Sadly the Legislature is still in session, so it’s still not safe for Arizona’s citizens. While there are plenty of rumors afoot about budget deals being struck among the various Republican factions, there’s no agreement yet. So for now we’re going to have to continue to watch carefully for bad bills to appear on the Senate floor with little notice and try to swat them down.
One of those awful bills was the statewide private school voucher scheme that was signed by Governor Ducey the week before last to great accolades from out-of-state conservative celebrities and great outcry from Arizona students, teachers, and parents; another horrible bill was signed by Ducey last week to gut our citizen initiative process. More on that after the Farley Report Pledge Break:
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—> The citizen initiative is one of our most cherished Constitutional rights here in Arizona. That right was in our Territorial Constitution and when President William Howard Taft refused to make us a state in 1912 with that provision in our laws, our founders took it out. Then once we became a state, the first thing we did was put it right back in.
If you read our Arizona Constitution, Article IV, on legislative powers, it starts with the people, NOT the Legislature:
“Section 1. (1) Senate; house of representatives; reservation of power to people. The legislative authority of the state shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and a house of representatives, but the people reserve the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution and to enact or reject such laws and amendments at the polls, independently of the legislature; and they also reserve, for use at their own option, the power to approve or reject at the polls any act, or item, section, or part of any act, of the legislature.”
While members of the majority party, like Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake), argued that the people can’t be trusted to enact laws, and there aren’t enough checks and balances in the system to entrust people with such an important power, the Arizona Constitution makes it clear: The people ARE the power. And what better check and balance do we have than a vote of the people?
Earlier this year, Governor Ducey demonstrated his wrong priorities by signing HB2404 to make it harder for the average citizen to exercise our right to petition our government by banning the payment of petition carriers by the signature. He wasted no time — it was signed as soon as it hit his desk, in order to minimize the window of time for public outrage.
Last Thursday, Sen. Debbie Lesko’s striker to Rep. Eddie Farnsworth’s HB2244, hit the Senate floor and was even worse. By requiring “strict compliance” instead of “substantial compliance,” the bill would result in nearly every citizen initiative effort being thrown out for technicalities.
As I pointed out on the floor, petitions with 1/16” too narrow a margin may be tossed. If a petition signer makes a mistake on an address or date (or anything else) and crosses it out to fix it, the entire petition with all its signers may be tossed. If a signer does not include the word “Rd.” or “Ave.” on their street address, the entire sheet may be tossed. If anything at all is wrong with the form of the petition, it can be tossed.
In fact, if the Speaker of the House printed the name he usually goes by on the petition, “J.D. Mesnard”, instead of his legal first name Javon, his signature would be tossed.
I pointed out on the floor that the actual language of statute only refers to men being able to sign petitions, so a strict reading of the law would ban women from signing the petitions. Luckily, there is a section of statute that contradicts that reading, ARS 1-214, that declares that “Words in the masculine gender include the feminine and the neuter,” so that appears to be covered, although the issue may still have to be decided in the courts.
Within the text of HB2244 is a “legislative finding”: A bit of rhetoric supposedly explaining why the bill is important. The lawmaker author complains that the citizens’ “initiative process has evolved into an extraordinary power” and that crushing our rights to bring forward citizen initiatives is necessary “for safeguarding the integrity and accuracy of the initiative process.” Sounds like they want us to “destroy the village to save the village.”
If this seems eerily familiar, it’s not your mind playing tricks on you. The Governor and legislative majority in 2013 enacted HB2305 with this same provision to gut our initiative rights, and we successfully gathered enough signatures to force it to the ballot.
Rather than face voters’ wrath, they repealed the bill before the election in 2014. The next year, however, in order to make it harder to use our right of referendum in the future, they passed a law to force “strict compliance” on referendums to make it harder for us to repeal their bad laws — including HB2244. Clever plan. Folks are talking about trying a referendum on this anyway, but that 2015 law will make it tough.
