The Daily Agenda: Reading Is Fundamental

click to enlarge And there's nothing to see in this bill's provision. Let's move on! - DEPOSITPHOTOS
DepositPhotos
And there's nothing to see in this bill's provision. Let's move on!

This why we can't have nice laws ... We still have questions ... And the end of graffiti as we know it?

Editor's Note: 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

Republican lawmakers are outraged that they were tricked into supporting a bill that changed the process to become an elected precinct committeemen, the footsoldiers in party politics. 

And by tricked, we mean they didn’t read — or didn’t know how to read — the bill.

Lawmakers fast-tracked House Bill 2839 and its mirror, Senate Bill 1719, through the Legislature on Thursday, introducing it and passing it through both chambers in one day. (The Arizona Constitution prevents them from doing that, except with a two-thirds vote in both chambers.) The legislation received no vetting, and not a single committee hearing, yet it passed unanimously. 

Now, lawmakers are now pointing fingers over the bill, which was ostensibly an attempt to clear up ongoing redistricting-related confusion about how many signatures candidates need to qualify for the ballot, but had an unnoticed provision that party activists are roaring mad about.

Basically, the provision says that elected precinct committeemen will no longer actually be elected in the 2022 election. Lawmakers did that because the Census delay means local redistricting is delayed (yes, municipalities redistrict, too). The new lines for precincts — the most granular geographic political unit — won’t be ready with enough time for PC candidates to collect signatures for the office before their usual election in the August primaries. 

Instead, for those contested PC spots (most are uncontested), the county parties will figure out how to decide who gets the job, be that via a party vote or chosen by the county party chair.

We could probably think of some bigger assaults on democracy lawmakers have supported in recent years, but that’s beside the point. After outraged party soldiers spotted the provision and contacted lawmakers, many said that they didn’t mean to do that and hadn’t noticed the provision, and some blamed Republican legislative leadership for bamboozling them.

We’ll give lawmakers some credit — the provision was written in the bill as “session law,”  which is technically called “temporary law”¹ because, basically, it’s temporary. (The PC provision in HB2839 applies only in the upcoming election — in 2024, PCs will be on the primary ballots again.) 

Session law is written differently from statutory law or permanent law — which we usually think of as “The Law.” Changes to permanent law are drafted as ALL CAPS WITH BLUE LETTERING² that catch the eye as you speed-read it. Session law is just written in regular text.

And while legislative leadership probably deserves some share of the blame for ramming the policy through unvetted, the lack of personal responsibility from some in the party of personal responsibility is striking. 

This is why our constitution requires lawmakers to wait three days before passing bills; it’s why bills are required to undergo committee hearings, public debate, testimony and legal review. But lawmakers unanimously threw all that out the window for their own convenience — Democrats didn’t oppose the underlying bill, so they provided the votes necessary to waive the rules and speed it through. 

The problem HB2839 highlights is bigger than lawmakers not reading the bills. It’s the arrogance lawmakers routinely show in disregarding checks and balances on their work when they’re not politically or logistically expedient. And it’s a bipartisan problem. 

Patently false is the new fake news: A few hours after our story about Arizona Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Marco Lopez’s ties to the biggest international bribery case in history landed in mailboxes Friday, he took to Twitter to deny involvement in the bribes and attack us instead. After blowing off several opportunities to talk to us, his campaign confirmed via statement to the Republic that Emilio Lozoya, former president Enrique Peña Nieto’s confessed bagman, paid his company $35,000. Lozoya has testified and provided documents showing that money came from bribes from a Brazilian construction firm that he moved through a British Virgin Islands company and Swiss bank account to pay campaign consultants, including Lopez, who he said were told to use terms like “Colombia Project” on their invoices to obscure the trail of the money. But Lopez’s campaign told the Republic Lozoya paid him to conduct background checks (On whom or for what? We don’t know!), and all that work he did for Peña Nieto’s campaign at that same time was for free. That doesn’t really change the facts of our story, but it could be true, though he didn’t provide any evidence to back up that assertion. We’ll be happy to clarify that or anything else in our story, if he provides documents backing up his claims. He also didn’t answer a host of questions, including: 

  • What is the Colombia Project? 

