March 28, 2018

Howdy, Friends O’Farley…

The final legislative stretch is on, but it could stretch for weeks depending on when the majority figure out what they want the budget to look like. Once they’ve done a deal with the Governor in secret, the budget bills — the annual foundational moral document of our state — will be revealed and voted on within three days with minimal public input. That’s a process that needs to change once voters make a change in November.

Meanwhile, the retrogressive combined forces of Big Coal and Big Utilities are doing what they can to pull us out of a bright solar future and back into the dark ages of carbon-spewing global-warming fossil fuels, enriching Texas and West Virginia while condemning us to a future of poverty, heat, drought, and fire. It doesn’t have to be that way…

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But first, the Pledge Break.

 

—> According to our polling, we are now in a statistical tie to beat Doug Ducey in November. This is the election we have been working towards.

1) But we can’t win without your help. Please contribute what you can. Don’t let Doug Ducey and his dark-money backers buy Arizona.

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!

3) Tell ten friends there is hope for Arizona — there’s a leader named Steve Farley who can govern from Day One and knows how to win. And ask them to tell ten friends. This is our best chance in years to create positive change in Arizona, but we all need to pitch in.

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—> Most Arizonans would agree — this country should not be powered by Texas oil or West Virginia coal. Arizona sunshine can power our nation, an option that just makes economic and environmental sense.

Unfortunately, Big Coal and Big Utilities still have a tremendous amount of power and money — most of which comes from us, the ratepayers — which they are using to ask for government subsidies and quash renewable energy standards.

Last Wednesday morning in the final Finance Committee meeting of the session, we heard Rep. Mark Finchem’s HB2003 to ask us to hand out around $30 million a year in taxpayer money to subsidize Peabody Coal’s failing business model of destroying our climate. 

Here’s the backstory: The Navajo Generating Station (NGS) is a coal-burning electrical power plant owned by five partners, including the Salt River Project (SRP), Arizona Public Service (APS) and Tucson Electric Power (TEP). Last year the owners made a business decision to shut the plant because burning coal was too expensive, and they were unable to find a buyer who would continue to operate a money-losing, carbon-spewing plant.

There is a small coal mine nearby that only supplies coal for NGS. It is run by Peabody Coal, a leading funder of the climate-change denial movement.

At its peak the plant and mine provided around 800 jobs in a part of our state that struggles with unemployment. No one wants those jobs to be lost. 

But there is a win-win solution that would allow the jobs to be savedretrofitting the coal plant into solar. The transmission infrastructure is already there. New-generation batteries could be installed on site for 24/7 baseload capacity. And the jobs would last into the indefinite future.

Especially now that California has a 50% renewable standard, we could sell our excess solar power to our neighbors at a premium, creating sustainable jobs for the Navajo Nation while making money for our needs right here in Arizona even as we help mitigate climate change for the entire globe.

So what’s the problem? The problem for Peabody is that they are no longer in the picture.

In order to maintain their profits, Peabody Coal has been working with right-wing think tanks to try to advocate for the reopening of the plant to burn its coal to no avail until they decided to try their hand at the Arizona Legislature.

During two previous Finance Committee meetings this session, the bill was held because it did not have the votes. Last week however, under intense pressure from his colleagues and Peabody, one of the Republicans flipped his vote and it passed committee on party lines, creating yet another corporate sales tax loophole, this time on the sales of coal. Next battleground: Senate floor.

—> Right after the coal subsidy passed committee, we heard Speaker JD Mesnard’s HB2528 capital gains tax cut. As the bill was read, at least two hundred red-clothed public school teachers filed into the hearing room as part of their visit to the Capitol to advocate for better teacher pay.

They got schooled in how the legislative majority gives away taxpayer money that could otherwise be invested in our schools and our teachers.

According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, HB2528 would reduce state funding by $23.2 million a year when fully phased in, giving the vast majority of its wealth to those at the top of the income scale. It would give away more than $28,000 to each of the 183 Arizonans who earn more than $5 million a year. 

As the teachers looked on, earning 50th in the country in average salary, the committee voted along party lines to approve this latest tax giveaway.

It may be the state’s current leaders who will get schooled this November.

—> The attacks on clean energy didn’t stop with the handout to Peabody Coal. The state’s big utilities, frightened by the prospect of a citizen initiative that would require them to generate half of their electricity from renewable sources, are trying to legislatively gut that initiative before it even gathers the signatures to get on the ballot.

