The Daily Agenda: Is it 2022 yet?
Lots to catch up on after the long weekend ... Lots to do before the New Year ... And The Donald sees our news.
Welcome back to what we pray will continue to be the political slow season, the calm before the storm that is the Arizona Legislature gaveling in on January 10. If you unplugged for the long weekend, good for you. You didn’t miss anything important, and you’ll need that rest.
As we head into the final stretch of 2021 and prepare for 2022, there’s a lot of big political decisions coming down the pipeline that the savvy citizen should be watching out for.
First off, redistricting: The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission will wrap up its 30-day roadshow and cooling-off period and once again start carving up the state into legislative and congressional districts. Expect tensions to rise and shenanigans to unfold as mapmakers tweak lines before the final maps near the end of the year.
Of course, with new variants and spiking cases of COVID-19, we’re all still dreading COVID-2022. Will next year be the year the state finally cracks down, enforces strict public health measures and kills the virus? Not likely! But after the holidays, we’re sure to see more fights over school mask mandates and city employee vaccine mandates — and fewer hospital beds and ventilators available.
There are also a number of big lawsuits that need to be settled before lawmakers can even start budgeting for the next fiscal year. We’re still waiting on the final word from the Arizona Supreme Court on the Battle of the BRBs — specifically, hopefully, a roadmap for what lawmakers should do to ensure the next budget is constitutional. And there’s still an ongoing lawsuit against the referendum on the massive tax cuts lawmakers enacted last year.
Speaking of lawsuits, we’re also keeping our eyes on recreational marijuana equity licenses. The Department of Health Services is preparing to hand out the final 26 marijuana licenses in Arizona in December, and all the big dispensaries are trying to get in on them — nevermind that the equity licenses weren’t meant to benefit the millionaire weed dealers. Civil rights groups and a dispensary filed two lawsuits last week, which could derail the timing of the entire program.
Finally, the legislative session. With a dozen new faces since lawmakers adjourned in June, a lot of big decisions are going to be in the hands of brand new politicians.
Expect education battles — both over ideology and funding — to dominate a lot of lawmakers’ time this year, as well as rehashing the last election in preparation for the next one. Lawmakers are already prefiling bills in dribs and drabs — check them out here (just change the session at the top).
And with all that legal uncertainty on the budget, and the extra money in their pockets, it seems likely lawmakers drag this year’s legislative session out — the most pessimistic observers are already predicting lawmakers will pass a last-minute budget on June 30.
Whether or not Republicans can even craft a budget — or pass any priorities — will largely depend on Republican Sens. Paul Boyer and Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who are both suffering serious cases of senioritis and are openly feuding with Senate President Karen Fann.
Meanwhile, Gov. Doug Ducey will reveal his legislative agenda at his eighth and final State of the State speech on Jan. 10, then reveal his final budget plans for the state the following Friday. Ducey has been increasingly staging himself against a national backdrop, and while a U.S. Senate run seems out of the question, it appears the lame duck governor still has higher ambitions.
And God help us, 2022 is an election year. And the Cyber Ninjas are still doing … something. But let’s not even get into that today.
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Investigate the investigations: Republican State Rep. Steve Kaiser wants lawmakers to be able to spark attorney general investigations into school boards. He filed House Bill 2009 to include school boards under an expanded scope of so-called 1487 complaints. The 1487 complaints currently allow a single lawmaker to ask the attorney general to investigate a city or town if the lawmaker thinks the city or town is defying the state and withhold funds if the AG finds violations.
Another new bill: Republican Rep. Quang Nguyen wants Arizona kids to hear about the perils of communism as part of their required learning, Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer reports.
The inevitable happens: Arizona Public Service wants a rehearing in its rate decision that resulted in lower rates for most customers and less revenue for the utility behemoth, the Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports. It was all but inevitable that APS would try to redo its rate case; the utility threatened a lawsuit before the Arizona Corporation Commission made its decision.
