Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reckless GOP rushes harmful one-sided AZ budget

Gov. Brewer and Republicans in the AZ legislature were out-of-touch with their chainsaw approach to the FY09 budget 'fix'.

PHOENIX -- House Republicans all voted recklessly early Saturday to ram through rushed budget bills in the middle of the night that make deep cuts to education, health care and state employees, all of which are unnecessary cuts that harm children, middle class families and Arizona's economy.

For the common good of the people, the House Democrats and I did everything we could by courageously fighting late in to the night, offering fair and humane solutions, and challenging and denouncing the unneeded Republican attack on Arizonans and our quality of life. The House Dems and I will continue to work to solve problems and help people during the next budget process for FY2010, which should start soon.

No Democrats supported the Republican leadership's bad budget bills, but every House Republican member sheepishly fell in line to vote to harm education, families and health care thorough the careless budget presented by their out-of-touch leadership.

“Thursday night at a public budget hearing, House Democrats heard from the people who will be affected by these cuts the most – students, parents, people with disabilities,” said Rep. David Lujan, House Democratic Leader. “Friday night and Saturday morning, we heard from our Republican colleagues loud and clear – they chose to vote against children and middle class families and those who stand to face the worst of burdens during the state’s economic crisis.”

House Democrats offered common sense and fiscally responsible amendments that would:
· Restore universities’ funding.
· Restore K-12 education funding.
· Include more funding available to Arizona from the Federal Economic Stimulus package, set to pass the U.S. Congress in the next couple of weeks.
· Use their own full $7 million House surplus to restore funding to greatly needed programs. statewide, such as to vaccinations for children and funding for a poison control center.

Every single House Republican present voted against all of the above Democratic amendments, including freshman GOP members like Frank Antenori of Tucson, who broke his repeated public promise to not support a budget that cuts K-12 education. Other Republican freshmen, including Vic Williams, from Tucson's northwest suburbs, voted for the harmful budget despite his lip-service to education.

In the Senate, GOP freshman Jonathan Paton of Tucson voted for the bad budget which is very harmful to the University of Arizona, Tucson and southern Arizona.

Only two Republicans, both in the Senate, had the courage to vote with Democrats against the bad budget, Sen. Carolyn Allen of Scottsdale and Jay Tibshraeny of Chandler. I thank them for standing up and doing the right thing.

In a stunning show of out-of-touch priorities, the vote on the bad budget was rushed in part so new Gov. Jan Brewer could sign it before fleeing town for the Super Bowl (at taxpayer expense?), and so Republicans could go to a Scottsdale country club to attend a pro golf tournament today and schmooze with corporate lobbyists.

Not only did Brewer push the legislature to rush the process so she could go to a football game, her only budget request was for $18M more in deeper cuts to already gutted state parks and air and water pollution prevention programs.

From the Arizona Republic, 1/31: 'Brewer, a Republican, offered suggestions... and (GOP) lawmakers complied, making cuts to environmental programs that drew alarm... Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, said the cuts spell a decline in clean air and water throughout the state, and they come on top of already big cuts to the state Department of Environmental Quality.'

Brewer's environmental irresponsibility will harm public health as more children and other people get sick from pollution, harming learning and driving up health care costs. Brewer's hostility also threatens our state parks, risks our water quality and supply, and will worsen global warming pollution and related climate change, which are making Arizona hotter and drier, threatening the economy and future livability of our state.

The detailed vote information, showing which members voted for and against the individual amendments, can be found here. The roll call votes on the Schapira amendment (university cuts), Lujan amendment (K-12 education cuts) and Fleming amendment (sweep of House balance) are available at that link.

Review the final Senate and House votes on the Republicans' destructive, divisive budget.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hurry up and wait at Capitol on AZ budget

Could be a rare late Friday night at the AZ Capitol.

RELATED: GOP hacking of state budget is destructive, Arizona Daily Star editorial.

UPDATE, 9:45pm: House members are now taking the floor, and it is likely we will be working most or all night debating and voting on budget proposals, amendments and bills.

7:10pm: Not on the floor yet and still waiting for word from the Speaker. Another reason we are still here is Gov. Jan Brewer is leaving tomorrow for the Super Bowl in Tampa, which is why GOP legislative leaders are forcing this harmful budget through in the middle of the night.

PHOENIX -- After showing up this morning for a short floor session then caucus, we were supposed to take the floor again at 2pm to debate and vote on the bad FY09 budget cuts, and several Democratic amendments to try to reduce the harm to people, education and healthcare.

Two and a half hours later, Republican leadership has just announced we may take the floor around 7pm.

One key GOP told me not long ago they 'may not have all the votes', and mentioned we may be here until 1am tonight.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

House Dems offer relief, GOP votes to harm AZ

Speaker Kirk Adams (R-Mesa) and AZ Republicans prepare to severely cut education and other essential state programs.

PHOENIX -- Read the news release below from AZ House Democrats for an update on the AZ budget situation. The House will be back in session 10am Friday and likely vote on the FY09 budget tomorrow. I will be voting no.

House Democratic members of the Appropriations committee offered on Thursday several amendments that would alleviate the deep cuts Republican lawmakers proposed to education, health care and other programs important to children and middle class families in Arizona.

Democratic members of the House Appropriations Committee heard the Republicans’ budget bills, after fewer than six working hours notice, when Republicans emerged from secret meetings out of public view.

