Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Daily Agenda: Congrats! Now Get To Work

Posted By on Tue, Feb 15, 2022 at 1:40 PM

click to enlarge The schools might not shut down early, after all. - BIGSTOCK
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The schools might not shut down early, after all.

Time is a flat circle … Dodging is an art … And counting on your fingers is fine.

Republican leadership in the House and Senate finally introduced bills to temporarily lift the education spending cap, taking the first step to saving schools from running out of money — and possibly closing — two weeks from today.

But it’s far from a done deal. Word at the Capitol is that the House seems to have the votes lined up, while the vote count in the Senate is less sure. 

To get that two-thirds vote, it’ll only take six Republicans in the Senate (plus one to make up for Democratic Sen. Juan Mendez, who is out on paternity leave after Senate President Karen Fann refused to let lawmakers vote remotely) and 11 in the House to avert financial disaster and keep schools from closing. 

But even that will likely take some arm twisting. 

The bills are “clean,” meaning they only deal with the issue of the cap. While House Speaker Rusty Bowers has pledged to keep the bill that way, Fann seemed noncommittal when Capitol scribe Howie Fischer asked. Senate holdouts are already demanding that it be tied to universal school vouchers, which is a non-starter with Democrats.

Many Republicans remain wary of lifting the cap before the dust settles on the court battles surrounding Proposition 208, which would increase taxes on high earners to pay for education. Lifting the cap ahead of that ruling could undercut their legal arguments. 

However, not raising the cap would prove politically disastrous, and if there’s one thing we can count on politicians for, it’s to look out for themselves. 

Lawmakers seem to have found a clever way around the Prop. 208 predicament. The bills lift the cap, not for the year or for eternity, but by the exact amount that schools exceeded the cap by this year. That allows lawmakers to say the cap is still in place for the purposes of Prop. 208, but also doesn’t commit long-term.

The fact that it’s taken more than a month for Republicans to simply file bills for this no-brainer get here does not instill confidence. We’re already past the bill introduction deadline, so Republican leaders had to waive those rules to introduce the bills. 

But lawmakers can move quickly when they really want to. The measures are “mirror bills” — the same in the House and Senate — which allows them to get fast-tracked through the legislative process. 

Legislative leaders introduced the bills after, though not necessarily because, teachers descended on the Capitol today with a mariachi band to send Valentine’s Day cards to lawmakers urging them to lift the cap. And more than 170 business and community also leaders signed onto a letter today urging lawmakers to lift the cap, writing that “when our schools aren’t open, our students can’t learn and our employees can’t come to work.”

Still, while both measures have the support of Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, education advocates argue it doesn’t do enough to head off the same problem in the future.

We’ll likely be having this same conversation next year.

Now do the people who hired her: Erin Otis, the former judge turned prosecutor who cruelly mocked people in her courtroom, is on administrative leave from the embattled Maricopa County Attorney’s Office after ABC15 investigative reporter Dave Biscobing outed her behavior in his latest investigative series

Dodging is an art: The Republic asked all 11 members of Arizona’s congressional delegation whether schools should require masks. Unsurprisingly, all the Republicans said no and all the Democrats (except Rep. Raúl Grijalva) dodged the question, offering vague statements about local control — even though several have backed school mask mandates in past online statements. 

All the cool kids grow their own: Taxes coming in from recreational weed sales in Tucson are about half of the $8 million the city expected, the Arizona Daily Star’s Edward Celaya reports.

Still got a year: After sending a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last month, faith groups and Black leaders held a press conference outside State Farm Stadium, which is slated to host next year’s Super Bowl, to again ask the NFL to drop Arizona because of voter-suppression legislation at the state Capitol. 

“Move the Super Bowl. … Yes it will hurt us financially. But even though it will hurt us financially, it will help our voices to be heard.” Rev. Raymond Forte argued.

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How do you like that new view?: The Arizona Mirror’s Jim Small argues that AG Mark Brnovich’s decision stating Arizona can use war powers to send troops to the U.S.-Mexico border is an expansion of the Overton window, or the range of issues that is acceptable for debate. 

“One goal of far-right extremists in recent years has been to repeatedly propose continually more extreme policies — and to find elected officials to back them — in the hopes of shifting the acceptable solutions further to the right. Every time that happens, ideas once outside the window because they were deemed too extreme become part of the political discourse. We’re watching Brnovich do that in real-time,” Small wrote.

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Just keep swimming: The U.S. filed its first environmental complaint under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement arguing Mexico isn’t doing enough to protect the critically endangered vaquita marina porpoise, KJZZ’s Kendall Blust reports. The vaquita marina porpoise is the world’s smallest porpoise, and there are as few as six left.

Get flowers instead: Before people set their Valentine’s Day balloons free, Arizona Public Service is warning that mylar balloons caused more than 100 power outages last year after floating into power lines, KJZZ’s Vaughan Jones reports. Also, if your balloon gets stuck on power lines, don’t try to grab it. 

Another trial balloon popped: Former President Donald Trump sent out another email missive trash talking Gov. Doug Ducey after the New York Times once again profiled Senate Republicans’ attempts to get him to run. 

Trashy rich kids throw trash: Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik is going “for the jugular” of the owners of a university-area high-rise apartment where kids are throwing their trash at the Islamic Center of Tucson, which is worried someone could get hurt by the falling debris. Kozachik said he wants the city to declare the apartment complex a nuisance property and shut it down, the Arizona Daily Star’s Kathryn Palmer reports.

Everyone is a sheriff: Cochise County officials told residents that border crossings are higher than ever and that the immigrants are getting “more violent and desperate,” the Sierra Vista Herald/Review’s Lyda Longa reports. County Attorney Brian McIntyre told residents concerned about danger, “This is a self-defense state. You as a homeowner have a right to defend your home.”

If you like waiting months to hear the results of the election, then you’ll love Senate Bill 1338, which would send Arizona back decades as far as election technology is concerned. 

The bill — sponsored by none other than Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers, perpetual perpetrator of election falsehoods like that decertification is a thing — would require all votes be counted by hand. 

Considering the Cyber Ninjas took five months to hand-count two races in one county, only to find a slightly different count than the machines (which do you think was correct?), we probably wouldn’t know the outcome of the 2022 election until 2024. And just imagine the litigation.

However, the bill has no chance of becoming law. But it passed the Senate Government and Elections Committee and will surely serve as another fundraising pitch for Rogers.

We don’t propose bad laws to try to get your money. But it seems to work. Maybe we should try that. In the meantime, please subscribe.

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Does it include a retroactive clause for, say, propagandists who worked in local news for the past three decades?

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