Category Archives: Arizona State Legislature

200 Stories: Healthcare Forum Attendees Reject Repeal of ACA

healthcare forum

Approximately 75 people attended the open mice healthcare forum.

For months, the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have been trying every trick in the book to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”). Multiple repeal and replace bills died during the summer of 2017, thanks to public outcry against kicking millions of Americans off of health insurance while giving tax breaks and sweetheart deals to insurance companies and others. Overwhelmingly, Americans said: We want a health insurance system that is fair, affordable, and wide-ranging in its coverage.

Fast forward to November 2017, and the Republicans are at in again. Rather than hiding tax cuts for the rich in health insurance bills (as they tried last summer), they are hiding an ACA poison pill in the middle of a tax cut bill for the uber-rich.

Do the American people want to go back to market-driven health insurance with high costs and limited access to care and drugs? Do they want millions of adults to lose their insurance altogether– with the fight to rollback Medicaid expansion? Do they want poor children to lose their insurance– with the pending sunset of KidsCare? No! Citizen backlash on social media and in the streets has been strong and swift. In Southern Arizona, protesters have dogged CD2 Congresswomen Martha McSally, who voted for Republican plans to eliminate the ACA, kick millions of Americans off of health insurance, cut taxes for big corporations and the uber-rich, and raise taxes on the rest of us. Do Tucsonans agree with McSally and the Republican Party?

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Arizona Supreme Court upholds Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion

Finally, some good news today! The Arizona Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the Court of Appeals in a decision, Biggs v. Betlach Opinion (.pdf), that  Governor Jan Brewer’s Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan is not a tax and is excepted from the two-thirds supermajority vote required by Prop. 108 (1992), the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” Amendment (aka the GOP’s weapon of mass destruction).

This is a major defeat for the “Kochtopus” Death Star, the Goldwater Institute, which represented the GOP legislators who voted against the Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion plan.

Boom! goes the Death Star! The Rebellion has won!

The Arizona Capitol Times reports Arizona Supreme Court upholds Medicaid expansion:

The state’s high court this morning upheld the legality of an assessment on hospitals that helps pay for health care for 400,000 Arizonans.

In a unanimous decision, the justices rejected arguments by the attorney for some Republican lawmakers that the levy, approved by the Legislature in 2013, was illegally enacted.

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‘Dark money’ lawsuit, ‘dirty money’ initiative

A lawsuit has been filed to void a new Arizona law expanding the ability of some organizations to make anonymous “dark money” contributions to political campaigns. Howard Fischer reports, Lawsuit challenges dark money growth:

A voter advocacy group, a union and Democrat lawmakers are asking a judge to void a new Arizona law expanding the ability of some groups to make anonymous “dark money” contributions to political campaigns.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Maricopa County Superior Court charges the Republican-controlled Legislature acted illegally earlier this year in exempting some organizations from laws that require them to register before they can spend money to influence who is elected. More to the point, it also allows them to avoid disclosing to voters who provided that cash in the first place.

But attorney Jim Barton said there are other legal flaws in the measure.

One, he said, is that the exemption lawmakers provided to certain nonprofit organizations applies only to those that also are registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission. But Barton said the legislation denies the same privilege to unions which, while organized as nonprofits, do not register with the commission.

Potentially the most sweeping, Barton said lawmakers violated a constitutional provision that requires the legislature to have laws that tell the public about all of the contributions to and expenditures by campaign committees and candidates for public office.

He said SB 1516 allows nonprofits and similar entities to make unlimited contributions to political parties. Then the parties can spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of their nominees.

“Since the reporting of these particular contributions are not required, then built-in disclosure safeguards (required by the Arizona Constitution) are broken,” Barton wrote.

A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, which enforces the campaign finance laws, said the lawsuit is being studied.

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PDA Tucson Clean Elections Forum Nov 16 (video)

Clean ElectionsWhat is Clean Elections all about? Why would anyone choose to run for office using Arizona’s Clean Elections system– rather than run a “traditional” political campaign fueled by as much cash as you can rake in? How does the Clean Elections system work? What are the advantages and disadvantages to running a publicly funded campaign vs a privately funded campaign?

Please join former Arizona Senate Minority Leader Phil Lopes and I at the PDA Tucson Clean Elections Forum, Thursday, Nov. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Ward 6 office (Facebook event here.) Phil ran clean and won every election. I ran clean and won in 2016, and my 2018 re-election campaign is also a clean campaign.

If you think that big-money politics and special interests are destroying our democracy, come on down and learn about Clean Elections. Have you been toying with the idea of running for office but can’t stand the idea of making hundreds of fundraising phone calls to raise the cash the consultants say you need?

Clean Elections is a grassroots system of organizing and funding a political campaign; it was created by the Citizens Initiative process.

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If we want better, we must do better

You might have noticed I’ve not posted anything in quite some time. For those of you who don’t already know, I am managing my wife’s, Hollace Lyon, campaign for the Arizona House of Representatives in LD 11. That obviously, is taking up much of my bandwidth.

This morning though, while riding my spin cycle, I read an article on TucsonsSentinel.com from October 2016 titled “A decade after the recession, Arizona schools still suffer from budget cuts” that got me too spun up to keep spinning.

What really set me off was Senator John Kavanagh’s answer to why the AZ Legislature has cut $4.69 billion from our public schools since 2009. He claimed lawmakers didn’t neglect schools but actively worked to “give individual schools the most flexibility, because…I believe the districts themselves know the best choices for their students.”