Still, Democratic members of the committee were able to offer amendments to the bills that would restore funding to universities, K-12 education, domestic violence shelters and health care, using guaranteed federal stimulus money to cover those cuts. All Republicans voted against amendments to restore education and university cuts.

One of Sinema’s amendments would opt to use the rest of the state House of Representatives’ surplus, $3 million, to offset a cut to domestic violence shelters for women and children.

All Republican members of the committee voted against using their own surplus to restore funding to victims of domestic violence.

More than 100 community members attended the hearing and signed in to oppose the budget bill; not one supported the Republican measure.

“Today, Republicans decided to ignore the $1 billion federal stimulus package that is in the mail to Arizona,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema, a member of the Appropriations committee. “During secret meetings on Wednesday night, they developed a plan that makes drastic cuts to universities and K-12 education and opted to ignore the opportunities that the stimulus funds offer and instead harm children, middle-class families and the future economic vitality of our state.”

Stimulus OKed, GOP still opts to gut education

Kids learning science at Borton Elementary in Tucson. Children and schools would suffer under the GOP budget.

PHOENIX -- A $1 billion federal stimulus check, specifically made out to aid education in the budget shortfall, is in the mail to Arizona, but Republican lawmakers have decided to slash and burn education anyway.

Republicans’ proposal will be heard today in Appropriations Committee at 1:45 p.m. in House Hearing Room 1.

Arizona’s U.S. Congressional delegation voted to pass the federal stimulus package Wednesday specifically to ease deep cuts in their home state’s budget deficit.

State Republican lawmakers met in secret Wednesday and introduced budget bills in the middle of the night to unnecessarily rush a budget through a false deadline they have created for themselves.

“Republicans have declared war on our education system for no reason,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “There are no excuses anymore. The check is in the mail. Why would Republican lawmakers still blatantly want to assault Arizona’s students, parents, teachers, children and middle-class families by making drastic and unnecessary cuts to education?”

Although the $1 billion in federal funds is guaranteed to ease the need for deep cuts to Arizona education in about two weeks, the new Republican proposal opted for deeper cuts to K-12 education than originally proposed – $133 million. They also are choosing to unnecessarily hit universities with a $142 million cut, and the state's health-care system with a $44 million cut.

House Democrats have offered alternative and responsible budget solutions to the 2009 shortfall, alternatives that protect our state’s education system and middle-class families. This proposal has been hailed as common sense, prudent and practical. Republicans chose to ignore Democrats’ proposal in favor of making deep unnecessary cuts.

“Republicans are choosing to decimate and eliminate education rather than utilizing federal stimulus money passed by our own Congressional delegation,” said Democratic Leader David Lujan. “If we want to witness firsthand our state buckle underneath itself, then this is the budget proposal to make that happen.”

To slash and burn education, Republican lawmakers have concealed their budget changes and options in secret meetings this week, out of public view.

That’s not what Speaker Kirk Adams originally pledged to the public: “…Adams has vowed that the state budget will be crafted in the open, not behind closed doors,” according to The Arizona Republic on Jan. 18. “He and Burns, the Senate president, are of like minds when it comes to running the Legislature, from making the budget process more transparent to turning an attentive ear to the needs of the business community.”

“On the whole, we're on the same track,”
Adams said of Burns’ pledge of transparency, in the story.

“The public deserves to know what is going on behind closed doors in budget negotiations because these decisions will directly affect their every day lives,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “We face a financial emergency with our universities and K-12 education, our future business and economic vitality. Arizona’s children and middle class families stand to carry the heaviest of burdens. The people of Arizona should be able to see this process and be a part of it.”

House and Senate Democrats held their first of five public budget hearings Monday night in Casa Grande to hear ideas and input from the public, who will be affected the most by these budget cuts. The next hearing is in Phoenix tonight, 6:30-8:30pm, Grace Lutheran Church, 1124 N 3rd St.

“Fair, common sense solutions are available to balance the budget that protect education, kids and families in Arizona,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson of Tucson. “The people of Arizona should know that responsible solutions exist and House Democrats are advocating for them. Republicans’ rushed draconian cuts to education will badly harm students, children, families and our state’s economic future, and these cuts are completely unnecessary.”

RELATED: AZ Republic's Robert Robb, House Dem budget responsible.

- adapted from House Dems PIO

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fed stimulus passes, AZ closer to budget solutions

US Treasury in Washington.

PHOENIX -- A federal stimulus package that passed the U.S. House of Representatives today brings Arizona closer to 2009-2010 budget solutions that spare deep cuts to education and health care.

The U.S. House passed an $819 billion economic stimulus package today that will decrease the state’s deficit, jump start economic growth and generate thousands of jobs nationwide.

Arizona is slotted to receive $1 billion in federal stimulus money in state FY2009, specifically in education, child care, Food Stamps Administration and Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, according to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. Next week, the U.S. Senate will vote on its version.

“House Democrats have always considered this as an option, and now the legislature is one step closer to solving the state budget crisis while ensuring protection for education and health care for children and middle-class families in Arizona,” said Arizona House Democratic Leader David Lujan.

Upon resolution of the 2009 budget, House Democrats will work in a bipartisan way and advocate for utilization of additional federal stimulus funds for the 2010 budget.

RELATED: from US Congressman Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ7).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Grand Canyon flows big test for Obama's Interior

Obama's Interior Dept. must allow more high flows from Glen Canyon Dam to the Grand Canyon.

GRAND CANYON AZ -- President Obama's new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar faces a big 'science v. politics' test over Colorado River flows in the Grand Canyon, reports the Washington Post.

