This is the last weekly Farley Report of 2016, which means one thing — the session is over. We can safely come out of our hiding places now. Watch for the next Report a month from now to catch you up with all the latest Arizona policy news.
Under the governance of the current majority, we have become accustomed to a whole lot of bills being rushed through in the final days, most in the middle of the night. This year was no exception — the official time of adjournment Sine Die was 5:45am last Saturday morning, with more than 200 bills passing in the last 48 hours. Transparency and accountability aren’t compatible with voting on bills at 3am. But there actually is a lot of good news, believe it or not. I will share with you some of that good, bad, and ugly after the Farley Report pledge break…
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—> There was drama galore in the Legislature’s final days, but there was no drama greater than the resurrection of KidsCare health care for the children of the working poor.
You will remember I shared that during the budget process — the simplest way to restore KidsCare — a couple of key Republican legislators who had previously supported the restoration disappeared, and Gov. Ducey remained opposed. When the vote came up in the House, Rep. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Paradise Valley) took a walk, left the building and ate dinner in the Senate members’ lounge. When the vote came up in the Senate, Sen. Jeff Dial (R-Ahwautukee) was nowhere to be found, until a few minutes later when he returned to vote Yes on the budget bill, now without the KidsCare amendment.
The next day, as word spread about the actions of these legislators and the consequent loss of KidsCare, public pressure mounted to do something before we adjourned. Late Thursday night, House Democrats along with some Republicans staged a coup to roll Speaker Gowan and amended KidsCare to a bill of Sen. Dave Bradley, SB1457. Their coalition held firm through onslaught after onslaught, knocking down procedural moves aimed at stripping KidsCare from the bill. In the end, the amended bill passed the House 38-21.
The next day I got into the office before 7am to prepare for a major Senate floor battle. We had no room for anyone to jump ship when the going got tough. We knew we were up against the master of parliamentary procedure, the vehemently anti-KidsCare Senate President Andy Biggs, and we had only 15 sure votes to win parliamentary maneuvers on the floor if we stuck together. We were unsure about whether we could hold firm to the 16th vote we needed in the final vote before it went to the Governor.
In the Democratic leadership offices we met to draw up battle plans with three Republican senators who were with us — Bob Worsley, Steve Pierce, and Adam Driggs. They promised that Jeff Dial would be with us this time, despite his disappearing act on KidsCare during the budget. We gamed out every move we suspected Biggs might deploy and scripted our countermoves. The atmosphere was tense as we walked onto the floor for the beginning of the floor session at 10:30am.
We planned to start our attack just after the points of personal privilege and right before we went into the Committee of the Whole. Sen. Pierce was slated to make the initial motion to suspend normal rules and place 1457 on the calendar for a concur and final read immediately. He pressed his button to speak, but Sen. Biggs did not recognize him — Biggs moved into the pre-calendared Committee of the Whole for other bills. When Pierce protested, Biggs said he was sorry — he didn’t see Pierce’s request button lit up.
We proceeded through Committee of the Whole, including a really interesting debate over a Quezada amendment that would have removed anti-LGBT language from the state’s sex-ed statute. Sen. Katie Hobbs managed to say “anal sex” a couple times during her speeches, and that got some interesting responses from the Cathi Herrod fans on the other side of the aisle. You might find it worth watching the legislative video, and fast forwarding to the 20:40 mark, although it’s probably not safe for work. Then again, most legislative debates are NSFW.
As we neared the end of Committee of the Whole, I went over to Sen. Pierce’s desk and suggested to him another good time to make his motion, and advised that he not just push his button, but also get up and holler. When the time came, President Biggs actually recognized him. Pierce made the motion and the battle had begun.
But much to our surprise, Biggs simply accepted the motion, and asked whether the ayes had it. He called it for the nays, we called a division to count heads, and those in favor of the motion stood first.
In another surprise, we had 16 votes in favor, not 15, because Sen. Carlyle Begay stood with us to support KidsCare. We had heard he might be with us on the final vote, but would not oppose Biggs on procedural moves. But there he was on the first procedural move — the person appointed by Biggs in 2014 to replace Jack Jackson Jr as a Democrat, who was the one Democratic vote to pass the majority budget in 2015, and who changed parties to Republican last fall. He stood with us when the chips were down, and the healthcare for 31,000 low-income kids was at stake. It was a wonderful sight, and I am grateful to him for his courage to join with Democrats on this vote.
