Tuesday, May 26, 2015

OOPS! National Democrats Don't Even Have Arizona Senate Race On List Of Important Races

The Democratic party may be crowing today about their chances to knock off longtime Arizona Senator John McCain, following Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick's (D-CD1) announcement of her candidacy, but the party organization dedicated to winning (and holding) Senate seats does not have the Grand Canyon state on its list of important 2016 races.


The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committe's (DSCC's) website boasts of its "great chance to reclaim the Senate majority in 2016", and highlights 12 (of the 34) races it calls "DSCC Races".  It lists several "holds" - including the very blue state of Hawaii - and a few potential "pickups";  Arizona is nowhere to be found.

In addition to this (sure-to-be-soon-corrected) gaffe, the DSCC appeared to be stretching out its holiday weekend and failed to announce any support for the Congresswoman.  Even if the DSCC is holding out its support for another Democrat, such as Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9), a "welcome to the race, our candidate is going to dethrone McCain... or defeat whichever Republican is nominated" would have been expected.



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GETTING A JUMP: State Sen. Catherine Miranda "Strongly Exploring" Run To Replace Kirkpatrick In Congress

Within hours after Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1) announced that she is running against Sen. John McCain in 2016, State Senator Catherine Miranda (D-LD27) put out a news release saying that she is "strongly exploring" a campaign to replace Kirkpatrick.

The wide-ranging Congressional District 1 - which could be revised if the U.S. Supreme Court throws out Arizona's redistricting method next month - does not overlap with Miranda's current legislative district.  However, there is no requirement that a Congressperson reside in their district.

From Miranda's release:  “I am ballot-tested and count with a
strong crossover appeal from voters with different backgrounds and ideologies. I’ve
been an elected official serving the state of Arizona for many years. As a State
Representative and Senator I’ve been fighting for some of the most important issues
and challenges facing our state, siding at all times with the interest of working
families in Arizona”.

Entire release:



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U.S. Postal Service Pulls Back On Closing Tucson Processing Center: From "July 11" to "To Be Determined"

(UPDATE, 1:10pm: (1) added link to March article; (2) Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) announced that she and Tucson Vice Mayor Richard Fimbres will be touring the now-in-limbo facility tomorrow, and claiming leadership in the Congressional effort to thwart the closure.)

The U.S. Postal Service today changed the status of Tucson's mail processing and distribution center to "to be determined".  It had been scheuled to close on July 11.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) "welcomed" the delay.  Much of Arizona's Congressional delegation had been lobbying the USPS to not force all of Tucson's mail to be processed up in Phoenix.  From Grijalva's news release:

"I welcome news that the Cherrybell Processing and Distribution Center will likely not shut down in July, as had previously been planned,” said Rep. Grijalva.“Any delay gives us time to further make the case that the Cherrybell facility is vital to our community, and an unacceptable cut as USPS consolidates across the country.”
First announced in 2011, the closure of the Cherrybell processing facility would require all mail processing to be consolidate to USPS’s Phoenix facility, cutting nearly 250 jobs and ending overnight delivery for Tucson residents.
“While any news other than closure is good news, we must keep in mind the hundreds of our neighbors who are waiting with baited breath to learn if their jobs will be there next year,” Grijalva continued. “Likewise, small businesses across Southern Arizona that count on local service to ensure overnight delivery are awaiting an outcome too. I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure the outcome is the right one for our neighbors, our community, and out postal service at large.” 

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WATCH: Ann Kirkpatrick's "I'm Running" Video, Announcing Campaign For McCain's Senate Seat



The big Arizona political news today turned quickly from the U.S. Supreme Court NOT handing down its decision on the Arizona Legislature's case challenging Arizona's Congressional boundaries to Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1) announcing that she will attempt to dethrone Senator John McCain next year.

Here is her announcement video, posted on her new website and on YouTube:


Of course, the two news stories ARE related.  If the Supreme Court justices - as many are guessing - overturns Arizona voters' establishment of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, then the Republican-controlled state Legislature will attempt to re-draw boundaries to whittle away advantages held by Kirkpatrick and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) in those swing districts.

