The Daily Agenda: Mask up, children
The end of logrolling, blackmail and horse trades?! ... Plus, prepare for furloughs ... And that's what Steve's been up to.
Schools can require kids to mask up and teach them critical race theory, and universities can impose vaccine mandates after a Maricopa County judge yesterday ruled that lawmakers illegally logrolled the bans into the state budget.
The sweeping ruling was a huge blow to Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP lawmakers’ agenda — and it also has the potential to be a watershed moment in how lawmakers craft and pass the state budget. No more horse trading, backroom deals and blackmail. Or at least, they can’t cram everything into the budget.
It also voided a host of other budget provisions set to kick in tomorrow, including a ban on municipal mask mandates, requirements for “fraud countermeasures” on ballots, a law that stripped Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of her ability to defend challenges to state election laws, and the provision setting up the special audit legislative committee we mentioned yesterday.
Judge Katherine Cooper told lawmakers that the provisions themselves aren’t illegal, but the way lawmakers passed them, by jamming them into a budget bill, violated the Arizona Constitution’s single subject provision requiring lawmakers to address each issue separately.
“The issue here is not what the legislature decided but how it decided what it did,” she wrote in the ruling.
Ducey denounced the “rogue judge” for interfering with the authority and processes of another branch of government (but at least he didn’t accuse her of having a God complex).
Meanwhile, Attorney General Mark Brnovich promised an appeal. The last word will ultimately have to come from the Arizona Supreme Court.
While Democrats and school groups celebrated the ruling, it’s not clear how many will take full advantage of the new freedom. The Arizona Board of Regents told the Republic’s Alison Steinbach that universities have no plans to change their COVID-19 policies, which include some masking and no vaccine mandates. But some K-12 schools that had implemented mask mandates and were set to let them expire tomorrow are reconsidering, the Arizona Daily Star’s Danyelle Khmara reports.
Of course, Ducey could simply call lawmakers back for a special session to pass the bills in a constitutional way, except they don’t have the votes.
That’s because there’s a whole lot of vacant seats in the legislature, soon to include two House Republicans, as the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda noted. Without their votes, no partisan legislation can move.
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We’ve been so busy getting the rhythm of this new thing down that we’ve been leaving a lot of our own interesting little nuggets on the cutting room floor. Welcome to our new, semi-consistent segment, Page 2. It’s not the top news, but it’s good to know.
The state’s new chief operating officer, Sarah Pirzada, sent an email to Arizona agency heads last week warning of potential furloughs for some federally-funded employees if Congress doesn’t get its act together and pass a funding bill by midnight Thursday, a prospect that grew dimmer yesterday after Senate Republicans blocked the bill.
She asked agency directors to reply by close of business Wednesday with answers to questions like:
How long can the agency, or specific programs, operate without federal funding?
How many people might get furloughed and when?
What are the costs of shutting down and starting back up?
What kind of impact will the shutdown have on citizens?
When the federal government last shuttered in December 2018, it furloughed 800,000 workers or forced them to work without pay, affecting a huge cross-section of American society. At 34 full days, it was the longest government shutdown in history, and it all started when Democrats in Congress refused to give the former president nearly $6 billion for a border wall.
“There’s no question that we are thinking about it and preparing for it,” C.J. Karamargin, Ducey’s spokesman, told us.
During the last shutdown, Arizona took over trash collection and bathroom cleaning duty at the Grand Canyon to keep it partially open. Other national parks in the state weren’t so lucky, nor were the thousands of federal employees who weren’t getting paychecks.
Mean boys unite: The Republic’s Ryan Randazzo got to the bottom of “one of the audit’s more quirky mysteries” about who ran the audit Stan accounts that anonymously spewed lies about election fraud and posted photos of a dead dog to mock its owner. It was the classy guys at The America Project, along with Ken Bennett and Steve Montenegro, the pastor and former lawmaker last spotted on social media app Snapchat sexting with a young legislative staffer before his failed congressional run.
