February 2, 2018

Howdy, Friends O’Farley…

A lot happens in a week these days. Way too much to cover in just one report. So it’s a good thing I write these every week. Let’s get started…

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But first, the Pledge Break…

—> I am doing everything I can to be your next governor. This election offers the best opportunity in years to create real change in Arizona. Imagine our state as a light unto the nation, not a joke on late-night television. A place where public education is fully funded and everyone has quality, affordable healthcare and the opportunity to work at a livable wage. This future is within our reach, but I need your help in two ways:

1) Please contribute what you can. We are up against the Koch Brothers’ favorite son and we will need thousands of small donations to defeat Ducey’s few huge ones. He reported that his average campaign contribution in 2017 was $1,900 per donor, including $5,100 from Charles Koch himself. Only 5 donors contributed $25 or less. But his money from out-of-state billionaires won’t be as strong as your deep engagement — this will be unlike any other election in our lifetimes. Ducey can’t buy Arizona. This is our time, but only if you help.

2) Please sign my nominating petition to help me qualify for the ballot in November 2018. Please tell your friends and ask them to sign my petition. The first step to bringing change to Arizona is to put me on the ballot! The only way we win this is together, and I am honored to have your support. You can find my petition here.

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—> I’ll start and end with some good news. This year’s version of my bill to ban driving while texting (or reading or writing anything on your handheld phone) — SB1261 — will be heard next Tuesday afternoon around 2pm in the Senate Transportation Committee. 

As Farley Report readers know, I was the first legislator in the country to introduce a bill to ban driving while texting statewide, in January 2007. Now 47 states have banned the dangerous and life-threatening practice. Arizona? Not yet.

While I am glad to have played a part in helping make the roads safer in 47 other states, I really want Arizonans to gain the benefits of a driving population that is focused on actually driving.

Over the years, too many grieving families have come to my office to share their stories about loved ones lost or horribly injured because of the reckless actions of distracted drivers. We must act before yet another life is taken.

Texting drivers don’t care about our political preference when they put us at risk — this is a completely nonpartisan issue. I have worked with conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats alike to move this forward, but certain people in certain powerful positions have been able to kill the bills each session.

This year may be different.

Last year, one of the four holdout states, Texas, finally passed a statewide ban on driving while texting. They were shocked into that action by a horrific crash in which a texting 22-year-old crossed the center line and smashed head-on into a church bus, killing all 13 elders who were aboard.

This year, my SB1261 mirrors the Texas bill that is now law. If Texas can do it, surely we can as well.

SB1261 was single-assigned to the Transportation Committee where it is being heard on Tuesday. That means that if it passes, it is cleared to proceed to Rules Committee, then Caucus, then floor for a vote.

One prominent Republican told me that our lack of a ban on driving while texting was the top complaint he hears from his constituents. I think we have a real chance of passing this bill out of the Senate this year, and all the way through the House. But I need your help. 

Please contact members of the Senate Transportation Committee this weekend to thank them for hearing the bill and politely ask for a Yes vote on SB1261 next Tuesday. They are: Kate Brophy McGee, Sine Kerr, Juan Mendez, Lisa Otondo, Jamescita Peshlakai, Frank Pratt, and Bob Worsley.

Tell your story of why this is important to you. Next week, I’ll ask you to contact all Senators to ask the same thing. Then a couple weeks later, I’ll ask you to share your feelings with House members. Thank you.

—> Last weekend, while I was meeting with constituents around Arizona, Governor Ducey was meeting with the Koch Brothers Network of high-dollar national donors in their Palm Springs retreat. Luckily, the Washington Post sent a reporter to the posh event to record what he said and did.

In addition to raising more money from out-of-state millionaires and billionaires, Ducey was bragging about how he was going to go all out to attack the parents, teachers, and volunteers who used the power of referendum to force a vote on his beloved private school voucher bill.

The privatization of public education is the central goal of the Koch Network this year, and Ducey portrayed himself as their loyal footsoldier in that fight.

From the story:

In 2018, Koch donors see Arizona as ground zero in their push. Doug Ducey, the former chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery, became a member of the Koch network in 2011. Since 2015, he’s attended the seminars as governor of Arizona. Last year, he signed legislation to dramatically expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program so that students can use taxpayer dollars that would be spent on them in public schools to cover private-school tuition or other educational expenses.

“Teacher unions, worried that this will undermine the public system, collected enough signatures to put the law on hold and create a ballot proposition to let voters decide in November whether to expand vouchers.

“Addressing the seminar yesterday, Ducey touted the measure as further reaching than anything that’s been tried in other states. He warned that, under Arizona law, if advocates lose at the ballot box, they will not be able to legislate on the topic in the future. ‘This is a very real fight in my state,’ Ducey said. ‘I didn’t run for governor to play small ball. I think this is an important idea.’

“The Koch network is likely to spend heavily to support the voucher law, setting up a battle royal with the labor movement.