Much speculation has swirled about Sinema challenging McCain, and Kirkpatrick's announcement is more surprising.  That surprise was even heightened a bit just this past Friday when Arizona's Politics reported that Sinema was the only Arizona Democrat in Congress to not co-sponsor a bill to delay any redistricting that might be caused by a Supreme Court decision; Kirkpatrick is a co-sponsor.

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MONITORING: U.S. Supreme Court Deciding Arizona Redistricting Case

MONITORING: We are watching the U.S. Supreme Court as they are handing down opinions, as the Arizona redistricting case could be released at any point between now and the end of June.

In the meantime, 

3 Arizona Democratic Representatives Join Bipartisan California Group Co-Sponsoring Bill To Delay Effect of POSSIBLE U.S. Supreme Court Decision On Arizona's Redistricting


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Friday, May 22, 2015

3 Arizona Democratic Representatives Join Bipartisan California Group Co-Sponsoring Bill To Delay Effect of POSSIBLE U.S. Supreme Court Decision On Arizona's Redistricting

UPDATE:

Three of Arizona's Democratic Representatives yesterday joined a bipartisan group of California lawmakers in co-sponsoring a bill that would delay redistricting IF the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of the Arizona State Legislature and declares the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission unconstitutional.

The suit by the Republican-controlled state legislature to throw out the current Congressional district boundaries was heard by the Justices in March, and their opinion could come as soon as this coming Tuesday, or as late as the end of June.

It challenges the voter-approved setup of taking the decennial redistricting mostly out of the hands of the State Legislature and putting it in the hands of an independent commission - appointed by the legislature.  California and four other states (Hawaii, Washington, New Jersey and Idaho) have similar commissions.

The bill introduced yesterday by California Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R) and Alan Lowenthal (D) would require the six states to retain their current Congressional districts until after the 2020 Census; it does not mention the Supreme Court case.  The full text was provided to Arizona's Politics and is reproduced below; it is not yet on Congress' website.

Rohrabacher and Lowenthal signed on 11 other California Reps as co-sponsors - five Democrats and six Republicans.

However, in Arizona, only three Democrats wanted to sign on to a bill that would delay a redistricting.  Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1) and Ruben Gallego (D-CD7) are co-sponsors.  Arizona's fourth Democratic Representative, Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) - or, more appropriately, her Phoenix-East Valley district - is the main target of the Republicans' Supreme Court effort.

Sinema did not co-sponsor the measure.  However, she is very actively using the impending Supreme Court decision in fundraising this week.  As she told supporters and potential supporters in an email Friday afternoon, "We have to be ready if the Supreme Court rules against the bipartisan Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and turns our district over to the Tea Party."

As bipartisan as the "Citizens' Districts Preservation Act" might be (elsewhere), it is unlikely to get close to becoming law. First, the Supreme Court's decision is still unknown. Second, if the Justices strike down Arizona's Congressional district boundaries, it would likely call into question the constitutionality of this bill to freeze the districts until 2022.  Third, it is unlikely that a Republican-controlled Congress would pass a bill that Arizona Republicans so strongly feel costs the party one or more seats in Congress.  (Arizona's delegation was tilted in favor of Democrats, 5-4, after the 2012 election with the new map, although the GOP gained one seat back in 2014.)

RELATED:
--10/2/14: ANALYSIS: U.S. Supreme Court's Decision To Hear Arizona Redistricting Case, Most Likely In January
--12/3/14: READ: U.S. Constitution REQUIRES Lawmakers Handle Redistricting, Says Arizona Legislature In Its Supreme Court Brief
--12/22/14: BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court Sets Oral Argument On Legislature's Redistricting Appeal For March 2



TEXT OF H.R.2501:

To require certain States to retain the Congressional redistricting
plans in effect as of the first day of the One
Hundred Fourteenth Congress until such States carry
out a redistricting plan in response to the apportionment
of Representatives resulting from the regular decennial
census conducted in 2020.
1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa-
tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

