This Week in Arizona Politics: 5 Things to Know

April 30,2018 | Triadvocates

1. Late on Friday afternoon, Gov. Doug Ducey, along with leadership from the House and Senate, announced that they have agreed to a budget deal—and have the votes for passage. Regarding education, they said the budget includes a 20 percent increase in teacher pay by school year 2020. In addition, this restores recession-era cuts to increase funding for schools and puts more money into the classroom. The money will be flexible dollars for superintendents to use for support staff pay increases, to update antiquated curriculum and to improve school infrastructure—without raising taxes. Legislative staff worked through the weekend drafting the budget language, which is expected to go to a committee and then the floor for a vote sometime this week.​

2. Arizona teachers are sticking with their lesson plan: wear red, rally at the state Capitol and walk out until their demands are met. Last Thursday, the #RedForEd movement drew more than 50,000 people to the Capitol, making history as one of the largest public protests in legislative history. The momentum continued over the weekend, with hundreds of parents and students gathering at the Capitol yesterday for the “Parents Stand for Teachers” rally. The statewide teacher walkout is now on its third day and #RedForEd  doesn’t appear to be losing steam anytime soon, as leaders of the movement maintain that the remaining demands from teachers have yet to be addressed.

3. Following a flurry of vetoes, Gov. Doug Ducey has returned to regular order and started signing bills again. This past week, he signed HB2166, which establishes a new highway safety fee on every vehicle paid at the time of vehicle registration. This new fee will cover 110 percent of the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol budget each fiscal year, thus eliminating the need to appropriate money for this fund. While the new fee amount will be set by the ADOT director annually, it is estimated that it will run somewhere between $17 to $20 per vehicle. In addition, the bill changes the way alternative fuel vehicles are assessed and taxed, starting in 2020. With budget negotiations picking up steam this week, rumors are flying that the additional money freed up by this bill will be used as part of the package to implement Ducey’s 20x2020 teacher pay increase.

4. Final results from the special election last week are in: Republican Debbie Lesko will be heading to D.C. to fill the CD8 seat vacated by former U.S. Rep. Trent Franks. She will serve the remainder of his term, but faces another election in November—and the results from last Tuesday are far from comforting for Republicans. While Lesko beat out Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, she won by merely six points—a shocking deviation from the double-digit margins political pundits predicted, given that CD8 is arguably the most conservative district in Arizona. Tipirneni has confirmed she will be back in November for another chance to take on Lesko.

5. Right when we think Arizona has had enough time in the national spotlight, the Legislature gives reporters from around the country something new to write about. Last Thursday, Democratic state Reps. Reginald Bolding and Geraldine Peten – the only two black members of the Arizona Legislature – were formally rebuked for speaking out against an opinion piece in the Arizona Republic penned by Republican Rep. Maria Syms, which included quotes containing a racial slur. In her column, Syms wrote that the two best-known leaders of the #RedforEd movement are “political operatives” who are radicalizing Arizona youth—calling Noah Karvelis’ classroom “exotic” and chiding him for teaching students music from the hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar. In her piece, Syms included a lyric from the Pulitzer Prize-winning artist that included a derogatory term for African-Americans. After Bolding and Peten took to the floor to express their outrage, House Republicans voted to reprimand them for impugning Syms—a violation of House rules.

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Instead of a Quote of the Week, we decided to go with the photo that best captures the #RedForEd teacher walkout on Thursday.

Last Thursday, the #RedForEd movement drew more than 50,000 people to the Capitol, making history as one of the largest public protests in legislative history.

To date, Arizona’s longest legislative session was in 2009, running 170 days. The average session length is 126 days.


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