PEER, where I serve as ecologist and southwest director, is out front protecting Park Service employees in defense of the Grand Canyon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Dems budget better for education, middle class

Leading the way to protect kids, education and healthcare.

PHOENIX -- Arizona House Democrats today announced their full 2009 budget options that would ease deep cuts to education, children and middle-class families in Arizona.

"These practical budget solutions offer more palatable choices than cutting our state's major economic engines such as universities," said Assistant House Democratic Leader and House Appropriations Committee member Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix. "We can get through this economic crisis in a bipartisan way and ease deep cuts to education and universities, state agencies and state employee pay at a time when families are worried about economic security."

House Democratic Appropriations Committee members’ options close the FY2009 budget shortfall without raising taxes.

Their options address the state's deficit by making fewer cuts than the Chairmen's options, minimizing the burden on universities and K-12 education. House Democratic Appropriations Committee members’ budget options include:

· Reducing the budget shortfall by $850 million including DES, AHCCCS and RBHA payment deferrals, a University roll over, use of own House monies, increasing the vehicle license tax transfer and other fund transfers.

· Ensuring economic vitality to the state by reducing a proposed deep cut to the state's prosperous key to our future - universities and K-12 education.

· Increasing state employees' benefit contributions by a fraction in place of mass layoffs and significant pay reduction.

· Maintaining vital services such as KidsCare that are needed even more during an economic downturn.

"We're exploring all options to balance the budget in a responsible, bipartisan way to get out of this crisis, while protecting education and healthcare, to help Arizona's people and economy," said Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson. "I appreciate the tough work of our appropriations members, and all legislators careful consideration of every budget option, not just severe cuts."

- adapted from House Dems PIO

7000 faces of 09 for downtown art & revitalization

General view of future underpass.

TUCSON -- About 7000 people, including me and my family, will get our faces on the improved 4th Av. underpass as part of a downtown public art project.

The underpass is part of my bike route to my office, or I should say it was until construction forced a detour.

If this art lasts, in the future it will provide a tribute and interesting view of people in Tucson during the changing times of 2009.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Congrats AZ Dems; Rep. Patterson on budget

TUCSON -- Check out Patterson: Truly weigh all the options on budget from today's Arizona Daily Star.

Good news from the big Arizona Democrats reorganization meeting yesterday in Phoenix, which I could not attend due to family responsibilities at home. Thanks and congrats to friends and fellow Pima Dems Mohur Sidwa and Vince Rabago for winning important state vice-chair positions.

I also congratulate recently elected new Pima Dems Chairman, Jeff Rogers, also a friend.

These leaders, others and I will help AZ Dems stand strong for now and win a majority at the Capitol in 2010.

I thank Don Bivens for all his work for the AZ Dems.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Working to protect AZ education and health care

gorilla2

Phoenix Suns Gorilla celebrates AZ kids with me at Capitol Jan 22. Arizona Guardian photo.

TUCSON -- As a State Representative, I'm glad to get thousands of emails and calls this week from Arizonans outraged with some GOP legislators plans to deeply cut education funding.

My daughter is in first grade in Tucson public schools, and I'm in the schools every week listening to teachers. My mom was a public school teacher, and my sister is now. I strongly support protecting education funding at all levels (K-Univ.) and finding ways as soon as possible to increase funding. Severely cutting education would be unwise and unethical and would harm Arizona's economy, quality of life and future.

I do not support the appropriations chairs' proposed education cuts, and I'm doing everything I can to protect education, including talking about it directly to the new governor yesterday.

Good people of AZ, please feel free to keep contacting me, but know that I'm on your side.

Arizona's universities and college students have done a great job letting lawmakers know they want colleges protected, but K-12 advocates seem to have been much less aggressive.

Perhaps it is because they know they have my support, but I've heard nothing at the Capitol from K-12 public school districts, including TUSD and Sunnyside in my district 29, which has me concerned they may not get the relief they need. Superintendents, school board members and K-12 advocates need to be loud on this right now.

I am also very concerned about the chairs' plans to cut KidsCare, a critical program that provides health care for 74,000 at-risk kids and parents in AZ. I participated in the Children's Action Alliance event Thursday at the Capitol to celebrate 10 years of KidsCare, and call for keeping this essential human service.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gov. Brewer picks Tim Bee to head S. AZ office

Tim Bee is Gov's man in SoAZ.

TUCSON -- New AZ Governor Jan Brewer had an event today downtown. I talked with her briefly, urging her to please help me and other concerned legislators protect education and health care funding.

Brewer has hired former AZ Senate President Tim Bee to lead her southern Arizona office, which could be a good pick. We'll see how much influence Bee may have with Brewer and her staff at the Capitol, especially on issues critical to Tucson and southern Arizona.

If I heard her correctly, the governor mentioned in her speech taking an airplane to Tucson, which is expensive, much more costly than driving like the rest of us do. If she did indeed fly from Phoenix to Tucson and back, how much did this flight cost the state? I have no problem with the governor of a big state using a private plane when truly needed, but private planes are very expensive to fly and should only be used for long trips, not 120 miles.

Business leaders in Tucson are supporting protecting education and health care funding from drastic cuts, and some are even calling for revenue enhancements to improve state services, I heard this morning at the Southern Arizona Leadership Council's legislative breakfast.

People want a great state, not a wasteland, and they are willing to invest in Arizona's future.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

House Approps moves to cut deficit, keep options

Leading the way toward solutions at the AZ Capitol.