“Ducey introduced Steve Perry, the headmaster of Capital Prep Charter Schools, who has been traveling Arizona to speak in support of the law. ‘The teacher unions are unencumbered by the truth,’ he told the Koch donors. ‘It is a distant relative that is never invited to dinner.’ ”

I’ve had enough of the constant attacks on our public education system by the leader of our state and his cronies. How about you?

—> Speaking of great journalism, Arizona Republic investigative reporter Craig Harris wrote an excellent story this week called, If Arizona had not fired so many tax collectors, would there be money for teacher raises?

I’ve shared with you the story of Governor Ducey’s attempt (in his first three budgets) to dismantle the enforcement arm of the state Department of Revenue, in an apparent attempt to attract tax cheats to Arizona. He fired hundreds of auditors and collectors, which dramatically cuts state revenue and hurts all of us who pay our fair share of taxes.

This year, in an election year, now that he wants to spend a bit more on a few popular projects, he is recommending that we re-hire 25 of the hundreds that he fired, so that we can gain $31 million back for the state’s general fund.

Before he revealed this move, I had already introduced a bill, SB1324, to hire back 131 auditors and compliance staff carefully chosen to maximize return on investment to gain from tax cheats around $150 million annually for our schools.

I’ll let the reporter take it from here:

“[Ducey spokesman] Scarpinato sidestepped questions about why the governor now wanted to hire more tax collectors after allowing his Revenue director, David Briant, to carry out widespread firings of collectors and auditors two years ago. Ducey gave Briant a $70,042 raise, to $175,000, when he promoted him to director in 2015 from the Department of Environmental Quality.

” ‘Gov. Ducey has gone on a tear of firing an unprecedented number of auditors,’ Farley said. ‘He’s been giving away our money to tax cheats, but then he says we don’t have enough money to pay for schools. He’s not being honest with the people.’

“Farley said Ducey wants to hire more tax collectors in hopes of getting re-elected.

“Scarpinato dismissed Farley’s plan, saying there’s no data to show adding 131 full-time employees will bring in large amounts of additional money. ‘We are not going to add government, just for the sake of adding government,’ Scarpinato said.

“Revenue’s annual reports indicate that, to a point, more auditors and collectors do result in more money coming in, noting that each additional position brings in between $1 million and $2 million apiece.

“Ducey, in his proposal to rehire more Revenue staffers, claimed each new position would generate at least $1.2 million more state money.”

I’m glad Governor Ducey sees the light now, but it’s too little too late. If he manages to get re-elected, I have a feeling he may go ahead and fire these auditors once again.

—> And for a trifecta of excellent reporting, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Jeremy Duda through a public records request revealed the reasons why Governor Ducey’s Director of Administration Craig Brown abruptly resigned last week with a terse and baffling public resignation letter.

In an internal letter from Brown to Human Resources, he wrote he was “deeply disappointed” that the governor’s policy advisers measure all business decisions “with the sole lense [sic] of ‘How will the governor look?’” 

Making real change requires taking some risks, Brown added. “Constant scrutiny on my business decisions with a political optics lense [sic] only has led my job life to be totally unfulfilling and unproductive for the state,” Brown wrote. He said he loved working with other agencies and all of ADOA’s employees. “I can do without the policy advisor engagement. What an immature mess. I hereby resign.”

 

I’ve lost count of the number of department heads who have left in the first three years of the Ducey administration, some under a cloud of investigation, some quitting in disgust. He sold himself to voters as a competent manager. “Immature mess” indeed.

It’s time for an administration filled with people who work every day in order to serve the public, not to enrich themselves while making their boss look good.

—> Finally, some more good news: Thanks to the Senate Transportation Committee members for unanimously voting to pass two of my bills last Tuesday: SB1278 to help veterans and SB1279 to make the roads safer for motorcyclists and all of us.

SB1278 gives veterans with electric vehicles the same privilege as all electric vehicle owners to drive in the carpool lane, without needing to give up their veteran license plates. They fought for us — they shouldn’t have to fight for equal privilege.

SB1279, strongly supported by the motorcycle community, requires a motorcycle license in order to register a motorcycle. 40% of riders currently do not have a license, and that presents a danger to all on our roads. This solves the problem without involving law enforcement.

Next steps – Rules, Caucus, and Third Read on the floor, then over to the House.

—> Meanwhile, it’s been another very busy week for the campaign as we spread the word on how we work together to move Arizona forward.

After a week of hard work in the Legislature, I started Saturday at a coffee with constituents in Tucson, followed by a full day in Casa Grande for the Arizona Democratic Party’s State Committee meeting where we welcomed a new state chair, Felicia Rotellini, to help lead us to victory at every level.  That night I was honored to speak at the annual banquet of the Pinal County Democrats to a fired-up crowd of activists working for change. Sunday I was back in Tucson talking about the legislature with bipartisan group of concerned citizens, and Monday night in Phoenix I attended a great campaign event with nearly a hundred artists and arts patrons who are ready to help me enact creative solutions to our state’s problems.

Please join our campaign so we can finally get the leadership we deserve right here in the state we love.

Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator.

Steve

Steve Farley

Senator, District 9, Tucson

If you like my representation and want to keep me in office, CONTRIBUTE TODAY!

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February 2, 2018