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The Daily Agenda: Sinema says what she wants (sort of)
People are just addicted to saying words ... We got some interesting flyers on our doors ... and the cowboy hats never cease.
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We finally know what U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema wants as Democrats continue to fight over how to pay for Joe Biden’s trimmed-back spending plan: to “not raise a single penny on taxes for the corporate side and or on wealthy people.”
At least that’s what Biden told the world when he stepped up the pressure by name-checking Sinema during a CNN town hall Thursday. (He also called her “smart as the devil,” which is probably a compliment.)
The White House later walked back Biden’s harsh words slightly, adding that while Sinema opposes increasing the corporate tax rate that is the main component of paying for the Biden agenda, she’s open to other “tax fairness proposals.”
But the shout-out finally shook loose a statement from Sinema’s office.
Unfortunately, instead of outlining what she does want, Sinema continued to leave us guessing with a barely understandable mash of words about how substantive and nuanced the tax debate is, and how raising tax rates won’t stop tax avoidance or improve economic competitiveness.
Saturday Night Live summed up her position as, “Finally, someone speaking up for billionaires!”
(In case anyone was wondering, Arizona’s forgotten senator, Mark Kelly, is fine with Democrats’ plan to raise tax rates for corporations and the high-earners.)
So if not corporate taxes and income tax hikes, how will Democrats pay for the plan? Well, with an even more progressive tax targeted at just 700 billionaires, it seems.
As usual, it’s not actually clear if Sinema supports this idea.
But the Washington Post noted that Sinema has been meeting with uber-progressive millionaire and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren on the “billionaire tax” and other “tax fairness proposals.” And on Sunday, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared some kind of wealth tax as the likely route to paying for the Biden spending plan.
“The irony is, with some of these alternatives that are coming out there, it may be the very business community that’s rushing to the barricades, saying, ‘Please, give us (increased tax) rates (instead),’” Virginia Senator Mark Warner, a moderate Democrat, told the Times.
Usually people come to our doors trying to sell security systems or garage doors, but this weekend, a person dropped off a flyer at Rachel’s house trying to entice people to sign up to become one of Arizona’s 26 future marijuana social equity license holders.
We previously mentioned Prop 207’s social equity licenses, which are intended to help people who were disproportionately impacted by harsh marijuana laws own dispensaries. Recently, the Arizona Department of Health Services listed a set of ZIP codes that are considered disproportionately impacted, and both of our ZIP codes made that list.
At least one of the principal officers or board members in a social equity license application with a 51% ownership interest must meet three of four criteria to qualify. These criteria include an annual household income level below 400% of the poverty level, an adverse effect from previous marijuana laws and an address in the identified ZIP codes. There are some more particular elements of these criteria, which can be found on ADHS’ website. Licenses will likely be awarded by a lottery process.
The flyer says people can prequalify to own a pot shop in just five minutes and with zero investment. It notes that your marijuana charges could be expunged, and then you could apply to own a dispensary. Copperstate, the “largest grower in North America,” would become your partner in the dispensary business, the flyer notes.
The program, called “Your Bright Horizon,” covers the $5,000 application fee, the flyer says. They will assist with expungement and costs related to it. And then you’ll go into business together.
A website listed on the flyer, YourBrightHorizon.com, adds to the enticements: You can earn $100 if you qualify for the license, and more money if you refer friends and family who qualify.
These licenses are highly lucrative, and starting a marijuana business is a costly endeavor for a person who may apply on a whim because a person knocks on their door on a Saturday afternoon. We would love to see what the terms are if you’re going into business based on a door knock. … If you know, let us know.
We’re not trying to rope you into a business deal, but we do need paid subscribers to stay around. In the coming weeks, some of our work will start going behind a paywall. Pay $70 per year or $7 per month to support our journalism.
Rest in peace: Former Attorney General Grant Woods died on Saturday from a heart attack at age 67. A Republican until 2018, Woods was known for speaking out against his party, much like his longtime friend, the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. Politicians from all backgrounds shared their condolences over the weekend. And Republic columnist EJ Montini wrote about how he met Woods at a pickup basketball game, and how Woods’ eulogy of McCain said so much about who Woods was.
Shocking, we know: Two people who participated in planning and carrying out the Jan. 6 insurrection told Rolling Stone that they were in close communication with the offices of Arizona congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, among others, and that Gosar specifically promised blanket pardons for any arrests stemming from the protest that turned deadly.
Cool, it’s not like people need help or anything: Because Arizona is only trickling out federal rent relief money for rural areas, the feds might take some of it back. So far, Arizona has only spent 10% of $315 million it received for the program, far short of the federal requirement that 30% of funds needed to be spent by Sept. 30, the Republic’s Catherine Reagor and Jessica Boehm report.
