The Farley Report from Phoenix #266: 2-21-17

It’s Crossover Week in the Arizona Legislature, a new experiment where we pause committees for one week as we work to process bills through caucus and floor in our own chamber before we transition next week into hearing bills from the opposite chamber. The Senate is pumping out Senate bills and the House is pumping out House bills all week long. Which means that a whole lot of questionable material is flowing out of that pump. More on that later. 

But first, the Farley Report Pledge Break…

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A couple of weeks ago at a community event in Tucson attended by nearly 300 people, an audience member asked whether I would be announcing a run for governor in 2018. My answer and the audience reaction was captured on video. 

Click to watch and share. If you think I should run, please contribute today. I want to know if you are with me on this journey — it’s going to take all of us pulling together to move our state forward again.

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—> First, an update on SB1431 - the bill to swipe an average of $5,400 per student from public schools and hand it out in the form of debit cards to the parents of all 1.1 million children in the state for use at private schools, home schools, or online schools with little accountability. 

The Arizona Republic decided to check out the sponsor’s claim that these vouchers would save the state money as they gut our public schools. Their investigation uncovers the opposite: it could cost the state general fund $125 million a year more than paying for decent public schools. 

The bill may be on the Senate floor this week, and its fate is very much in the air right now. If you agree that SB1431 must be stopped, please politely convey your thoughts to all Senate Republicans ASAP. You can find their contact info here

—> Six of the bills being pumped through the process this week are trying to take away our constitutional right to make laws as a people through citizen initiatives. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce — after not campaigning against the minimum wage initiative — is now trying to not only overturn the popular vote in a lawsuit, they are also trying to eliminate our ability to put any future initiative of any kind on the ballot. 

Last week in House Government Committee, one of their bills — Rep. Vince Leach’s (R-Oro Valley) HB2404 — was heard, but the overwhelming opposition to his bill was not allowed to be heard. Democrats on the committee were not allowed to question the sponsor, and members of the public were limited to 60 seconds each for their testimony, with further interruptions by vice-chair Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) at the 30-second and 10-second marks, making it virtually impossible for any points to be made. The Arizona Chamber rep was allowed to speak for a full three minutes. 

Some of the features of the Leach bill that are most egregious are:

> initiative proponents would need much more money to even start their effort;

> tiny technical mistakes, like petition margins being 1/8” too narrow could get all signatures invalidated

> initiative campaigns would be forbidden to hire signature gatherers who are paid by the signature, although candidates could still pay by the signature. In fact, Rep. Leach paid by the signature for his nominating petitions last campaign.

The bill passed on party lines, with no Republican explaining their votes. You can read more about the shenanigans in Laurie Roberts’ column.

Governor Doug Ducey told reporters while discussing his support for these latest legislative bills to hamstring the citizens' initiative process, “I do think that there’s a way to improve the process because we’ve had an issue with some out-of-state special interests."

Governor Ducey knows a thing or two about campaigns fueled by out-of-state special interests — his own. And yes, we've had an issue with them, Governor.

Uninterrupted power breeds astonishing arrogance among too many. It’s time to take their power away. Luckily, a few of these bills will need to go to the ballot in order to take effect. I have a feeling they won’t fare so well when voters are asked whether they trust the Legislature more than themselves. 

—> Sen. Gail Griffin has an interesting little bill — SB 1309 — to create a committee to examine the environmental impact of solar energy generation, in order to talk about how dirty solar is -- according to certain folks. To help Sen. Griffin and her caucusmates better understand the total environmental picture of electrical generation, I offered an amendment on the floor last Thursday to add to the scope of the committee the environmental impacts of using nuclear power and fossil fuels. 

It was voted down on party lines, so the committee will continue to study the environmental damage caused by solar panels, while the use of nuclear and fossil fuels remain unexamined in Arizona. It doesn’t make any sense to me why we would try to cast aspersions on the one source of energy which is naturally plentiful here in Arizona. We should be doing everything we can to convert our plentiful sunshine into energy to fuel our economy.

Sen Griffin has another bill — SCR1010 — urging the federal government to support more nuclear energy. But there’s no committee to study the environmental hazards of nuclear. 

And while we are on the topic of Sen. Griffin’s uncontrollable urgings, she has a series of bills in the pipeline urging the Federal Government to:

> repeal the Clean Power Plan,

> gut the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,

> allow more ozone pollution in the air,

> allow uranium mining at the Grand Canyon watershed,

> eliminate public involvement in the planning of public lands managed by the BLM,

> strip the endangered status for the endangered Mexican Gray Wolf. 

Sen. Griffin is the chair of what used to be the Environment Committee, now called the Natural Resources, Energy, and Water Committee. 

—> On the subject of environmental wreckage, the Senate Finance committee last week passed 4-3 on a party-line vote a far-right proposal to allow individual property owners or corporations to create "Prosperity Districts" that would suspend most regulations, planning, and zoning laws within their boundaries, Sen. Steve Montenegro’s (R-Litchfield Park) SB1376.

The proponents cited Communist China's regulatory structure as a model, all in the name of "freedom". I had the temerity to mention the notoriously dangerous air pollution levels that have resulted in China, to no avail.

I never thought one of my favorite articles from The Onion would be surpassed by real life in the Arizona Legislature. So far, the bill has not made it through Rules, so I’m hoping that its progress may be stalled due to strong opposition from the business community who testified that they want a predictable regulatory environment, not the total elimination of regulations.

—> On the distracted driving front, the Karen Fann bill to ban any cell phone use while driving during the first six months of their license passed the Senate 24-6 and is now in the House, but we need to get a parallel bill moving to ban writing or reading a visual or written message on a cell phone while driving, so it is illegal for everyone of any age. We cannot leave the impression that it’s OK to drive distracted once you turn sixteen and a half. 

A number of us are looking for a way to get the full ban to a vote, and I have great hope we can get it done this year. We cannot go one more year putting our citizens at risk on our roadways. And from an economic perspective that hits home for everyone, the Wall Street Journal today published an article, entitled “Smartphone Addicts Behind the Wheel Drive Car Insurance Rates Higher.” 48 other states have statewide laws. It’s time to join them. 

Today the East Valley Tribune published a very strong article from their crime reporter on where we are with efforts to ban distracted driving in AZ, including interviews with two Valley families devastated by distracted drivers. 

—> Never fear, there is some good news in this Report. For those of you Phoenicians who have been wanting to take part in our refugee-powered Syrian Sweets Sales that we have been organizing in Tucson, you are in luck — they are coming to the Valley, too!

The treats are delicious, and they are a wonderful way to build deep community ties with our newest Americans while helping them get on their feet financially. All money goes directly from you to the refugees. We are also helping them gain the business skills and training to become certified home-based bakers so they can provide for their families on a permanent basis. This is the free market at work, creating security for everyone. This is the America we love. 

Check out this article in last Sunday’s Republic, which includes stories from some of the families taking part and details on the locations and dates for the sales. 

—> Finally tonight — FIVE MORE DAYS LEFT: my Kickstarter book project to rephotograph midcentury Tucson homes  — back it now, or forever hold your peace! Thank you!

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator. 

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

If you like my representation and want to keep me in office, CONTRIBUTE TODAY!

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