Monday, January 26, 2015

Dark money is shady business

Dark money is shady business. Although this type of political expenditure has been around for a long time, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision inCitizens United opened the floodgates. Some reports indicate $8.6 million in dark money seeped its way into Arizona’s election process.

“That is an incredible sum of money,” Assistant House Democratic Leader Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson (District 10), said. “Money influences elections and people have a right to know who spending in our state.”

But dark money makes that difficult. This kind of campaign spending allows certain entities to spend money in political causes without revealing where the money came from. It is clouding the election process.  Right now, Arizona has few restrictions on dark money. Democrats at the Arizona Legislature have proposed some reforms that will help shed some light on this shadowy subject.

Wheeler and Senate Democratic Whip Martín Quezada, D-Phoenix (District 29), are introducing a package of identical reform bills in the House and the Senate. These bills were developed from recommendations from former Attorney General Terry Goddard. 

  • SB1206/ Independent expenditures; corporations; funding disclosures: This legislation would require the four largest contributors and any large contribution from out of state to be included and clearly displayed on the disclaimer statement of corporate independent expenditures. It would also require corporations, limited liability companies and labor organizations that make independent expenditures to file campaign finance reports if they receive contributions for their expenditures. This is what political committees must do.
  • SB1207/ Campaign finance disclosures; corporations; entities: This reform would revise the “paid for by” disclaimer for political committees to include the names and telephone numbers of the three largest contributors including corporations, LLCs and labor organizations. Currently, the law only requires the disclaimer to include the three largest political committees.
  • SB1208/ Foreign nonprofit corporations; foreign LLCs: This legislation would change the definition of “conducting affairs” for out-of-state businesses to include spending money for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election in Arizona. It would prohibit foreign companies from spending money to influence elections until they are authorized to do business in Arizona and would place the same restrictions on an LLC. The purpose of this legislation is to require any out-of-state entities to register with the corporation commission before they make independent expenditures. 
  • SB1209/ Independent expenditures; corporations; unions; audit: This reform would authorize the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to conduct random audits of corporations, LLCs and labor organizations that make independent expenditures. The audit would include a review of notifications, related documentation and other financial records to determine whether the entity is complying with Arizona law related to corporate independent expenditures. The audit would be confidential unless the commission finds that a violation has occurred, in which case the commission shall notify the Secretary of State’s office of the violation. This audit provision is intended to ensure corporations are complying with current law and mirrors the audit process that the Citizens Clean Elections Commission conducts for candidates.
"With the recent judge's ruling that throws out the state's definition of political committee, we have the opportunity to make meaningful changes to our disclosure laws," said Senator Quezada.

"Voters are tired of the presence of anonymous money in their elections and they deserve to know who is buying their elected officials. The sad reality is that our proposed legislation to eliminate dark money from our state will most likely never see the light of day - kept in the dark just like the people of Arizona."

Senator Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 9), has introduced SB1101, which is identical to the bill that Secretary of State Michelle Reagan introduced as SB1403 last year when she was still in the Senate.

ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy described that bill in a February 2014 report:

"(It) would require independent expenditure committees in state and local elections to reveal the “identifiable contributors” to their campaigns, even though these funds came to them through a chain of organizations. The “identifiable contributor” noted in the bill is the specific person(s), corporation(s), or union(s) from within or outside of Arizona that makes the initial donation, not some vaguely named entity that passed the funds along. The independent committee would also be required to reveal the name of the leading three financers in its campaign advertisements, literature and similar materials. 
"A central focus of SB1403 is on Arizona’s many shell corporations or “convenience corporations” that seek to influence elections without revealing the identity of their funders. The bill outlaws attempts to hide the identity of donors by the creation of such entities and by funneling funds from one organization to another. To enforce the law, the Secretary of State, acting upon a complaint, would have wide authority to determine if a group or organization is primarily engaged in electioneering. If so, it would be regulated as a political committee and be subject to disclosure."

Additionally, Rep. Ken Clark, D-Phoenix (District 24), will introduce a bill that would require utility companies to disclose contributions made to influence an election. Clark said this reform is necessary because of “what was very likely an unprecedented shift” from utility companies. Many believe that the utility companies were contributing heavily in the 2014 Corporation Commission elections.

