Friday, January 28, 2022

The Daily Agenda, Friday Edition: Better Than Watching The Office

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 10:47 AM

click to enlarge ©TASHKA/123RF.COM

One-time Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan yesterday pulled perhaps the most surprising stunt of his short-lived career as a rogue election auditor without any experience in elections or audits: He showed up for his deposition.

The last time he was summoned to testify about blowing off court orders to turn over public records, he blew it off. But this time, Logan was facing the threat of arrest this time, so maybe it’s really not that surprising that he decided to sit for a five-hour deposition with lawyers for American Oversight and the Arizona Republic

Depositions are unfortunately not livestreamed for reporters‘ enjoyment, so we’re all just hoping it comes out soon so we can binge it over the weekend.

In the meantime, let’s talk about another public records battle. 

If you missed our piece on Phoenix resident Jeremy Thacker a few months ago, here’s a brief recap: The local disc golfer wanted to build a disc golf course. Instead, he ended up in a two-year battle with the City of Phoenix trying to get basic public records about the amount and cost of water used at city-owned ball golf courses. He’s understandably pretty annoyed at this point.

Our favorite disc golf enthusiast has made some progress in his battle with the City of Phoenix for records about the price and amount of water used at the city’s ball golf courses.

But don’t congratulate Thacker just yet — the city still hasn’t handed over the clearly public information that he’s seeking. 

Instead, his work with Arizona State University’s First Amendment Clinic is bearing fruit. It’s an awesome program that allows law students to practice in a limited capacity to help with First Amendment cases. Director Gregg Leslie and the team helped Thacker craft a bulletproof request for the exact information he seeks. (His old requests were absurdly thorough, but this one’s concise and lawyer-approved.) 

The lawyers asked us to not be obnoxious and invite thousands of our readers to submit their own copycat requests. Instead, they offered to add additional names to the original request if anyone wants to join in solidarity. Reply to this email if you want to be added to his request.   

Aren’t you curious why the city has been so reluctant to hand over this basic information? What’s in there? There’s power in numbers. Reply to the email now!

Thacker also delivered a petition to the city council this week asking them to consider shuttering the city’s ball golf courses. You can listen to his two-minute presentation at the Phoenix City Council or read the full petition. It’s a manifesto of sorts that lays out his arguments against city-owned ball golf courses, and it’s a pretty interesting read if you’re into that kind of thing.

He’s hoping to force a move by utilizing an obscure provision in city code that requires the council to act on any written petition from a city resident within 15 days. 

We’ll let you know how it goes. If it works, maybe we’ll host a petition drafting workshop. 

Lawmakers have filed more than 1,300 bills, more than 100 of which have already cleared their assigned committees. A handful are even starting to trickle out of the House and Senate. 

Our eyes hurt from reading all these bills. Subscribe for just $80 per year so we can keep reading bills and you don’t have to.

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The few bills that have actually passed a vote in their home chamber are all bipartisan, and mostly technical fixes. That won’t last. 

A legislative session has a rhythm to it. In the early weeks, bills get introduced, then showcased or quietly shelved in committee before the first real test: a vote of the full chamber. 

When bills start to get bottlenecked awaiting House and Senate votes ahead of the “crossover week” deadline in mid-February, that’s when the knives first come out.

Right now, the bills are a forest and it’s still hard to see the trees. They’ll start thinning out soon — and any bill that’s still alive after crossover week has real potential to make it to the governor. 

This week included a lot of election hijinks as Republicans rammed a host of partisan tinkers to election law though committees. Here’s a snapshot of what got committee approval this week:

  • HB2237 would ban same-day voter registration, which is not a thing in Arizona.

  • HB2238 would ban ballot drop boxes, which are pretty helpful in rural areas where the elections office might be a three-hour drive. 

  • SB1133 would ban all-mail voting in city and school board races. Many local elections are held only by mail.  

  • SB1008 would increase the threshold of victory needed for a candidate to escape an automatic recount.

  • SB1119 would make anonymous ballot images public record. 

  • SB1120 would add a bunch of unnecessary “fraud countermeasures” to ballots, but not, as far as we can tell, bamboo. 

On the education front, lawmakers kept busy by approving bills to arm college students, pick on gay kids and ban books. Here’s a sample of the education bills that cleared committees this week:

  • SB1123 would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to bring a gun onto a university or college campus. They’re super easy to get. Trust us. 

  • HB2439 would require every single book in every single school library to be posted for parental review, after which school boards would have to vote to approve them. It would also let parents see a list of books their students check out.

  • HB2495 would ban sexually explicit materials in public schools, meaning any book that depicts any kind of sex (especially “homosexual acts”). Lawmakers in committee added an amendment allowing classical and early American literature to be taught, with parental permission.

  • HB2161 would force teachers to out LGBTQ students to their parents, even if the students didn’t want them to.

  • SB1115 would make it easier for veterans to qualify for in-state tuition at Arizona universities and community colleges.

Roughly 1,200 more bills need to pass committees in the coming weeks if they hope to become law. But most won’t even get a hearing. Getting on the agenda is the hard part — once the bill is scheduled for a hearing, it’s nearly guaranteed to pass. Committees have only voted down three bills so far out of more than 100 bills heard. 

  • The House Judiciary Committee shot down Republican Rep. Mark Finchem’s plan to make biting or throwing “bodily fluids” at a person a more serious level of assault.

  • The Senate Education Committee denied Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita’s attempt to make school board candidates carry partisan markers.

  • The House Education Committee voted against Republican Rep. Michelle Udall’s idea to let basically anyone tour any classroom at basically any time. That vote had to sting, since Udall is chair of the committee, and it’s back up on the agenda this week.

To make Monday afternoon truly unbearable, toggle between the House Military and Public Affairs Committee and the Senate Government Committee.

The former has an agenda full of fun ideas like HB2159, which would bar police departments from giving polygraphs to a cop during an internal investigation. (And there’s a bill to ban fireworks at night, which our dogs would appreciate.)

The latter will be home to all the Big Lie-inspired legislation, including SB1056, which would throw out any ballots that were initially misplaced, and allow charges and civil actions against any elections officials who accidentally misplace any ballots. 

For something lighter, tune into the Senate Transportation And Technology Committee for the debate over SB1333, which would put those cute little delivery robots on more roads.

Tuesdays at the Capitol are all about education, as the House and Senate education committees meet simultaneously. We’re leaning toward watching the House committee, but we do want to see the Senate committee hearing on that Wendy Rogers bill that we mentioned a while back that would fine schools for not flying a flag in every single classroom. 

Or brush up on spending priorities by watching the Senate Appropriations Committee

Wednesday will be a busy one, with several morning committees, including the must-watch House Government and Elections Committee, which has an agenda packed with pro-COVID anti-voter bills. If we had to pick just one bill to highlight from that committee, it would probably be HB2453, which would ban all government buildings in the state from requiring people wear face masks. For a wider variety of legislation, check out the House Judiciary Committee, which will have good, bad and ugly bills. Beef up on more budgeting with the House Appropriations Committee after lunch. 

On Thursday morning, watch the House and Senate floors — we don’t know what’s coming up yet, but floor action should start heating up next week. 

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