UPDATE, 1/31: Republican Reps. Vic Williams, Rich Crandall, Russ Jones and Steve Court all flip-flopped on supporting fair budget options by sheepishly voting for the harmful Republican FY09 budget 'fix'.

PHOENIX -- House Democrats won bipartisan support today in the appropriations committee for nearly $850 million in options to decrease the state’s budget shortfall without raising taxes, which would ease drastic budget cuts and economic pain on children and middle-class families in Arizona.

“We are happy that members of our committee worked together in a bipartisan effort and came to a bipartisan agreement that shows we are open to protecting education by considering options to decrease the budget deficit without raising taxes,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 7-4 to pass Sinema’s substitute motion that the Appropriations Committee remain open to additional options to reduce the revenue shortfall as they consider the 2009 budget solution.

Reps. Sinema, David Schapira, Olivia Cajero Bedford, Vic Williams, Rich Crandall, Russ Jones and Steve Court all voted to pass the motion. Reps. John Kavanagh, Nancy McLain, Andy Biggs and Rick Murphy voted against it.

“The proposed cut to education – schools, community colleges and universities – will devastate the educational infrastructure in our state and hurt our state’s long-term economic vitality,” Sinema said. “We need to focus on what we can do to ease deep cuts to education and universities, state agencies and state employee pay at a time when families are worried about economic security. We have to consider all options on the table, including options to decrease our budget shortfall.”

I, the House Dems and others are leading the way toward a wise bipartisan solution to Arizona's budget crisis.

- adapted from House Dems PIO

AZ Dems call budget hearings; LD29 town hall 2/7

AZ State Sen. Rios.

PHOENIX -- Legislative Democrats invite members of the public to a series of budget hearings that will be held statewide. Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees will be in attendance to hear citizens’ concerns of the drastic cuts in the state budget.

The first hearing will be held on Monday, Jan. 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Casa Grande Middle School District Conference Room, 300 W. McMurray Blvd., Casa Grande.

“Our communities are facing draconian cuts outlined in the Republican budget proposals, but they were not given a voice at the State Capitol,” said Sen. Rebecca Rios (D-Hayden). "We are holding these hearings to provide more transparency in the process and to hear directly from the public how these cuts will affect their daily lives.”

“We want to hear what the people of Arizona have to say about budget cut options because these cuts will affect them the most,” said Rep. Barbara McGuire (D-Casa Grande). “Arizona’s children and middle class families are the backbone of our state. We also must not forget our veterans and our most vulnerable populations – the disabled and the elderly. How we treat our citizens is what will be said about us as a society.”

In the next few weeks, Legislative Democrats will also hold hearings in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma. Dates and times will be released as they are available.

I, Sen. Linda Lopez and Rep. Matt Heinz, all from Tucson's district 29, will hold a town hall meeting Sat. Feb 7 from 2-4pm at the Eckstrom-Columbus library, 4350 E. 22nd St., Tucson.

- adapted from House Dems PIO

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gov. Jan Brewer for all?; AZ House happenings

With Napolitano in Washington, Jan Brewer (right) is now AZ governor.

PHOENIX -- As a State Representative from Tucson, I participated today along with many others in the inauguration of Jan Brewer as Arizona's 22nd governor.

I sat in the front row in the legislator section, but had a tough time seeing at first due to the sun blasting in my eyes. I forgot my sunglasses and had to squint hard for a time. The sun was almost hot for a while, at 3pm in January, in warm central AZ. Eventually, the sun dipped behind the Capitol building and glare and heat eased.

The new governor mentioned serving 'all Arizonans', and I hope she keeps that promise by working with the many Democrats in the legislature who represent millions of people. She and the GOP leaders in the legislature would largely ignore Tucson and Pima County if the Dems are not closely involved in the budget and other issues, since we represent the majority of people in southern Arizona.

I wish Gov. Brewer well and will reserve judgment on her until we see what she does in her new office. I and other Dems are ready to work with her to find fair solutions to Arizona's economic and other troubles.

The people want the positive spirit surrounding the new Obama era to have a positive effect on Arizona state politics, and Gov. Brewer could capture and use that energy if she wants to.

I had my first meeting of the Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee today. We heard from commanders of all major military installations in Arizona, including Davis-Monthan Air Force base in my district 29. An issue I've long worked on, encroachment from urban sprawl, was a major concern of the military.

Army Major Ireland from Yuma Proving Ground said reported controversial plans to expand the range by as much as 500,000 acres on to BLM public lands was 'on hold'.

I appreciate that I am hearing strong opposition from many constituents and people statewide to the proposed education cuts in the budget options presented last Thursday by the Republican appropriations chairmen. As I made clear last week, I do not support these cuts, and will do everything I can to protect education funding.

So far, serving in the House has been a fascinating privilege and honor.

Dems celebrate Obama at party in Arizona capital

Hope for positive change in US and AZ.

PHOENIX -- Roughly 300 excited Arizona Democrats celebrated the inauguration of President Obama Jan. 20 at Stoudemire's restaurant in downtown Phoenix. The crowd joined others across the nation in watching the historic moment.

Pins, hats, shirts and stickers bearing the name and image of President Barack Obama were everywhere. Even a life-sized cardboard cutout of the President stood elevated high above the proceedings.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard spoke to the jubilant crowd in Stoudemire's after the swearing-in ceremony and President's speech.

"You can't listen to such an amazing ceremony and not feel the power of change," Goddard said. "Change is coming and we could see it throughout this ceremony."

