The Daily Agenda: Our Don Bolles bill is dead
Long live our Don Bolles bill ... Nomination and withdrawal both rejected ... And about that Black National Anthem protest.
This week marks the first major deadline at the Arizona Legislature: By Friday, all House bills must have been heard in their House committees, and Senate bills must have cleared their Senate committees in order to remain “alive.”
Unfortunately, our Senate Bill 1039 to create a monument to murdered journalist Don Bolles has been stuck in the Senate Government Committee, where chairman Jake Hoffman has refused to give it a hearing. Since it’s not on today’s agenda, the bill is, for all intents and purposes, dead.
Luckily, we have another option. House Bill 2171, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jennifer Longdon, is identical to SB1039 and cleared the House Government Committee weeks ago, so it remains alive.
But getting it to the governor’s desk won’t be easy.
We’ve been keeping pretty quiet about our efforts to lobby for the bill recently because several lobbyists and lawmakers told us that writing about it would only hurt our chances of getting a hearing in Hoffman’s committee. That didn’t work. From here on out, we’ll be loud about it.
We always knew that some of the anti-press warriors at the Legislature weren’t going to look kindly upon a monument to honor a journalist, even one as respected and deserving as Bolles. But yesterday’s House Republican caucus hearing on the bill really drove home that point.
Republican Rep. Barbara Parker, for example, suggested that Russell Pearce, the only lawmaker to ever be successfully recalled after he championed SB1070, was more deserving of the honor of a statue on the Capitol mall than Bolles is, declaring Pearce “a patriot here in Arizona who fought for many of the finest laws that we have that we’re building on.” She wasn’t the only critic.
“So the only thing this guy accomplished is he was a reporter? Why are we building a monument to this?” Republican Rep. Jacqueline Parker asked her caucus, adding there’s not enough room for “everyone who was killed.”
Of course, Bolles wasn’t just killed. He was murdered by powerful people who planted a bomb under his car in broad daylight in downtown Phoenix because he was investigating corruption and organized crime in Arizona. He was murdered for being a good journalist who spoke truth to power and tried to clean up our state.
So it was incredibly heartening to see other Republican lawmakers stick up for Bolles. Republican Rep. Matt Gress told his caucus he is an enthusiastic supporter of the bill because Bolles was “rooting out corruption with the Mafia in Arizona.” Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro argued that the monument would be a tribute not just to one man, but to a symbol of our national values like free speech.
“We value the First Amendment here in this country,” he told his caucus, noting that in other parts of the world, journalists are routinely murdered for doing their jobs. “We do not stand for corruption. We do not stand for threatening individuals who speak up under the First Amendment. I think that is what’s noble about this bill.”
The legislative process gives committee chairs immense power to kill bills they don’t like. Hoffman is within his right to use that power to stamp out SB1039. But the legislative process also offers a lot of workarounds to an obstinate committee chair. We plan to use those workarounds to get HB2171 to the governor’s desk.
No matter what you think of today’s political press corps, Bolles’ accomplishments go far beyond just being a reporter. He was a damn good reporter who gave his life attempting to make Arizona a better place. And for that, he deserves a spot on the Capitol mall.
Who’s next?: Gov. Katie Hobbs withdrew her nomination of former Pima County Health Department leader Dr. Theresa Cullen as the next director of the Arizona Department of Health Services ahead of a vote from the full Senate yesterday. But Republican lawmakers didn’t get the memo that Cullen had dropped out, and they voted against confirming her anyway. In a statement, Hobbs said that it was Cullen’s decision to pull herself out of the running. The governor said she understands Cullen’s decision, considering Republican senators on the new committee tasked with nominations harassed her and that their behavior will push more qualified candidates out of public service. Cullen announced she would go back to leading Pima County’s Health Department.
Metal boxes are expensive: Hobbs wants to turn those 2,000 shipping containers that former Gov. Doug Ducey put on the border — very briefly, at a cost of about $100 million to stack and another $100 million to dismantle — into housing for the homeless. KJZZ’s Christina Estes reports that cities are interested in the concept and that a company that makes simple shipping container homes prices them at about $200,000 each.1 Meanwhile, down in Elgin, near the border, the locals are seriously annoyed at the noise and commotion the project has brought to their quiet town, the Republic’s José Ignacio Castañeda Perez reports. One truck from the contractor, AshBritt, hit a local woman’s car and the company initially refused to pay for it until she mentioned going to the media, he writes.
Also on the border: Lawyers for the rancher who allegedly shot a Mexican migrant on his property last month say he fired some warning shots at smugglers earlier in the day but did not actually shoot anyone, the Associated Press reports. George Alan Kelly is due in court next week.
Don't toxic waste our Arizona: California has strict rules on dumping toxic waste, but Arizona doesn’t. So for decades, California has shipped thousands of tons of the stuff to Arizona to dump it in our landfills, CalMatters’ Robert Lewis reports. He spoke about his deep-dive investigation into the topic with KJZZ’s “The Show,” noting that several other western states have created laws to prevent California from dumping its toxic waste there.
Vetoes incoming: As part of their decade-long quest to get more guns in schools, Republican lawmakers are attempting to bring back a few old ideas, the Arizona Mirror’s Gloria Rebecca Gomez writes, including allowing parents to carry concealed on campus and requiring an NRA-backed gun safety training program in schools.
Build and let build: Pinal County, one of Arizona’s fastest-growing areas, needs to build houses faster now than ever before, economist Elliott Pollack told local leaders, or the area will face a crisis, per the Maricopa Monitor’s Joey Chenoweth. Meanwhile, the mayor of Casa Grande is in a tiff with Republican Sen. Steve Kaiser over his Senate Bill 1117, which would limit cities’ ability to regulate zoning in an attempt to boost the housing supply, the Casa Grande Dispatch’s Jodie Newell writes.
No sympathy for wildcats: Cutting off the water to the Rio Verde Foothills area could have made the Scottsdale mayor and city council look like the bad guys, Scottsdale Progress’ Tom Scanlon writes, but locals don’t seem to care. He interviewed a bunch of Scottsdale residents who all essentially said that’s Rio Verde’s problem. Meanwhile, Republican Rep. David Cook got an Attorney General’s opinion from Kris Mayes stating the county can provide water to the area, if it chooses.
Friends don’t let friends file frivolous lawsuits: Arizona lawyer and freshman Rep. Alex Kolodin is still under investigation by the state Bar for his bad-faith lawsuits over the 2020 election, and now one of his colleagues, Republican Sen. Anthony Kern, is coming to his defense with a bill that would fine the Bar and the state Supreme Court for “infringing” on “political speech” of lawyers, the Arizona Mirror’s Jerod MacDonald-Evoy writes.
Free eggs: Lawmakers want to declare the ability to raise backyard chickens a matter of “statewide concern,” meaning cities couldn’t impose stricter regulations than the state. Capitol scribe Howard Fischer notes that Republican Rep. Kevin Payne’s House Bill 2483 would overrule the local ordinances but still impose some restrictions on keeping chickens, which Payne notes make great pets because they “purr” and “soothe people” and lay eggs that are super expensive right now.
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