The Daily Agenda: Saved by the bell
Building a bridge over the fiscal cliff ... The memes are nothing new ... And there's only one paper company brave enough.
After a few weeks of dawdling, Arizona lawmakers yesterday lifted the education spending cap that would have meant devastating cuts to schools, beating the final deadline to stave off disaster by just a week.
And while children across the state are likely bummed that lawmakers killed the prospect of an early start to summer vacation, they can take solace in the fact that the state Senate’s 23-6 vote still leaves in place the possibility of an early and abrupt end to the next school year.
Schools are expected to exceed the cap again next year, which, it could be noted, will follow an election cycle where Republicans are banking on voters to respond favorably to their demonization of schools and the educational system at large.
Take Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who, during her vote against lifting the cap yesterday, perhaps best embodied the conservative movement’s rage at schools by inventing a new gasp-inducing phrase: Educational terrorism.
“Here we are again feeding the beast. More money, more money, in my opinion, capitulating to the educational terrorists who are holding our kids hostage,” she said, briefly pausing to acknowledge the gasps. “They shut our schools down. They disenfranchised parents. They let your kids stay home. They told our kids they couldn’t come back.”
We’re not in 2018 anymore. The political mood has shifted significantly since the Red for Ed movement gave way to the pandemic.
Republicans feel spurned by their efforts to win the funding battle. During the vote, several complained that they don’t get enough credit for injecting $3.5 billion into Arizona’s education system since the recession — and to some degree, they’re right.
Democrats have consistently voted against budgets increasing school funding because those increases weren’t enough — even when Republicans offered up money to increase teachers’ salaries by 20% over three years. That was a huge improvement over the status quo, but education advocates opposed it, arguing it didn’t go far enough.
“Had we voted the way Red for Ed wanted us to vote that day and the (Arizona Education Association), none of them would have been getting pay raises over that three-year period,” Republican Sen. Sonny Borrelli said. “Yet the School Board Association and all the other (education) associations came out and gave a big thumbs down to every Republican legislator who voted to give a 20% pay raise and gave a big thumbs up to the Democrats who voted against it.”
But 20X2020 was also a cover-your-ass move for Republicans, as Democratic Sen. Rebecca Rios noted.
“20X2020 was not the brainchild of public school-supporting Republicans,” she said. “That year, the governor was proposing a 2% raise to teachers, and House Democrats were holding out and begging him for a 4% raise and he said, ‘I’m sorry, there just isn’t the funds.’ But lo and behold, 70,000 red T-shirts changed the story.”
Senate President Karen Fann tried to excuse members of her caucus who voted against lifting the cap, focusing not on the educational terrorists sentiment, but the argument that those voting against it are upholding the state constitution. That’s nonsense. The voters built in a mechanism for lawmakers to lift the cap — if they have the political will. (Gov. Doug Ducey, or any other governor, isn’t required to sign off on it.)
Real leadership would be solving the problem, not just postponing it. Fann sounded almost starry-eyed as she called on her chamber to come together for the greater good and craft a permanent solution.
If Fann can pull it off, perhaps it’ll bring some redemption to her severely tarnished reputation. Somehow we doubt it’ll happen — a win-win prediction for us. We’d love to be wrong.
It costs zero dollars to sign up for our daily emails, but you can throw us some bucks anyway to support two starry-eyed reporters who were naive enough to start their own publication.
Rusty runs: After protesters once again descended on his house, House Speaker Rusty Bowers decided to run for the state Senate to stick it to his frequent critics. He previously planned to retire after hitting term limits in the House, but told the Republic that he changed his mind because he won’t be bullied out of service and he wants to bring sanity to the Senate “‘cause I haven’t seen a lot.” QAnon conspiracist and election-denier Republican Sen. David Farnsworth is also seeking the seat.
If it isn’t the consequences of your own actions: Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel faces investigations by the State Bar of Arizona and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors — and a potential grand jury process for “willful misconduct” — as the fallout from her alcoholism treatment, public misstatements about it, revolts by top staff and pushback from public defenders continues, the Republic’s Robert Anglen reports. Adel said she has “no concerns” about the inquiries and called them “distractions” from her office’s work, which her colleagues allege she minimally participates in.
If you haven’t, go watch it: We told you that ABC15 reporter Dave Biscobing’s “politically charged” investigation was good — the judges for the prestigious George Polk Award agreed. He was among this year’s winners.
Sounds legit: The detention officer assigned to the court of Erin Otis, who joined her staff in mocking people in their court with memes and cruel email threads, defended her as having a “big heart,” but acknowledged the employees mocked people with memes and said it’s pretty common.
“You think those memes are something new,” he said on the phone with Biscobing. “I’ve walked around the courthouse in different courtrooms and sometimes people do flash memes.”
Being a power couple has its drawbacks: Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick recused himself from further involvement in the Senate’s audit lawsuits because his wife, Republican Rep. Shawnna Bolick, a longshot Secretary of State candidate who sponsored the original bill to let lawmakers decide election results, has communications related to the audit that the court is deciding whether are privileged. As several people noted, he hasn’t recused himself on other audit-or family-related lawsuits.
He also basically admitted as much: In case you still had doubts that Arizona congressional longshot Ron Watkins actually was Q of QAnon, he probably is, according to analysis of his linguistic tics, the New York Times reports.
Local man needs lawyer: Arizona Rep. and Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem has until March 1 to turn over subpoenaed documents to the January 6 committee in Congress. And he may appear for a deposition on March 15, the Phoenix New Times’ Elias Weiss reports. Finchem, whose handle on the right-wing social platform Gab is AZHoneyBadger, is crowdfunding to help cover attorneys related to the committee’s work. As of Monday, his fundraiser brought in less than $4,000 of the $750,000 he set as the goal. His quest for the position also made The Guardian yesterday, which quoted his potential opponent, Democratic Rep. Reginald Bolding, as saying the idea that an election denier could take the office should “terrify the nation.”
