April 16,2018 | Triadvocates
1. It’s that time of session, folks. Gov. Doug Ducey has asked legislative leadership not to send any more bills up to the Ninth Floor until the budget is ready for his signature. Any bills that come across his desk before then will be vetoed. While the governor has not formally acknowledged his strategy, the bill moratorium tactic is used around this time every session in an attempt to expedite budget negotiations and put the heat on members to strike a deal. Now the real fun begins.
2. The Arizona Legislature relies on a panel of private and public sector economists that meets once per quarter to help shape the economic forecast. This committee met last week with positive news about Arizona’s budget future. The state is now estimating the FY18 budget will be $262 million above the forecasted amount. In addition, the experts believe this stronger-than-expected growth will continue through FY19. Elected officials love this kind of news—and the timing couldn’t have been better, as this can now be used to fund the recently promised hike in teacher pay and other programs.
3. More than a week ago, Gov. Doug Ducey unveiled the Safe Arizona Schools Plan—a high-level proposal in response to the gun violence epidemic facing the nation. Despite receiving a blessing from the NRA, it remains unclear if the Governor’s Office has the votes to pass the plan, as many Republican members remain skeptical and Democrats are strongly opposed. The bill, sponsored by legislative leadership, was scheduled to be heard in committee this afternoon, however, the hearing was cancelled until further notice, as all focus has now shifted to the governor’s teacher pay raise proposal. While the hearing will likely be rescheduled later this week, the only certainty surrounding the Safe Arizona Schools Plan is that significant changes will have to be made if it’s going to make it to the finish line.
4. Last Thursday, Gov. Doug Ducey announced a proposal to increase teacher salaries by 20 percent by 2020. Standing alongside Republican legislators, school superintendents, parents and key education stakeholders, the governor unveiled his plan for a 9 percent teacher pay increase in FY19, followed by an additional 5 percent in FY20 and 5 percent more in FY21. He also remains committed to fully restoring the $371 million in Additional Assistance school funding by FY23. The bold proposal comes after growing pressure from the #REDforED movement, an effort led by Arizona Educators United and the Arizona Education Association. For weeks, thousands of teachers, parents and students have protested at the Capitol, demanding a pay raise, with the threat of a potential teacher strike very much alive. The plan is being criticized by teachers for its failure to address several other demands, such as adequate per-pupil funding and its lack of details, as it remains unclear how the governor intends to pay for it. Teachers across the state will hold a week-long vote, beginning today and concluding on Thursday, to decide whether to strike.
5. Last week, Rep. Brenda Barton revealed that she will challenge fellow Republican and longtime seatmate Sen. Sylvia Allen in the August primary for the LD6 Senate seat. While it’s an unexpected political move, rumors have been flying around the Capitol for months about an internecine war between the two legislators. Barton, who is term-limited after this session in the House, previously filed to run for the Arizona Corporation Commission, but later decided against that—dropping out of the race and endorsing another GOP candidate. LD6, which sprawls across parts of Coconino, Gila, Yavapai and Navajo counties, is considered a Republican district, however, Allen narrowly won her general election in 2016. Buckle up, this is going to be an interesting one to watch.
During a discussion in the House Republican Caucus regarding Prop. 301—the state sales tax increase passed by voters in 2000 to bring needed resources to public schools:
Rep. Jill Norgaard: If we don’t have Prop. 301 anymore, we would have to reduce the school days from 180 to 175 because the funding pays for five additional days. So, we would either have to reduce the number of school days or change something in statute.
Rep. Anthony Kern: Should we poll the students on that?