The Farley Report from Phoenix #198: 2-4-14

Here in the Legislature, it's all about relationships. Now is when those relationships start to pay off, as every legislator spends his or her waking hours urging committee chairs to hear key bills.  I've been pretty successful so far at accomplishing those goals, usually by kneeling next to a chairman on the Senate floor and highlighting the finer points of why my bill is worthy. I really do believe that partisan considerations don't have to stand in the way of a good bill being heard, and the proof is that two conservative lawmakers are hearing two of my bills this week in their committees. Hopefully there are more to come.  

But first, here's your Farley Pledge Break: 

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It's that time again! If you'd like me to continue serving you in the Senate, I need to get re-elected. In order to get re-elected, I need two things from you tonight: Signatures and funding. 

1) Signatures: If you live in District 9, and you like the representation I have been providing you, you can now sign my nominating petition online by clicking on this link. It's really easy and will take no more than 30 seconds of your time, so please click and sign today, and urge your friends to do the same. It costs you nothing! Thank you!   

Please sign my nominating petition here. 

2) Funding: I need to raise money and sign up volunteers. I won't be asking you to help me with your feet until April-ish, but I could use your help now to contribute funds to my campaign. The more you can give now, the less I will have to bother you later! 

My opponents (whoever they may be) may get more deep pockets in their corner (given the new maximum contribution of $4,000 per person!), but I feel confident I can match them stride for stride with your passion for good governance on my side. Please help me out in any way you can, starting today. Thank you!

You can securely give $20, $200, or even $500 online right now.

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On to the news:

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--> CPS Update: Last Thursday night, more than 200 Tucsonans turned out at a forum on Child Protective Services (CPS) at the Jewish Community Center in the heart of District 9. I was on the panel that listened to the stories and ideas put forth by the attendees, and it was a heart-rending experience. Many folks shared their personal experiences with CPS from inside and out, and key child advocates talked about the depth of the crisis and the need for total transformation of a broken system so that we can protect our kids with both short-term action and long-term investment in prevention. Every person there was committed, and I am equally committed to carrying out the needed reforms. If we can't take care of our kids, how can we expect to have a decent future in Arizona?

The next day,  The Governor's Child Advocate Response Examination (CARE) team issued their report on failings at CPS that led to thousands of cases being uninvestigated. The findings continue to be shocking, and the report itself blames "systemic failure, a lack of accountability and transparency, and bad decisionmaking." Rather than detail the findings and recommendations, I will let you download and read the report here and come to your own conclusions.

One point I do want to point out is a rather disturbing recommendation that seems to indicate an ulterior motive in the transfer of CPS to become its own new agency. The report says:

"Consider bringing all of the former DCYF/CPS employees under the Governor’s Personnel Reform  'uncovered' when the new agency is legislatively created."

For the last several years, Governor Brewer has been making efforts to removing civil service protections from increasing numbers of state employees. 2012's budget included a provision offering a cash bonus to any employee who voluntarily offered to give up his or her protections, and another that said any new positions created would be similarly "uncovered" -- able to be fired at will, thus potentially setting up a new 19th-century New York Tammany Hall-style patronage system whereby an incoming governor could fire most state workers and replace them with political cronies. 

I was already concerned that the largest single CPS-related item in the Governor's budget is $25 million to move the department into a new building -- especially in the context of her request of precisely zero ($0) to eliminate the childcare subsidy waiting list. If the creation of a new agency is simply a way to fire and then re-hire CPS caseworkers while forcing them to lose their protections along the way--thus turning the agency to a hotbed of political patronage--, then the plan to create a separate agency looks especially troubling compared to fixing the system in place. 

--> Dark Money Disclosure Bill filed: SB1403, sponsored by Michelle Reagan (R-Scottsdale) and I, is the result of months of hard work including dozens of stakeholders from all political perspectives with deep knowledge of the election finance process. Democratic and Republican elections attorneys, Clean Elections Director Tom Collins, independent citizen activists, the Sierra Club, and many others sincerely sought a way we could ensure full disclosure of campaign contributors to the shadowy political organizations that have cropped up everywhere in the wake of the Citizens United decision, and full punishment of those who would conspire to hide that disclosure from the public. I believe this bill, while still a work in progress, represents a breakthrough solution that holds the promise of passing and working for full transparency. It incorporates the central concepts of my dark money disclosure bill from last year, along with new ideas to ensure compliance. I believe this type of legislation is vital to ensure the health of our democracy. I will write in more depth about its provisions as the bill moves through the process. 

--> My first bill of 2014 passes committee: My bill SB1032 to force all future specialty license plates to have a standardized design so that they are easily recognizable to law enforcement and witnesses to crimes as Arizona plates passed unanimously out of the Senate Transportation Committee this afternoon. The Arizona Association of Counties are strongly in support on behalf of county sheriffs who are increasingly concerned with how difficult it has become to identify Arizona vehicles used in the commission of a crime. There are currently 54 specialty plates, and their designs will be grandfathered in, but any future plates will have to limit their design to a 3" square area to the left of the plate numbers on a standard Arizona plate background. 

