The Daily Agenda: Sinema makes SNL
Mission accomplished ... Plus, get your back-to-work bonuses ... And Gl(assman) is back.
Arizona Democratic U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema had a very bad weekend that culminated in getting skewered on Saturday Night Live. Actor James Austin Johnson played President Joe Biden, saying he’s working on a major infrastructure bill and social infrastructure he has to get passed. “So I’m bringing together the Democrats like Voltron — sure, they’re all different colors, but fundamentally, they’re robots.”
Enter Cecily Strong as Sinema, saying she’ll never announce what she wants to see in the bills, “because I didn’t come to Congress to make friends — and so far, mission accomplished.”
“Look, as a wine-drinking bisexual triathlete, I know what the average American wants,” she later says in the bit. “They want to be put on hold when they call 911. They want bridges that just stop and the car falls down. They want water so thick you can eat it with a fork. And I will fight for that no matter what. Unless my foot hurts, then I’ll go back to Arizona.”
That last line was an allusion to Sinema skipping DC last Friday as Democrats powered through negotiations to pass a climate change and social policy bill that she’s not supporting so far. She said she had a doctor’s appointment for a foot injury.
That comes after the bad look of hosting a fundraiser last week with a host of companies trying to kill the $3.5 trillion budget package working its way through Congress.
At the same time, Sinema lambasted her fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives for betraying her trust and the trust of their constituents by delaying a vote on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and tying it to the $3.5 billion infrastructure package.
Axios’ attempt to paint her as a badass who drinks wine and rides her bike while fearlessly standing against bullies was widely mocked.
And it didn’t stop those mean DACA kids from following her into a public bathroom as she tried to scurry away from their questions into a room with only one exit or entrance.
“We knocked on doors to get you elected,” one activist says as toilets flush on the video. After about a minute, Sinema comes out of the stall and washes her hands (not for the advised 20 seconds) while still refusing to acknowledge her constituents.
Shaking down a U.S. senator in a bathroom may sound extreme, but to be fair, it seems they did try to call first.
After we reported that Gov. Doug Ducey’s return-to-work bonus program was a bust, as it would almost certainly never be able to hand out the $300 million Ducey had pledged at the rate it was going, Arizona made it easier to get the funds.
Now, every person who qualifies will receive the full $2,000 bonus, regardless of if they work full-time or part-time. (Those who previously received $1,000 for returning to work part-time will receive another $1,000 check.)
A subscriber sent us a recent email from the Department of Economic Services saying it has updated the program and made it easier to get the money.
Besides upping the pay for part-time workers, DES now says that workers need only remain employed for eight weeks, rather than 10, and that almost all kinds of work will qualify: “This includes those who are self-employed, 1099 workers, gig workers and more!”
Finally, Ducey’s administration upped the pay cap. Previously, those who earned $52,000 or more were barred from receiving the bonuses. Now the cap is set at $77,000.
But the program is still having trouble getting those checks out. The email boasted in big red lettering that it has handed out almost $2.5 million in bonuses. That’s far more than the $422,000 it had spent when we checked in less than three weeks ago. But it’s still less than 1% of the $300 million Ducey set aside for the bonuses.
We don’t qualify for Ducey’s back-to-work bonuses because we never stop working. Please consider becoming a paying subscriber so we don’t wind up on Arizona’s skimpy unemployment system. A subscription is just $7 per month.
We’ll see all of you in court: The Arizona Supreme Court will hear the appeal over a lower court ruling that said some provisions in Arizona’s budget bills defied the Arizona Constitution. The high court set the date for Nov. 2, and the laws in question aren’t in effect while the court process plays out. The case is one of the most consequential we’ve seen in years — and could change the legislature forever, as we reported last week.
Government at the speed of business: Ducey has been slow to fill slots on regulatory boards, leaving some without quorums and delaying votes and licenses, the Republic’s Anne Ryman reports.
Inaccuracies? From the auditors? Nooo…: The Cyber Ninjas’ hand count was bogus, election experts told the Republic’s Robert Anglen. Numbers didn’t line up whatsoever with Maricopa County’s official tally, the analysts said. Senate President Karen Fann and audit spokesman Randy Pullen shot down the analysis.
Inaccuracies? From the auditors? Nooo… Part 2: During the Senate hearing over the Cyber Ninjas election report, Fran Drescher’s ex, Shiva Ayyadurai, cast suspicion on a stamp on a ballot envelope. It turns out the stamp is a safeguard, but Ayyadurai didn’t bother to learn what it actually was, reports the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda.
The government has decided not to function: Two state agency audits came out last week and both are bad. One found that the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry failed to release more than 300 people from prison three months early, as required by state law, which the department blamed on software. And the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality failed to check groundwater for potentially harmful chemicals for years, citing a lack of funding to do their legally-mandated jobs.
The 2022 legislative session is going to be wild: Arizona Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita won’t be chairing the Senate Government Committee next legislative session, another sign of the deep chasm within the Republican caucus over the election audit and its aftermath, which Ugenti-Rita has been critical of. She doesn’t want to be on the committee that handles election legislation anymore, citing a commitment to “real election integrity legislation.”
Everyone wants a promotion: Arizona Sen. Martín Quezada is running for state treasurer, the first Democrat in the race. Two of his legislative colleagues, Sen. David Livingston and Rep. Jeff Weninger, are running for the Republican nomination for the position. Current treasurer Kimberly Yee is running for governor.
Where are all the students?: Community college enrollment dropped significantly again this year for the Maricopa and Pima community college systems, reports the Republic’s Alison Steinbach. For a state that already struggled with low education levels, enrollment drops spell trouble.
The Republic revolt continues: Several current and former journalists at the Republic told Poynter on the record that they’ve worked overtime without payment. They said they were discouraged from entering overtime hours and told they needed to manage their time better when the issue came up.
We included this as a footnote in a story last week, but it deserves more attention. Michael Shahin at Arizona Capitol Television made a documentary about AZScam, now used to train current lawmakers. In 1991, AZScam enveloped the Capitol when a man who claimed to be trying to bring gambling to the state bribed several sitting lawmakers. One of the lawmakers got some money — and the promise of a shrimp concession stand at the future casinos. What a time!
It wouldn’t be an election cycle without a run by Rodney Glassman, a former Democrat who once crooned a tune called “Sweet Home Arizona” when running against the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. In his latest campaign announcement video, Glassman attends a “support group” for former Democrats, all of whom awkwardly agree to vote for him by the end of their meeting. The video includes a bevy of Republican buzzwords, like “critical race theory,” “cancel,” “defund the police” and “secure our border.” Oh, he’s running for attorney general this time.
Republicans in Legislative District 13 will meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Western Sky Middle School cafeteria in Goodyear.
Nathan Davis, a Democratic candidate for House in Legislative District 9, will meet virtually with the Democrats of Greater Tucson today at noon.