Controversial ballot proposal faces wrath at senate hearing: “Arizona’s constitution is not for sale”

PHOENIX — A state senate committee hearing got heated Wednesday afternoon as legislators and energy representatives slammed the ballot proposal tied to Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer as an unconstitutional mandate on Arizona families.

Republican State Senator Sonny Borrelli, the chairman of the Senate Government Committee, offered a strike-through amendment to House Bill 2005 earlier this week addressing penalties that can be imposed on public service corporations. The amendment, according to a memo released by the Arizona State Senate research staff, establishes that “the exclusive remedy or penalty assessed to a public service corporation, will be a civil penalty.”

The penalty would pertain to “any alleged or actual violation” of a state constitutional provision or rule originating at the Arizona Corporation Commission regarding electricity generation.

Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona (CEHA), the political committee tied to Steyer, the Democratic donor, criticized the amendment online as “an illegal scheme to ignore the constitution and voter-approved standards for renewable energy.”

CEHA is pushing a controversial ballot initiative that would require Arizona’s utilities to obtain half of their electricity generation from renewable sources.

The text of the proposal has been widely criticized for excluding nuclear energy from its list of considered “renewable” sources. Arizona is home to the largest nuclear power plant in the United States, and nuclear sources constituent a significant portion of the state’s energy portfolio.

CEHA is concerned that Borrelli’s amendment will threaten its ability to push and enforce its ballot proposal, and the group released advertisements early Wednesday targeting Republican members of the Senate Government Committee, as well as State Senator Kate Brophy McGee.

Brophy McGee quickly swung back at one of the attack ads, saying that she rejects the notion of “California billionaires buying their way into #Arizona and dictating policies that will raise utility rates on families in my district.”

Republican State Representative Vince Leach, who supports the strike-through amendment, was the first member of the legislature to testify before the committee.

“It sends a strong and an unmistakable message to those out-of-state people that want to come in,” he said. “We just tell them: ‘Arizona’s constitution is not for sale.’”

(Click Here To Watch Vince Leach’s Testimony.)

Rod Ross, a senior government affairs representative with Arizona Public Service, asked the committee why Steyer’s group excluded the state’s second-largest utility, Salt River Project, from the ballot text, adding: “It sure seems like they’re objecting to something other than clean energy.”

“We’re concerned that it will devastate rural Arizona by closing power plants and killing thousands of jobs,” Ross explained. “We’re also concerned that it would eliminate at least $38 million in tax revenue that currently flows to K-12 schools and public education.”

(Click Here To Watch Rod Ross’s Testimony.)

Republican State Senator Gail Griffin concurred, saying that the initiative “would be devastating to the cooperatives in [her] district in rural Arizona.”

The committee approved the amendment on a 4-3 vote. It likely will now head to the full senate.

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Arizona Democratic Party begs donors for “a spare room or bed” for out-of-state operatives

PHOENIX — The Arizona Democratic Party sent out a fundraising email last week begging supporters for “a spare room or bed,” “a couch,” or even a “top bunk” for out-of-state political operatives.

The state party said that it is seeking extra residential space for Democratic operatives from other states looking “to turn AZ blue.”

“Folks all across the country are packing their bags and getting ready to head where the action is in Arizona, and they need a place to drop those bags on their way to the office,” the fundraising email said. “We’re asking our best supporters: Can you host a staffer?”

In recent months, the state Democratic Party has projected public optimism about its chances of winning the open seat in Arizona’s eighth congressional district — but the optimism has largely been met with ridicule.

Laurie Roberts, a liberal columnist for the Arizona Republic, criticized Arizona Democratic Party chair Felecia Rotellini as “delusional” for promoting a “pipedream” that Democrats could win the heavily-Republican district.

Hiral Tipirneni, a campaign donor to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, won the Democratic nomination in February. During her first televised interview after the primary race, the candidate responded to a question about her immigration platform by saying that a border wall was “not the answer.” She suggested spending the proposed funds on, among other things, “clean energy” and “renewable energy sources” instead.

Tipirneni will face Republican former state senator Debbie Lesko in the general election on April 24.

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Randi Weingarten, head of teachers union backing Steve Farley, deleted pro-Ducey tweet

PHOENIX — Randi Weingarten, the president of a teachers union backing State Senator Steve Farley’s gubernatorial bid, quietly deleted a tweet praising Republican Governor Doug Ducey.