Goddard said his favorite moment of the inaugural proceedings was the brief moment of confusion during the oath of office when Chief Justice John Roberts accidentally rearranged the Constitutional wording of the oath.

Goddard carried a scarf on stage, saying it represented "solidarity" with the freezing masses on the Mall in Washington, D.C. When asked why he decided to stay in Arizona, rather than travel to the nation's capital, Goddard laughed again, gesturing toward the sky.

"How could you be anywhere else?" he asked, smiling. "I was there in '92, and froze on the Mall. One moment of history in acute physical distress is enough. I think it's much better to be here with folks in Arizona."

When asked if he was ready to announce a bid for governor of Arizona, Goddard laughed again."I'm just putting my head down," he said. "Tomorrow I'm going to the next governor's inauguration. I wish her well. It's always tough to have a leader like Janet Napolitano leave the state. She had a clear vision and did a great job for us."

Other Democrats attending included recently elected Democratic State Representatives Daniel Patterson and Eric Meyer; Tim Nelson, who ran against Maricopa County Attorney General Andrew Thomas in 2008; Dan Saban, who took on Sheriff Joe Arpaio in the most recent election; Bob Lord, who was defeated by Republican John Shadegg in the 3rd Congressional District; Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman; and former Pima County Democratic Party Chairman Vince Rabago.

Patterson said he was excited about the change in power, saying he hopes some of the positive spirit in Washington will "rub off" on the Arizona Legislature.

"(President Obama) needs all of us to work together,"
Patterson said. "Without cooperation, it's hard to get things done."

As former President Bush boarded the helicopter that would take him from Washington, D.C. to Crawford, Texas, cheers went up among the lingering attendees.The party at Stoudemire's was sponsored by the Nucleus Club.

- adapted from Arizona Capitol Times

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

For this white woman, race has come full circle

Will President Obama help us unite?

by Jeneiene Schaffer

TUCSON -- As I was chased home, yet again, by a group of taunting black girls and boys, I knew when I got home that no matter how angry I was, my mother would threaten severe punishment if I even muttered the "n-word". I knew equally well that on the weekend when I visited my father, it would not suprise me to hear him say, with that white indignation he was so fond of displaying, the words 'porch monkies', 'welfare moms', and yes 'nigger'. During the race riots of the early 70s in New Jersey, I went to a predominately black grade school, my mother raised alone three kids in a predominately black poor neighborhood, and my dad was a cop, no doubt making life hell for any unfortunate black person who crossed his path.

As I matured, I could have chosen any truth to lead my life by. As we all know, Spirit lays several paths before us. I have never forgotten running home crying into my mother's arms. Her gentle voice reassuring me that those kids didn't really hate me. As a mother now myself, I understand that what she needed to tell me, but I was too young then to understand, was those kids saw me as 'white' and therefore a good and easy target for their pain, their fustration, and yes, hatred.

Since then, the truth I have chosen is the one that abides by the love, respect, and dignity of all beings. God may have placed me in those turbulent times and blessed me with those early life lessons. And I am grateful.

Today as I sat with mostly black folks at the Inauguration Soul Food Brunch hosted by the Tucson Southern Arizona Black Chamber of Commerce, I thanked God that my life had come full circle. That as Barack Obama took the oath of office, I openly cried for joy and turned and hugged and kissed a black woman I never met before. It is a happy day!

For me, it's ok to rejoice and celebrate the victory of a black president. Until that day when race does not divide us, I will honor times, like now, when it beckons to unify us.

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK holiday celebrates liberty and justice for all

MLK moved the crowd, nation and world.

TUCSON -- I'll be out with my family today celebrating civil rights and remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a great leader who made our nation better and more fair for all people.

Here is an interesting short history of MLK day as a national holiday, including what happened in Arizona.

In Arizona, the holiday enacted by voters is called 'Martin Luther King/Civil Rights Day', to honor not only the great Dr. King, but also the millions of people who joined the struggle for justice and continue to fight each day for liberty and justice for all.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More changes in 09: Arizona playing in Super Bowl

AZ Cardinals win NFC Championship.

PHOENIX -- We're used to Super Bowls being played in Arizona, not Arizona playing in Super Bowls, so special congratulations to the Cardinals, who held on in the 2nd half to beat the Eagles and advance to the Super Bowl Feb 1 in Tampa. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was the outstanding MVP of the game.

The Cardinals need to keep running the ball, improve their pass rush and avoid mistakes to win.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Not going to DC, representing at AZ Capitol

1.20.09

TUCSON -- I'm not going to Washington next week for Barack Obama's inauguration as President.

Of course I'd like to go, but the legislature is in session, so I'll be doing my job at the State Capitol representing the people of district 29.

More on the AZ budget.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Gov's budget offers some solutions, say AZ Reps.

AZ education funding must be protected.

PHOENIX -- The budget options Gov. Janet Napolitano released today offer some smart solutions that will get our state’s economy back on track and move Arizona forward while protecting education, House Democrats like me said today.

“We will have to make serious and responsible cuts in order to balance our budget and emerge successfully from this economic crisis,” said Democratic Leader David Lujan. “Gov. Napolitano’s plan is a common-sense approach to these cuts, without raising taxes or devastating the educational infrastructure in Arizona and hurting the state’s long-term economic vitality.”

Arizona is dealing with one of the most daunting economic challenges the state has faced, and House Democrats will work in a bipartisan way to make fiscally responsible and common-sense cuts to the budget, while putting children and middle-class families first.