Mom and dad are fighting: Pima County is suing the City of Tucson because the city wants to charge people who live on unincorporated county land higher water rates, the Arizona Daily Star reports.
Speaking of water: Investment companies are buying up farmland in Arizona, keeping the fields dry and using the water rights for developments in urban areas, including the Phoenix metro, reporters Ian James and Geoff Hing write for the Republic.
“An examination of property records by The Arizona Republic found that Greenstone and related companies have bought at least 8,863 acres of farmland in three Arizona counties in recent years. They have amassed enough land in Yuma County to trigger alarms among longtime residents, whose water rights are among the most valuable on the lower river,” James and Hing write.
And more speaking of water: Arizona lawmakers could wrestle with some water legislation and more spending to secure water in the upcoming session, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Nathan Brown reports.
Just in time for the holidays: UMOM, an emergency shelter for families experiencing homelessness, is seeing high demand for its services, with long waits for shelter, KJZZ’s Katherine Davis-Young reports.
Now that’s small government: Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake wants to put cameras in classrooms to keep an eye on teachers and ensure they aren’t teaching critical race theory, the Republic’s Ray Stern reports. Putting a Big Brother in every class is all the rage these days among bright conservative minds like Tucker Carlson, who likens it to police body cameras. For a deeper look at how the Republican candidates for governor are trying to outdo each other on conservative education policies and messaging, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Nick Phillips has you covered.
Some day off: An off-duty Tucson police officer kneeled on a woman’s neck, leading her to say she couldn’t breathe, in a parking lot confrontation, the Daily Star’s Tim Steller reports (with photos of the incident). One of the women in the confrontation was charged, but the off-duty cop wasn’t.
Patriots are stuck with the GOP: It looks like Arizona won’t have a new political party next year after all. The Patriot Party of Arizona, which believes the Republican Party is a bunch of Pinkos, was trying to gather signatures to create a new party, didn’t turn up the day the signatures were due, the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda points out.
You don’t know what you got til it’s gone: Daily Star opinion page editor Curt Prendergast calls on Tucson to think about what the paper means to them and the community as the newspaper and its journalists consider a future that could include vulture investor Alden Global Capital taking over and gutting it.
Not literal wolves: A bill from U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and others would expand a Homeland Security tracking team called the Shadow Wolves, which is composed of Native Americans, the Republic’s Clara Migoya reports.
Just have the mascots play instead: Major League Baseball players’ collective bargaining agreement expires this week, which could lead the players to strike, impacting Arizona’s spring training games, KJZZ’s Vaughan Jones reports.
A lawsuit blast from the past: A Maricopa County Superior Court judge said that two lawmakers’ conversations over the sexual harassment allegations and expulsion proceedings of former Rep. Don Shooter are protected by legislative privilege, preventing the disclosure of communications between former House Speaker/current Sen. J.D. Mesnard and former Rep./current Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita in an ongoing lawsuit related to Shooter’s expulsion.
Uber for classrooms: In this year’s budget, the legislature approved millions in funds for “transportation modernization grants,” which allowed schools to apply for money to find ways to get their students to school. The resulting $18 million in grants fund projects for all kinds of schools across the state with different ideas outside the typical bus options, the Capitol Times’ Kyra Haas reports.
The Arizona Capitol Museum makes a lovely ornament each year featuring some element of Arizona’s landscape or history or background. This year’s ornament shows off the state’s official butterfly, the two-tailed swallowtail butterfly, on a porcelain ornament trimmed in gold. It runs you $16, and some Capitol denizens are known to collect them annually.
Donald Trump was thrilled to hear that Arizona Republican Sen. Paul Boyer would not seek reelection. He fired off an email on Friday (still banned from Twitter) announcing the “RINO obstructionist” was done at the Arizona Legislature (and congratulating Senate President Karen Fann for working hard to prove Trump’s election lies).
Boyer dished it right back at the “Florida retiree.”
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Democratic Arizona attorney general candidate Robert McWirther will speak to the Democrats of Greater Tucson at noon. Register for the online event here.