1 SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
2 This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Citizens’ Districts
3 Preservation Act’’.
4 SEC. 2. RETENTION OF CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING
5 PLANS UNTIL REDISTRICTING FOLLOWING
6 2020 CENSUS.
7 (a) RETENTION OF PLANS.—Each State referred to
8 in subsection (b) shall retain the Congressional redis9
tricting plan in effect in such State as of the first day
10 of the One Hundred Fourteenth Congress until such State
11 carries out a redistricting plan in response to the appor12
tionment of Representatives resulting from the regular de13
cennial census conducted in 2020.
14 (b) STATES DESCRIBED.—The States referred to in
15 this subsection are as follows:
16 (1) Arizona.
17 (2) California.
18 (3) Hawaii.
19 (4) Idaho.
20 (5) New Jersey.

21 (6) Washington.

(Arizona attorney Paul Weich contributed in the preparation of this report.)

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Arizona's Senators Vote To Close Debate On Fast-Track Authority On Trade Deals

Arizona's Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake were among the 62 Senators to break a bipartisan filibuster this morning on the proposal to give the President fast-track authority on negotiating trade deals.

The difficult vote ended up being 62-38 on cloture, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised several Senators that he will bring an extension of the beleaguered Export-Import Bank to a vote before it sunsets next month.  No indication yet whether McCain and/or Flake were part of that group.

Five Republicans (Collins, Shelby, Sessions, Paul, and Lee) voted against the motion, as did most of the Democrats (13 voted "aye").



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Thursday, May 14, 2015

House Strikes Gallego Amendment Encouraging Military To Allow DREAMers (DACAs) To Enlist; Republican Said It Would "Betray Americans"

(UPDATE: Arizona Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) was the only GOP member of the Arizona delegation to oppose the amendment to strip the Gallego DREAMer/DACA proposal.  Only 19 other Republicans voted "nay".)

(2nd UPDATE: Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego just tweeted his disappointment in today's vote: "Disappointed to see that the GOP's war against immigrants continues. This is clearly still @SteveKingIA's GOP."   Meanwhile, fellow Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar (R-CD4) tweeted that he was "pleased" by the vote.  Both Reps. spoke during the 20-minute floor debate on the amendment.)

On a close (221-202) vote, the U.S. House of Representatives just stripped the Defense Authorization bill of an amendment proposed by Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-CD7) to encourage the military to permit DREAMers (aka childhood "DACA" arrivals) to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Arizona Rep. Martha McSally was one of only 20 Republicans voting to keep the DREAMer provision alive.  No Democrats supported the striking amendment.

The Gallego amendment had been passed by the House Armed Services Committee late last month.  Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks proposed a floor amendment solely to strip out the DACA provision, telling colleagues that "Gallego’s amendment betrays Americans by encouraging the Secretary of Defense to hire illegal aliens rather than Americans.”

Here is the text of Gallego's proposal (section 538): "It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the Secretary of Defense should review section 504 of title 10, United States Code, for the purpose of making a determination and authorization pursuant to subsection (b)(2) of such section regarding the enlistment in the Armed Forces of an alien who possesses an employment authorization document issued under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program of the Department of Homeland Security established pursuant to the memorandum of the Secretary of Homeland Security dated June 15, 2012."

Here is the full copy of Brooks' letter blasting the DACA provision.

Earlier today, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the Defense Authorization; no word yet on whether it includes a similar provision.





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WATCH: Sen. McCain Announcing Committee Vote, Details of Defense Authorization Bill

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee today voted 22-4 to move its defense authorization bill to the full Senate.  Chair John McCain (R-AZ) spoke about the bill to reporters today.

Here is the 25-minute news conference:


The House of Representatives is debating their version of the bill this afternoon.

For more details on the Senate version, here is a comprehensive article on TheHill.com.


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8 of 9 Arizona Reps Vote To Review Eventual Iran Nuclear Deal

The House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed a bill to review any eventual agreement with Iran about their nuclear program.  Among Arizona's nine Representatives, only Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) did not vote for it; he did not cast a vote*.