The Republican budget cut options total $1.5 billion out of the state’s education system over the next one and a half years. This is not an amount that our state’s education infrastructure can absorb without serious impacts on the quality of our education system.

"I have a daughter in public school, and I'm in the schools every week. I know kids, teachers and learning in Arizona would be hurt badly by the proposed cuts to education," said Representative Daniel Patterson of Tucson. "To protect our kids, future and economy, Arizona's education system must be guarded from draconian budget attacks."

In a disturbing show of out-of-touch priorities, the GOP options propose cutting only $22 million from the corrections department's fat budget, far less than cuts planned for other top state agencies. Even the ultra-conservative Goldwater Institute recommended at least $97 million in prison budget cuts.

“The Governor’s plan is a balanced plan that considers all options and makes cuts that will not only eliminate the deficit, but will keep Arizona on the path to a brighter future,” Lujan said. “As this process moves forward, Democrats look forward to working with Republican colleagues to develop a comprehensive, accountable and responsible budget plan.”

- adapted from House Dems PIO


RELATED: Repeal unwise tax credits and deductions, Rep. Chad Campbell, House Democratic Whip.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Arizona budget and bills in the 49th legislature

Soon-to-be governor Jan Brewer could have a lot of influence on the budget tone.

PHOENIX -- It got busier this afternoon in the House after Big Red left. At the end of this first week of session members dropped hundreds of bills, to add to the hundreds already filed, and harsh budget cutting options were released from the Republican appropriations chairmen.

I participated in all the 'budget bootcamp' meetings this week, and I thank the chairmen of the appropriations committees and the JLBC staff for the work they’ve done developing these options. The House Dems and I understand how difficult this is and there is no easy solution and appreciate the hard work they have done. But the options for cuts proposed in this budget to education – schools, community colleges and universities – will devastate the educational infrastructure in our state and hurt our state’s long-term economic vitality.

These budget cut options total $1.5 billion out of our state’s education system (K-univ) over the next 1 ½ years – this is not an amount that our state’s education infrastructure can absorb without serious impacts on the quality of our education system and, long-term the economic vitality of our state. This level of deep cuts will significantly hamper this state’s ability to recover from the economic downturn and to have strong and prosperous economic long-turn and it will add to the numbers of the unemployed as teachers are laid off.

The budget cuts are only being presented as options at this point but we strongly urge the appropriations committee chairs and Republican leadership to work with all members and consider other options. We need to move cautiously and really consider the long-term impact – and economic cost – of anything we do now. This budget process must be thoughtful and seriously consider all options.

I am focusing on trying to protect education, health care and other essential needs while trying to help solve Arizona's fiscal problems, therefore I have yet to introduce any of my own bills. I am considering and researching a few possible bills on public safety and economic justice that may have a chance of a fair hearing in the House.

I have taken action and signed on to co-sponsor some other members' bills on energy, animals and wildlife, economics, education, students, banks, payday loans and other topics. The legislative process is complex and can move fast. Some of these bills, though well intended, may play out to be problematic, and I may have to try to amend or vote against a bill I co-sponsored. I will always try to do the right thing, but will make some mistakes. If you live in district 29 or Arizona and have any questions about my positions on bills or the budget, please contact my Capitol office at 602.926.5342 or Tucson office at 520.398.6000. Thank you.

AZ Cardinals mascot Big Red visits House of Reps.

Rep. Daniel Patterson and Big Red.

PHOENIX -- The legislative session is starting to heat up as members are running around today trying to get bill sponsors.

We have not yet started seriously debating any budget solutions, but Big Red visited us on the House floor today.

Go Cardinals, beat the Eagles on Sunday!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

AZ city gets smart with goats, reducing pollution

Goats don't pollute.

MESA AZ -- This Arizona city is using goats, not chemical herbicides or polluting machines, to control weeds at a water reclamation plant.

I applaud this positive move toward sustainability.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sponsoring energy and fire bills in AZ House

Historic territorial seal.

PHOENIX -- Today was the first day of real work for the 49th legislature.

I put in 12+ hours and made the most of it by meeting with youth and family advocates, participating in budget/economic meetings, meeting with other members and my committee chairs and sponsoring bills on energy efficiency and fire protection. I am also considering a bicycle safety bill. More details on the bills will be reported here soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

49th Legislature starts, adios Gov. Napolitano

Gov. Napolitano off to DC to head Homeland Security.

PHOENIX -- It was my honor to be sworn in today as State Representative from Tucson's district 29. I'm proud my family could be there at my side.

Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) gave her final State of the State speech today, and leaves for Washington tomorrow. Today when I spoke to her I wished her good luck at DHS.

The governor's office on the 9th floor is cleared out. I've heard credible reports that Sec. of State Jan Brewer (R) will become Arizona's next governor as soon as Jan 21.

I'll be working hard and tactfully at the Capitol to represent the public interest in what will likely be a very tough session due to our giant economic problems. As a new member in the minority, I plan to keep a low profile for a few months, focusing on building relationships with other members and earning respect to become the most effective lawmaker possible.

Everyone was all smiles and friendly today, and hopefully that feeling will last. We'll see as tomorrow morning House members start a week full of 'budget bootcamp' meetings.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Good luck Cardinals in playoff game vs. Panthers

AZ Cardinals playoff football.

UPDATE: Cardinals win big! I'm pulling for the Eagles to beat the Giants Sunday and bring the NFC Championship game to Arizona.

