The Daily Agenda: One committee down
Lots of hurdles to go ... The inmates become the overseers ... And those resolutions are sending mixed signals.
Our bill to create a monument at the state Capitol honoring journalist Don Bolles celebrated its first big victory yesterday when it unanimously cleared the House Government Committee.
In case you missed our first post, we have been talking for years about how the Capitol’s Wesley Bolin Plaza, which hosts dozens of monuments for some of Arizona’s heroes and historical figures, needs a place for Bolles, who was killed by a car bomb in 1976 for his investigative journalism, which exposed organized crime and political corruption.
This year, we asked a few lawmakers to sponsor bills to make that happen. The result was Senate Bill 1039, from Republican Sen. TJ Shope and House Bill 2171 from Democratic Rep. Jennifer Longdon
Yesterday, HB2171 cleared its first big hurdle in the House, earning unanimous, bipartisan support from the committee members.
It’s far from a done deal. But even getting a simple committee hearing is a pretty big accomplishment. Most of the roughly 1,300 bills lawmakers introduce in a given year don’t get that far.
We were going to write a post today to reiterate why Bolles deserves such an honor. But Tim Eigo, a local lawyer and the head of the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, said it better than we could have. We asked him if we could reprint his testimony to the committee and he obliged.
Here’s the pitch he made to lawmakers:
As others have said today, Don Bolles was a respected journalist, a dogged reporter who gave his life for our First Amendment freedoms. But he represents not only the ideal of what a reporter should be. He represents the best in all of us, whatever our job, whenever we are called upon to act with commitment, integrity and courage.
Many of you may have been to the Clarendon Hotel in midtown Phoenix. Besides being a midcentury gem, the Clarendon is also where a car bomb was detonated beneath Don. He was investigating and reporting on organized crime, and he was at the hotel on June 2, 1976, waiting for a source who never showed. He was grievously injured and, 11 days later, succumbed to those injuries — but not before providing police clues to his assailants.
In 2019, our chapter led a national effort to have the Clarendon Hotel designated a Historic Site in Journalism, an SPJ initiative dating back to 1942. We were successful, and in the process gathered support letters from the Arizona Press Club, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and others.
But for a man like Don Bolles, I think more is needed than simply commemorating the place where he experienced the worst day of his life.
In many ways, the Wesley Bolin Plaza is Arizona’s front yard, where we display our most honored and cherished aspects. It’s where people from all walks of life, all places and all ages pause to read, think, smile and sometimes weep at the sacrifices their fellows have offered on behalf of others. And so recognition there is properly reserved for the most deserving — which I believe makes Don a worthy candidate.
I stand before you in a time when there is a robust debate over the evenhandedness of journalism and the choices made by those in the profession. But when I think back on journalism’s history, and Arizona’s history, I will say this: Whatever you may think of news today, no one could ever accuse Don Bolles of fake news or misrepresentation. He was a stand-up guy.
In too many other countries, it’s commonplace for a reporter to do their job and publish a story, and to be dead the next day. Among the very many things that makes the United States remarkable is the fact that such a thing is so rare here as to be nearly unimaginable. But here in Arizona, it happened to one of our own — our own colleague, our own neighbor, our own friend.
Don Bolles was committed to a better Arizona and hell-bent on exposing those whose criminality harmed us all. He never would have said this, but I suggest to you that he has earned his place alongside our most heartfelt memorials. Thank you for your consideration.
Not the usual suspects: Gov. Katie Hobbs launched a new Independent Prison Oversight Commission via executive order yesterday that is tasked with inspecting prisons and reporting back on a variety of topics, including accessibility and quality of mental health and medical care, the general condition of prisons, prisoners’ ability to communicate with family members and lawyers, availability of rehabilitation, vocational and educational programs and staffing levels. The commission will contain far more inmate advocates than corrections insiders — including positions for two formerly incarcerated people, a family member of a formerly incarcerated person, an inmate advocacy organization and several medical and behavioral health professionals.
And she wants to be RNC secretary: The Arizona Mirror’s Jim Small digs into campaign finance reports for the AZGOP and finds those victory balloons that never dropped at the Republican election night party cost $3,348. That’s not even close to the most wasteful spending party chair Kelli Ward did in the final days of the election. In all, AZGOP spent more than a half-million dollars on that sad party and a three-day bus tour leading up to the election, which fellow Republicans called “negligent” “vanity projects” that could have been better used to persuade the couple thousand voters that separated winning Democrats from losing Republicans. Separately, Small writes that Kari Lake’s campaign raked in $2.5 million after the election (not including to her separate dark money group) while claiming she needed the money to pay for her lawsuits, though she’s not spending much on the lawsuits. Hilariously, the day Katie Hobbs was declared governor was Lake’s single biggest fundraising day of her entire campaign.
Speaking of fundraising: U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego raised more than $1 million within a day of his announcement that he’s running for U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema’s job, CNBC reports. Sinema had almost $8 million on hand as of the last campaign finance reports.
“I’m proud to announce that we received more donations from real people on our first day than Senator Sinema has in the last three years combined,” Gallego said in the press release.
The Horne era begins: New Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is doing things differently than his predecessor, starting by canceling some planned presentations to teachers at a Department of Education conference about diversity, equity, social and emotional learning and other topics he sees as a Trojan Horse for critical race theory, the Republic’s Yana Kunichoff reports.
Has anyone asked Ken Bennett?: Votebeat’s Jen Fifield has more details and backstory about Cochise County Elections Director Lisa Marra quitting her job, along with laments and fears from locals who worry about the loss of institutional knowledge and who will replace her.
It’s rough out there: Axios Phoenix’s Jessica Boehm documented her day tagging along for the annual point-in-time count, where volunteers attempt to count all the homeless people. Separately, she notes that homelessness in Arizona spiked by 20% from 2020 to 2022.
Just like newspaper reporters: Court reporters, the people who type at amazing speeds to transcribe every word said in a courtroom, are becoming a thing of the past due to technological advances and legal changes narrowing the types of cases where they’re legally required. Coconino County Superior Court is down to its last court reporter, the Arizona Daily Sun’s Sierra Ferguson writes, and courthouse insiders aren’t thrilled.
“I’ll tell you right out, I’m not in favor of it, but that’s the way it’s going,” Dan Slayton, Coconino County Superior Court’s presiding judge, told Ferguson.
Baby steps to lifting the cap: Lawmakers are taking their first steps toward lifting the school spending cap for the year, reporter Cameron Arcand notes in Center Square — but it’s just a subcommittee discussion, not a vote on any of the bills that would actually lift the cap. Lifting the cap requires a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers, and it needs to be done before March 1 to stave off huge cuts to schools in the middle of the school year.
Baby steps to the budget: Republican lawmakers are preparing to send Hobbs a vetoed-on-arrival “skinny budget” later this month, as they previously promised, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Jakob Thorington writes. Though Hobbs has promised to meet the budget with a veto, longtime lobbyists were hopeful that the proposal could allow the GOP’s more fiscally conservative members a chance to vent and serve as a starting point for real negotiations.
Baby steps to abolishing the death penalty: Pima County’s top prosecutor panned Hobbs’ planned review of death penalty procedures as a good first step that misses the larger picture that “the flaws in the death penalty are at the get-go.” Pima County Attorney Laura Conover told Capitol Media Services’ Howard Fischer that the bigger problems are prosecutors’ biases in which cases to seek the death penalty and defendants’ unequal treatment under the law, including from juries.
“The data is clear across the country historically that both race and class play an absolutely unacceptable role in how (the death penalty has) been applied, just leading to terrible outcomes,” Conover said.
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