| 2020 AZ Legislature Flash Bulletin |
Volume 20-23 | June 14, 2020 This weekly AZ Legislative bulletin is issued only during the 2020 legislative session.
AZ LEGISLATURE – 2020 54th Legislature – Pre-Special Session #1 Today’s Focus: Virus Spiking; Policing Legislation WEEK OF: June 14, 2020 For Calls to Action,” scroll down. LEGISLATURE NOT “SPECIAL” AFTER ALL? When the Legislature adjourned on May 26, they said they would return for at least two Special Sessions this summer to resolve the state budget shortfall and pass aid for economic distress from the pandemic. Democrat legislators also soon called upon Gov. Ducey for a Special Session on police accountability. But now, all is in question. On June 12, The AZ Capitol Times published an article titled, “Special session once forgone conclusion, now looks unlikely.” The Governor appears unwilling to call for a special session until the Legislature “has a solid proposal and the votes to pass it.” But the Republican majority party is still divided and still excluding Democrats from their discussions. The State’s May tax revenue numbers were not as bad as expected, but already poorly funded schools could face funding cuts if enrollment falls due to the pandemic. Republicans say a special session may not be called until after the August primary elections, which would take pressure off incumbent Republicans who fear being “primaried” if they make a wrong move with their “base.” PANDEMIC SPIKING – GOVERNOR’S POSTURE. Gov. Ducey and Public Health Dept. Head Cara Christ’s latest press conference on June 11 was revealing for what was said and what was not said. In a nutshell, the Governor’s approach seems to be that while the virus is spreading and spiking, we have to “learn to live with the virus,” and if we get sick, we should not worry about hospital bed, ICU bed, and ventilator capacity, because there is plenty of that now and “surge” capacity if needed. (Little good that will do older and vulnerable Arizonans in particular if they contract the virus.) It’s in the area of minimizing spread in particular that the Governor’s case is weak or nonexistent.
The press conference optics were of two nervous public officials parsing their words and working hard, somewhat unconvincingly, to paint a positive picture while avoiding talking about some key issues. There was a lack of complete candor. While highlighting a letter from AZ hospital systems saying they have available bed capacity and surge plans and are “well prepared to manage an increase in patient volume,” the Governor said he did not solicit the letter, but refused to answer whether his staff solicited the letter. Though his graphs show that ICU bed usage is over 75% of capacity, not including “surge” beds, he did not discuss the experience an ill Arizonan would have if she had to be transferred between hospitals due to a local capacity issue or had to use a “surge” ICU bed. In discussing the availability of additional doctors to treat a spike in COVID-19 patients, Dr. Christ did not address the quality of those additional doctors.
My analysis of the Governor’s position is as follows. He believes he has done an excellent job and is (somewhat) patiently setting the record straight. He acknowledges there is virus spread but downplays measures to reduce virus spread and cases, apparently giving up and placing the onus completely on the public. He stresses that he has ensured that there is plenty of hospital, ICU and ventilator capacity for those who get sick but doesn’t dwell on the quality of that capacity. He thinks that the public are doing a great job of following the pandemic guidelines, which differs from many people’s experience when they go out. (He said that when he went to Walgreen’s the other day, everyone was wearing a mask. That anecdote appeared to serve as evidence for him.) He keeps saying that people should wear a mask “when they can’t social distance,” ignoring the unpredictability of whether and when distancing is possible from moment to moment in many situations. He will not order mask use. Finally, and maybe most important, the Governor will not candidly acknowledge what we all know – that he has made a tradeoff between public health and economic health. That silence is very troubling because his decisions concerning the timing and manner of “re-opening” will cost lives, especially if he does not use his “bully pulpit” to more strongly urge compliance with guidelines.
That is a tradeoff any Governor would have to make, but he refuses to acknowledge it forthrightly. That lack of forthrightness does not help convey a clear and strong message to many Arizonans who behave as if they fail to understand or care about the gravity of our situation. While the Governor has done a number of good things to combat the toll of COVID, he also has danced around some tough issues and failed to exercise the moral leadership the State needs in this pandemic.
The latest on the virus increase from Arizona Central HERE.
The Governor’s June 11 press conference is HERE.
POLICING LEGISLATION IN 2020. Local police departments already tend to clear officers of wrongdoing in most “excessive force” investigations. See “Mesa officers rarely disciplined in excessive-force investigations, police data,” AZ Republic, 11/13/2018 HERE.
Police officers accused of misconduct often move to other law enforcement positions with little oversight. See “Accused of misconduct in one department, law-enforcement officers move on to the next one,” AZ Republic, 4/25/2019 HERE.