CHARLOTTE NC -- Good luck to the Cardinals on a rainy night in the east. Most sports pundits think they'll need all the luck they can get.

I think Arizona can win if they can run the ball, play good defense and have few mistakes and turnovers.

Game coverage starts at 6:15pm AZ time. I'll be watching from Tucson. Go Cards!

SoAZ lawmakers talk about state budget crisis

AZ Senate President Bob Burns (R-Peoria) this week called the budget crisis a 'tar baby'.

TUCSON -- Some southern Arizona legislators are featured in the Citizen today discussing the state's now $4-5B budget shortfall for fiscal years 2009 and 2010.

No doubt about it, this is Arizona's worst financial crisis since the great depression. Overall, Arizona has the worst budget situation of any state in the US.

As one of 60 members in the House, I will do everything I can to be an effective voice of reason to protect children and regular people during a session that promises to see painful budget cuts.

As we struggle to find a responsible way to balance the budget, I am disturbed some Republicans in the majority want to make the problem worse by insisting the legislature should permanently end the education equalization assessment, and also further cut income and corporate taxes. This reckless talk is fiscally irresponsible and very unwise at this time as it would only make Arizona's money shortage worse.

We cannot cut our way out of this budget shortfall. Arizona needs a focus on economic stimulus and green jobs, not more failed tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations that don't really need them.

Some of these same GOP politicians want to spend millions on a special election this year to ask people to overturn previous decisions by voters to protect education and health care funding from drastic cuts by the legislature. I cannot support that plan at this time, and if it is forced on to the ballot I predict voters will reject such an attack on their power through the initiative process.

As the state of Arizona tries to find ways to balance our budgets, ultimately the legislature and governor have a duty to closely examine and change how Arizona raises revenue to pay for essential public services. Arizona is far too dependent on the unfair and volatile sales tax. For Arizona's long-term fiscal health, our revenue system must be overhauled and reformed in a fair way.

We cannot cut our way out of this budget crisis. The federal stimulus should help Arizona, but it will not save us. I am advocating for maximum support to Arizona as part of President-elect Barack Obama's federal plan, and should know more details about that process after participating in a meeting later today with congressional representatives working on it.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Water and Energy: SW growing drier and hotter

Desertification and shrinking of southwestern pinon-juniper woodlands.

TUCSON -- Read this important southwestern climate change article in the CSM.

Part of the solution is energy and water efficiency, conservation and more focus on green jobs with distributed generation of solar and wind power.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rep. Grijalva intros 3 eco bills in 111th congress

Green Grijalva.

WASHINGTON -- Today, my Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) re-introduced three Arizona-related bills that passed the US House of Representatives in the 110th Congress, but failed to pass the Senate, in the hopes they will make speedy progress during the new Congress this year.

The Cocopah Lands Act will direct the Secretary of the Interior to take lands in Yuma County into trust as part of the reservation of the Cocopah Indian Tribe. The Act will allow the 423 acres of land already owned by the Tribe to be added to the current 5,934 acres of reservation land. The bill language does not allow for use of the land for gaming purposes under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area Act will help preserve and promote the cultural and natural resources in the Santa Cruz Valley. The Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area would encompass roughly 3,300 square miles in southern Arizona, bordering Mexico. The designation would provide federal funds for the development of a locally-initiated and community-based conservation strategy for the Santa Cruz Valley, recognizing the importance and uniqueness of our region.

The Avra/Black Wash Reclamation and Riparian Restoration Project will amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide federal funds to help in the construction of water recycling facilities in order to enhance and restore riparian habitat in the Black Wash Sonoran Desert ecosystem in Avra Valley.

“I am proud to reintroduce these three important pieces of legislation today,” stated Grijalva. “I plan to work hard to ensure these bills move through the process quickly and are signed into law by the new President as soon as possible.”

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Getting ready for 49th Legislature starting Monday

Rep. David Lujan (D-Phoenix) is the new House Democratic leader.

PHOENIX -- I'll be at the Capitol Thursday and Friday preparing to serve as a State Representative (D-Tucson) in the upcoming session of the 49th Legislature, which starts Monday.

I'll also be participating in some energy and business events downtown, as well as meeting and talking with reporters.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Arizona budget crisis calls for fiscal pragmatism

AZ Capitol.

by Dave Wells

PHOENIX -- Facing an enormous revenue shortfall, the current secretary of state and soon to be governor, Jan Brewer, has expressed her potential openness to raising taxes. Meanwhile the outgoing Speaker of the House Jim Weiers is convening a blue-ribbon committee to study the Arizona tax code. These represent steps in the right direction.

When Gov. Janet Napolitano took office in 2003, she faced a $1 billion deficit. Relative to the economy, state general fund spending fell 20 percent below its norm for the past three decades. In response, she formed a Citizens Finance Review Commission, but refused to risk her political future by calling for significant revenue reform that would run into Republican opposition.

This year's state budget situation is far worse; $1.2 billion this fiscal year and double that next year. While both parties share blame, revenue reform must become part of the solution.

Democrats ramped up state expenditures as the economy grew with the housing bubble, but they failed to put aside sufficient amounts in the rainy day fund. Meanwhile, Republicans demanded a 10 percent permanent cut in income taxes from a temporary revenue surplus.

In November, Democrats lost seats in the legislature; moderate Republican allies were defeated in the September Republican primary, and Republican Brewer will be governor when Janet Napolitano is confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security.