Farley, a Democrat, announced in a fundraising email Monday that he had officially received an endorsement from the Arizona branch of Weingarten’s union.

“Exciting news!” the campaign wrote in an email to supporters. “American Federation of Teachers Arizona has endorsed Steve for governor.”

Weingarten has longstanding ties to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The union endorsed Clinton’s presidential bid in July 2015, calling her “the champion of working families need in the White House.” The endorsement, only three months after Clinton announced her candidacy, drew criticism from supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, who dismissed the support as rushed and political.

Farley cited his own endorsement as proof that “we won’t improve K-12 education until we get rid of Doug Ducey.” What the Democratic state senator failed to mention, though, is that Weingarten applauded the governor’s education strategy.

In January 2017, when Governor Ducey announced a new plan for the state of Arizona to restore recession-era funding cuts to education, Weingarten immediately praised the plan social media.

“Good news for Arizona!” she tweeted. “Gov. Doug Ducey just said he plans to add $100 million in new K-12 education funding this year as a down-payment on the full restoration of a school capital funding formula that was slashed during the Great Recession.”

However, Weingarten quietly deleted the tweet, which no longer appears online. The Farley Report obtained a screenshot of that now-deleted tweet. The tweet can be seen above.

When asked last week if he would support a teachers strike, Farley responded that it was “hard to tell” if such an act would be counterproductive but added: “If the teachers are leaning in this direction and we’re not getting any action when it comes to the legislature, then we should support where the teachers are going.”

Farley recently lost the endorsement of another teachers union, the Arizona Education Association, to his Democratic primary opponent David Garcia. Garcia was roundly criticized for announcing the endorsement in the middle of an unrelated grassroots effort organized by teachers. The Arizona State University professor was called-out on the radio for having “trampled on” the effort by turning it into a campaign event without their knowledge.

“Since I came into the Governor’s Office three years ago in 2015, we have $1.7 billion additional dollars,” Governor Ducey said on KTAR radio this week. “Our per-pupil spending is up 10 percent in the state of Arizona, and the amount of dollars available for teacher pay — that’s both raises and new teachers — is plus-9 percent since 2015.”

A version of this article appears at The Farley Report.

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Athena Salman forced to apologize after “tampon pillow” fiasco

PHOENIX — State Representative Athena Salman was forced to apologize to her colleagues this week after sending them unsolicited pillows made out of feminine hygiene products.

Salman represents the state’s 26th legislative district, which includes the Tempe area. She and a group of political activists affiliated with various criminal justice reform organizations like #cut50 — founded by Van Jones, President Barack Obama’s “green jobs czar” — planned to distribute Kotex pillows to all members of the state legislature.

The demonstration, intended to mimic pillows strung together by female inmates, wasn’t received well by her fellow lawmakers.

“That was a mistake and I am sincerely sorry to any of my colleagues or staff who felt uncomfortable,” Salman told the Arizona Capitol Times. “It will not happen again.”

The apology came after several members of the state legislature submitted complaints about the unsolicited deliveries to their offices.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said that the interruption — during the middle of the legislative session — was compounded by Salman’s decision to be followed around by group of cameras, which was perceived by members as an unfair “‘gotcha’ moment,” according to the newspaper.

The House Democratic Caucus had previously bragged about the demonstration on Twitter, publishing a photograph of Salman and the activists in front of the capitol.

Salman is seatmates with State Representative Isela Blanc, who was arrested in Washington, D.C., last week during a protest in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

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NRCC hits Tom O’Halleran for “no” vote on tax reform — to backdrop of new Cox bonuses

PHOENIX — Cox Communications announced this week that its employees in Arizona will be receiving pay increases, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) took the opportunity to remind families that Congressman Tom O’Halleran voted against the tax reform package that made it possible.

The telecommunications company has 3,200 employees in Arizona and is offering bonuses between $1,000 and $2,000 to all of them.

“This change in the tax rate favorably affects our cash flow and allows us to accelerate investment in infrastructure, technology and product development,” the company said. “Sharing some of those tax reform benefits with our employees is the right thing to do and a way we can thank our employees for their hard work.”