With policing and social justice issues very much top of mind in our country, let’s look at how the Arizona Legislature approached these issues in several bills prior to the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. These bills were interrupted by the pandemic adjournment.
SB1333, a Republican bill that did not get out of the Senate, would have granted additional protections to AZ law enforcement officers who are accused of misconduct, protections that the public does not get, such as requiring police to be notified of upcoming interviews in advance and prohibiting certain interrogation techniques. See “”Arizona law enforcement officers accused of misconduct could get additional protections,” AZ Republic, 1/31/2020 HERE.
HB2760, a Democratic bill that would appropriate $4.8 million for body cameras for DPS officers. Passed the House unanimously.
HB2751, a Democratic bill that would create a procedure for notifying a minor in custody and his parents or guardian of the minor’s rights. Passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously.
Beyond this specifically related legislation, the Legislature frequently passes bills that directly or indirectly disadvantage the poor, leading to social conditions favorable to crime. Notably, in 2020, as in previous years, there were a number of bills to give tax cuts to corporations that reduce State revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars, leading to underfunding of education, health and other public services needed by the poor.
Every session, the Legislature considers bills favorable to the abuse of police power and many other authoritarian laws. The only solution is to change the complexion of the Legislature in the November General Election. After decades of one-party rule, the Legislature is dysfunctional. It does not represent at least half the citizens of the state. It often does not represent the overwhelming majority of citizens. And, increasingly, we see corrupt, self-interested legislation.
The Legislature is captive to extremists. We need to build a moderate middle that can only come about if there is a Democrat majority. We need to flip two or more seats in the House. This is eminently possible. We need to flip two or more seats in the Senate as well. It also is do-able. But if control of even only one body changes, it will make a world of difference in the atmosphere and conduct of the Legislature. It will force bipartisanship. This is not a political endorsement. It is a statement of what is needed to ensure that our values are reflected in the laws and economy of Arizona. Our work will not end if Democrats win. But it will become possible if Democrats win.
CALLS TO ACTION YOUR VOICE = YOUR VOTE
✔︎ PROMOTE THE PERMANENT EARLY VOTING LIST (“PEVL”). For years, the Republican-controlled Legislature has added law after law making voting more difficult. While their justification has been the myth of “voter fraud,” others see these laws as resulting in voter suppression, especially of segments of society that are more likely to vote Democrat. Now, with the pandemic, we in Arizona are faced with the likelihood that citizens who don’t vote by mail will not vote due to fear of contracting the virus at the polls – not to mention the laws that now make in-person voting more difficult.
Accordingly, it is extremely important to get as many voters as possible on the PEVL. The first step is to ensure that you and your family members are on the PEVL.
If unsure whether you are on the PEVL, check your ballot-by-mail status HERE.
If you are not on the PEVL, you may request it HERE.
For an excellent piece, “Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth,” by the Brennan Center for Justice, click HERE.
✔︎ JOIN A VOTER EDUCATION AND GET-OUT-THE-VOTE (“GOTV”) EFFORT. Despite a current voter registration disadvantage, and numerous voter suppression efforts, we have strong opportunities to gain in the 2020 elections. Arizona is “purple” and is in the process of turning “blue.” Our U.S. congressional delegation is majority Democrat – 5 out of 9 U.S. House members, and one of two U.S. Senators. We have a very strong opportunity to increase that to two Senators by electing Mark Kelly.
But state and local races are just as important as federal campaigns – in some ways, more so. in 2018, Arizonans reduced the reactionary majority in the AZ House to a paper-thin margin, 31-29. If we flip the House, it will be earth-shaking, because the majority party will no longer be able to act as if it alone matters; Republicans will be forced to negotiate with Democrats on legislation, or no legislation will pass. Our AZ assets include many attractive state and local candidates, increased awareness and activism, the tremendous need for improvement in the economy and public health, and fatigue with federal dysfunction and division.
And, among other projects, we plan to share with you the legislative records of several regressive legislators in the coming weeks and months.
Expect notices from Stand Indivisible AZ about opportunities to participate in a citizen-driven renaissance in Arizona. There are opportunities to educate voters by texting, phoning, and writing letters. To volunteer, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For requests, additional information, or to make suggestions, email email@example.com.
OUR SOURCES INCLUDE: Arizona Legislature, azleg.gov, Arizona Capitol Times, CEBV/Iyer AZ Legislature Weekly Update, UUJAZ/VUU/Schneider Arizona Legislative Alert, Save Our Schools Arizona Legislative Updates, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter Legislative Updates, Arizona League of Women Voters, and many more.
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