In this day after the Presidential Preference Election, I hope those of you from Maricopa County aren’t still waiting in line to vote! If you are, here is some reading material for you to pass the time.
Not much is going on in the way of floor action since President Biggs is hanging out in DC this week for his congressional campaign and he didn’t want to schedule floor votes that he would miss. All the fireworks were in yesterday’s Appropriations Committee hearing — the last Senate committee hearing of the session.
After the Farley Report pledge break, I’ll fill you in…
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—> A new initiative is forming to increase the minimum wage in Arizona. I support these efforts for a number of reasons. First off, our poverty level in Arizona is 21.2% — third highest in the country—, and our current minimum wage leaves many people below the poverty line. And it’s not just teens and first-time jobholders who are getting the current $8.05/hour — 51.8% are over age 25, 70% of whom are still earning within 10% of the minimum wage after three years of working.
The current minimum wage actually is so low it qualifies the jobholder for AHCCCS, the state medicaid program for people in poverty. It also qualifies them for other state programs like food stamps, and because we don’t fund subsidized childcare anymore, parents earning minimum wage often have to leave their children in risky situations in order to work and sometimes those kids end up in the DCS system. All these results harm the families and force the state to spend more money, outcomes that would be avoided if we paid a living wage in the first place.
In addition to these arguments, it’s important to consider how local economies work. When folks at the low end of the earning scale get a little bit more, they spend that money on rent, food, clothes, and other basics — all bought in local stores, helping local small businesses and growing the local economy. When folks at the high end get a little more money (as Governor Ducey is proposing with his elimination of the income tax), that money often leaves the state entirely — often to New York investment banks at the expense of the Arizona economy.
For those who argue that a living wage would increase prices, a 2013 paper by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that a 10% US minimum wage increase would raise overall prices by no more than 0.4%. The Purdue University School of Hospitality and Management studied what would happen to fast food prices if the minimum wage was increased to $15 an hour. A Big Mac would cost $0.17 more.
Given all the positives resulting from a living wage for employees in poverty, it was shocking to see a party line vote 5-3 in Approps Committee approving for the November ballot a measure backed by the Arizona Restaurant Association to actually lower the minimum wage for tipped workers (HCR2014). These restaurant workers are currently allowed to be paid $3/hr less than the minimum wage; the proposal would pay them 40% less. Instead of the current $5.05/hr, they would get $4.83.
True, this scheme would increase the minimum wage for everyone else to $9.50 by 2020, but that is less than the double-digit amount that will be proposed by the outside initiative. Its language would also preempt cities and counties from enacting their own higher wage or other labor laws, moves described as “insane socialism” by Chairman Don Shooter. It’s clear that the bill approved by Approps yesterday was simply designed to confuse voters by placing a competing fake initiative on the same ballot as the real living-wage initiative.
One of the most astonishing things to witness at the hearing was several Republican senators stating their belief that there should be no minimum wage, no matter what the level. Sen. Sylvia Allen stated in her explanation of vote, “I’m against government being involved in setting any kind of wage.”
I think it’s time for a new majority. How about you?
—> A couple of hours later we heard another preemption bill (HB2163) that would vacate current bans in Tempe and Phoenix on pet stores that sell dogs from puppy mills and would stop the ongoing efforts to ban them in Tucson.
The bill was brought by a pet-store owner who runs the Animal Kingdom chain, including one at the Tucson Mall that displays puppies in small glass cases like impulse-buy consumer goods. Its industry-supported language would require pet stores to sell only dogs that are obtained from USDA-regulated breeders. Which may sound acceptable until you look at the reality of USDA regulations.
The lobbyist for NFIB testified that he was in support of the bill because he bought his beloved corgi Calvin from an Animal Kingdom store, and he has been totally healthy and well-adjusted. I asked him if he had ever traveled to Missouri to visit Calvin’s mom to see in what conditions she lived her life. He said he had not.
If he did, he would discover that the USDA guidelines allow Calvin’s mom to live her entire life in a wire cage with a wire bottom, 6” longer than her body and 6” higher than her shoulders, stacked on top of other dogs in cages that only need to be cleaned once every two weeks.
These are not humane conditions. This is brutality.
The bill passed on party lines 5-3. More evidence that it’s time for a new majority.
—> Elsewhere in that hearing, the public got a clear view of the ugly mechanics of Speaker David Gowan’s abuse of his power to bully and threaten other legislators into passing his bills. HB2690 was heard, sponsored by Gowan with no other co-sponsors. The basic purpose of the bill is to take away licensure and inspection and oversight of pawnbrokers from county sheriffs and city chiefs of police and give those powers to the statewide Department of Public Safety (DPS). All those who signed in to comment on the bill were opposed. Gowan did not show up to defend his bill.
DPS was not there either, but we were told that they were not asking for the bill — in fact it would require a huge increase in manpower on the ground in urban areas all over the state for a department that mainly focuses on patrolling our highways. Members of the committee asked anyone in the audience to give one reason for why the bill would be a good idea, given that the local control of that process allowed for good outcomes like increased recovery of stolen goods which are returned to crime victims. No one could give a single reason for support of Gowan’s proposal.
In short, this bill was a terrible idea, with zero support from anywhere. So what happened with the vote?
Republican members laughed embarrassedly, and all voted yes. Two of the most telling explanations were from Chairman Shooter and Sen. Allen:
Allen: “Because this is the Speaker’s bill and I’m going to show respect to him for that particular reason, but I can’t imagine it will get past Rules…Aye… My bills haven’t gone through the house yet.”
Shooter: “It’s the speaker’s bill… and I vote Aye.”
The speaker has the power to kill anyone’s bill for any reason. This speaker abuses that power in unprecedented ways.
There’s a civics lesson, folks. What’s that I said before about the need for a new majority?
—> For those of you who are excited about the end of the cruel practice of greyhound racing in Arizona on Dec. 31 and are interested in helping to adopt out the 400 greyhounds currently housed at Tucson Greyhound Park, there is a new coalition of adoption groups forming which has experience finding good homes and support for dogs in many of the 39 other states who have ended live greyhound racing. If you are interested in helping in that effort and/or adopting a grey from the track early next year, you can call my office for details at 602-926-3022.
—> Finally tonight, an update on one of my efforts to save lives on our roadways. Two and a half years ago, I was nearly killed by an I-10 dust storm north of Picacho Peak. I've been working with scientists to find mitigation solutions ever since. We are getting closer. Yesterday I attended their dust conference in Coolidge to continue to offer support to their efforts. You can read the latest from Star reporter Tom Beal.
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
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