Give me a freakin’ break! Why is it that Conservatives seem to love them some “choice” as long as that choice is not a woman’s. Let’s face it. The only “choice” the AZ Legislators give district schools, is a sort of “Sophie’s Choice”. For those who never saw this Meryl Streep movie set during Hitler’s Germany, Meryl played a mother to whom the Nazi’s gave a “choice” as to which of her children they would allow to live. Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly not my intention to minimize the horrors perpetrated on the Jewish people during the Holocaust, nor to equate the taking of a life with the underfunding of schools. But, when a school board is forced to make choices between the lesser of evils due to inadequate funding, this is not a real choice.

Okay, so this article was from a year ago…surely things have improved right? After all…we passed Prop. 123 and, the Governor “lavished” a 1.06% pay raise on teachers. Well…even after Prop. 123, (a 70% settlement of a debt already owed), state and local funding remained $1,300 less per pupil in FY 2016 than in 2008 when adjusted for inflation. As for teacher salaries, we still need an influx of $1 billion to get Arizona’s up to the U.S. median. And now, the Arizona School Boards Association, and others have sued the State of Arizona and the School Facilities Board for inadequate capital funding (cut by 85% since 2008).

None of this should surprise us. After all, the Arizona electorate continues to elect legislators that vote against our district schools and their students. The bottom line is that until we realize that doing what we’ve always done and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

We MUST accept that the ONLY way we are going to see things really change for the better with Arizona public education is if we elect more pro-public education candidates. As it turns out, I have three great ones for you to take a look at.

Hollace Lyon is a retired Air Force Colonel who served 26 years in the Communications career field, commanded twice, served in NATO, taught senior military leaders at Armed Forces Staff College, and retired out of the Pentagon where she helped set priorities for the Air Force budget. Since retirement, she has pursued several charitable endeavors and been involved in state-level politics at all levels, to include serving as campaign manager for a state Senate race and running for the House in 2014.

Hollace is obviously pro-public education (how could she not be living with me), but she is also focused on the need for voters to demand fiscal responsibility from our lawmakers. “Our lawmakers talk a lot about fiscal responsibility,” she says, “but they aren’t delivering it. Instead, they are busy diverting education tax dollars to private schools with no accountability or transparency, sweeping our highway maintenance funds away for corporate tax breaks and offering us the “opportunity” to double or even triple tax ourselves with measures like Propositions 416/417, and pulling monies out of the state employee pension trust fund requiring them to pay increased premiums to replenish the fund.” Hollace likes to point out that fiscal responsibility means more than cutting taxes or reducing programs and services. What it really means is that we…the taxpayer…get what we pay for. Learn more about Hollace at www.LyonforAZ.com where you can donate to her campaign, join her email list, or sign up to volunteer.

As the current Past-President of the Arizona School Boards Association, a member of the Peoria USD Governing Board and a former teacher, Kathy Knecht is another huge public education advocate. Aside from the fact that she will be a wonderful state Senator, her race is all the more important because she is running in LD 21 against Arizona’s Chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and sponsor of SB 1431 (the full expansion of vouchers), Senator Debbie Lesko (cue the hissing.) Learn more about Kathy and donate to her campaign at www.ElectKnecht.org. Let’s all help her give Debbie Lesko the boot!

Another fabulous candidate is Christine Marsh. Christine was Arizona’s 2016 Teacher of the Year and an outspoken advocate for Arizona’s students. She is running in LD 26 for the Arizona Senate. Like many of our education professionals, Christine doesn’t do it for the money, (I teased her once that if she gets elected, she’ll actually make less than she does as a teacher), but rather, for the love of her students and the opportunity to make a real difference in their lives. Go to www.ChristinePorterMarsh.com to learn more about Christine and contribute to her campaign while you are there!

These races are critical because we actually have a chance in 2018 for real change. We only need to flip two Senate seats for parity in that chamber and only five in the House. The tea leaves say it’s possible, but it will take all of us to make it happen. You see, that’s the thing about a Democracy, it requires participation by the voters.

Not everyone can actually run for office, but EVERYONE can do something. All three of these candidates need money and almost everyone can donate something. Campaigns also need lots of volunteers to canvass, drive, make phone calls, have house parties, write letters to the editor, install signs and much more. No matter what your limitations or your skills, I guarantee campaigns have something you can do to help.

Finally, you need to be registered to vote and then actually vote. I can’t tell you how disheartening it was in 2014 to find out that not even half of the people in LD 11 with mail-in ballots, bothered to mail them in. RIDICULOUS! Joseph de Maistre, a visionary French counterrevolutionary, is credited with originally saying, “we get the government we deserve”. If we want better, we must do better. It is beyond time to step up. DO. IT. NOW!

#MeToo movement ensnares Judge Roy Moore in Alabama (and other men behaving badly)

In the month since The New Yorker and The New York Times published allegations of serial sexual predatory behavior by producer Harvey Weinstein — some 100 women have now accused him of misconduct ranging from harassment to rape — people who said they had been sexually victimized have felt emboldened to voice allegations against men who had been seen as untouchable. Hollywood wracked by chaos in aftermath of sex scandals.

Actress Alyssa Milano used her Twitter account to encourage women who’d been sexually harassed or assaulted to tweet the hashtag #MeToo. This has now become a movement. The Movement of #MeToo:

The power of #MeToo, though, is that it takes something that women had long kept quiet about and transforms it into a movement. Unlike many kinds of social-media activism, it isn’t a call to action or the beginning of a campaign, culminating in a series of protests and speeches and events. It’s simply an attempt to get people to understand the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in society. To get women, and men, to raise their hands.

California Rep. Jackie Speier has brought the #MeToo movement to Congress. #MeTooCongress campaign shines a light on sexual harassment on Capitol HillWomen of Congress share #MeToo stories.

State Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, has brought the #MeToo movement to the Arizona Legislature. At least five women have now publicly accused Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, of making sexually charged comments, touching them inappropriately or making unwanted sexual advances. Several women accuse Arizona state Rep. Don Shooter of sexual harassment.

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