CEBV Weekly: February 27, 2023
Are conspiracy theories and tax cuts the MAGA death rattle?
What a week, huh? Both the AZ House and Senate advanced literally billions of dollars in tax cut bills this week, along party lines. MAGA election deniers held an all-day joint committee hearing to prop up their conspiracy theories, a program so ridiculous that, for what might be the first time ever, Democratic lawmakers refused to attend. The legislature also sent its 14th bill up to the governor’s office — a tax cut, naturally — which was also the 14th bill to be vetoed this session.
And it’s still only February.
So what’s next? We’ve heard Republicans may send Hobbs another partisan budget, this time one that cuts spending, as a response to her veto. (We can’t imagine what that gets them except another veto for their scrapbook.) We’ve also heard that some lawmakers are determined to force a government shutdown, which they will attempt to blame on the governor, rather than choosing to work with her and legislative Democrats to create a compromise budget that benefits our state.
It’s all obstruction, of course. It’s far easier to point fingers elsewhere than it is to do the hard work of governing. And journalists have proof: many MAGA lawmakers have proclaimed on Twitter and in speeches that Gov. Hobbs refuses to work with them, but as public records show, none of them ever actually tried to meet with her.
Someone should ask lawmakers in Michigan how obstructionism worked out for them. There, voters watched their governor struggle with a similarly extreme legislature for four years, then decided enough was enough and gave their power to someone else (stay tuned for a future CEBV Happy Hour featuring two Michigan state lawmakers). One campaigner said MAGA Republicans’ own extremism cost them: “They are batshit crazy at this point and that’s what I heard from Republicans, Democrats and independents alike.”
It’s a clear-cut case of doubling down on unpopular issues that have no broad appeal. And if that’s how this legislature wants to govern (or not govern) for the next two years, then Hobbs’ veto pen — and our continued pressure — will only help to ensure that all eyes are on their failures.
⏰ If you have 15 minutes: Use RTS and contact your lawmakers on the Spotlight Bills, below.
⏰⏰ If you have 30 minutes: Contact your senator and representatives on the bills being heard in Rules this week that mean the most to you.
⏰⏰⏰ If you have 60 minutes: Join us on Zoom at 4pm on Sunday for our next CEBV Happy Hour. Our featured speaker is Rep. Analise Ortiz.
Spotlight Issue 1: Avoid Another “Ohio Chernobyl”
As news continues to break about the recent train derailment in Ohio, it’s becoming clear that the train’s excessive length played a role. What many people don’t know is that Arizona’s two main railroads have been running trains that are even longer.
HB2531, sponsored by Consuelo Hernandez (D-21), would limit the length of trains going through Arizona. It’s scheduled for House Rules on Monday, normally not a spotlight committee, but this is HB2531’s first appearance in this report. Please be sure to use RTS to SUPPORT.
Spotlight Issue 2: Oppose “Veto-Proof” Bills
All the below bills are likely headed to floor votes this week — and, if passed by both the House and Senate, they would go directly to voters without Gov. Hobbs having the chance to veto. Many of them are “mirror” or duplicate bills, which means that if both the House and Senate versions are both passed this week, the issue will appear on the ballot next November.
All bills are scheduled for Rules Committees on Monday, and will head directly to the floor for a full vote from there. After you use RTS to OPPOSE, contact your senator for Senate bills and your representatives for House bills.
Far-right lawmakers will try to tell you these measures aren’t “anti-democratic” because they must be approved by voters. However, long ballots coupled with the lack of voter education can be confusing: in last November’s election, voters approved 2 of the 3 restrictions to the citizens’ initiative process placed on the ballot by GOP lawmakers. Voter education campaigns can cost millions of dollars and require hefty staff. If these make it to the ballot, who will run those campaigns to protect voters’ voices?
There’s something else, too. In comparison to ordinary citizens, who must collect hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to qualify their ideas for the ballot, one might think it costs majority lawmakers very little to advance these issues to the ballot. However, Arizona is rapidly purpling. It’s considered only a matter of time until Republicans lose partisan control of the Legislature. Are majority lawmakers willing to live under their own restrictive rules as members of the minority?
SCR1024, Wadsack (R-17), would enshrine racism in the state Constitution and ban certain content from being taught in schools.
HCR2033, Smith (R-29), would cement our current direct primary voting system into the state Constitution, making it extremely difficult to ever institute meaningful reform.
HCR2038, Livingston (R-28), would amend the state Constitution to automatically extend the previous year’s state budget, removing motivation for lawmakers to work together.
HCR2040, Jones (R-17), would eliminate early voting and make absentee voting vastly harder.