“This raises many questions about potential corruption,” Clark said because the Corporation Commission regulates the utility companies. “Regulated monopolies were very likely spending money aggressively in our Corporation Commission election. The public was understandably outraged.”

Clark added that his bill, and the legislation Quezada and Wheeler are offering, would help increase transparency.

“This dark money is terrible for our democracy in Arizona. How can we trust decisions being made by our regulating bodies if the companies they regulate are hiding behind dark money? We should all be calling for more accountability.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Miranda elected chair of Latino Caucus

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senator Catherine Miranda (LD27) released the following statement on being elected by her peers to chair the Arizona Legislative Latino Caucus for the 2015 legislative session. Representative Juan Mendez (LD26) was elected co-chair and will serve as chair for the 2016 legislative session.

The Legislative Latino Caucus comprises legislators of Latino heritage and legislators who represent a large population of Latinos. The members of this caucus meet to study issues affecting their communities and the State of Arizona.

Sen. Miranda
“It is an honor that my colleagues have chosen me to lead our Latino Caucus,” said Senator Miranda,
who also currently serves as the Vice President for Policy of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL).

“NHCSL facilitates legislators from all 50 states and Puerto Rico to collaborate and discuss potential policy that could benefit our Latino populations. Through my leadership in NHCSL I will not only bring back great ideas to Arizona, I will be able to present our state's ideas at a national level.

“By focusing our efforts on education, common-sense immigration reform and trade between Arizona and Mexico, my co-Chair Representative Juan Mendez and I will move this caucus forward and bring ideas to the table that will benefit not only our districts but the state in its entirety.”

With her selection, Senator Miranda becomes the third member of the Miranda family to chair the Legislative Latino Caucus. Her late husband, Representative Ben Miranda, served as co-chair with his brother former Senator Richard Miranda on several occasions.

“My husband and I fought every day for the well-being of our community and I will continue to do so until we as a state can acknowledge the positive impact that our immigrant constituents bring to Arizona.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Senator Barbara McGuire sworn in for second term

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIXSenator Barbara McGuire released the following statement on being sworn in last week for her second term as senator of Legislative District 8 and being reelected rural liaison for the Senate Democratic Caucus.

"I am honored that the people of my district have once again entrusted me with representing them here at the Senate," said Sen. McGuire.
Sen. McGuire

"I've been very busy since last session, not just with the election but with my official duties helping constituents and advocating for the Superior mine legislation that was passed by Congress and signed by the president. Contributing along with Arizona’s congressional members and Senator John McCain, as well as speaking with President Obama about it on two occasions, proved the key to our successfully seeing this project approved, which will benefit our region through job creation and investment. I was pleased to be able to thank the president personally at his most recent visit to Phoenix. I would also like to offer Senator McCain my deepest gratitude for his efforts in helping to bring this to fruition."

"As we start the new legislative session, I look forward to ensuring the people of my district have a strong voice that represents their priorities and protects them."

About Senator McGuire
A former two-term state representative, Senator McGuire, 60, is a mother of two, a grandmother and has been married to her husband Jim for 44 years. She is a Salvation Army Director, a former business owner, a chamber of commerce executive and a Citizen of the Year among other achievements. Senator McGuire serves on the Senate’s Natural Resources & Rural Affairs, Public Safety and Transportation committees.

About Legislative District 8
The district encompasses the Copper Corridor of Globe-Miami, Hayden, Kearny, Superior; the Sun Corridor of Casa Grande, Coolidge and Eloy; San Manuel, Winkelman, Dudleyville, Mammoth and Oracle, Florence and The Gila River Tribal Communities. In total, there are about 250,000 residents in the district with its largest populated are being the San Tan Valley, representing one third of the district.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Ducey’s budget shortchanges schools, jobs and the people of AZ

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate and House Democratic leaders released statements on Governor Ducey’s proposed budget. Also included is a comparison of what the governor said in his Monday State of the State address versus what he did in the budget proposal.

