The Daily Agenda: Setting yourself up to fail on purpose
We won't hold our breath for a bipartisan budget ... Former Cap Times reporter is now Maricopa County Attorney ... And this newsletter is written by humans.
Arizona lawmakers pressed forward with their ill-conceived plan to pass a “skinny budget” and sit on the state’s $5.3 billion in surplus revenue — a failed attempt that only underscored the difficulty of finding any consensus among the fractured Republican caucus.
Gov. Doug Ducey had already made clear a simple continuation of this year’s budget was unacceptable. Just a few hours before the hearing, he went on the radio to declare lawmakers are not talking to him and not doing their jobs by considering a skinny budget.
“We have a border crisis and we have wildfires raging across our state. People need help in our state and we have resources to help them,” he said.
We understand the intent behind throwing out a skinny budget: Nobody thought it would become law, but lawmakers haven’t been able to find any common ground, and they hoped putting something, anything, up for a vote might break that stalemate and open a path forward.
But a continuing budget should be a last resort. Whether you’re conservative or progressive, allowing the state to sit on $5.3 billion in surplus doesn’t make sense. It’s not governing; it’s a white flag.
While a number of Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee yesterday complained that proposing a budget that simply squirrels away a third of the state’s revenues shows a profound lack of leadership at the Capitol, only two voted against it.
But their reasons for voting against it were diametrically opposed. Republican Rep. Michelle Udall wanted more spending, while Republican Rep. Jake Hoffman wanted a promise that there would be no follow-up spending. That tension highlights the near-impossibility of passing a Republican-only budget.
Democrats seem somewhat optimistic that the Republican stalemate may actually open up a seat for them at the negotiating table this year.
Arizona House Democrats @AZHouseDemsAssistant Democratic Leader @JenLongdon describes rising numbers of unhoused families in her district, lack of investment in schools and infrastructure. We have the resources to help. Votes no to help fail the GOP skinny budget. #azbudget https://t.co/eiSzSvCIMn
We’re not convinced either side is willing or even capable of doing the work. And it’s politically expedient for both parties not to, unfortunately.
If Republicans back a compromise plan, they’ll face cries of “traitor!” on the primary election trail.
Democratic voters might be more forgiving of some favorably framed aisle-crossing to avoid a government shutdown in July, but just as congressional Republicans were happy to watch the government shutter during a Democratic administration, legislative Democrats have little electoral incentive to help Republicans pass a budget. Campaigning on your ability to compromise doesn’t sell as well as denouncing the Republicans who are so inept they shut down the government amid a record-breaking surplus.
We fear that yesterday’s hearing was a kind of Punxsutawney Phil for the state budget process: Republicans saw their own shadows and, if history is any guide, they’ll duck back into their holes for another six weeks of Republican-only budget negotiations.
There’s hope for us after all: Rachel Mitchell got a promotion yesterday when the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors named her as the replacement for the recently resigned Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel. Mitchell worked in the office as a division chief already, and she’s the only of the three candidates who clearly said Biden won Arizona when asked by a reporter. She’s perhaps most memorable to the public for her role in U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, but for the two Arizona Capitol Times alums who write this newsletter, she’s memorable for getting a better job after her stint at the Cap Times.
“I will be a present leader and I will be an engaged leader,” Mitchell said. “I will show up. I’ve been showing up for 30 years and I care about the office.”
Regulation? What regulation?: Citing a “decade-long pattern of failures” by the state, the U.S. Department of Labor announced yesterday that it could take over workplace safety regulation for Arizona instead of allowing the state to continue operating under its own plan. You might remember the last dustup between the feds and the state over the Occupational Health and Safety Administration six months ago, which centered around COVID-19 regulations. This time, the feds cited more problems, like lax penalties and standards. The department’s notice yesterday kicks off a public comment period before the state’s plan could be revoked.
Lawsuits (sometimes) have consequences: Gov. Doug Ducey’s historic income tax cut is back in court as the Free Enterprise Club appeals a lower court decision allowing the referendum against the tax cut to stay on the November ballot, Capitol scribe Howie Fischer reports. The current argument is whether referendums are even allowed on tax cuts, though the anti-tax organization also plans to challenge the validity of the referendum’s signatures to qualify for the ballot. The whole legal fight may be moot if Republican lawmakers repeal and replace the tax cuts in this year’s budget, as they had planned.