HCR2043, Gress (R-4), would ban cities from regulating their own employee benefits or wages.
Bills in Rules Committees
The Rules Committees exist only to consider whether a bill is constitutional and in the proper form for passage. These committees don’t take testimony and won’t read comments.
The bills listed here will proceed to caucus (partisan meetings) and from there to full floor votes, probably this week. Treat these as bills that could be sent to a full vote any time. Contact your senator on Senate bills, your representatives on House bills.
SB1026, sponsored by John Kavanagh (R-3), threatens school funding by prohibiting organizations that receive state tax dollars from hosting “drag shows” to entertain people under 18. Violators would lose state funds for 3 years. The definition of “drag show” in the bill is broad enough to include school plays (such as Shakespeare) or football players who dress up as cheerleaders for pep rallies. Identical bills have been introduced in several other states, prompting concerns of model legislation drafted by a hate group. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
SB1137, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), is a rehash of last year’s plan to strip the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors of their power by splitting up the county into four smaller counties. The proposal is artfully gerrymandered, packing Democrats into one county and leaving Republicans to control the other three. This would be a vast expansion of government, creating more than 160 new departments based on nothing more than frustration that county officials refuse to embrace baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
SB1167, sponsored by Steve Kaiser (R-2), would tie length of unemployment relief to Arizona’s unemployment rate. This would disproportionately harm rural areas and people of color, who typically have higher rates of unemployment compared to the state average. Reducing weeks of assistance will force some people to accept jobs that do not match their skill sets and pay less than their prior earnings, which is bad for both workers and the economy. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
SB1569, sponsored by Raquel Terán (D-26), would create a 19-member study committee on Statewide Eviction Prevention and Housing Affordability. Many positive pieces of legislation addressing serious issues are born from study committees. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. SUPPORT.
SB1696, sponsored by Jake Hoffman (R-15), would double down on a bill passed last year by banning district and charter schools from exposing minors to "sexually explicit materials." The incredibly broad description includes text, audio and video that references sexual contact, sexual excitement, and even physical contact with a person's clothed or unclothed buttocks. This would ban many classic works of literature, from Shakespeare to Maya Angelou. Violations would be a class 5 felony. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
SB1698, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), adds drag shows to a state law about "dangerous crimes against children." The bill equates a drag show with an “adult-oriented performance” and makes it a crime on par with bestiality, child sex trafficking, second-degree murder, and sexual assault. A family viewing of “Mulan” or “Hairspray” would be a class 4 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and carry a requirement that the adult register as a sex offender. One columnist calls the bill “flat-out bonkers.” Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
SB1704, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), is subject to a broad anti-public-health striker that would make it an “unlawful discriminatory practice” to ask for kids’ shot records before they attend public schools. It would also ban any public or private employer from considering vaccination status or denying unvaccinated people any “advantages” or “opportunities.” Vaccination rates in Arizona have dropped, in part due to disinformation and attacks on public health. Measles is so contagious that 9 out of 10 unvaccinated people around an infected person will also become infected. Measles is making a comeback in Maricopa County; it’s dangerous to children and can have long-term effects. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
SCR1024, sponsored by Justine Wadsack (R-17), is now subject to a striker that asks voters to enshrine racism in the state Constitution. This culture-war-driven measure would prevent the state from giving minority-owned businesses any preference in state contracts, keep school districts from specifically hiring black or brown teachers in an effort to increase representation, block teachers from discussing inclusion and equity issues that have arisen despite the 14th Amendment, and ban certain content from being taught in schools. This would negatively impact student learning, teacher retention and recruitment, and does nothing to prevent discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity in taxpayer-funded private schools receiving ESA vouchers. Scheduled for Senate Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2338, sponsored by Amish Shah (D-5), would expand Arizona’s Medicaid system to include preventive dental care. This would help maintain overall health and wellness, and save money by helping people avoid serious dental problems. Research shows that gum disease (which is preventable with routine care) may play a role in the development of a number of other conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and respiratory disease. Currently, adults on AHCCCS get only emergency dental care; exams, X-rays, cleanings and other preventive dentistry is not covered. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. SUPPORT.