What Ducey Said
(State of the State address, Jan. 12, 2015)
What Ducey Did
(Budget Proposal, released Jan. 16, 2015)
“In Arizona, educational excellence is a priority…That’s why I propose to spend not less in the classroom than last year, but more.”
Ø Cut $13.5 million overall from K-12 schools*
Ø Cut $75 million from universities
Ø Cut 50 percent from the state’s largest community college districts
*See explanation below
“The business at hand…is to expand Arizona’s economy.”
Ø Slashed Arizona Commerce Authority’s budget by $100 million
Ø Eliminated general fund support for Arizona Office of Tourism marketing
“I suggest we demand more fiscal responsibility from our government.”
Ø Will spend $100.7 million on private prisons over three years, although private prisons cost the state more per prisoner

Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs:
“Actions speak louder than words, and today we've see that the words Governor Ducey spoke at the State of the State were hollow. The budget he revealed today cuts funding for neighborhood schools, universities and economic development efforts, all of which we know give taxpayers a return on their investment,” said Sen. Hobbs. “And while his budget takes from our schools and universities, forcing tuition raises on Arizona's middle class, it gives away more than $100 million to private prisons. Is this what Governor Ducey meant when he closed his State of the State address by saying, "Let's give our best for Arizona"?

“Don't let Governor Ducey's disingenuous marketing campaign fool you. This budget does not put #ClassroomsFirst and it doesn't prepare us to succeed in the #AZFuture. It puts special interests and private prisons first and it takes our state backward.”

House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer:
“Governor Ducey’s budget proposal continues the Republican legacy of undermining Arizona’s economic recovery. In his State of the State address, he said he would spend more in classrooms but in this budget plan he’s again cutting education, and he fails to follow through on his promise to settle the public school inflation funding lawsuit. Since he is taking more resources from schools and universities, our kids will not get the kind of education they need to be prepared for the global economy, and Arizona will continue to fall behind,” said Rep. Meyer.

“His commitment to expanding the economy is all political rhetoric too. He’s cutting the Arizona Commerce Authority’s budget by $100 million. The ACA is tasked with bringing businesses and jobs to our state. Arizonans need a better return on their investment than this budget, which just repackages failed policies.”

The Math:
Overall, Governor Ducey's proposed budget cuts K-12 operating funding by $13.5 million.

Here's why:
  • It increases school funding by $134.1 million ($85.2 million in inflation funding and $74.4 million due to court case)
  • But then requires a 5% cut to traditional schools’ “non-classroom spending” and a 3.5% cut to charter schools totaling $123.7 million
  • It uses $2.9 million in unspent Department of Education funds plus,
  • Takes $21 million that last year was available to all K-12 schools as “Success Funding” and uses it to pay for charter school capital costs that only a few charter schools will benefit from IF they are legally able to use the money
So the math is:
 $134.1M  in new spending
$-123.7M  in reductions
= $10.4M  net increase
  $-23.9M  transferred from Student Success Funding/Dept. of Ed to Schools Facilities Board
=$-13.5M  total net loss to K-12 operating funds

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Resolution passed honoring former Rep. Lloyd House

House was first Native American legislator in Arizona

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The Arizona State Legislature today passed House Concurrent Resolution 2011 honoring former Representative Dr. Lloyd L. House, who died on January 2nd. The resolution was sponsored by Senator Carlyle Begay and Representative Paul Boyer.

About Representative Lloyd House
In 1966, Dr. House became the first Native American elected to the Legislature, representing the Navajo Nation and all American Indians. His election came just one year after the Federal Voting Rights Act was passed, which prohibited racial discrimination with regard to voting and elections, allowing minorities to assert their power and their right to vote for the people they felt would best represent their interests.

During the Korean conflict, Rep. House served as a Code Talker with the U.S. Marines and tirelessly advocated for his fellow Code Talkers throughout his life. After serving in the Legislature, Rep. House earned his doctorate in Higher Education and Business Administration, becoming dean of instruction for Navajo Community College (Diné College).

The full resolution can be found here: HCR2011
Sen. Begay

Senator Carlyle Begay:
“Dr. House was a leader for our state and for the Navajo people. In the true spirit of Arizona, he served his country and his community through military service, as a legislator and as an educator. His election to the Arizona Legislature was historic because it broke barriers and opened doors for generations to come,” said Sen. Begay.

“I can say with all my heart that I and the rest of the Native American Caucus are indebted to this man who took a chance to represent his people and won. I am privileged to have known Dr. House as a family mentor, to carry on his tradition of representing the tribes of Arizona at the Legislature, and I proudly honor his legacy with this resolution.”

Representative Paul Boyer:
Rep. Boyer
“Lloyd House was one heck of a public servant, bridging racial barriers and serving and bettering our communities,” said Rep. Boyer. “It was an honor to recognize his legacy today at the Legislature.”

