Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Daily Agenda: Let This Be a Lesson to You

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2022 at 9:11 AM

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Reading first is easier than repealing later ... Daniel Patterson is back (in Nevada) ... And it's Election Day for some of you!

The Arizona Agenda is a Substack newsletter about Arizona government and politics run by Rachel Leingang and Hank Stephenson. You can find their archives and subscribe at arizonaagenda.com.

Arizona Republican lawmakers showed yesterday
 that they can move quickly to solve a problem if they really want to, while Democrats showed that they can adhere to the state Constitution if it’s politically beneficial to them.

Yes, we’re talking about the precinct committeeman law debacle again.

The speed at which they moved to appease a few hundred political activists stands in stark contrast to the way they dealt with a real problem earlier this year, when schools were facing an effective cut of more than $1 billion and lawmakers waited until the 11th hour to act. If you’re also wondering what a PC is and why you should care, the shortest answer is they’re the lowest-ranking party officers, and they set the direction of their respective political parties. While the individual position holds little power, collectively, they help decide whether U.S. senators get censured or whether the party backs or opposes legislation at the Capitol.

After catching hell over the weekend from Republican PCs — many of whom chalked up a simple case of legislative incompetence to some far-fetched conspiracy — Republican lawmakers sprung into action to repeal the problematic provision of House Bill 2839 yesterday, with some pledging to grind the Legislature’s work to a halt until it’s fixed. 

Republicans were set to repeal the provision Monday by once again suspending rules and exempting themselves from a constitutional provision requiring bills to take three days to pass — the exact kind of fast-and-loose sloppy lawmaking that gave birth to the hated provision. 

So why is this so important to Republican PCs? Who gives a shit if the party holds an internal election or if those contested races are decided on a Republican primary ballot in August? Shouldn’t a bunch of election-deniers who think the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office can’t handle elections be glad the decision is in their party officers’ hands instead?

(We should note that Democrats hardly seem to care whether their PCs are elected on the August ballot or via an internal election — almost all the outrage is coming from the right.)

The answer may have something to do with the “precinct strategy” that former President Donald Trump endorsed last week. As ProPublica explained last year, the precinct strategy is a plan for a hostile takeover of the Republican Party apparatus by getting a flood of MAGA Republicans to run for the lowest positions available and remake the party in the image of Trump and his Big Lie.

The strategy was the brainchild of Arizona Republican activist, election denier and Oath Keeper Daniel Schultz. And it has taken off in far-right circles — Mark Finchem, Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn and Trump himself have backed the strategy, despite not being terribly original or novel. As ProPublica noted, the modern war for the party dates back to the Tea Party at least. 

“What’s different this time is an uncompromising focus on elections themselves. The new movement is built entirely around Trump’s insistence that the electoral system failed in 2020 and that Republicans can’t let it happen again. The result is a nationwide groundswell of party activists whose central goal is not merely to win elections but to reshape their machinery,” ProPublica noted.

And the strategy seems to be working, ProPublica found. In Maricopa County, the number of Republican PCs spiked after the movement gained steam on Bannon’s podcast, while Dem PC numbers stayed flat. But in a state where MAGA Republicans already have a stranglehold on PC positions in most districts, the strategy might not have much effect here.

Unfortunately for legislative Republicans, Democrats at the Capitol saw no obvious political advantage to suspending the rules and side-stepping the state Constitution to save Republicans from being eaten alive by their base. So they refused to provide the votes necessary to immediately move the bill for a vote.  

All of which means that this small issue will continue to suck up lawmakers’ time for a few more days, delaying them from passing a state budget and hitting the campaign trail. At this rate, we’re in for a very long legislative session. 

In case we have any readers in southeastern Nevada: The newly announced independent candidate for Nevada’s 20th Senate District is none other than former Arizona Democratic lawmaker Daniel Patterson

Longtime legislative geeks may remember Patterson as the Democratic state representative from Tucson who was forced to resign from his position in 2012 (his fellow lawmakers were about to expel him) after an alleged domestic violence incident that led to a legislative investigation that offered so many bizarre and creepy allegations we can’t possibly recount them all. 

