Monday, March 28, 2022

The Daily Agenda: Are We Stuck in a Time Loop?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2022 at 1:13 PM

click to enlarge The Daily Agenda: Are We Stuck in a Time Loop?
Photo by Rob Schumacher | Arizona Republic/pool
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Audit fever is once again ripping through the Arizona Senate after Republican Sen. Kelly Townsend subpoenaed the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to answer more questions for the band of 2020 election-deniers that make up her Senate Government Committee. 

Supervisors are preparing to skip the Senate’s spectacle today and send their lawyer instead, setting up another potential meltdown between the two Republican-controlled bodies.

If you’re getting strong déjà vu watching this episode of “Arizona Audit,” that’s because it’s a rerun. Supervisors blew off a subpoena to appear before the Senate last May, when the first audit-related subpoena was coming to a head, just a few weeks before the Senate attempted to jail them. 

Townsend pointed to a letter from the AG’s election integrity unit leader Jennifer Wright asking for the documents and declaring this was the AG’s “THIRD REQUEST FOR RECORDS.” A year later, you would hope that Senate Republicans would be so shamed by their inability to prove fraud that they would quietly acknowledge the findings of last week’s report that debunked various router-related conspiracies that the Senate and former President Donald Trump have pushed since 2020 and get to business on the budget.

Instead, Townsend is reigniting the flames. She fired off the subpoena last week after declaring she is frustrated with the glacial pace of Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s investigation into the fraudulent signature accusations that freelance election-denier “Dr. Shiva” Ayyadurai made in his latest report.

Townsend pointed to a letter from the AG’s election integrity unit leader Jennifer Wright asking for the documents and declaring this was the AG’s “THIRD REQUEST FOR RECORDS.” 

However, that was the AG’s third request for information altogether, the county explained, not the third request for the same information. County officials said they’re working on providing the documents.

“Because we are complying with the Attorney General’s March 9 request for information, which serves as the basis for your March 21, 2022, subpoena, we do not feel the need to attend a committee hearing on Monday,” Bill Gates, chair of the board, wrote.

After all of Senate President Karen Fann’s bluster about auditing to build voter confidence in elections, Townsend’s subpoena resets the calendar to about this time last year and ensures that the fight over 2020 continues through the 2022 legislative session and becomes prime fodder in the Townsend v. Wendy Rogers primary we’re all looking forward to so much. 

Zero lessons learned: Lawmakers are set to unveil a massive school funding overhaul bill tomorrow and plan to rush it through the Legislature while ignoring all the deadlines they set for hearing bills. The 101-page legislation from Republican Rep. Michelle Udall, who is running for superintendent of public instruction, is still being tweaked, but the big winners would be charter schools while rural district schools would be the biggest losers, the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl reports. Senate Education Committee Chair Paul Boyer hadn’t seen the proposal as of last week and cautioned against ramming through big policies at the 11th hour. 

Honey over vinegar: Meanwhile, the Republic’s Robert Robb is still calling for lawmakers to adopt his “grand bargain” on school funding (Udall’s bill isn’t that). And he argued that if education supporters want more money, they should try being nice to Republican lawmakers. 

“Some members of the Invest in Ed coalition seem to believe that the way to get legislative Republicans to substantially increase K-12 funding is to continue beating the crap out of them, rhetorically and politically, and continue to distort their record,” he wrote. “If the goal is to get a substantial increase in K-12 funding out of this legislative session, that’s not being helpful.”

The culture wars never ended: Gov. Doug Ducey faces big decisions on key bills this week, including two measures that limit transgender kids from playing sports with girls or getting gender reassignment surgery. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed a trans sports bill last week, saying it affected few people but would make those affected feel isolated and hurt their mental health. For national context on the surge of anti-LGBTQ+ bills across the country this year, check out this Washington Post piece about the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom. Ducey also has a bill on his desk that would ban abortions after 15 weeks, which likely will head right into court if he signs it. 

David vs Goliath: A small, mostly Black unincorporated community near Coolidge has dwindled over the past few decades as industrial development moved in, replacing the farms the community was built around, the Republic’s Joshua Bowling writes. The community, Randolph, is now fighting against a Salt River Project plan to expand a natural gas plant in the latest battle against what they believe is environmental racism.

Housing dystopia roundup: It’s already heating up in Phoenix, and the Human Services Campus just opened a 100-bed additional shelter to give people a place to stay overnight in what is “essentially a heavy-duty, air-conditioned and heated tent,” the Republic’s Jessica Boehm writes. “If you live in the Valley, your home probably made more money than you did last year” is a hell of a headline. We’re also the number 1 spot in the nation for inflation increases now. And a married couple who both have disabilities are getting pushed out of their lease and can’t find anywhere affordable to live. In case you missed our Friday story, we wrote about the rent problem in Arizona, and then we talked more about how rent sucks in our Friday paid subscriber podcast.