Margaret Lynch, daughter of Dr. House:

“How incredible it must have been for him to stand on the House floor in 1966 and be the first Native American in the Legislature,” said Ms. Lynch. “Looking back we can see how ground breaking it must have been for that era, though I’m not sure at the time he realized the impact he would have for generations to come.”

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ariz. Legislative Democrats respond to State of the State address

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), and Arizona Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 24), made the following statements in response to Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of State address.

House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28):
Rep. Meyer

“While I appreciate the governor’s optimism, the truth is that our state is facing some serious challenges. Nothing Governor Ducey said indicates that he is pushing for real reform. Instead, he seems to be championing the same failed policies that have stunted our state’s economic recovery. Arizona’s unemployment rate is higher than the national average. And while most states have regained the jobs lost during the recession, we’re still missing almost 100,000 of them. We are not rebounding as quickly as other states because Republicans are prioritizing policies that do not provide a return on investment for Arizonans.

“They lack vision. A true economic recovery plan will take a balanced approach and will include transparency, accountability and an emphasis on education, at both the K-12 and university levels. Instead, the Republicans have cut funding for public schools and undermined school accountability standards while expecting our kids to be ready for higher education and the work force. At the same time, they have doled out tax credits to special interests with no evidence that Arizonans are getting a return on those investments. If we want true economic growth, we have to make sure our kids have the skills needed to go to college. Right now, only 7 out of 100 kids who enter Arizona’s public high school system graduate from college.

“Governor Ducey is talking about trimming government. In Arizona, when Republicans say they are trimming government, it means they are cutting back on teachers. About half of the state’s budget is used to fund education. I was on a school board, and every time Republicans decided to trim government, our school district had to lay off teachers. These cuts have contributed to Arizona having some of the largest class sizes in the country. We cannot rebuild on that foundation.

“The first step in establishing a sustainable, stable economy is to invest in public schools and to protect our universities. We have an obligation to restore K-12 inflation funding. Instead of finding a way to meet that obligation, Republicans are wasting money on lawsuits to shirk that responsibility. We can make sure our schools have the resources they need, but it means closing wasteful tax loopholes and potentially postponing special interest tax cuts.

“Arizonans deserve to have a responsive government, committed to passing a balanced, common-sense budget that supports schools, economic development and the middle class. We need policies that will attract businesses and create jobs. Those are the Democratic priorities, and those are the priorities that will get Arizona back on track.”

Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 24):
Sen. Hobbs

“Return on investment is a concept straight out of Business 101 and one that has helped Governor Ducey be a very successful businessman. And it’s a concept that can help him be a very successful governor, too, if he chooses to see our public schools, our universities, our roads and our people as a good investment.

“To balance a budget for true long-term sustainability, we must take a serious look at corporate tax cuts and loopholes to make sure Arizona taxpayers are getting a return on those investments. At the same time we must be diligent in protecting programs that are critical to all Arizonans and to our economy, like our public schools, our roads and AHCCCS.

“We must protect our kids’ schools from further devastating cuts. For years, Arizona students have been studying from outdated textbooks, in crowded classrooms and in buildings that need repair because the Republican-led Legislature has cut their budgets by more than $3 billion since 2007. Those cuts must be reversed.

“A judge has ordered the Legislature to pay Arizona schools the inflationary adjustments that the voters of our state approved and protected with Prop 301 in 2000. It’s encouraging to hear the governor express his desire to settle this lawsuit. It’s time for Republicans in the Legislature to stop wasting taxpayer dollars by trying to get out of paying that money and instead work with the schools to find a responsible solution that works for everyone.

“In his speech, the governor talked about school choice and his desire that every child has access to high quality schools. The reality is Arizona already has the most robust school choice environment in the country, if not the world. Even so, 83 percent of Arizona parents choose to send their children to their neighborhood schools. It does not make sense to open a new charter school down the street from an ‘A’ rated district school or spend taxpayer dollars on a voucher for a child who is already attending a private school.

“Governor Ducey said that he wants the Ninth Floor to get out of the business of litigation. That is welcome news to not only us, but to the Dreamers across Arizona who have fought long and hard to get drivers licenses. That statement does, however, raise an important question. Will the governor continue to fight the lawsuit from President Biggs and former Speaker Tobin that seeks to reverse Medicaid restoration?

