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click to enlarge Gov. Doug Ducey

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Gov. Doug Ducey

Let the Lawmaking Begin

Legislative session begins with Gov. Doug Ducey's State of the State

The 2016 legislative session kicked off this week with Gov. Doug Ducey's State of the State speech.

Parts of Ducey's address were predictable: He promised more tax cuts, took digs at California Gov. Jerry Brown and said his new task force was working to secure the border.

Other parts were surprising: He praised the university system that he cut by $100 million last year, the community colleges that lost all state funding in Pima and Maricopa counties and expressed concerned about the welfare of children, despite slashing programs designed to keep them out of harm's way during his first year in office.

And one part sounded as if it were ghost-written by the organized-crime side of his family: A blunt threats that if cities and towns moved forward with plans to raise the minimum wage or require employers to offer sick leave, he'll work to strip them of state dollars.

"I will use every constitutional power of the executive branch and leverage every legislative relationship to protect small businesses and the working men and women they employ—up to and including changing the distribution of state–shared revenue," Ducey said.

Southern Arizona Democrats were mixed in their response to Ducey's speech.

State Sen. Steve Farley (D-LD9) said that Ducey "really seems to like mean-spirited attacks on strawmen and threats."

Farley said he was unimpressed by Ducey's proposed solutions to the problems of foster kids, such as more money for kinship care and charter schools.

"Those are nice little things, but there's a heck of a lot more to be done," Farley said. "If the guy is going to talk about doing government at the speed of business, maybe he should be looking into the child system and the fact that we approved funding for that in 2013."

But state Rep. Bruce Wheeler (D-LD10) called the speech "mostly positive."

Wheeler said Ducey "came out with several positions that are very important to us."

Wheeler was happy to hear Ducey talk about increased funding for K-12 education, reversing cuts to vocational and technical education that have threated to shut down Joint Technical Education District programs and a hint that he would restore some of the funding cuts that hammered universities and community colleges last year.

"All that is positive," Wheeler said. "Now, the downside is, he keeps talking about tax breaks, which means corporate tax breaks, so having said everything I just said, I don't know how devastating that's going to be. Instead of corporate tax breaks, we should be addressing how to fully fund education at least back to 2008 levels."

Wheeler was also optimistic that Ducey might push for sentencing reform and other criminal-justice changes "so hopefully we can let some non-violent offenders out and save some money and give some people a second chance to start a productive life."

State Sen. Andrea Dalessandro (D-LD2) split the difference between Wheeler and Farley. She said she would rather be funding education through general-fund dollars rather than digging into a state land trust that was designed to continue building value rather than being tapped for annually education expenses. But she added that she liked some of what Ducey said, "but I want to see the details. I guess we'll have to wait until Friday to see the budget."

She said that Ducey had already shifted a lot of government costs to cities and counties "and now there seems to be a threat that if you do something a little progressive in your town, he's going to negatively impact the revenue sharing, and I think that is mean-spirited."

Off to the Races

State Rep. Victoria Steele resigns from AZ Legislature to focus on congressional campaign

State Rep. Victoria Steele (D-LD9) resigned from the Arizona Legislature yesterday, saying she wanted to focus on her congressional campaign. Steele hopes to challenge freshman Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-CD2), but first she has to win the Democratic primary race against former state lawmaker Matt Heinz.

In a press release, Steele said the decision was "not easy."

"A lot of people worked hard to help me get elected to LD9 not only once, but twice and I am grateful for all of their support and devotion over the years," Steele said. "I have poured my heart and soul into representing the people of this district without regard for politics, race, gender, or economic status. I believe that being a strong representative means working with members of both parties."

While it might not have been an easy decision, it was probably the smart one. The fundraising demands of a congressional campaign alone—leaving aside the time spent out on the trail doing grassroots organizing and pressing the flesh—requires a huge amount of time. Trying to do that alongside keeping track of bills, attending committee hearings and handling the other demands of the legislative session is a recipe for failure.

Democratic precincts leaders in LD9—which basically includes most of Tucson on the north side of Speedway, as well as the Catalina Foothills and Casas Adobes area—will have to meet in the upcoming days to submit three names to the Pima County Board of Supervisors to make a final pick.

So far, we hear that four Democrats are interested in the appointment: Pamela Powers Hannley, the editor of the American Journal of Medicine, a lefty blogger and Democratic Party activist; Ted Prezelski, an aide to Tucson City Councilman Paul Cunningham, a former blogger and a Democratic Party activist; Matt Kopec, an aide to Tucson City Councilwoman Karin Uhlich and a veteran of local political campaigns; and Aaron Rottenstein, who has worked in communications for the U.S. House of Representatives as well as on local political campaigns.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on the CW Tucson, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast and Channel 58 on Dish, DirecTV and broadcast. You can hear the show on KXCI, 91.3 FM, at 5 p.m. Sundays or watch it online at zonapolitics.com.

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