HB2501, sponsored by Matt Gress (R-4), would allow people to deduct a pregnancy as a dependent on their taxes. This so-called “fetal personhood” bill is an attempt to give fetuses the same legal rights as people. Driven by anti-abortion crusaders who want to see a constitutional ban on reproductive freedoms, this incredibly unpopular, anti-scientific concept would also criminalize IVF and many forms of contraception. The US Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge forcing fetal personhood in October. The bill would cost taxpayers $2.4 million per year. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2504, sponsored by Barbara Parker (R-10), would expand the school tuition organization (STO) voucher program to students in foster care. STOs, or "Arizona's first vouchers," are dollar-for-dollar tax credits to private schools that result in significantly less money for public schools. The bill is estimated to cost the state half a million dollars annually (these estimates historically run low). Since the STO voucher program's creation, Arizona’s general fund has lost out on over $2.1 billion in revenue. Meanwhile, our state's public school funding remains in the bottom 5 nationwide. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2531, sponsored by Consuelo Hernandez (D-21), would limit the length of trains going through Arizona to 8,500 feet, or about 1.6 miles long. While that may seem like a lot, the two main railroads operating in Arizona have been running trains that are a lot longer. That can block traffic, sometimes for more than two hours, which impacts public safety. Excessive length and weight — 151 cars, 9,300 feet and 18,000 tons — played a role in the recent train derailment in Ohio. Companies which run longer trains do so primarily because they are cheaper to operate. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. SUPPORT.
HB2533, sponsored by John Gillette (R-30), is a rehash of a bill from last year that would require public schools to post a list of every single item teachers use or discuss with students. The burden this places on already overworked, underpaid Arizona teachers cannot be overstated. Private schools and microschools are exempt. Backed by the Goldwater Institute, and similar to legislation proposed in at least 17 other states. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2538, sponsored by Beverly Pingerelli (R-28), would allow district and charter schools to offer live, remote instruction for students in grades 9-12 in exchange for a portion of school funding. Schools would get a $500 incentive bonus for each remote student who passes the course. Offering bonuses for passing grades monetizes learning and leads to cherry-picking of students and other forms of inequity. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2539, sponsored by Beverly Pingerelli (R-28), would force the State Board of Education to implement a “public awareness program” to prop up school choice in Arizona, including free publicity for taxpayer-funded ESA vouchers. If someone moves to Arizona and registers a car here, the information would be delivered to them along with their registration. The bill would spend $600,000 and create four full-time positions to handle this work. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2544, sponsored by Lupe Diaz (R-19), would exempt firearms or ammo that are "modified" in Arizona from federal regulation. These “modifications” could be cosmetic or functional, making this a giant loophole to exempt guns from safety provisions. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2546, sponsored by Rachel Jones (R-17), would force any school district with at least 35,000 students to call an election to decide whether to split the district into two or more. This is "educational gerrymandering": in some areas of the nation, especially those with scarce state funding, wealthier areas are choosing to break away from poorer ones, leaving kids with fewer resources behind. Arizona ranks 47th in per-student funding. The bill contains no appropriation to pay for the required elections. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2552, sponsored by Austin Smith (R-29), would ban the use of ranked choice voting in Arizona. Ranked choice voting, similar to an automatic runoff, would open up partisan primaries to all voters regardless of party registration, and tends to result in more centrist, less polarized victors. See duplicate measure SB1265, sponsored by Anthony Kern (R-27). Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2586, sponsored by Neal Carter (R-15), would ban the Arizona Department of Transportation from displaying anything other than highway or AMBER alerts on the dynamic message signs over our freeways. This would also prohibit notices advising motorists of “no burn” days during periods of high pollution, state and national park information, wildfire alerts, messages honoring first responders who die in the line of duty, and elections-related information urging people to vote. Prompted by residual MAGA angst over 2020’s “social distancing, wash hands” messages. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2591, sponsored by Gail Griffin (R-19), would mandate that ballot drop boxes must be located inside a county building or secured to a building or footing. This institutes more roadblocks to voting, such as precluding people from dropping off their ballots at their local polling place on Election Day. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2613, sponsored by Steve Montenegro (R-29), would ban all electronic voting equipment from primary use unless it meets Department of Defense cybersecurity standards, all pieces of it are made in the US, and the auditor general is given copies of the source codes. This type of equipment does not exist. Inspired by a baseless conspiracy theory about (get this) vote-flipping supercomputers. A coalition of federal cybersecurity and election officials have called the 2020 presidential election the “most secure in American history.” See duplicate bill SB1074, sponsored by Sonny Borrelli (R-30). Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2624, sponsored by Leo Biasiucci (R-30), would force Arizona’s Medicaid system to redetermine the eligibility of all 2.4 million patients it serves by the end of 2023. The legislation would kick off all patients whose eligibility hasn’t been confirmed, not just those determined to be ineligible. AHCCCS already has a plan in place, at the direction of the federal government, which is set to be completed at the start of March 2024; an estimated 650,000 Arizonans could lose their health care. If lawmakers force a faster timeline, people with serious conditions could be kicked off their health insurance coverage, leading to the loss of necessary treatment. When pressed, the sponsor called it “not that big of a deal” and said, “I think that they’re going to be fine.” Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2667, sponsored by Rachel Jones (R-17), is a duplicate of a bill from last year that would prohibit universities and community colleges from banning anyone with a concealed weapons permit — not just students — from possessing, storing, or transporting guns on campus. College campuses and guns are a deadly combination, increasing the risks of suicide, homicide and sexual assault. Even our founding fathers believed guns had no place on college campuses. Getting a concealed-weapons permit in Arizona is ridiculously easy. Duplicate bill SB1300, sponsored by Wendy Rogers (R-7), is also in committee this week. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2722, sponsored by Gail Griffin (R-19), would allow county elections officials to hand count all of the ballots for any election. In November, the courts blocked Cochise County (the sponsor’s home county) from hand-counting all midterm ballots. Elections advocates testified that such a move would put ballot security at risk, create counting errors, and damage voter confidence, ushering in a cascading series of events that would seriously undermine election integrity. Cochise County’s elections director has since resigned, citing a physically and emotionally threatening work environment. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2756, sponsored by David Marshall (R-7), would penalize cities and counties if they didn’t spend “enough” on law enforcement. It would deduct state funds from local governments that violate the measure, and redistribute those funds to other cities and counties. This fear-based bill is designed to hamstring efforts to redistribute law enforcement money to address the root causes of crime and poverty, such as education, health care, mental health programs and homeless services. The same bill was also introduced last year. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2785, sponsored by Liz Harris (R-13), would eliminate early voting by mail in Arizona, all-mail elections, and Arizona’s active early voting list. Early voting would become vastly complicated, with notarized affidavits, and would have to be done on-site; each county would be permitted one early voting location. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HB2786, sponsored by Justin Heap (R-10), would require school boards to notify parents of recommended or funded "training opportunities" for teachers or school administrators. The new Horne administration believes that social-emotional learning, diversity and equity are Trojan horses for "critical race theory," and has canceled planned teacher presentations on these and other "non-academic" subjects, even though they deeply affect kids' lives and ability to learn. This bill is deeply disappointing; students are not political footballs. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HCR2016, sponsored by David Cook (R-7), would request a constitutional convention to create term limits. Governing, like any other profession, requires experience in order to be effective. Instituting term limits ensures that lobbyists and staff will possess the bulk of the expertise. It turns legislators into perpetual newbies while others pull their strings behind the scenes. Opponents (including deceased Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia) argue there is no way to limit a convention to the stated intent. Just as the 1787 convention went far beyond its stated purposes, we could end up with a whole new form of government. This is at least the 6th consecutive year this proposal has been introduced. Duplicate bill SCR1016, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), failed its committee hearing spectacularly, with only Anthony Kern (R-27) in support. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HCR2033, sponsored by Austin Smith (R-29), would ask voters to enshrine our current direct primary system into the state Constitution. This would make it extremely difficult to ever institute meaningful reforms such as ranked-choice or top-two primary voting. If passed by both the House and Senate, this resolution would go directly to voters, without Gov. Hobbs having the chance to veto. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HCR2038, sponsored by David Livingston (R-28), would ask voters to amend the state Constitution to automatically extend the previous year’s state budget if lawmakers don’t pass one in time. This would remove the only real motivation for lawmakers to work together and avoid shutting down our state. In recent years, lawmakers have finished nearly every budget with days or even hours to spare before the start of the next fiscal year. Similar bill SCR1034, sponsored by JD Mesnard (R-13), awaits a floor vote. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HCR2040, sponsored by Rachel Jones (R-17), would ask voters to eliminate early voting and make absentee voting vastly harder. Because this goes to the voters, Gov. Hobbs can’t veto it. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
HCR2043, sponsored by Matt Gress (R-4), would ask voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to make the regulation of employee benefits, including wages, a statewide issue, and ban cities and towns from further regulating them. Legislators have been trying to penalize Flagstaff for years for setting a higher minimum wage than the state one. They imposed a $1.1 million fine for the city in the 2021 budget, which a judge blocked from taking effect. Lawmakers also introduced this bill last year. Scheduled for House Rules Committee, Monday. OPPOSE.
2023 Session Timeline
Legislative majority leadership may change or waive these deadlines at any point.
Monday, 2/20 Crossover Week begins (most committee hearings are suspended) Friday, 3/24 Last day for a bill to get out of committees in its crossover house Saturday, 4/22 100th Day of Session (the stated end goal; can be changed)
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