Biggs explained his vote, and forcefully put forth his opposition. But he also acknowledged that our legislative system allows a majority to rule, even if he doesn’t like it. He did not roll out his impressive knowledge of procedure to slow the process. Instead, he acknowledged defeat and shouldered it with grace, something I — as a Democrat who loses more often than he wins — deeply appreciate. Some of his colleagues were not quite as even-tempered — you can view all the explanations of vote here.
In the end, 1457 passed the Senate 16-12, with not one vote to spare. The Governor, acknowledging the massive public pressure we were able to bring to bear, signed it that afternoon. Without the steadfast courage of the entire Democratic caucus to stand firm through thick and thin and never give up on KidsCare, the five Republicans would have never dared to join us. This was a triumph of tenacity, grit, and bipartisan democracy. For the sake of our children.
If you have kids, and your family income is between 138% and 200% of the poverty level, you can sign up for KidsCare beginning July 26, and your children will have coverage beginning on September 1. Check the AHCCCS website in July for details.
—> Here are quick briefs on the final disposition of some key bills organized by general topic. Be aware that most of these are still on the Governor’s desk awaiting his action, so if you are so disposed, you can email or phone him here to suggest what he should do:
> HB2480, a bill that would have cut TUSD’s school budget by more than $9 million a year, was defeated in the Senate.
> SB1125 to eliminate more than $200 million a year in desegregation funding from some of the poorest districts in the state died in the Senate.
> SB1279 to give private school vouchers to all public school students in the state died in the House.
> SB1316, the bill that would have brought a new form of predatory lending to Arizona that charges 204% annual interest rates, was never brought up for a final vote because it would have been defeated in the Senate.
> HCR2014, the corporate restaurant industry’s bill that would have asked voters to actually reduce minimum wage for tipped employees was defeated in the House.
> SB1490, the transportation funding task force I have been championing for years to get us talking about how to make our funding for transportation projects more sustainable, was run this time by Sen. Bob Worsley (R-Mesa), passed both houses, and is on the Governor’s desk.
> SB1516, a sloppy bill pushed by Secretary of State Reagan, which opens up Arizona elections to unfettered dark money among other terrible provisions, was signed by the Governor.
> HB2296 to take away our ability to refer SB1516 (see above) to the ballot for a vote of the people, appeared on the last day and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature.
> SB2023 to make it a felony to take your neighbor’s early ballot to the polling place, was signed by the Governor.
> HB2429 to raise the limit for disclosure of legislators’ travel gifts (like scholarships to ALEC) to $1,000 from $500 was signed by the Governor.
> HB2123 to declare that Corporation Commissioner Andy Tobin’s conflict of interest is not a conflict of interest is on the Governor’s desk.
> SB1257 to allow concealed guns in public places (including government buildings like the Legislature) was defeated in the Senate 14-14.
> HB2338 to allow people to carry a gun up to the chain-link fence of a school playground was signed by the Governor.
> HB2524 to give away Arizona’s sovereignty over gun laws to other gun-friendly states was vetoed by the Governor.
> HB2023 to allow retired law enforcement officers to carry guns into bars is on the Governor’s desk.
—> Environment and Animal Cruelty:
> HB2127 to ban the cruel practice of greyhound racing in Arizona passed unanimously in the House and Senate and is waiting for the Governor’s signature.
> SB1400 and SB1268 which would upend Arizona water law, and advantage new developments over existing water users, endangering our long-term water security for all, passed out of both houses, but Governor Ducey did the right thing and vetoed them both.
> SB1004 to allow schools to serve in their cafeteria food grown in their gardens, a bill I partnered on with Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa), passed both houses, and is on the Governor’s desk.
> HB2585 to oppose protecting the greater Grand Canyon area from uranium mining is on the Governor’s desk.
—> Local control:
> SB1266 to smack down Tucson for daring to enact firearms laws that are more strict than the Legislature was signed by the Governor.
> SB1487 to take away state shared revenues from any city or county that adopts an ordinance the Legislature doesn’t like (aimed at living wage and other labor laws) was signed by the Governor.
—> Governor Ducey has still not made a decision about the puppy mill bill SB1248, so my request from last week still stands:
Last week, over my strenuous objections, the Senate passed SB1248 that would enshrine in state law inhumane regulations for dog breeders that allow mothers to be confined in wire cages 6" longer than their bodies and 6" higher than their bodies, stacked on top of (or below) four other mothers in cages which only have to be washed once every two weeks.
This bill is still on the Governor's desk. Please contact his office and politely ask for a veto. You can email or phone him here.
—> Enjoy the off session, and remember — the fate of Arizona is in your hands this November. Elect a new majority and there will be a lot more good news in next year’s Farley Reports!
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
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