Howdy, Friends O'Farley…
To start off tonight I want to let you know that next Wednesday, February 29, I will be making a pretty exciting announcement about my political future. I would love to have you there with me to share that moment.
The first stop on the announcement tour will be at the Tucson Botanical Gardens at 10:30am -- on Alvernon just south of Grant. Next I will appear on the Bill Buckmaster Show at noon on KVOI 1030-AM, then early afternoon in Green Valley (I'll let you know when and where next week), on the John C. Scott Show at the 4:00 hour, and in Sierra Vista at former Representative Pat Fleming's home, 3321 E. Ojibwa Street, at 5pm. Hope to see you at one of these stops!
You will remember that my bipartisan Senior Caucus bill to make long-term care more affordable for middle-class seniors and the families that love them (HB2713) was scheduled for a hearing in the House Health Committee last Wednesday morning.
Thanks to my partnership with Chairman Cecil Ash (R-Mesa), the bill passed committee unanimously. It was next assigned to the House Appropriations Committee, but luckily Approps Chairman John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) allowed the bill to be withdrawn from his committee, so now HB2713 will head to the Rules Committee before it goes to debate and vote on the House floor.
This path looks very promising in large part because several Republican members of the Health Committee (including Heather Carter (R-Cave Creek) and Justin Pierce (R-Mesa)) love the bill and are helping to move it along. We could really make this happen here in Arizona, and lead the way for the nation!
I also mentioned HB2757 last week that would allow big bright electronic billboards all over Arizona, endangering our dark skies and the thousands of jobs in the astronomy, optics, and tourism sectors that depend on keeping those skies dark.
I have been working with Mark Mayer of Scenic Arizona and members of the astronomy community to develop an amendment to the bill that could gain support from the sponsor Bob Robson (R-Chandler). It would regulate light emissions from electronic billboards and exclude them completely from a 90-mile radius of any major observatory. I will keep you posted on its progress.
The big news this week was the sudden appearance of a legislative budget proposal yesterday afternoon, shaking up the week's schedule and shaking up the Governor's Office at the same time.
Legislative Republicans had been meeting with the Governor since she submitted her budget, but they couldn't come to agreement on anything, from revenue projections to spending priorities. So instead of compromising, legislative leaders dumped ten budget bills of their own making onto the Appropriations Committee this morning.
Back in mid-January, the Governor's budget didn't look too good with its reductions in new school construction and corresponding increase in new private prison construction, its efforts to bribe state workers into giving up the merit system in favor of cronyism (in exchange for a 5% raise), and her dead-end effort to buy back the State Capitol for $106 million, benefiting only Wall Street investment bankers. It did, however, restore some services for the seriously mentally ill, Child Protective Services, community college scholarships for veterans, and more funding for K-12 education.
The plan presented by the Legislative Majority however, seems to do only one thing: Endanger the state in almost every way. Even the Governor's spokesman called it "reckless and short-sighted."
It endangers public safety by firing DPS officers and taking away their guns, bullets, bulletproof vests, and Tasers. It reduces staffing at the Arizona State Hospital, particularly in units for sexually violent predators. It does not hire any new correctional officers to keep pace with expanding prisoner counts. It eliminates any requirement that private prisons prove their safety and cost-effectiveness compared to state prisons.
It endangers public education by not providing any funding for emergency building repairs, books, or computers. It provides no funding to keep up with growth at our universities, or to restore any of the 75% cuts that community colleges have absorbed in the last two years.
It endangers community health by cutting $25 million to Child Protective Services, foster care, and seniors. It does not provide any additional funding for the seriously mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or ALTCS, after years of cuts.
It endangers the operation of government by putting our drastically aging computer and accounting systems at risk of total failure. It eliminates the Arizona Office of Tourism entirely, as well as the last sliver of funding (Arts Trust) for the Arizona Commission on the Arts. It allows the continued decay of the state tax collection system, reducing revenues.
And all this comes despite a projected $1 billion surplus over the next two years. So what do they propose to spend the money on?
Nothing. Despite all those needs from kids, people in poverty, jobseekers, drivers on potholed roads, hospitals, schools, public safety officers, and so many more people who have been hurt by the cuts of recent years, the legislative majority budget proposal stashes away $250 million in the rainy day fund, and gives $200 million to the Wall Street investment bankers who hold all that debt from the sale of our state buildings.
It would appear that the legislative majority's ideological attachment to a tiny government at any cost means that they want to keep that government shrunken even if it hurts our citizens, our economy, and our future, even if we now have the money to pay for creating jobs, improving our schools, and restoring our health care system.
The budget bills were purportedly designed to force negotiations from the Governor, but it seems only to have hardened the positions on both sides. Will Leadership force the bills through the body and onto the Governor's desk only to be vetoed, and then start over again from scratch? Will they finally get back to the table and talk compromise?
You'll have to tune in again next week.
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Representative.
Arizona State Representative, District 28
Assistant Minority Leader
Ranking Member, Transportation Committee
Ways & Means Committee
Capitol office: 602-926-3022
Tucson office: 520-398-6000
Official email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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