Spring for better cowboy hats, at the very least: You know we love to talk about all the fake cowboy attire that wannabe elected officials wear on the campaign trail, especially if they’re new to town. And we love when other journalists, like those at the Arizona Daily Star, poke fun at the city slickers, too. (Plus this Star political notebook includes a Tucson city councilman getting really mad about a rental car company charging a fee — politicians, they’re just like us!)
Insert that meme of the two Spider-Men pointing at each other: “Dr. Shiva” Ayyadurai, a subcontractor in the Senate’s audit who produced laughable “evidence” of fraud, said the audit was run by “self-serving grifters” who focused on the wrong problem in a new report, the Arizona Mirror noted. He said he hasn’t been paid for the Arizona audit, and is already grifting his way into a new audit in a pro-Trump New Mexico county.
Would’ve been a scandal a year ago: The Arizona Department of Health Services will change its COVID-19 data dashboard to report weekly statistics instead of the daily ones we’ve seen for most of the pandemic. The department said most other states now aren’t doing daily updates, and the leaders of many Arizona hospital systems signed on to support the change. Meanwhile, as cases decline, some hospitals are seeing patients who avoided the care they needed during the pandemic showing up in the emergency room for more advanced treatment because of delays in care, the Daily Star’s Patty Machelor reports.
Bill bonanza: It’s starting to be the time of year when you really should pay attention to bills moving through the Legislature because these ones could actually become laws. Now that some deadlines have passed, the unlikely ideas get weaned out, and the ones still moving might just make it to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. With that in mind, here’s what we’re watching:
Several anti-LGBTQ bills are still moving, and House Speaker Rusty Bowers vows to hold a hearing for an anti-discrimination bill for LGBTQ people, potentially before an ad hoc committee.
A bill requiring the state auditor general to review multiple election administration issues would mean 35 new employees in a new unit that couldn’t start its work until 2024.
A measure that wouldn’t allow schools to kick protesters out of meetings passed a committee last week.
Who needs algebra 2? Possibly not Arizona kids who want to graduate anymore, if a bill approved by the House survives the Senate.
A Republican proposal approved by the Senate Government Committee calls for “smart” ballot boxes, a thing that does not exist.
The quixotic near-annual attempt to give Arizona a lieutenant governor could end up on the ballot, if it survives this year.
No baseball yet: The Major League Baseball player lockout continues, meaning Spring Training will be pushed back until at least March 5. The players say owners didn’t need to start a lockout, a tactic while the two sides are negotiating a collective bargaining agreement, and they didn’t need to push back the start date. It’s not just fans affected by a lockout; many Valley cities have Spring Training stadiums, often paid for by taxpayers, and games bring in tons of visitors.
No response from the landlords: People who live in a Phoenix mobile home park where rents are still affordable say they face fees and fines for vague reasons that can lead to eviction, and then retaliation from management when they protest or stand up for themselves, the Arizona Mirror’s Jerod MacDonald-Evoy reports.
Rain, hopefully without flooding: A flood control project in Winslow will receive $65 million from the federal government to fix its levee system and ensure much-needed rainfall doesn’t lead to flooding. The funding comes from a White House program with a goal to help disadvantaged communities.
Hank will test your marijuana for free: Two marijuana testing labs could lose their licenses because their tests aren’t reliable and they inflate the amount of THC in marijuana, the Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports. The labs don’t agree with the state’s claims and hope to settle by paying fines, and they said the lab issues stem from the state’s recent adult-use legalization, which came with increased testing responsibilities.
Microcosm of the schools debates these days: The Arizona School Boards Association withdrew from the National School Boards Association, saying the group’s involvement at the national level made its work harder in Arizona. The withdrawal comes after the national group called some behaviors against school board members akin to “domestic terrorism,” which ignited backlash, including efforts at the Legislature to not allow any public funds to support membership in the organization. Arizona is the latest state-level organization to withdraw in the aftermath.
“...Our primary obligation is to advocate for Arizona’s students to have strong, quality public schools. We are unable to do that if we are continuously called to account for the actions of NSBA,” executive director Sheila Harrison-Williams wrote.
The most inevitable outcome: Mark Greenburg, the father of Scottsdale school board member Jann-Michael Greenburg, is suing the Scottsdale parent who leaked his Google Drive that contained information about her and other parents, Republic reporter Renata Cló writes. Greenburg alleges Amanda Wray, who runs a Facebook group that criticizes the board, defamed him. Greenburg’s Drive folder, often referred to as a dossier in news stories, flew around the media, made national headlines and led to his son’s ouster as board president.
Get well soon: Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is out of the hospital, where she was being treated for appendicitis.
Rest in peace: Longtime state lawmaker and former Democratic leader David Bradley died at age 69 of pancreatic cancer this weekend. His work often focused on children and their well-being.
An easy anniversary to remember: Congrats to all the people enjoying a wedding today, on 2-22-22.
A strike-everything amendment on House Bill 2726 would require ballots to be printed on watermarked, holographic paper and meet several other specifications, like “stealth numbering in ultraviolet, infrared or taggant inks.” It’s a rehash of Rep. Leo Biasiucci’s HB2041.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the striker on Monday. It appropriates $6 million from the general fund to cover the cost of the specialty paper.
Finchem told the paper he started pushing for the ballot paper after meeting with company representatives — he held a whole demonstration complete with black lights in the House basement last year. The need for fancier paper is predicated on the evidence-free claims that fake ballots could have been injected into election counts.
We don’t know when this happened, but it apparently happened: Clint Bolick, currently an Arizona Supreme Court justice, once sang about freedom while imitating a rasta.