Ryan Randazzo @utilityreporterFormer lawmaker @SteveMontenegro, a Christian minister who had to fess up to exchanging flirty texts with a junior staffer (while married) helped with the feisty AZ audit Twitter, new records show. https://t.co/eNyLrQwKey
After all our handwringing about getting duped: Fake news website Gateway Pundit published a draft of the audit report that called for the election to be decertified, audit spokesman Randy Pullen told the Arizona Capitol Times’ Wayne Schutsky. (Our leaked copy, which was dated before the fake one, contained no such call.)
Pull it together, Matt: Desperate to remain relevant in the GOP gubernatorial primary against former TV news star Kari Lake, former sane Republican Congressman Matt Salmon declared the election “very, very compromised” on Steve Bannon’s podcast yesterday. He called on Secretary of State and future Lake opponent Katie Hobbs to step down and said if he were governor, he would call lawmakers in for a special session today.
Bill can help: Salmon’s comments drew a fiery response from a fellow Republican, Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ Bill Gates, who has been defending the county against election slander for many months. Gates offered to walk Salmon through the county’s response to the Cyber Ninjas’ report.
“If after that, you still want the AG to waste money and time on an investigation, that’s on you,” Gates said.
For $400 an hour, we’ll also not tell Ducey: Ducey’s highly paid enabler Richard Carmona hasn’t talked to the governor about the CDC’s findings that Arizona schools without mask mandates are 3.5 times more likely to have an outbreak (nor has the state Department of Health Services mentioned this Arizona-specific study). “I don’t think it’s beneficial to the public to continue fighting about something that has already been determined in law,” he told KJZZ’s Kathryn Davis-Young.
Not a good look: U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has placed herself in a powerful position by standing in the way of the $3.5 trillion Biden spending plan. And she’s holding a fundraiser with moneyed business groups that oppose the plan this afternoon, as the spending plan and infrastructure bill face a critical week, the New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman reports.
Welcome our new neighbors: Afghan refugees have started arriving in the Phoenix area, reports the Republic’s Daniel Gonzalez. So far, more than 140 people have arrived here, with hundreds more on the way. Local refugee aid nonprofits say federal funding has been slow, and the costs of resettlement are falling on them.
Get boosted: If you need a COVID-19 booster shot — and that applies to more people now, after the CDC recommendation last week — the Republic’s Stephanie Innes and Alison Steinbach tell you where to find one.
Rest in peace: Republic photographer Nick Oza has died after weeks of hospitalization following a car accident, the paper reported this morning. You’ve no doubt seen his work over the years — and he’s been twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize for it. He was a passionate, talented journalist and a funny, caring colleague and friend. "His heart truly belonged to the community and the greater world. He had a mission. He and his camera were the vessel to highlight important issues,” his wife Jacquelyn told the Republic.
We noted in yesterday’s morning email that an anti-vax/pro-audit crowd heckled gov candidate Kari Lake for not being anti-vax/pro-audit enough to sign their pledge. ABC 15’s data guru, Garrett Archer, posted a copy of that pledge from the Patriot Party of Arizona on Twitter yesterday. It calls on Ducey to start a special session to address two things: “medical freedom,” including making federal health mandates illegal and codifying health status as a protected class, and “election integrity.” The group suggests several improbable, voter-suppressing measures, like eliminating early voting, not allowing any vote-by-mail and no machines.
Yelling at journalists is a whole campaign platform now. Those who have spent any time around Howie Fischer, dean of the Capitol press corps, know that he’s — and we say this lovingly — an obnoxious loudmouth. But Fischer was on his best behavior when state representative and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem stopped in the middle of an interview with fake news website Gateway Pundit to randomly berate Fischer. Here’s the video, which feels reminiscent of Martha McSally’s preplanned “you’re a liberal hack” moment or Lake’s viral moment accusing 12 News’ Brahm Resnik of hating America.
The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission meets at 8 a.m. today. The agenda and livestream can be found here.
The Ahwatukee Republican Women will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Foothills Golf Clubhouse to hear from secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem. RSVP here.
The Scottsdale Unified School District will meet at 6 p.m. tonight. You can livestream through the district’s website.