Can you do this?: Allister Adel is no longer the Maricopa County Attorney after her resignation took effect on Friday, and she “formally delegated” her authority to Chief Deputy Ken Vick, she wrote to the board of supervisors. We don’t know what that means; we don’t think an elected official can simply delegate their authority to an unelected one. Meanwhile, county attorney hopeful Rachel Mitchell, who signed the letter where division chiefs said Adel should resign, told 12News’ Brahm Resnik that she “agonized over” the decision to speak out

You get what you pay for: A strike-everything amendment pushed by noted mileage-user Arizona Sen. David Gowan would ask voters to give up their right to increase lawmakers’ pay and instead allow lawmakers to increase their own salaries, Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer writes. The striker would set lawmaker pay at 60% of the governor’s salary, and it would give senators four-year terms and expand term limits to 12 years. Senate Bill 1180 otherwise contains measures that increase transparency in government. (While we generally agree that Arizona lawmakers likely deserve better pay because it would expand the pool of people who could represent us, it’s hard to imagine a worse promoter of this than Gowan, whose petty scams to make a buck at the Capitol are the stuff of legend.)

You know who really does need a pay increase? Local journalists, particularly the two who write this newsletter. Unlike lawmakers, we can't try to circumvent you to get one.

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Will there be another lawsuit?: The Arizona Department of Health Services plans to conduct its drawing on April 8 for the 26 social equity licenses that will be able to open marijuana dispensaries. About 1,500 applicants want one of the coveted — and highly controversial — licenses, though many of the applicants are backed by Big Pot rather than the communities traditionally persecuted by harsh drug laws, the Phoenix New Times’ Katya Schwenk has reported. Some applicants who were disqualified are still appealing those decisions.

Unions always come in waves: Another Starbucks location in Arizona has voted to unionize. The Mesa store is the second Arizona location to do so and the 8th nationwide as the company sees a wave of stores file to start their own union. And maintenance workers at a CoreCivic-owned private prison in Florence voted for a union, too, after they haven’t seen raises in a long time and were performing work beyond their training, organizers told the Republic’s Jimmy Jenkins.

Highly unlikely: The Phoenix New Times made a records request for any mentions of the word “border” in Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers’ emails, texts and social media messages, which miraculously turned up exactly zero documents, Elias Weiss reports. This, despite Rogers’ perpetual tweeting about the border and posture as a border hawk. The Senate said no records were excluded or redacted, either.

The kids are all right: International students from Russia who attend Arizona universities say they’re watching their country’s decisions with dismay and uncertainty about whether they will ever return home, the Republic’s Alison Steinbach reports. And two Mesa students held a big yard sale that raised a few thousand dollars to help Ukraine refugees. 

Some kids are alt-right: Micajah Joel Jackson, an Arizonan who entered the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, did not get any prison time for the misdemeanor he pleaded guilty to. He will instead spend 90 days in a halfway house and three years on probation, the Republic’s Anne Ryman reports. 

Stay away from open pits: The state mine inspector’s office could get more staff and equipment to manage the abundant abandoned mines throughout Arizona that pose a danger to people if they don’t get properly closed, the Republic’s Ray Stern writes. 

The optimism is always cautious: Health experts say they’re cautiously optimistic that Arizona’s COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers will remain low, even though a new subvariant of omicron is now dominant here, KJZZ’s Katherine Davis-Young reports. That’s in part because so many in Arizona have already gotten COVID-19 in previous surges.

The real big Apple: The state said more than 11,000 people added their ID to Apple’s Wallet app in the first day they could do so, but Arizona’s experiment, the first state out the gate, with the digital IDs raised privacy concerns and questions about Apple’s dominance. And the digital ID probably won’t help you much beyond Arizona’s borders, or even in scenarios like getting pulled over or carded here.

A place to reflect: Artist Lucinda "La Morena" Hinojos unveiled a new mural near Grand Avenue and McDowell Road in Phoenix that honors former Republic photojournalist Nick Oza, who died last year after a car accident. 

Keeping it local: We missed this last week, but the City of Tucson plans to rename Tucson Music Hall to honor Linda Ronstadt, the famous singer who hails from the Old Pueblo. 

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill last week that removes words like “character, good, honesty, integrity, moral and trustworthy” from state statutes that set criteria for occupational licenses needed for certain professions in the state.

House Bill 2612, sponsored by Republican Rep. Judy Burges, eliminates the ambiguous terms that can stand in the way of someone getting a job. This year’s bill, which faced no real opposition at the Capitol, was an outgrowth of a 2021 law that defined when and how a criminal record may stand in the way of an occupational license. That law also defined “moral turpitude” and how it may prevent someone from getting a license.

“We want the criteria to be clear as to what an applicant may be rejected for, and that needs to be spelled out,” Burges told the Senate Commerce Committee earlier this month.

After signing the bill, Ducey also noted the ambiguity of these words and said the bill could help people who served time find employment. 

Of all the UFO sightings in Arizona, 13% come from Tucson, KGUN reports. That’s somehow both higher and lower than we’d expect. 

But we’re only including this so you can click through to the UFO sighting reports the KGUN story references. It’s fascinating reading material. Our favorite is the simple “Never seen this!” report from Buckeye in January.