Here’s a quick highlights reel we wrote in 2012 to refresh your memory (he denied many of the allegations):

  • Patterson’s reputation with staffers: “Legislative staff members with whom we spoke describe Rep. Patterson as a person who ‘does not care about anyone around him,’ is ‘a double personality type person,’ ‘in his own world,’ ‘creepy,’ ‘out of control,’ unable to control his temper, and who is making his fellow Democratic House Members ‘look like they are crazy.’”

  • House policies instituted because of Patterson: “No legislative staff members are allowed to meet with Rep. Patterson alone.”

  • Patterson’s vasectomy: “A staff member recalls Rep. Patterson discussing his vasectomy and explaining his sexual performance, notwithstanding the procedure, as being ‘just fine.’”

His press conference before the vote to kick him out is forever burned in our minds. He slunk out of the building through the tunnel between the House and Senate carrying a small box of belongings and a lamp.

His “media coverage” section on his website includes a glowing profile in Politico of his whistleblower case against the Bureau of Land Management a few years back, but strangely, it does not include any of our many clips of his time in the Arizona Legislature.

This isn’t his first flirtation with public office after being booted from the Arizona Capitol. Besides the previously mentioned Silver City incident, he once tried to run for Congress in Nevada, though he didn’t make the ballot. 

We wouldn’t let this man near our teeth: Once again, our best and brightest made national news: CNN detailed U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar’s longstanding ties to anti-Semitism and white nationalism. Meanwhile, Rolling Stone noted the newest conspiracy from the former fluoride-loving dentist: Fluoridated water decreases your IQ. And in the Los Angeles Times, opinion columnist Mark Z. Barabak uses Gov. Doug Ducey to lay out how mainstream Republicans deal with the extremists within their ranks: By not ever being very forceful in response, lest they anger their base. 

“Also, maybe he’s losing his mind,” Gosar’s brother, Dave, told the Rolling Stone.

They’d probably earn more at Costco now: Funds for a performance-based pay boost for Phoenix Elementary School District teachers ran out, leaving some teachers in the district out of thousands of dollars at a time when it’s already hard to retain teachers, the Republic’s Yana Kunichoff reports. The issue foreshadows more debates to come as other temporary funding stopgaps that increased money for schools run dry.

Photo ops abound: First Lady Jill Biden came to Arizona yesterday to tour an Intel campus in Chandler and talk about community college programs. She’ll continue her time in the state today, where she’s slated to tour the San Xavier Health Center in Tucson.

A bad look: Ashford University and its former parent company, Zovio, got hit with more than $22 million in penalties by a California court for misleading students in a case brought by the California Attorney General’s Office. Ashford may be familiar to Arizonans now because the University of Arizona acquired its assets (while this case was already ongoing) and rebranded it as UA Global Campus. Zovio still provides services to the campus, but UA Global Campus wasn’t party to the lawsuit, and Zovio previously agreed to cover any penalties, the Arizona Daily Star’s Kathryn Palmer reports. Still, the settlement comes as the university’s alignment with Ashford continues to confound faculty and staff, who worry the university is harming its brand and students. 

Rage against the machine, not the driver: Much like deadly car crashes, road rage incidents are on the rise in Arizona, the Republic’s Perry Vandell reports, though it can be difficult to track road rage itself because it isn’t a specific criminal charge. If someone road rages at you, you shouldn’t engage and should try to get off the road and away from them. And if you’re the one road raging at someone, please don’t. 

The bar is low: Police in Arizona shot fewer people in 2021 than in 2020, and the Phoenix Police Department shot the lowest number of people in the past 18 years, the Republic’s Chelsea Curtis reports. Maybe that’s because of all the outside investigations into the high number of police shootings in Arizona in recent years? Who’s to say. 