The bill passed 16-14 on the Senate floor, with only one Republican (Kate Brophy McGee) voting with Democrats to protect the right of citizens to petition their government. And once again, Governor Ducey signed the bill as soon as it hit his desk to avoid public outrage. Luckily, once a new majority and a new Governor take power, the right of citizen initiative can be restored immediately. Let’s get to work!
—> SB1080, Sen. Karen Fann’s bill to ban teens in the first six months of their driver license from using a cell phone while driving, has run into a stroke of luck. Rep. Phil Lovas, the Rule Chair had announced he was holding the bill because he did not want a wider statewide ban on driving while texting for everyone. He said 1080 was the “camel’s nose under the tent” for a broader ban. Like that’s a bad thing?
Last Thursday, Rep. Lovas resigned from the Senate in order to take a well-paying job with the Trump Administration. Yesterday, new Rules Chair and Speaker J.D. Mesnard heard the bill and it passed out of the committee. Next step is House floor action.
Ultimately, we need a statewide ban for EVERYONE for driving while texting. That was made clear a few weeks ago after 13 church elders were killed instantly by a 20-year-old texting driver in Texas. That amounts to mass murder. I am still hoping that we can enact this common-sense legislation this year — before we witness such a tragedy here in Arizona — whether as an amendment to this or another bill. If you agree, contact your legislators now, and ask for action.
—> Regarding the budget, there is word that after the pressure placed on them by Democratic legislators and the general public, even Republican legislators are pushing for more teacher raises than Governor Ducey’s pathetic 0.4%, $15-a-month offer. They want 1% which amounts to $37 a month on average, which still isn’t enough to stem the tide of teachers leaving the profession. 44% leave after two years.
We Democrats have been pushing for a 4% raise starting this year, and we can pay for it with existing funds. Again, it’s time for change in leadership at the Capitol.
—> You may recall that I was one of only two legislators who voted against Doug Ducey's scheme to let flashy California company Theranos beta-test their potentially dangerous blood-testing product on Arizona customers. I felt that the people we represent should not be offered up as guinea pigs.
Theranos has been an utter disaster for everyone involved. I would have done things differently than Governor Ducey. As I said in a Financial Times article as the debacle began to unravel, “I think it’s our job to be a little more circumspect when somebody comes in and puts on a well-choreographed show,” Farley said. “Ask questions. Think about what might happen when things go wrong.”
Today Attorney General Brnovich announced that he has obtained a settlement with Theranos for violations of the consumer fraud act, obtaining $4.65 million for 175,000 Arizona customers.
Governor Ducey’s Theranos experiment with Arizona adults went terribly wrong. Now he is experimenting on our children with statewide private school vouchers. It's time for change.
—> Last Saturday, I made an amazing swing around Santa Cruz and Pima Counties, meeting Democratic activists dedicated to helping me create real change in Arizona in 2018.
In one day, I spoke to the Tubac Democrats, the Santa Cruz Democrats in Nogales, the Arizona Borderland Democrats in Patagonia, and the Democrats of Quail Creek in Green Valley. Their energy and enthusiasm show me that together we will win, and Arizona will finally get the leadership we deserve.
Special thanks to the hosts of the many events: George and Connie Gessler, Mary Darling, Molly Anderson and former Senator Morris Farr, Supervisor Bruce Bracker, and Phil Freedland. Your leadership inspires me.
—> I also want to let you know about a really important organization, Homicide Survivors, Inc. which I am helping out on Sunday, April 30 as a celebrity bartender at Sir Veza’s Taco Garage on Wetmore near the Tucson Mall. I first met a representative of Homicide Survivors Inc., in the hospital on January 8, 2011, in the aftermath of the Tucson tragedy, and saw first-hand that they do amazing work for families whose lives have been turned upside down by the murder of a loved one.
I will be sharing the bartending duties with the irrepressible Dave Fitzsimmons, Star cartoonist and sassy man-about town, and former American Idol contestant and amazing Tucson signer Crystal Stark, so come on down and have some fun for a very good cause.
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
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