But not all elected officials in Arizona support the legislation.

O’Halleran, a Democrat, represents the state’s first congressional district. He voted “no” on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017, which President Donald Trump subsequently signed into law. The NRCC said that middle-class families across the state are “celebrating” the tax package.

“Who’s not so happy about it?” Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the organization, asked in a press release. “Tom O’Halleran, who voted with Nancy Pelosi against these tax cuts and bonuses.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited Arizona in February 2018 to make the Democratic Party’s case against the tax cut package. However, Pelosi skipped the Tucson part of the “tax scam” tour attended by Congressman Raul Grijalva, also a Democrat.

Tucson Electric Power, a utility in southern Arizona, recently announced that it is seeking ways to pass along the benefits of the legislation to consumers. Arizona Public Service (APS) did the same, requesting a $119 million rate decrease from the Arizona Corporation Commission.

According to a poll released three weeks ago, the tax reform package has significantly increased in popularity since its passage.

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Regina Romero calls for President Trump’s impeachment

PHOENIX — Tucson City Council member Regina Romero announced this week that she is joining efforts to impeach President Donald Trump.

Romero, co-founder of the political group Las Adelitas Arizona, represents Ward 1, which extends from Midvale Park to Sombras Del Cerro and includes the western portion of Sunnyside. She made her position official during an interview with KOLD.

“I’m used to push(ing) back,” Romero said Thursday. “I’m used to people using my gender and my ethnicity against me … I am not alone. There are people throughout this country and in this community that believe that Trump is unfit to be the president of this country.”

Romero is by no means first Democrat in Arizona to express her opposition to the White House’s agenda.

Democratic congressional candidate Hiral Tipirneni criticized the president’s immigration policies earlier this week as not “well thought-out,” and Congressman Ruben Gallego recently — for the second time now — called Trump “a psychopath.”

The only elected official who has gone as far as Romero is Congressman Raul Grijalva. The congressman has called for Trump’s removal from office and has worked with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to repeal the tax reform package signed into law last year.

“We #NeedtoImpeach @RealDonaldTrump,” Romero reiterated on Twitter. “Join me and sign on to @TomSteyer’s petition demanding Congress impeach Trump.”

Tom Steyer, the Democratic megadonor to whom Romero refers in her tweet, is spearheading the party’s efforts to impeach Trump. Steyer was the single largest individual donor during the 2016 election cycle and announced in November 2017 that he would be placing a $20 million ad campaign behind his idea.

He also is behind a new ballot proposal that seeks to require Arizona’s public utilities to obtain half of their generation from renewable sources by 2030. The proposal has been dismissed by a professor at Arizona State University as “a scam” and by the Arizonans for Affordable Electricity coalition as a “feel-good measure” that will put Arizona’s electricity grid at risk.

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David Garcia slammed for politicizing grassroots event organized by teachers

PHOENIX — David Garcia’s gubernatorial campaign was slammed on the radio Wednesday for its role in politicizing a grassroots effort focused on teachers.

Garcia, a Democrat, won an endorsement from the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, this week over his primary opponent, State Senator Steve Farley. However, Garcia’s campaign and the union were criticized for announcing the endorsement at a press conference in the middle an unrelated demonstration that had been spontaneously organized by teachers.

The grassroots event — called “Red For Ed,” meaning “education” — was intended to give educators a platform to discuss public policies affecting their classrooms.

During a call-in appearance afterward on KTAR (92.3 FM), radio hosts Mac & Gaydos told Garcia that they thought “making it political” by injecting his campaign distracted from educators who were trying to share their message.

“Did you feel like you were, you know, you being endorsed by the teachers union trampled on ‘Red For Ed’ Day?” the host asked. “‘Cause I think it did.”

(Click Here To Listen To The Exchange.)

Garcia responded that this was “the very first time I’ve heard this (criticism) all day,” adding that “today is not about my campaign.”

The radio hosts quickly cut in.

“But if it’s not about your campaign, why do it today on ‘Red For Ed’ Day?” they responded. “It is about your campaign, I think.”

Garcia tried to reiterate that the event wasn’t about his campaign but ended up coming full-circle.

“I am proud that the AZEA (Arizona Education Association) has endorsed my campaign,” the candidate concluded.

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