When in doubt, blame it on a worker shortage: Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel disbanded a unit in her office that was responsible for investigating violence against first responders, and which was also the unit that chose to charge protesters as gang members, ABC 15’s Dave Biscobing found. Adel blamed the disbanding of the First Responders Bureau on staffing issues.
School board bonanza continues: Some conservatives on school boards continue to revolt against membership in the Arizona School Boards Association, but their opposition to the group brings up legal questions over who owns the copyright to the existing policies ASBA has written and school boards have adopted, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Kyra Haas reports.
Is Brno vaccinated?: Now that the feds have actually written rules about the mandate for COVID-19 vaccination or frequent testing for workers at large companies, Attorney General Mark Brnovich amended his much mocked federal lawsuit, and asked for a temporary restraining order against it the Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports. “Once a vaccine has been administered, it can never be undone,” Brnovich said, explaining how vaccines work. That’s the whole point.
An unlikely ally: Tucson’s employee vaccine mandate could help decide some consequential legal questions, so the city should keep up the fight, the Republic’s conservative columnist Robert Robb argues.
We would hate to see what a failed rooftop pool looks like: Arizona universities took different tacks to COVID-19 when fall semester began, but none have seen major disease outbreaks anyway, the Republic’s Alison Steinbach reports. Still, the university with the laxest rules, Grand Canyon University, had the highest percentage of cases. In other important university news, you gotta find somewhere else to swim now. Arizona State University’s rooftop pool downtown is in disrepair, has a “potential risk of failure,” and the school is suing the construction company that built it, Steinbach reports.
We give ourselves an A+: The Cyber Ninjas still think the Cyber Ninjas did a great job on the Maricopa County election audit, despite what anyone else may think. And they still think their claims, rebutted by elections officials, deserve an AG investigation, reports the Republic’s Robert Anglen.
Today in excess: Former U.S. Rep. John Shadegg is pulling in $500 per hour for his work as special master in the dispute between the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Arizona Senate over audit documents, the Yellow Sheet Report wrote. The county is paying for it. And when we say “the county,” we just mean us taxpayers.
Father of the year: A Phoenix Police officer allegedly handcuffed his own daughter to restrain her during an argument, the Phoenix New Times’ Katya Schwenk reports. He then deleted videos from his doorbell cameras that could have shown the incident, detectives said. The officer is being investigated by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, but was not charged after a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office investigation last year.
Share the road: Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry was hospitalized after being hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Saturday news reports listed him as in stable condition. The incident shows that, even in cities that claim they’re bike-friendly, bicyclists face dangerous conditions.
We’ll start paying attention now: The Independent Redistricting Commission didn’t approve new draft maps last week, so they’ll be back at it again this week. The commissioners couldn’t come to an agreement over some legislative districts in the Tucson area, and there’s still some work left on congressional maps, too, the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda reports.
After we noted in a tidbit last week that the state is raking it in and September General Fund revenues were $299 million above the enacted budget’s forecast, a reader chimed in wondering about the effect of Proposition 207, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.
The answer is while the pot doesn’t bring in nearly that much money, it’s sure not hurting anything.
Marijuana taxes have brought in around $135 million to Arizona so far this year, according to Arizona the Department of Revenue’s latest numbers. (And almost a third of that comes from medical marijuana, which has been around for years.)
But most of the money never touches the state General Fund. This year, marijuana has kicked in about $32 million to the General Fund — the fund we usually mean when we think of the money lawmakers spend.
The rest of the weed money has gone to local governments and all sorts of programs. Counties have seen a roughly $13 million windfall from weed this year, while cities have seen almost $24 million in weed tax revenues.
Of the roughly $64 million so far in excise tax revenue, about a third goes to community colleges, almost another third goes to local law enforcement and fire departments, and a quarter goes to state and local transportation programs. Another 10% of that excise tax revenue is dedicated to public health and criminal justice programs.
When you run for office in Arizona, you gotta start pretending you’re a cowboy. We don’t make the rules! We’ve said before, we would die to follow along a would-be politician as they outfit themselves for the job. Democratic consultant Tony Cani pointed out the rootinest tootinest candidates — Ron Watkins and Mark Finchem — who dressed for the jobs they want, not the jobs they have. “Does it bother voters when candidates move to AZ from out of state & then all of a sudden dress like they were costumed to be in a local production of Oklahoma?” Cani wondered. Sure, it’s disingenuous and a gimmick, but someone’s gotta keep these hatmakers in business. (Rachel’s general rule: The more you dress like a cowboy, the less you probably are one — a rule confirmed by growing up in a rural area where a lot of townies wanted to pretend they lived on farms.)
The Arizona audit town hall roadshow continues, with Ken Bennett speaking at 7 p.m. today at the community room at Prescott Gateway Mall at 3280 Gateway Blvd. You can find more details online here.
Former Maricopa County Recorder and current candidate for Secretary of State Adrian Fontes will speak to the Democrats of Greater Tucson today at noon. You can watch on Zoom.