Crossing our fingers and toes for a safe exit: Even during normal times (whatever those are), being detained in Russia isn’t good. But at this time, and as an LGBTQ basketball player who is Black and high-profile, Brittney Griner’s exit from the country could prove even more difficult, KJZZ’s Vaughan Jones reports. Hopefully, Griner doesn’t become a political pawn as Putin seeks to punish the U.S., the Republic’s Kent Somers writes. 

Retirements and robots: The Arizona Board of Regents directed the three state universities to divest any retirement funds from Russia yesterday. And those little food delivery robots on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson were pulled off the streets because they were part of a partnership between Grubhub and a Russian company. 

Make Honduras Great Again: GOP gubernatorial contender Kari Lake says she’ll bring manufacturing to the U.S. and Arizona by buying U.S. made products, but her $40 campaign T-shirts are made in Honduras, Tucson Weekly’s Jim Nintzel notes. GOP governor candidate Matt Salmon’s shirts are made in the U.S., and they’re only $25.

Wasteland is an apt word: Former Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek now says he’s decided not to run against Arizona Sen. Nancy Barto, though it’s safe to say he’s not a fan of hers nor others in the Legislature who’ve supported the election audit. In a letter he posted on Twitter, Kunasek said he trusts that God “will provide wisdom and strength to enough of our leaders to bring us out of this current wasteland that a few bad participants and many complacent spectators have created.” 

Today’s example of the rent being too damn high: A nonprofit that works to help women with training to get good-paying jobs, providing them with housing and child care assistance while they’re in the program, is finding it hard to do their work to help families out of poverty because of how expensive it is to live in the Phoenix area these days, the Republic’s Jessica Boehm reports.  

Maybe past time for improvements: Federal judges in Arizona have some of the country’s highest caseloads, affecting how court cases can proceed, Bloomberg’s Brenna Goth reports. Some judges want to see added positions and more access to federal court in northern Arizona, which is limited. For some Arizonans in more remote parts of the state, coming to a Phoenix courtroom for a brief witness testimony could be a 10-hour round-trip. 

Wonky yet critical topic: As Pinal County farmers experience their first water cutbacks from Lake Mead, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, which don’t have defined water rights on the Colorado River, are working uphill to adjudicate their rights in a process that’s long been stacked against them, journalist Pauly Denetclaw writes for High Country News.  

Considering a career in lifeguarding: Phoenix is offering lifeguards a $2,500 bonus to man the city’s pools.

If we had more subscribers, we could afford to pay ourselves $2,500 bonuses, too. We’re building our tiny media empire one $8 monthly subscription at a time. Help us out so we don’t have to moonlight as your local lifeguard!

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Instead of creating a new law, Senate Bill 1060 would delete an old one that may not have been used.

The bill from Arizona Sen. Sonny Borrelli repeals a state statute that allows a legal action against a sheriff for “malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance” to continue against a “personal representative” of the sheriff after a sheriff has died. 

In a committee hearing in January, Borrelli said he’s always hearing that lawmakers should be repealing laws instead of creating new ones, so that’s what the bill does. He called the law as it is today unnecessary and unfair.

The Arizona Association of Counties’ Megan Kintner told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the law as it stands would allow a spouse to be held liable for a sheriff’s actions while on duty, even if they had no knowledge. She said the statute went into place in 1955, but it’s unclear why because committee notes don’t go back that far, and the association couldn’t find any instances of it being used. A sheriff was reading statute and noticed this piece of law, asking the association if it could try to repeal it, Kintner said.

The bill passed the Senate unanimously and made it through the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee unanimously yesterday as well. 

Instead of a laugh, we’ll share a nice thing today to counter all the not-so-nice stuff populating today’s newsletter. 

¡Americano!, a musical that started in Arizona and tells the story of Arizona DREAMer Tony Valdovinos, will debut off-Broadway in April. Valdovinos shared what it’s like to see his life story on stage in New York on 12News’ Sunday Square-Off over the weekend.

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