The House vote was 400-25.  The Senate had previously approved this plan (98-1), so it now goes to the President's desk.  President Obama is expected to sign the measure, which gives Congress the right to review the deal and decide on whether or not to lift some of the economic sanctions against Iran.  Here is the full text of the bill.


*Grijalva did participate in the roll call votes immediately before and after this vote.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WATCH: Rep. Franks' Victory Lap Speech Following House Passage of 20-wk+ Abortion Ban

Earlier today, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Trent Franks' (R-CD8) bill banning abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Tonight, after the close of regular business, Rep. Franks took to the floor to deliver a 23-minute speech regarding the issue.

To watch the video, click on the picture below. (It will open in a new window.)




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Arizona Reps Split 5-4 - NOT Along Party Lines - On USA Freedom Act Ending NSA Bulk Metadata Collection

Arizona's delegation split 5-4 as the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed (338-88) the USA Freedom Act ending bulk controversial (and, possibly illegal) metadata collection.  The split was not along party lines.

The five Arizona Reps voting "aye" were Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1), Martha McSally (R-CD2), Ruben Gallego (D-CD7), Trent Franks (R-CD8) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9).

The other four Reps voted "nay": Raul Grijalva (D-CD3), Paul Gosar (R-CD4), David Schweikert (R-CD5), and Matt Salmon (R-CD6).

Only 47 Republicans and 41 Democrats voted against the measure.  (So, Arizona's delegation was much more opposed than the rest of Congress.)

Here is the (lengthy) text of the bill, which will now move to the Senate.  Some of the provisions of the Patriot Act - passed after the 9/11 attacks - expire at the end of this month.

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House Passes (Again) Rep. Franks' Bill Banning 20-Week+ Abortions

UPDATE, 2:59pm:  Republicans voting against: Dent, Dold, Frelinghuysen, Hanna
Republican voting "Present": Hice (Jody)
Republican not voting: Barletta
Democrats voting in favor: Cuellar, Langevin, Lipinski, Peterson
Democrats not voting: Boyle (Brendan), Brady, Capps, Hinojosa
 roll call

The U.S. House of Representatives (again) passed Arizona Rep. Trent Franks' (R-CD8) bill that would ban any abortions after the 20th week of preganancy.  The vote was 242-184.  Four Republicans voted against the bill, and four Democrats voted in favor; otherwise, it was a partyline vote.

Franks and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) reintroduced the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" - H.R. 36 - in January; that has become an almost-annual exercise around the time of the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade.

In 2013, the bill passed the House on a party line 228-196 vote.  It died in the Senate, which was then controlled by the Democrats.  The Republicans now hold the majority in both houses of Congress.  However, the bill will face a certain veto from President Obama.

The Democrats attempted to amend the bill to permit an abortion after 20 weeks if it was necessary to protect the health of the mother. The bill permits exceptions to protect the life of the mother, or in the case of rape or incest.  The amendment attempt failed on a party line vote.

Franks spoke for about 5 minutes during the main debate:

Franks speaking earlier today, during debate over rules: 


Introduced: http://bit.ly/AZp1080
2013 passed: http://bit.ly/AZp558
Text: http://1.usa.gov/1cxLtpv


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Friday, May 8, 2015

Arizona Supreme Court Upholds $7.8M Verdict Vs. State In I-10 Crossover Accident

The Arizona Supreme Court today unanimously upheld a $7.8M verdict against the state of Arizona from a 2007 accident on I-10 where a Tucson man and his daughter were killed after a driver headed the opposite direction lost control of her vehicle and crossed through the median.

The State was relying on a statute that provided them with an affirmative defense if they had constructed the road according to standards at the time of construction. That stretch of I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix in 1967, when traffic - truck and otherwise - was lighter and median barriers were not as advanced.

The Supreme Court agreed with both the trial judge and the Court of Appeals that Diana Glazer, the surviving spouse/mother - who was seriously injured in the fatal head-on collision - was entitled to the verdict.  However, four of the Justices found that the defense was (and, will be) still available to the State, but that they did not prove that the "open median  in the collision area was not an 'unreasonably dangerous hazard' or, if it was, that the State warned the public of this hazard."

