After spending his entire (albeit short) political career ducking, dodging and dancing around questions about the filibuster, Arizona U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly announced yesterday that he would support a one-time rollback of the rule to pass a voting rights package championed by Democrats.
Not that it mattered.
By the end of the day, Arizona’s other Democratic Senator, Kyrsten Sinema, stuck with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin to ensure that their party’s attempt to revert to a “talking filibuster” for the package failed. And with it, so did their attempts to pass what Democrats describe as a once-in-a-generation change to protect voting rights and democracy. (Business Insider has a good explainer of the provisions contained in the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. And if you keep hearing the word “filibuster” but aren’t quite sure what it means, NPR has a nice explanation, including a video.)
It wasn’t political courage that led Kelly to stake out a position after two years of non-answers about “doing what’s best for Arizonans” to the simple question of whether he wants to keep or eliminate the filibuster: The clock simply ran out on his ability to dodge.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors passed a plan to increase COVID testing availability during their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
The Board unanimously voted to increase PCR testing in Pima County with an additional 1,000 tests per day through Paradigm Laboratories.
“I am concerned with our PCR testing site at the airport,” Supervisor Sharon Bronson said. “We are seeing that we’ve got some issues at TAA (Tucson Airport Authority) with staff coming down with COVID and we’ve got people in line who have COVID. So I would think as part of the implementation of the new testing we need to find other sites than the airport.”
Cases continue to rise in Pima County due to the Omicron variant. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,136 new cases in Pima County on Jan. 11. This is the highest number of cases reported in one day since the pandemic began.
Supervisor Adelita Grijalva said she had noticed that testing appointments through the county website were being scheduled two days out. She raised concerns this would make it more difficult for children to get back into school under the new test-to-stay policy.
Bronson added that constituents reported testing sites had a two-hour waiting period, even with appointments.
Low testing availability has also impacted the local healthcare system.
“People, because they can't find a testing site, are going to ERs to ask to get COVID tested and that is incredibly disruptive for the healthcare system,” Supervisor Matt Heinz said.
The additional PCR tests will be offered at the Kino Event Center across the street from the Abrams Public Heath Building, where the county had set up a testing site in 2020. That site later transitioned to a vaccination center.
Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly announced today that he supports changing the Senate's filibuster rules to pass changes to federal law to protect election rights.
Last week, his fellow Arizona senator, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, said she would not support such a change to the filibuster rules. She and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia are facing political pressure to support the changes and allow the legislation to pass by a simple majority vote, but as long as they hold firm, the legislation is unlikely to reach President Joe Biden's desk.
Kelly's full statement:
My year in the Senate has shown me how dysfunctional this place can be, and how that prevents progress on issues that matter to Arizonans. We’re seeing that now, as voting rights legislation remains blocked while partisan politicians work to undermine Arizona’s successful vote-by-mail system and create more barriers to vote.
As an astronaut and a combat veteran, I can tell you that if NASA or the Navy functioned like the United States Senate, we would never get the rocket off the launchpad and in combat we’d never complete the mission. Arizonans deserve a Senate that is more responsive to the challenges facing our country, which is why I’ve spoken with Arizonans and my Republican and Democratic colleagues about their views on what can be done to make this place work better. I’ve considered what rules changes would mean not just today, but years down the road, for both parties and all Arizonans.
If campaign finance and voting rights reforms are blocked again this week, I will support the proposed changes to pass them with a majority vote. Protecting the vote-by-mail system used by a majority of Arizonans and getting dark money out of our elections is too important to let fall victim to Washington dysfunction.
Whether the Senate fails or succeeds in passing this legislation, I will continue doing this job just as I promised Arizonans: delivering results by working with Republicans and Democrats to find common ground as we have on infrastructure, standing up to party politics, and staying focused on doing what is best for Arizona.
After a choppy opening week and the long weekend, the Arizona Legislature got into full swing yesterday, and already COVID-19 is a problem.
As committees cranked through bills (including a contentious first vote on once again banning Critical Race Theory in schools), leadership had to sub out lawmakers to fill the committees, at least in part because of the virus. It’s going to be a long year of musical chairs as House and Senate leadership attempt to keep committees full, despite the raging pandemic.
Republicans need every single lawmaker present to pass legislation on party lines in either chamber, but as the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl notes, if lawmakers want to do their jobs and vote on bills, they’ll have to come into the building.
That wasn’t the case last year, and the new rule provides no meaningful advantage to lawmakers or the public — it is, like many decisions at the capitol, pure politics. (FWIW, it was also pure politics when the Democrats initially opposed remote voting on a limited basis at the onset of the pandemic so Republicans could muster the votes necessary to pass a budget.)
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Friday launched a new website for Americans to request up to four free COVID-19 tests per household.
The administration is buying 1 billion at-home rapid COVID-19 tests, and Americans will be able to begin ordering the tests online on Jan. 19 at COVIDtests.gov.
This is part of the administration’s effort to curb the spike of the omicron coronavirus variant that has overwhelmed hospitals and schools.
Tests should ship via the U.S. Postal Service between seven and 12 days after they are ordered, senior administration officials said on a call with reporters.
“Testing is a critical tool to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” a senior administration official said.
The White House said tests should be used by individuals who begin to have COVID-19 symptoms; after five days of coming into close contact with someone with COVID-19; or if gathering indoors with someone who is at risk for a severe disease or is unvaccinated. Children 4 and under are not eligible for vaccines.
The initial 500 million tests are expected to cost $4 billion, a senior administration official said.
The Biden administration also announced that starting Monday, private insurance providers will cover the cost of up to eight at-home COVID-19 tests per person per month.
On Thursday, Biden said that in addition to free tests, Americans would also get free high quality masks.
The administration also aims to make sure members of some communities the hardest hit by COVID-19 will have a hotline they can access if they do not have internet access or have difficulty ordering tests online. The number to call for help is not available yet.
Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled a $14.3 billion budget proposal on Friday that spreads money across so many priorities that it’s bound to start a lot of little fights at the Capitol.
But for his last hurrah, the budget is pretty blah.
Rather than a single focus or grand vision, it’s packed with a smattering of smaller appropriations for pet projects and tax cuts, and big windfalls for the decidedly necessary but boring, likely bipartisan topic of infrastructure.
The budget was crafted on two major premises that may or may not end up being true: The courts will stop the implementation of Prop. 208, the Invest in Education Act, and Ducey’s historic tax cut package from last year will stand despite the threat of a referendum. (Another possible wrench in budgeting: The feds are threatening to revoke $163 million of their anti-COVID-19 money back after Ducey used it to help move kids into schools with COVID-19-friendly policies.)
But the state is so flush with cash that it’s getting hard to spend it all. In fact, there’s so much money that the largest single new discretionary expense in Ducey’s budget proposal is simply squirreling away another $425 million in the state’s rainy day fund, bringing the state’s emergency savings to $1.4 billion.
But the Ducey administration billed the budget as education, border and water-centric, so let’s focus on those three areas today.
On the education front, the biggest investment isn’t the $100 million “civics summer camp” program that Ducey touted as the crown jewel of his State of the State speech last week (which, by the way, will be paid for with federal pandemic money), but rather the $300 million in state spending on the much less sexy but more necessary areas of school upgrades and new buildings. His budget also offers another round of bonuses for schools that are already succeeding, and smaller bonuses for schools that need improvement.