March 7, 2018

Howdy, Friends O’Farley…

In the last week, the Republican majority in the Senate did do a few things: They voted to expand private school tax credits, re-inject partisanship into our Independent Redistricting Commission, and allow insurance companies to take advantage of customers who don’t speak English. 

They didn’t do anything to address the epidemic of gun violence facing our nation or respond to the rising voices of young activists in Arizona and across the nation demanding action. The Democratic caucus responded. 

More details on all these happenings follow.

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But first, the Pledge Break…

 

—> The Republican Governors Association has already bought TV ad time in Arizona to help Doug Ducey — the only incumbent governor to receive such help from his friends in DC. That means they know he is in trouble. There are polls showing his job approval rating under water by 17 points. We can win.

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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—> President Steve Yarbrough is retiring this year, but on his way out he is seeking to make a few changes to a couple of his primary areas of interest — expanding private school tax credits and vouchers, and undercutting the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Farley Report readers know I have fought the privatization of public education for my entire career in the Legislature. One of the most egregious programs founded by President Yarbrough is the corporate private school tax credit program.

This program allows corporations to reduce their state income taxes by instead giving money to privately run Student Tuition Organizations (STOs) which take 10% off the top for administration and then pass through the money to scholarships to children who go to private schools. Taxpayer money is indirectly fed in this way to private schools. 

First enacted in 2006 with a cap of $5 million, the cap later that same session was increased to $10 million and automatically increased by 20% each subsequent year. I wish I could have a savings account that grew 20% per year.

This fiscal year the amount lost to the general fund by that tax credit alone — and taken from our public schools — was $74.3 million.

Over the same period of time, corporate taxes of all kinds — especially income taxes — have been cut dramatically, especially by Governor Ducey. In fact they have been cut so dramatically that corporations are no longer needing to use tax credits to reduce their taxes because their taxes are already so low.

We’ve not seen the economic flowering of more jobs and higher wages promised to us by the folks who pushed these tax cuts.

We have seen our public school budgets slashed and teachers leaving the classrooms as they can no longer afford to work for the lowest wages in the nation.

And a side effect has been that corporations are no longer chomping at the bit to get those private school tax credits, so the 20% increase in the cap each year is no longer a concern. 

Here is the smackdown, as written by those brilliant nonpartisan economists over at the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) in their own words on page 522 of this year’s Budget Baseline Book, with my translation to follow:

“Although Laws 2006, Chapter 325 provides that the credit cap be increased by 20% in FY 2020, followed by an additional 20% increase in FY 2021, corporations are not expected (in the aggregate) to increase their credit donations beyond FY 2019 levels. By this time, the full tax impact of previously enacted multi-year rate reductions has been realized. For this reason, businesses are not expected to have sufficient tax liability to fully utilize the increased credit-eligible donation limits provided by Chapter 325.”

Translation: We’ve cut corporate taxes so much, the corporations no longer have taxes left to cut!

So when President Yarbrough in his bill SB1467 offered to reduce the growth of the cap from 20% to 2.5% over the next four years in exchange for expanding the private school tax credits and vouchers to home-schooled students and first-year students, he was offering to give away something that no longer mattered in exchange for an expansion to the program.

Democrats did not take this offer. We believe that the entire program should be shut down and the money invested in our public schools so that all our students get an excellent, free, public education. 

SB1467 was amended on the floor to keep the 20% cap increase in place, and it passed on a party-line vote.

—> President Yarbrough’s other priority bill is SCR1034 to ask the voters to mess with Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission, which was approved by voters in 2000 and has been held up by other states as a model to follow as they seek to move from systems where politicians choose their own voters to a system like ours where voters choose their own politicians. 

Our independent commission has worked well and has created fair districts free of meddling by the Legislature. There are two Republicans, two Democrats, and one Independent, all vetted for statutory qualifications by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. From a vetted group of nominees, the House and Senate minority leaders pick two, the Speaker and President pick two, and those four members pick the independent chair.

President Yarbrough’s original language proposed an eight-member committee, no vetting, with four members chosen by each party. If they ended up in deadlock on district maps, the Legislature could send their own maps to voters. A highly partisan even-numbered group would be highly likely to deadlock, so this plan would in effect return the task of drawing legislative maps to the Legislature itself, destroying the Independent Commission.

He amended the bill on the floor to add a ninth member and make the group three Democrats, three Independents, and three Republicans, but only one independent would be vetted by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. While deadlock is less likely to happen with an odd number of members, the partisanship would still be maximized and the pressure on the one chair would be huge.

The bill passed along party lines. If it gets to the ballot box, it should be defeated. We are lucky to have a voter-approved process for drawing legislative and congressional district maps — independent of the partisanship of the Legislature — that works. It ain’t broke. We don’t need to fix it. 

—> Rep. David Livingston passed a bill through my Finance Committee on party lines, HB2083, that would establish English-only insurance contracts

Yep, with this bill if you buy an insurance policy in Arizona and you speak Spanish, and you are given a contract in Spanish by your insurance company, and you file a claim and are denied, the contract that will govern your case is the one written in English — not the one written in Spanish which you signed. Even if the language is different. 

Rep. Livingston, an insurance agent, testified, “There are some words in contracts that don’t translate exactly.” If there are disputes, “the insurance companies are saying, “I’m not going to take that risk.”

But I pointed out in committee that the definition of insurance is paying a company to assume risk. 

And this bill would transfer the risk of mistranslation off the company and on to the customer. If the company wants the business enough, they should be willing to stand behind their contract, no matter what the language. The bill passed on party lines and is awaiting floor action.

—> While all these bad bills were moving, common-sense bills from Democrats to decrease gun violence were still not heard, despite the national outcry from students, parents, and so many more across the country.

We have introduced bills to ask voters to institute background checks for all gun sales (my SCR1015), allow family members to voluntarily report people who are struggling with behavioral health issues and should not be allowed to possess a gun (Sen. Hobbs’ SB1347), remove guns from those who are subject to domestic violence orders of protection (Sen. Bradley’s SB1224), and ban bump-stocks (Sen. Cajero Bedford’s SB1348).

All these bills have broad bipartisan support even from gun owners, but committee chairs have refused to being them up for a hearing.

In an effort to focus the Senate’s attention on this vital issue, each day on the floor we have been reading a different obituary from each of the 17 victims of the Parkland High School massacre. The stories are heartbreaking. And solutions exist to reduce the chances that this can happen in the future. All it takes is the leadership and courage to push forward common-sense solutions in the face of resistance from the gun industry lobby. It’s time. 

—> Endorsement News: I am proud to announce I have been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which was founded in 1916 to represent the economic, social and professional interests of classroom teachers and is an affiliated international union of the AFL-CIO. They currently represent more than 1,500,000 teachers nationwide. I am honored to have teachers on my side as we fight to finally get teachers decent pay for their vital work.

—> It was another busy campaign week as we kept rolling around the state listening to Arizonans and gathering support to move our state forward together.

I had a great meeting with Chairman Robert Valencia and members of the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council, spoke to the Institute of Transportation Engineers Spring Conference in Paradise Valley on how we built support for the transformative Tucson Streetcar, took part in the LD18 Gubernatorial Candidate Forum in Chandler, and won over many more supporters at events in Phoenix, Nogales, Elgin, and Hereford.

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 7, 2018