There is a new Progressive Enthusiasm and Energy at Arizona’s State Capital
It can be seen in the hallways where people crowded the Democratic offices of the House joyfully discussing the legislative prospects for 2019.
It could be seen with the female Democratic legislators wearing white to honor the suffragette movement of 100 years ago.
It could be seen in the early morning rallies with progressive organizations and legislative leaders passionately expressing hope for their ideas and proposals for the New Year.
It could be seen on the House Floor where the parties are at their closest margins since 1966 and some state offices (Education and Secretary of State) were held once again by Democrats.
Democrats, encouraged by the 2018 elections, are ready to shape the legislative agenda and propel the state in a forward direction. Thanks to the gracious invitation of Legislative District 18 (where the author is also a PC) State Representative Mitzi Epstein, this writer was able to witness the events of the day including Governor Ducey’s State of the State Address.
A Blueprint for a Better Arizona
Progressive Democratic Energy and Momentum clearly demonstrated itself at two-morning rallies in the Capital Rose Garden.
The first rally featured progressive organizations like Planned Parenthood, The Arizona Education Association, and the Arizona Advocacy Network. These organizations called on Democratic lawmakers to work on legislative measures to “make Arizona more equitable.” These proposals include repealing the Pre Roe Versus Wade Abortion statute, finding a sustainable funding source for K-12 education, preserving voting rights, and increasing access to environmental quality.
The second morning rally showcased all the Democratic Lawmakers (the women dressed in white to honor the suffragette movement celebrating the centennial of women achieving the right to vote) in the State House and Senate led by new House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez and Senate Minority Leader David Bradley who took turns explaining the parties Blueprint for a Better Arizona.
Stating that all “Arizonans want all voices at the table” and “we are ready to get to work for you,” both Fernandez and Bradley outlined a progressive program that would help “prepare for the inevitable day we (the Democrats) will be in the majority.” The ideas in their progressive program included:
- The full funding of education.
- Reducing class sizes.
- Bring teacher salaries up to the national average.
- Increased funding for Pre School and Higher Education.
- Reforming Charter Schools and making them more accountable.
Environment and Clean Energy
- Working with all sides on addressing the water shortage situation.
- Enforce clean air standards
- “Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.”
- Increase Medicaid access.
- Lower medical costs.
- Invest in public health resources and preventive medical measures.
School Safety and Justice Reform
- Investments in treatment, counselors (inside and outside schools,) restorative justice, rehabilitation and transition to society for nonviolent offenders.
- Supporting background checks
- Funding repair projects like roads.
- Expanding broadband access.
Voting and Civil Rights
- Protect and expand Democracy by removing restrictions on voter access and ballot initiatives.
- Equal pay and treatment for women.
- Equal rights and treatment for members of the LGBTQ community
- Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment (E.PA.)
Other individual Democrats like the All Blue Team of LD 18 (State Representatives Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Jermaine along with State Senator Sean Bowie) went further by relaying their goals to pursue issues like paid maternity leave, juvenile justice reform, and the banning of conversion therapy on LGBTQ community members.
A Koch sponsored Republican Governor sounding at times like a Democrat
After a very energetic lunch reception where Democratic Lawmakers and their guests filled the hallway with boundless enthusiasm for the year ahead, the legislators were sworn in with guests watching on either the house or senate floor or in the public servant’s offices.
Shortly after 2:00 p.m. Governor Ducey was escorted to the House floor to deliver his State of the State address.
During the rally with all the Democratic Legislators, House Minority Leader Fernandez gave a prediction about the Governors speech that turned prophetic, saying that the State of the State may sound like “music to our ears.”
Whether it was because he recognized the new political reality in the State House or if he has ambitions to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2025, Governor Ducey, in carrying over most of the bipartisan and unifying themes from his inaugural address (https://blogforarizona.net/a-spirit-of-bipartisanship-inclusiveness-and-community-at-arizonas-inauguration-ceremonies/), sounded more like the virtually extinct liberal Republican Brand or Centrist Democrat in substantial portions of his State of the State address.
In his remarks over a variety of topics, the Governor largely struck a bipartisan note, bringing in former Governor Bruce Babbit and Senator John Kyl, for example, to highlight the need to compromise on a program to address the water drought situation. He recognized those from the political arena (on both sides) who passed away and saluted those who had fallen while protecting and serving others.
The Governor took credit on state developments over the last four years. He credited his administration for his efficient stewardship over government administration and fiscal management (including the reacquisition of government ownership of the state capital.) He claimed that his efforts at securing the Arizona border (by sending unnecessary and unneeded resources to the border) were prudent and did not interfere with the states lucrative trade relationship with Mexico. He praised his reforms for the Department of Child Safety while protestors were marching in the common area protesting those very measures. He also praised the bipartisan efforts to improve funding for education (including raising teachers salaries 20 percent, conveniently forgetting that it was his own budget of 2018 (that offered the teachers a pittance of a one-two percent raise) that sparked the Red for Ed and Save Our Schools movement. He also touted his Arizona Teacher Academies where over 200 college students are receiving tuition-free scholarships so they will stay and teach in Arizona.
Moving forward, the Governor continued to sound like a mainstream Democrat, saying “Washington can learn a lot from us.” He spoke about school safety and the need for measures that Democrats like Gabby Giffords and others have advocated like more counselors, a cop at every school that needs one, and the need for background checks. He spoke about getting rid of legislative immunity. He championed the elimination of outdated laws (which probably had some Democrats ready to offer repeals of the Pre Roe abortion law and Proposition 108 which restricts tax increases.) He expressed support for charter school reform and accountability. He pledged to provide monies to complete the 20 percent salary raise for teachers. He also conveyed support towards targeted investments like career and technical education and a jobs program to help transition prisoners back into the workforce.
Towards the end of his speech, the Governor reverted back to his Koch backed form when he pledged that there would be no tax increases on his watch and that he wanted all surplus revenues to go into the “rainy day” fund which, according to him, would total a billion dollars. Some Democrats after the address said they would prefer some of that surplus to be reinvested in K-12 education.
The Governor’s budget will be released later in the week. It will be interesting to compare the math to the “lofty” words spoken before the House and Senate members. The Democrats want to work across the aisle for the common good but their definition of bipartisanship is to find common ground and compromise, not have Republicans claim it by “writing their own bill and then trying to find a couple of Democrats to support” their wish list. The progressive energy at the capital today illustrated that the momentum for activism is shifting to the center-left of the political spectrum. If the Democrats unify on their ideas and core values, they can influence the agenda and build on the momentum in the atmosphere today to achieve more legislation to benefit the people of Arizona and electoral gains in 2020 and beyond.