Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Blue Wave for January 28, 2019

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A weekly legislative update from the Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus

Volume 1, Issue 2
Monday, January 28, 2019

Welcome to The Blue Wave, a weekly newsletter during session from the Arizona State Senate Democratic Caucus where you'll find news about what's happening at your state legislature and how you can make your voice heard!

Top Stories

Tax conformity

You may have seen or heard news stories about the debate on whether Arizona should conform to changes in federal tax law that resulted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, aka Trump's Tax Reform. The choices being presented are either a "clean conformity" where the state simply conforms and sees an increase in revenue around $200 million annually. The other option being presented by Republican Senator J.D. Mesnard is to "conform and reform" by giving the additional revenue back as tax cuts that mostly benefit wealthy Arizonans.

We stand with Governor Ducey in our belief that we should adopt clean conformity and use the additional revenue to both save for the next economic downturn and put toward restoring cuts to our schools and increasing teacher salaries to stem the teacher retention crisis.

This morning Senator Mesnard's bill passed, on a party line vote, out of the Finance Committee that he chairs. We will keep you posted on this topic.

A great resource for more information on conformity is the Grand Canyon Institute report: Tax Conformity Brings $200 Million to Improve Schools and Stabilize Budget

Texting and driving

For 12 years Democrats have championed having a statewide hands-free law to prevent texting accidents that hurt and kill Arizonans. We hope this will be the year with bipartisan support for Senate Bill 1165, which is being carried this year by our Senator Lisa Otondo and Republican Senator Kate Brophy McGee.

Watch our press conference announcing the legislation and stay tuned for ways that you can help move the bill forward.

Water

The deadline for signing on to the Drought Contingency Plan is this Thursday and it looks like all stakeholders are coming closer to agreement. We expect the language to be fast-tracked through the Senate and House so it can be on the governor's desk before the deadline. Read more about the latest in DCP talks here.

Voter suppression

Republican efforts to keep voters from practicing their constitutional right to vote are moving ahead full steam. Republican Senator Michelle Ugenti-Rita's SB1046 and SB1072 passed out of the Judiciary Committee on party-line votes last week despite the majority of testimony being against them. Even Republican Leslie Hoffman, the Yavapai County Recorder, testified that Sen. Ugenti-Rita's claim that it would make vote counting faster would only be true in that it would suppress voter turnout. Read more about it here and contact your legislators to urge a vote against these disenfranchising bills.

“Bipartisan” bill count

Senate bills heard in committee:
Republican: 50
Democratic: 0

The Week Ahead

Important bills this week:

SCM1001 (Sen. D. Farnsworth)

Government Committee - Passed 4-3 with Democratic senators voting in opposition
Urges Congress to fund and complete President Trump's border wall by claiming Arizona suffers burdens financially and on our judicial, medical, educational and social services agencies. These claims are made without basis in reality. In fact, more than a third of all unauthorized immigrants in the U.S, are here by overstaying their visas. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the vast majority of illicit drugs flow through our ports of entry. And according to the Department of Homeland Security, the wall would cost in the range of $21.6 billion plus maintenance costs and would do nothing to stop tunneling underground.

SB1139 (Sen. Fann)
Government Committee - Passed 4-3 with Democratic senators voting in opposition

Designates the legislative district that contains the City of Prescott as Legislative District 1. This bill would protect the city of Prescott from being divided into multiple legislative districts like other cities in Arizona have and will be. We believe this is unconstitutional as it would limit the Independent Redistricting Commission's independent ability to draw legislative districts.

SB1090 (Sen. Ugenti-Rita)
Judiciary Committee - 9 a.m. Thursday, January 31

Senator Ugenti-Rita's effort to disenfranchise voters continues with this bill that would let emergency voting centers be subject to approval of county supervisors and would require voters declare their emergency under penalty of perjury or they would be unable to vote.

SB1091 (Sen. Mesnard)
Appropriations Committee - 2 p.m. Tuesday, January 29

Governor Ducey proposes in his Executive Budget to increase the cap for how much revenue the state can save in the Rainy Day Fund and this is the bill that would make that change. While we agree with saving for the next economic downturn up to the current statutory cap, we still have state services like K-12 education that have not had cuts restored from the previous recession. Before we save for tomorrow we must right the wrongs of yesterday.
 

News Clips

It's put up or shut up for Gov. Doug Ducey on charter school reform and bipartisanship

"Democrats have proposed legislation to rein in charter school abuses for years, always to be turned away by the Republican-controlled Legislature and Ducey. Meantime a number of individuals – including members of the Legislature – have gotten rich using taxpayer dollars to build charter school empires of one kind or another with little government oversight and lots of your money."

Education tax-hike proposal gets warm reception in committee

"The three Democrats on the Senate Education Committee voted against the proposal, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough. Several hundred million dollars isn’t enough to restore recession-era cuts to K-12 schools, lawmakers like Quezada said. As for the sales tax, Quezada noted it’s regressive because it affects low-income Arizonans to a greater extent than the wealthy, a problem compounded by Allen’s proposal to repeal the Prop. 301 low-income tax credit. Nonetheless, even Democrats praised Allen’s effort as a tone-setter for the legislative session.."

School voucher expansion again? Why can't our leaders take no for an answer?

"Just two months after Arizona voters vetoed school voucher expansion, a legislator has proposed school voucher expansion. Why can't our leaders take no for an answer?"

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