This is really hard to understand, given that coal prices are no longer competitive, solar costs have dramatically decreased, and the market for renewables is high and on the rise. The success of utilities into the future depends on how quickly they are able to switch over from fossil fuels to renewable. In addition to helping Arizona stay livable this century, that strategy will provide sustainably high shareholder value. Win-win.

Wasting millions of dollars in political donations and lobbying in order to desperately cling to a dying business model just doesn’t make sense, any way you look at it. Sadly, that’s just what APS, TEP, SRP, and others are trying to do. 

[As an aside, there is a scrappy group of dedicated citizen activists running a renewable slate to the SRP board. If you are an SRP customer/shareholder, or you just want to help, please visit srpcleanenergy.org and don’t forget to vote before March 31.]

Their retrogressive strategy is two-fold:

1) They fast-tracked Rep. Vince Leach’s HB2005 to declare that any utility that violates any renewable standard can only be fined a maximum of $5,000. Apart from being blatantly unconstitutional according to the Senate’s Rules Attorney, the outrageous concept is to make the current or future renewable standards completely toothless. Not surprisingly, Governor Doug Ducey signed this bill as soon as it hit his desk on March 23. Governing once again for his corporate donors, not the people of Arizona.

2) They are pushing a striker we heard yesterday in Senate Appropriations, Leach’s HCR2017, an attempt to confuse voters by placing a referendum on the ballot that is nearly identical to the actual proposed renewable energy initiative, except within it is a buried poison pill that would allow the Corporation Commission to eliminate renewable standards if they decided that they were not in keeping with the “well-being of Arizona.” It passed on a party line vote and will head to the floor.

It is just flabbergasting to me that these utility companies would spend so much effort trying to hurt their future economic prospects while driving the summertime temperatures of Arizona north of 130 degrees in a decade or two. It’s time for change.

—> Last week I wrote about the tragedy of an Uber self-driving car killing a pedestrian on Mill Avenue in Tempe as part of a continuing pattern of Governor Ducey encouraging corporations to test their unproven projects on our citizens. The video makes the incident even more disturbing: The driver seems to have been texting at the time, and the car in self-driving mode makes no attempt to swerve or brake even though its technology was billed as being able to see clearly in the dark and should have seen the pedestrian well in advance.

Even more disturbing is how company records, as leaked to the New  York Times, showed an appalling safety record that should have led to the cars being taken off the road prior to this fatality. Except that Arizona, under the anti-regulatory and pro-corporate direction of Governor Ducey, did not require that the company show its records to anyone. To put us all at risk in that way is just plain wrong. We did not consent to be guinea pigs.

Remember how Gov. Ducey welcomed Uber to Arizona with a huge sign hanging on the Capitol? And bragged about how he would let Uber do whatever they wanted to experiment on our citizens, without “burdensome regulations”? Yesterday morning, many months too late, he gave in to public outcry and rescinded Uber’s right to test on our roads. Check out his contrasting tweets, before and after:

—> And one last thing — Remember that great idea Governor Ducey came up with in Proposition 123 to pay our public schools 70% of what we owed them using money from the state land trust that was already going to schools in the future? 

Yesterday a federal judge ruled that that funding mechanism was illegal. And our schools could be on the hook for up to $344 million. The judge has not yet ruled on the remedy, but in any case, this is not good news. More on this later.

—> Endorsement News: Great endorsements continue to roll in — this week’s from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The Arizona State Council of IAM represents many Arizona families, including workers at Raytheon and Sky Harbor. With nearly 700,000 active and retired members, the IAM is one of the largest and most diverse labor unions in North America. From Boeing and Lockheed Martin to United Airlines and Harley-Davidson, you will find IAM members across all walks of life. I am honored to have the support of IAM’s powerful membership in my campaign to ensure Arizonans from all walks of life have the opportunity to succeed.

—> The Farley campaign keeps gathering momentum as we bring people together all over Arizona.

In the last week I talked about Doug Ducey’s wrong priorities on AZPBS’s Horizon TV show again in Phoenix, sat down with supporters in Oro Valley, marched with and was inspired by more than 8,000 Tucsonans in the March for our Lives, conducted a lively policy conversation with Republicans, Independents and Democrats in eastside Tucson, had a great rally with pumped-up folks in Green Valley, laid out our vision with doctors and other professionals in the Catalina Foothills, and met with volunteers from Moms Demand Action in Phoenix.

Wherever you live, you, too, can 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!

Paid for by Farley for Governor

March 28, 2018