You know that feeling you get when you've been carrying a heavy backpack for a long time, and then you take it off -- like walking on the moon? That's kind of what it's like this week at the Legislature.
There's still action, but now that regular standing committees have ceased meeting (except for Appropriations and Rules) the pace has slowed considerably, and the weirdness of this session is beginning to sink in.
The progress of bills is glacial, and the general sense among those in the know is that we will be stuck in this netherworld for weeks if not months, pledging and praying on the floor, moving a few bills at a time, and waiting for a budget before bills get sent up to the Governor's desk.
In most years, budget negotiations would be well underway by now, but not this year. Everything's waiting on school funding agreements, TPT sales tax simplification compromises, and -- most of all -- Medicaid restoration decisions before the budget gets considered. All three of these items must be dealt with in order to determine what money is available and where that money will go. And legislative leaders will likely be using other bills as leverage for budgetary support once we get there. Meanwhile, everything feels like, well, walking on the moon.
I spoke at length about Governor Brewer's and Rep. Debbie Lesko's TPT simplification bill in last week's Report, so I won't go over that again here. (If you want to review the facts, you can read it again here.) But I did want to share with you my explanation of vote which is posted on YouTube. People have told me it's actually fairly entertaining considering it regards a topic that is not known for its entertainment value. I even relate an NFL analogy. Watch it here.
As I said previously, we cannot allow any of our disagreements to stop this bill this session -- if we do not enact simplification, we will not be able to collect more than $700 million annually from online sales taxes we are not currently collecting.
The federal law enabling this windfall -- the Marketplace Fairness Act -- will likely be enacted before this fall. It actually passed a strong bipartisan 75-24 test vote in the U.S. Senate last Friday, clearing the way for final passage within the next couple of months. We are one of only four states who are not currently ready to tax online sales. Considering the expiration for our $1 billion annual temporary sales tax for education in May, we cannot afford to be left out.
Talks are still ongoing with the cities and counties who tell me they and the Governor are coming closer together on final language, especially since a new compromise was offered yesterday on the single audit provision. May hope prevail over fear!
The Medicaid restoration also had a hearing in the House last Wednesday, but no vote. However, progress was made in a backhanded way when the Maricopa County Republican Party Chair A.J. LaFaro testified before the committee about his opposition to the Governor's bill by saying, "Jesus had Judas, and the Arizona Republican Party has Jan Brewer." What a way to kick off Holy Week!
The reaction has been strong and bipartisan against LaFaro's cretinous statement, and has certainly caused some Republicans who were on the fence to consider whose company they would like to keep on this issue. I hope we can vote on this soon, while his behavior -- emblematic of many harsh and angry emails I have received from self-identified Republican precinct committee people -- is still fresh in our minds.
Another positive development is that former Arizona Republican Party Chair Randy Pullen, not known as anything close to moderate, just came out publicly in favor of the Governor's Medicaid plan, and is talking to his party's rank and file. Looks like we may be getting some progress here, too.
There are a few other things brewing around these parts, but not much worth mentioning right now. Plus, given our snail's pace, it looks like we will have plenty of time to talk in April, May, June, July…..
Thanks for your faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
Paid for by Friends O'Farley