  • Why did you write Colombia Project in the subject line of the invoice? 

  • Was it, as Mr. Lozoya has alleged, to cover up the source of the funds?

  • Did you know you were being paid with illegal bribes from Odebrecht? 

  • Were you paid from a Swiss bank account? 

  • If so, did that throw up any red flags? 

Hopefully, an end to this storyline: Gov. Doug Ducey again said the thing he’s been saying all along, but with more emphasis this time. He’s not running for U.S. Senate. He wrote a letter to donors where he said he’s more of an executive than a lawmaker who has to be one of many, the Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez wrote. His final word ends months of pressure campaigns and speculation that Ducey could enter and become an immediate frontrunner. And Trump, in typical fashion, took credit for Ducey’s decision not to run, saying there’s no room for RINOs. 

A looming diplomatic crisis: Phoenix Mercury player Brittney Griner is detained in Russia after Russian officials allege they found vape cartridges with hash oil in her luggage at customs. Russia released footage of Griner at the airport, which the New York Times notes was filmed in February, meaning Griner has potentially been detained well before it became public. Griner, who, like many athletes, plays overseas in the off-season, is stuck in Russia while the country attacks Ukraine and at a terrible time for U.S-Russia relations. Members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, say they’re trying to help.    

“I obviously don’t know the circumstances of her detention, but Griner’s arrest should serve as a wake-up call to all Americans in Russia,” Michael A. McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, told the New York Times. “Get out. Shut down your businesses now.”

The Senate will spend a bunch of money to fight the fact they don’t spend enough money on staff: The Arizona Senate’s cost to defend itself against claims of pay discrimination from Democratic policy staffer Talonya Adams now tallies $415,000 for fighting two lawsuits, not including the back pay Adams is owed, which she has yet to receive, the Republic’s Stacey Barchenger reports.  

Why is Arizona obsessed with civics education?: Ducey isn’t launching his own summer camps, as he said he would in his State of the State and budget proposal. Instead, he’s using $100 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds as a pot that schools or community groups can apply for to support or expand their existing summer programs, the Republic’s Yana Kunichoff reports. The program emphasizes math, reading and civics and will help students catch up on learning over the summer months. Ducey put former state superintendent Lisa Graham Keegan in charge of the program. This at least seems like a more applicable use of federal funds than Ducey’s COVID-encouraging programs. Meanwhile, more students are coming back to Arizona district schools, but the numbers still lag pre-pandemic levels. 

16.5 by 2020: Most Arizona schools did not actually raise teacher pay by 20%, a new report from the state auditor general found. On average, schools increased pay by 16.5% from 2018 to last school year, Capitol Media Services’ Howie Fischer writes. Schools may not have gotten enough money to meet 20% because of how the state calculated increases, and other factors like teacher experience affected the overall average. 

“Cockamamie” is a fun word: A special session focused on water could be on the horizon, as the Legislature starts digesting Ducey’s plan for a new water agency and some big water projects, the Arizona Capitol Times reports. A special session allows for more deliberation on one topic and less distractions from other issues, but some lawmakers don’t want a water special session, or instead think there could be a special session about tax cuts after the Prop 208 ruling. Meanwhile, conservative Republic columnist Robert Robb said Ducey’s idea here is incredibly premature, and the structure of the water authority agency would be undemocratic and “cockamamie.” 

“Gov. Doug Ducey’s proposed Arizona Water Authority would have an entity of state government needlessly, inappropriately and expensively own and control water. Moreover, that entity would have the worst governing structure I have ever seen proffered at any level of government,” Robb writes.

Too many to keep track of: Efforts by Republicans in the Arizona Legislature to restrict voting access made both NPR and the Washington Post over the past week. There are so many election proposals to vet and keep track of that Pima County Recorder Gabriella Cázares-Kelly hired two part-time workers to track them, journalist Fernanda Santos writes for the Post. The bills are just one part of the anti-voter strategy, though: As you’ll recall, the AZGOP is suing, saying all early voting is unconstitutional. Other attorneys who aren’t on the AZGOP payroll say the lawsuit’s claims are seriously flawed, the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda reports. 

