The Daily Agenda: The Battle of the BRBs heats up
The end of backroom deals, blackmail and horse trading? Plus, a return of Finchem's platform of mime's
We told you last month that the brewing “Battle of the BRBs” could not only mean the end of the Legislature’s ban on mask mandates in schools, but also big changes to how lawmakers craft and pass a budget.
In case you forgot, education and child welfare groups are bringing a constitutional challenge to the practice of packing budgets with non-budgetary policies via Budget Reconciliation Bills (BRBs) in a lawsuit that could have huge ramifications.
Legislative leaders craft the budget that way by design. In order to force rank-and-file Republicans to vote for a spending plan they don’t like, they include pet items to get holdout lawmakers on board. This year, the ban on mask mandates was a major sticking point for the far-right side of the Republican caucus.
The Maricopa County Superior Court heard arguments in that lawsuit yesterday, and pledged to rule before Sept. 29, when a host of new laws kick into effect. But it’s not the only case this year seeking to challenge the budget on grounds that the BRBs are unconstitutional.
Perhaps the most damning moment for the legislative defendants came when Roopali Desai, attorney for the school groups, played an audio clip of Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, a top player in the budget process, saying lawmakers are playing with fire by adding so many non-budget provisions into the BRBs.
Or maybe the most damning testimony was the text messages from Senate President Karen Fann in which she claimed Sen. Paul Boyer had “blackmailed” her into putting his favorite non-budget provisions into the budget to get his vote. That’s the exact kind of logrolling that the framers of Arizona’s Constitution sought to stop by saying budget bills have to actually be about the budget.
The Legislature’s lawyer, Patrick Irvine, argued that the legislature packs budgets with non-budget matters all the time, and provisions in BRBs need not actually be budgetary, simply germane to the budget. And whether it is germane is a question for the legislature, not the courts, he argued.
But the lawsuit, if successful, could go far beyond simply striking down mask mandates, potentially nullifying dozens of other laws lawmakers slipped into the budget, including the ban on vaccine mandates, several election law changes, the ban on teaching “critical race theory” and many other provisions in the challenged BRBs.
And long term, it could mean a sea change for the way lawmakers craft the budget. Perhaps they’ll have to learn a strategy that doesn’t involve backroom horse trades, shady deals and “blackmail.”
If you thought 2020 was rigged, just wait for 2024: Trump unsurprisingly endorsed Republican state Rep. Mark Finchem — an election conspiracy super spreader who was at the Jan. 6 riots (500 yards away — he swears!) — to be Arizona’s next election chief. Before the Republican Party went all-in on election fraud conspiracies, Finchem was a fringe bit actor in the party (and once notably got a man to quit his job as a regent because he made fun of Finchem’s outfits). His primary opponent, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, didn’t take kindly to the news.
Don’t forget about the Democrats: When Democratic state Rep. Reginald Bolding tweeted that Trump just endorsed his opponent in the secretary of state race (Finchem), his actual opponent in the Democratic primary, former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes called him out, saying he’s still got a primary to win before Finchem becomes his opponent. Good point! Except Fontes sent out his own fundraising email announcing Trump had just endorsed his opponent.
Speaking of insurrection: Former Arizona spinmaster Stephanie Grisham’s new White House tell-all claims that she finally quit after she texted Melania Trump on Jan. 6 to ask if she wanted to put out a statement saying rioting is bad, Politico Playbook reported. The first lady’s response: “No.”
What a refreshingly normal advertisement: Former Gov. Jan Brewer endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson in a video that was totally devoid of machine guns, TV smashing or name calling (and with only the minimally-required pandering to Trump). No wonder she’s the longshot.
The Republic’s Meghan McCain beat writer isn’t hurting for work, either: After leaving The View, Meghan McCain landed a new columnist gig at the British tabloid DailyMail.com, and is serving as an executive producer for a Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear, Bill Goodykoontz reports.
Today in Shitty Discourse: Republican state Sen. Kelly Townsend fired off a swastika made out of vaccine needles, and Republican Sen. T.J. Shope subtweeted her to say swastikas are bad, so Townsend went on a tweet rampage defending the comparison, telling the Anti-Defamation League to “learn your history” and liking a pic of Shope with a swastika drawn on it.
“Speaking of Swastikas” is not an intro we wanted to write today: What the hell is Hitler Management LLC and why does SRP board member Stephen Hodgkins Williams own it? Subscribe to Nick Martin’s Substack to (probably) find out.
Journalists love talking about journalism: We’re now on Day 5 of Twitter discourse about a series of bad tweets made by Republic investigations editor Michael Braga, who boasts of his royal and sugar baron blood, who essentially said working unpaid on nights and weekends is the only way to get ahead. (Don’t ask Hank about his opinion on the work ethic of kids these days or he’ll get canceled, too.) On Day 4 of the discourse, Republic top boss Greg Burton emailed his staff to say that wage theft is illegal, actually, and people should be putting in their hours to get paid for overtime. We love how Burton Voldemort-ed Braga by saying “one of our editors” instead of naming him. Fill out those timecards, friends!
Rebekah Sanders 🌵 @RebekahLSandersLog. Every. Minute. You deserve to be paid. "Employees who work overtime should record those hours within Dayforce...There will be no retaliation of any kind against employees who complain about unpaid overtime hours." https://t.co/C7KVqWT6B2
Since we can no longer can take advantage of the lucrative overtime policies that newspapers provide, please consider becoming a paying subscriber to help keep us in business for just $7 a month.
Speaking of McCain (we know, we’re no better than the Republic), she got into a Twitter spat with rapper Nicki Minaj over Minaj’s tweets where she said she hadn’t gotten vaccinated yet in part because a cousin’s friend in Trinidad experienced ball swelling post-vax. “That’s entirely enough Internet for today,” McCain wrote in a quote tweet of Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s story. “Eat shit you,” Minaj responded. McCain called it irresponsible and sad for Minaj to use her platform to spread vaccine misinformation and implored her to talk to doctors and scientists.
Considering the former president of the United States just endorsed Finchem to be our state’s secretary of state, we thought it would be worthwhile to recall Finchem’s last run for an office. No, not his 2020 re-election. His bid to become the Arizona House speaker (a race that he handily lost). So we unearthed this mostly forgotten document outlining his vision for the office, complete with a plan to use “Mime’s” to bolster caucus communications. (To be fair, he might have meant memes.) This little document provided us with hours of entertainment — give it a read.
A panel of Arizona journalists will talk about the rise of community-centered journalism in Phoenix at a ProPublica event today at 1 p.m. You can register for the virtual event here.
The Arizona Supreme Court will conference two audit-related cases today: The American Oversight lawsuit and the Arizona Newspapers lawsuit. Both are seeking records from the Senate and its contractors.