Surely no one needed housing: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement paid for hotel rooms at several Arizona hotels where the agency intended to house migrants, but ultimately left many of those rooms unused, the Republic’s Rafael Carranza reports. The agency’s unused rooms totaled nearly $17 million, and the company ICE contracted with didn’t have experience and didn’t put measures in place to prevent COVID-19 spread.
Speed up the help, slow down the harm: There’s still rental aid available for people who need it, but evictions happen faster than the application process for getting assistance, the Republic’s Jessica Boehm and Catherine Reagor report. Families waiting for aid say they wait months and sometimes get evicted while waiting on help they eventually qualified for.
Tell that to cops: Death row inmate Clarence Dixon’s legal argument that the clemency board was too dominated by police was shot down, with a judge deciding that law enforcement isn’t considered a “profession.”
We wrote this on 4/20, we needed some pot stories: Running a company that’s even related to marijuana can lead to problems crossing the border and working with banks, the Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports on a company that makes pot packaging. And now that you know some of the weed on the shelves might have contaminants, learn about the Arizona State University researchers studying those contaminants, courtesy of State Press’ Kiera Riley.
What the kids have to say: Transgender kids and their parents say that Arizona’s recently passed law banning some types of gender-affirming health care are government overreach that will negatively affect their lives and their health, KJZZ’s Kathy Ritchie reports.
Gotta catch ‘em all: Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer put together a helpful spreadsheet to track all of the nomination challenges happening against candidates right now, from precinct committeemen up to the U.S. House of Representatives.
They could always just turn over the records: The Cyber Ninjas again are trying to appeal the daily $50,000 fine they’re racking up because they continue to flout public records laws, probably because they don’t have the more than $3.5 million they’ve accrued.
The Google Translate of news: In this bizarre turn of events, a 2009 news story from the Phoenix New Times about a local murder has ping-ponged around the world in the past month, popping up in mangled form in robot-written “news” sites that rip off the content but lose the actual news in funny and disturbing ways, the alt-weekly’s Elias Weiss writes.
Job whiplash: Gary M. Restaino, a longtime Phoenix prosecutor who Biden appointed as the U.S. Attorney for Arizona back in October, could become the interim director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the New York Times reports.
Rest in peace: Longtime Valley news anchor Kent Dana died Tuesday at age 80. He grew up in Arizona and became a generational voice of the evening news.
A bill that bans the state from allowing electric company competition finally passed the Arizona Senate this week and now awaits action from Gov. Doug Ducey.
Republican Rep. Gail Griffin’s House Bill 2101 (which has a mirror bill, SB1631) failed in the Senate in early March. But, on reconsideration this week, it passed.
You may think you already don’t have electric competition, and that’s true, but it’s not because it’s outlawed — it’s because there weren’t companies besides the big utilities like Arizona Public Service that offered competitive services.
But now, a renewable energy company called Green Mountain Energy wants to enter the market, the Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports. Predictably, the existing utility companies here support the bill to ban their competitors.
One of Arizona’s GOP opposition researchers1 became the victim of his own tactics this week.
An antifacist research Twitter account unmasked Brian Anderson, who has worked for a host of prominent Arizona Republicans, including Gov. Doug Ducey, as Brian LaSorsa, a former writer whose bylines include hot takes like “What’s So Bad About Discrimination?” (which we would think is self-explanatory) and “Disarming the Slaves,” a piece comparing attempts to regulate firearms to, well, you get the point.
Considering he’s a relatively unknown persona in Arizona politics, we might not have bothered to mention Anderson’s horrific former views. (He said he no longer believes the stuff he wrote almost a decade ago.)
But upon being outed, Anderson/LaSorsa lashed out at local reporter Dillon Rosenblatt for retweeting the thread.
“I heard that @DillonReedRose — a known Cry-Bully in the Journo world — is planning to publish a smear piece about me … all based on some dumb op-eds I wrote 10+ years ago as a college student,” Anderson wrote on Twitter.
Rosenblatt’s reply is what we’re laughing at today:
If you’re not familiar with the term, an opposition researcher is a campaign worker who specializes in digging up dirt, or “oppo research” on other candidates.