--> Another Farley bill will be heard tomorrow: My bill to reduce sales tax reporting requirements and increase cash flow to small retail businesses at no cost to the state SB1134 will be heard in Senate Finance Committee tomorrow. This bill is supported by a broad range of business groups including the National Federation of Independent Business, and should have no problem getting through the Senate and into the House, as did my bill on the same topic last year. 

--> Open season on endangered wolves: Today was Humane Lobby Day at the Capitol. More than 200 people from 28 of the 30 legislative districts met with their legislators to urge their support for animal protection bills, including my bill to add animal fighting (including cockfighting and dogfighting) to the RICO statutes in order to allow prosecutors to seize the property of ringleaders so their associates don't just move the fighting ring down the road to raise money for their bail.

At noon, I was honored to be awarded the Humane Legislator of the Year Award (along with Rep. John Kavanagh R-Fountain Hills) by Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle who flew in from DC for the occasion. Sadly, this award did not empower me to stop three Gail Griffin (D-Hereford) bills heard in Senate Government and Environment Committee the previous day to allow the killing of the last 83 endangered Mexican Grey wolves native to Arizona in violation of federal law and societal ethics, and to appropriate $250,000 to lawyers to fight the feds and defend the killers -- SB1211, SB1212, and SCR1006.

In that hearing, a rancher testified that he had lost calves to wolves in 1998, and that justified the killing of endangered wolves now, 16 years later, despite major changes made to the wolf reintroduction program to reduce the likelihood of livestock loss. In fact, the Defenders of Wildlife group has brokered a program with cattlemen and conservationists alike that would pay ranchers above market value for each head of livestock lost to a wolf, making it a better business deal in many cases to lose a calf that way than to pay to raise it to the age where it can be sold at auction. 

Additionally, data from the US Department of Agriculture on the mortality of cattle indicated that most deaths were from disease, coyotes (who are also hunted by wolves) caused 9% of deaths, dogs caused 0.8% of deaths, and wolves of any kind caused only 0.1% of deaths. There are only 83 wolves in the state, alongside 920,000 head of cattle. My conclusion from all these facts was that this three-bill package was not aimed at solving a real problem, and these endangered wolves would pay the ultimate price for politics as usual. Unfortunately, the bills passed along party lines. Perhaps the committee can move on to real problems now like fixing the crisis at CPS without killing endangered species? 

--> I have filed my last two bills of this session: I now have 19 bills in process. Here is a brief rundown of the numbers they have been assigned so you can follow their progress at azleg.gov as they move forward (or don't).

SB1273  qualified mortgage standards (Establishes Arizona-only mortgage underwriting guidelines in order to reclaim the ability of self-employed people, small business owners, and middle class families to buy or refinance a home, to protect our real estate and mortgage industry, and to challenge the big-bank-backed federal Dodd-Frank act. I obtained signatures of many of the most conservative members of the Legislature as co-sponsors. More on this intriguing little bipartisan bill next week!) 

SB1286  lottery; funding; LTAF; restoration (Restores the original beneficiaries of lottery funds -- the local transportation assistance fund (LTAF) and county assistance fund to bolster lagging revenues that go to our local roads and buses, and the heritage fund to help our state parks. These funds were raided and eliminated by the majority during the budget crisis, and the LTAF funds were restored last year to Maricopa County only. It's time to restore equity to the rest of us.) 

--> The Legislature returns to full strength: Last week I welcomed the newest member of the Senate, Andrea Dallessandro from Tucson's District 2, previously one of the hardest-working State Representatives I have ever met. Linda Lopez's shoes are tough ones to fill, but Andrea is up to the task and is already a valuable asset to the Senate. Today Andrea's former seat was filled by Demion Clinco, who will be an equally valuable asset to the House. Demion is intelligent, strategic, and dedicated to the community, as proven by his creative and energetic leadership of the Tucson Historical Preservation Foundation and its fabulous and fun annual Modernism Week. Tucson's delegation has a proud history of strong leadership, and Demion represents our bright future. Welcome!

--> Tucson Art Tank: I was honored to be on the judging panel for the first annual Art Tank grant competition at the El Casino Ballroom last night, modeled after the TV show Shark Tank. This was an amazing experience to see the passion that ten arts groups brought to their six-minute presentations to a crowd of around 250 as they competed for grants of up to $10,000, with the money coming from the $1 million I helped to include in the state budget for the Arts Commission -- their first increase in funding after five years of cuts down to zero. The entrepreneurial spirit and community impact was powerful, and the show was riveting to the audience, which also got to vote. Star reporter Kathy Allen was there and wrote a great article capturing the magic. This was proof of how important it will be for us to allocate $2 million from the interest off the rainy day fund this year, so we can double the positive impact on our economy and our communities around the state.

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

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