book to endear her to anyone.
“As I read Grisham’s book, I kept thinking that it felt, in some ways, like the story of the Trump presidency was less about one demagogue than it was about the everyday choices of the smaller people working at the levels below policy-making, and how run-of-the-mill self-centeredness and expediency, when practiced by dozens or hundreds of people in an organization, amounts to the system that allows evil,” Nuzzi wrote.
Where are all the COVID-19 funds going?: The state plans to relocate and renovate an Arizona Department of Corrections building using, in part, money from the feds designated for COVID-19 relief, the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins wrote on Twitter. Democratic lawmakers opposed the use of funds for this purpose, but the vote still passed.
Transparency needed: ABC 15’s Dave Biscobing obtained text message records showing Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel communicated with members of the Board of Supervisors, who are her clients, while she was in rehab, but she didn’t tell them of her absence during these conversations. In one exchange, Supervisor Clint Hickman says he expects Adel to attend an executive session in person, to which Adel responded that she couldn’t because she was “out of state.”
Too soon to cut off the gravy train: While (some) state lawmakers who are running for higher offices are resigning, three statewide elected officials looking for electoral promotions aren’t. Mark Brnovich, Katie Hobbs and Kimberly Yee won’t be ditching their public paychecks and bully pulpits while they seek new jobs, the Republic’s Stacey Barchenger reports.
Our student loans wish you luck: The Arizona Students' Association is trying to get a measure on the ballot next year that will limit university tuition increases and require the legislature to pony up more funds for higher education, reports KJZZ’s Rocío Hernández. They’ve dubbed it the “As Nearly Free As Possible Act,” a nod to the provision in the Arizona Constitution that says higher education must be just that.
Everyone bust out your cowboy hats: Ducey is heading to Texas for a border bonanza, meeting with other Republican governors who are attacking Biden over immigration lately. The Border Chronicle, another Arizona Substack publication, has more analysis on how Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s posturing on border issues plays into the Republican Party’s electoral hopes.
As goes Tucson so goes Pima County: The Pima County Board of Supervisors is reconsidering employee vaccine mandates but not school mask mandates, after the state laws barring them from implementing such mandates got put on hold. It isn’t a done deal yet, the Arizona Daily Star’s Nicole Ludden wrote, but it looks like the county could follow Tucson’s footsteps in requiring employees to get vaccinated.
We’ve always had a weird soft spot for the dozens of specialty license plates Arizona allows drivers to choose. You can represent your favorite sports team or charity or college. The funds from the specialty plate fees go toward charities, state agencies or state highway funds. The state now offers 70 special plates, 11 of which were added just this year, and more than 800,000 Arizonans have one of them. We would love to hear from the 57 people with the horseless carriage special plates. There’s a report showing which plates are most popular and the amount of money the program brings in (thanks to Beth Lewallen for pointing the report out on Twitter).
Kari Lake will be the meanest governor ever. The former TV news star turned would-be Trumpian governor doesn’t have a lot of planks in her policy platform — but her latest campaign slogan calling for “more mean tweets” is a promise we believe she’ll keep. She praised mean tweets yesterday because the left and the government want patriots like her to be weak, and mean tweets stiffen the spine and thicken the skin. Or something. Gone are the days when politicians talked about issues like our water shortage, the global pandemic that has killed 20,000 Arizonans or how they’d manage the state budget. This is what counts as campaigning these days.
The Glendale Union School District Governing Board meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at 7650 N. 43rd Avenue in Glendale. The agenda can be found here.
The Arizona Federation of Republican Women will hear from Republican gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates at a meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at the Ahwatukee Foothills Country Club.