More ways baseball is a government story: Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick is one of four MLB owners who opposed a key contract provision in the ongoing player lockout that’s holding up spring training and the money it brings into Arizona, The Athletic reports. But don’t worry about the rich man: He’s still able to make money on his sportsbook even if games aren’t underway, now that Arizona expanded its gaming deal. 

It shouldn’t be this hard to find out where this information came from: All but one county said they aren’t seeing victims being charged for rape kit processing in their areas, despite the claim Ducey floated in his State of the State, University of Arizona Don Bolles Fellow Gloria Gomez reports in a follow-up to her last story questioning the validity of Ducey’s claim. The advocacy groups that pushed the claim wouldn’t share where these charges for rape kits were occurring, either. 

The first step to fighting climate change is consultants: Tucson is spending nearly a half-million dollars on a consulting firm that will draft a climate plan with goals to become carbon-neutral and eventually zero waste, the Arizona Daily Star’s Sam Kmack reports. Some council members said the city already had approved environmental plans that weren’t taking off and should instead focus on making those work before hiring an expensive consultant. 

We didn’t know, but it didn’t matter: The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office blamed a gap in its vetting process for not finding an investigation into meme-friendly judge Erin Otis, but then said the investigation wouldn’t have affected her hiring anyway because the claims were dismissed, ABC15’s Dave Biscobing reports. 

Today in Republicans challenging other Republicans: Andy Kunasek, formerly a Maricopa County supervisor, will run against Arizona Sen. Nancy Barto. And Adam Morgan is running against U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar by essentially being the anti-Gosar

Teeth are not trash: City sweeps to clean up The Zone, the homeless encampment near the Capitol, pick up trash, but also people’s belongings, a practice that’s now under investigation by the federal government. One woman told ABC15 that the sweepers have thrown away both her teeth and her ID. 

“None” meant “some”: Parents who use the Empowerment Scholarship Account program told the Arizona Board of Education that they’re being asked to repay pre-approved expenses, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Kyra Haas reports. A quarterly report about the ESA program listed “none” under a section about parent concerns, which 49 pages of comments from parents in the program negated, leading the board to table the report. 

How many groups does it take to tear down a barbed wire fence that’s hurting wildlife movement?: Apparently, quite a few.  

People drawing graffiti on a building could be legally killed by a business owner or employee if a bill moving through the Arizona Senate passes. 

Senate Bill 1650 from Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita says that an owner or employee is justified in threatening or using “physical force and deadly physical force” if the owner or employee “reasonably believes that physical force or deadly physical force is immediately necessary to prevent the other’s commission of criminal damage.”

Ugenti-Rita said the license to kill isn’t absolute here, according to Capitol Media ServicesHowie Fischer. The person committing the property damage would need to have a “deadly weapon or dangerous instrument,” though opponents of the bill noted that all manner of items could be considered dangerous. 

This excerpt from Fischer’s story shows the thinking behind the bill, from its proponents: 

Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said the question of whether property is equivalent to life is not that simple.

"It depends,'' he said. "If you have somebody who's spent their entire life ... they saved everything, their whole life, their whole little life was put into buying the things they have, and then you destroy it or steal that from them, you've literally taken their life away from them."

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on party lines and is expected to face a vote from the full Senate today.  

Arizona Sen. Kelly Townsend didn’t get the coveted endorsement from Trump for her congressional campaign, so she’s not running. Everyone’s speculating, probably correctly, that she’ll instead challenge recently censured Sen. Wendy Rogers for the Senate seat in the district they’re both now drawn into. And that’s the GOP primary we, as newsletter writers, deserve.

This comes after Townsend called out Rogers for her anti-Semitism (despite not being the best messenger on the topic). GOP gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon said Rogers should resign (Kari Lake … did not), and Townsend then rejected Rogers’ endorsement of her campaign. 

Like Rogers did last week, Townsend then lightly compared herself to Jesus.

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