“That answer is not only life-changing for the more than 200,000 Arizonans who are newly covered under AHCCCS, but for the fiscal stability of our state. To undo the bipartisan effort from two years ago would blow a $600 million hole in the state budget and force the closure of countless rural hospitals and medical clinics.

“There’s an old saying that ‘You’re known by your actions.’ Here at the Capitol, that lies in the difference between how you run for office and how you govern. Governor Ducey ran on his business experience, saying that he would bring a business approach to running state government.

“Well, this is his chance to show it. When he releases his budget on Friday, we hope to see that he has made the wise decision to see our public schools, our transportation infrastructure, our vulnerable children and the healthcare of our people as priorities. We’re certain that if he does, we will all see a priceless return on the investment.”

Friday, January 9, 2015

Tribal, Northern Ariz. communities rally to fight abusive liquor sales

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – In a crucial decision last night the Arizona Liquor Board sided with outspoken tribal and Northern Arizona communities when they voted unanimously to deny the transfer of liquor licenses for a pair of liquor stores just outside of the Navajo Nation.


By a vote of 6-0, the Arizona Liquor Board unanimously denied the transfer of two liquor licenses from Gary McDonald to George Ryan.

McDonald, who recently reached a plea deal with Apache County for drug charges that put him in jail, attempted to transfer his liquor licenses for Ole Red Barn and Lee’s Liquors in Sanders, Ariz., to Ryan, who owns part of Lee’s Liquors and another nearby liquor establishment.

The board held a hearing on the matter at the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control’s office yesterday in Phoenix, a 12-hour hearing that ended just before midnight Thursday.

Based on various factors, including Apache County’s opposition to the transfer on July 2014, as well as Ryan not having a business plan to deal with the inebriated, the board said the applicant (Ryan) is “not capable, qualified and reliable as required” by state liquor laws to acquire the transfer licenses.

Senator Carlyle Begay:

“This decision is a significant win for the Navajo Nation and the communities of Sanders and Chambers that will help keep them safe from what I consider to have been abusive business practices by the owner,” said Sen. Begay.

“It was empowering to join the several hundred tribal members who traveled hours to attend the hearing in Phoenix and show their opposition to the license transfers. While there is one more step to fully resolve this situation, I am confident our communities will continue to stand strong against these predatory businesses.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sen. Begay visits Ariz. school determined to get an “A” grade

CHINLE, ARIZ. (Jan. 6, 2015) – Encouraged by a visit from Senator Carlyle Begay, LD7, Chinle High School announced a 2015 resolution to become the first “A” rated school on the Navajo Reservation. To launch their mission, school officials invited Sen. Begay to share his personal education story with the students. This morning, Sen. Begay spoke to the 976 students in attendance cheering on their goal to become an “A” school. 

“From a very young age and growing up on the Navajo Nation the importance of education was always stressed in our family,” said Begay. “My message to the students is to be proud of who they are as Native students, proud of where they come from and proud of being a part of a school that is preparing them for the future. Children in Arizona deserve an excellent education that will give them the skills that they need for the jobs of the future.” 

Today’s assembly also focused on the school’s new motto: “We’re On Our Way to Becoming an “A” High School.” Chinle High School is the largest Native American school in the United States and is currently a “C” rated school. 

According to school officials, Chinle High students earned the highest combined AIMS score out of all of the Navajo Reservation high schools last spring.

“We’ve seen growth in the last few years thanks to the efforts of the school leadership and staff targeting the areas of math and reading,” said Quincy Natay, Superintendent of Chinle Unified School District. “A big thank you to Sen. Begay for making the trip out here to speak with the kids about the opportunities education creates. The Senator helped the kids believe they can one day become a lawyer, doctor or engineer.”  

“As Arizona’s K-12 schools begin to implement higher academic standards, it is important for all stakeholders to recognize, anticipate and plan for the impact on American Indian students, which are an academically vulnerable population,” added Begay. “Tribal lands suffer from extreme poverty, the highest teacher turnover rate and highest dropout rate in the state, so these kids should be especially commended for overcoming true adversity.”

Video and audio of today’s speech was captured by Chinle High’s Video Media class and is available for media download and broadcast use at:  (Please credit Chinle High School Video Media Class)