Despite Brewer's potential openness to raising revenues, the Republican legislature will likely propose massively reducing the budget while demanding that the temporary reduction in the state equalization property tax be permanent, even though it makes a horrible fiscal situation worse.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) doesn't forecast state budget revenues approaching fiscal year 2007 levels again until at least 2013.

Moderate Republicans and state Democrats need to boldly step forward with a clear alternative to dramatic cuts that would undermine everything they stand for.

Though K-12 funding is fairly protected, some schools have already cut nurses, librarians, and arts programs. The JLBC has potential new cuts of up to $1,000 per student.

Universities could lose one fifth of their state funding, causing financial aid cuts, forcing programs to shut down, creating larger classes while curtailing enrollment. This will further pressure the Board of Regents to pass another huge tuition increase.

Those in greatest economic distress will likely face greater hurdles in accessing fewer benefits or completely losing safety nets like children's health insurance, childcare, health care for working disabled people, and long-term care for elders.

What's the alternative? Raise revenues to limit painful cuts.

First, the 19 cent state gas tax hasn't changed since 1990. With gas prices plummeting below $2 a gallon, now is an ideal time to increase the tax by a dime per gallon with an annual inflation adjustment so it remains a more stable revenue source. This would bring in an additional $300 million annually.

Second, we have $1.6 billion less in revenues this year because since 1994 the Republican led legislature has cut individual income tax rates by one-third. An astonishing 37 percent of that lost revenue goes to the richest 1 percent of Arizonans. Democrats should propose increasing
individual income tax revenues by $400 million for the richest quarter of households and earmarking half that increase for the rainy day fund in years where revenue growth exceeds population growth plus inflation.

If Republicans refuse such fiscal pragmatism, it will stake out a contrasting position for voters to consider in 2010.

Not everything needs to be partisan, as unemployment rates hasten toward 7 percent, Republicans and Democrats should find common ground. Despite an unemployment insurance trust fund with a healthy billion dollar surplus, Arizona's average unemployment benefits are the fourth lowest in the nation and $300 a month less than our neighboring Mountain West states' benefits. For struggling families that's a huge difference, and deserves attention immediately.

Dave Wells writes for the Arizona Editorial Forum, holds a doctorate in Political Economy and Public Policy and teaches at Arizona State University.

Monday, January 05, 2009

AZ leadership summit on solar energy & economics

Rooftop solar in south downtown Tucson.

TUCSON -- UA, ASU, NAU and others are teaming up on an important economic and energy event in Phoenix later this week.

I'll be there, focusing on power solutions we may consider in the House Water and Energy Committee.

In just one year, AzRISE is already doing some valuable work for our energy, economic and environmental future.

NEWS, Jan 9: Phoenix Business Journal

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Money & politics: B. Richardson out; AZ going broke

AZ House building: where I'll be working to try to help solve our fiscal crisis.

PHOENIX -- Two breaking stories today.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) has reversed course and will not seek the US Commerce Secretary position in the Obama administration.

Arizona's treasurer, Dean Martin (R), says the state may be out of money as soon as next month.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Rep. Patterson statement to LD29 constituents

AZ LD29: Tucson's downtown, south and southeast sides.

TUCSON -- Below is my statement to a gathering of district 29 Democrats today in the southeast part of the city.

Friends -- Thank you for supporting my clean campaign to serve as your State Representative at the Capitol in Phoenix. My family and I appreciate and value your support.

Thank you also for being here today and stepping up to make the district 29 Democrats even stronger. I am pleased to support Laura Elias de la Torre as our new chairwoman, and I have confidence she will take us to new heights.

I'll be working hard at the Capitol to represent you on two important and influential House committees: Water and Energy, and Military Affairs and Public Safety. I'm also grateful to be working as a part of the district 29 team. We plan to hold town hall style meetings periodically in the district to listen to people, focus on solutions and report on happenings at the Capitol, and I hope to see you there.

As a new Representative, I will start by listening, building relationships and earning respect to be the most effective legislator possible. Considering Arizona's budget problems, a more conservative Republican majority, and the change in the Governor's office, this will likely be a tough year for issues Arizonans care about, such as education, economic justice, health care, equal rights and the environment. But the House Democrats plan to be organized and use wise strategies to be an effective force for the public interest, and we'll need you to be loud if the Republicans get out of line.

I am honored and humbled to serve as your State Representative. I will work hard every day in a relentless pursuit of the common good, to solve problems, help people and build bridges for positive change. I ask you to please keep in touch, visit me at the Capitol and follow my political blog, Daniel's News & Views, at dpatterson.blogspot.com

Thank you again for making the LD29 Democrats stronger, and let's start organizing now to win a legislative majority and the Governor's office for the Democrats in 2010. Working together, we will continue to make Arizona a better place for everyone.

Thank you,
Representative Daniel Patterson
(D-LD29-Tucson)

dpatterson(at)azleg.gov (starting Jan 12)
602.926.5342 Capitol office
520.398.6000 Tucson Legislative office

Friday, January 02, 2009

Colleges in bed with banks on pushing credit cards

'Credit card slaves' protest for reform.

TEMPE AZ -- Colleges are profiting from deals with Bank of America and others on marketing credit cards to students, reports the New York Times.

These unethical marketing deals can lead to a 'debt trap' for many students who are not financially savvy, and are already suffering economically.

At Arizona State University, students set up a table on campus in 2008 to warn of the danger of debt and urge limits to on-campus marketing.

Colleges should be prohibited from selling or sharing students' information with banks for credit card marketing purposes, at the very least unless specifically and clearly authorized by each student.