Chief Justice Scott Bales agreed with the majority's result, but felt that it gives the state too much leeway when conditions have changed since the time of design/construction.

A rash of crossover accidents in Arizona - and, the resulting public attention - prompted Arizona to add and update median barriers throughout the state.

(This article was contributed by Phoenix attorney Paul Weich.)


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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lung Association Report Ranking Phoenix 10th Most Ozone Polluted City, 12th Most Particle Polluted; Timing Makes It "Misleading", Says County (MEDIA FACT CHECK)

"2011 had quite a few haboobs."  That is one reason the new American Lung Association report on air pollution is "misleading", says Bob Huhn, the spokesperson for the Maricopa County Air Quality Department.

The ALA's "State of the Air" report gives the Phoenix metro area a failing grade on both ozone pollution and (short term) particulate pollution.  And, it ranked Phoenix as the 10th  and 12th most polluted in those categories (respectively).  However, the grades are based on the 2011-13 years, and that shows spikes in both categories.

In fact, looking at the longer-term charts on the Lung Association's page shows a much cleaner picture.

The ozone chart shows from 1996 through 2013 (using a rolling 3-year number). The days that Maricopa County has exceeded the ozone limits is way down, even since 2006-08. However, the most recent periods showed an uptick.

 In announcing the "kick off" of "ozone season" in Maricopa County at the beginning of this month, the Air Quality Department noted that 2014 was a MUCH better year than the previous several, and that "during the last four years, the number of federal ozone health standard exceedances has decreased 39%, from 28 exceedances in 2011 to only 11 exceedances in 2014."  Thus, Huhn tells Arizona's Politics, next year will show "significant improvement" in Phoenix's ranking (in that category).

Similarly, he says, the particulate ranking will be much better next year.  "2011 had quite a few haboobs" (dust storms), and 2014 was much better.  Huhn also notes that the Lung Association grades things differently than does the Environmental Protection Agency.  The EPA accounts for "exceptional events" that Phoenix cannot control - such as haboobs; the Lung Association does not.

The Lung Association's charts below do bear out the timing issue, as well. Maricopa County has seen the particulate exceedances climb dramatically in the last three years, after a long term decline.


This inquiry and article were prompted by a misleading tweet and article from a local TV station that flatly declared Phoenix one of the "10 Worst Polluted Cities."  The tweet and article not only did not distinguish between ozone, particulates and overall "pollution" - the Lung Association study did not rank cities on the latter - but it neither attempted to look at the details of the ALA's study nor contact the county (or, state) for an explanation or response. To repurpose what ABC15 said (of the pollution): "Not good."

Finally, we should also point out that the ALA praised Prescott as THE "cleanest city for year-round particle pollution" AND lauded Flagstaff and Sierra Vista/Douglas as two (of 18) cities to rank on at least two of the three lists (ozone, short-term particulate, annual particulate).

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Reach New Heights: Lobbying Firm Hits Jackpot, Gila River Indian Community Gets National Attention For $1M 1Q15 Spend

Go to Gila River Casinos website and you're greeted with two slides: "Reach New Heights", and "A River of Benefits."  Those are especially appropriate if you're Gila Rivers' lobbyists, who were paid an even $1,000,000 in the 1st quarter.

Gila River Indian Community's lobbying bill attracted national attention today when Politico noted that the lobbying disclosure statement for the 1st quarter of this year reached "a new record for a lobbying contract that’s well-known on K Street for the hundreds of thousands it brings to Akin Gump every quarter."

Akin Gump is a major national lobbying and law firm, and it has represented GRIC on Capitol Hill since at least 2006.  Although Politico notes that the amount Akin Gump received from GRIC this past quarter was $980,000, the $20,000 paid by GRIC subsidiary Gila River Telecommunications brings it to seven figures.

While many lobbying disclosure reports list specific bills or lobbying activities that were worked on, here is the broad description provided by Akin Gump:

"Congressional appropriations for irrigation project (BOR), health care facilities construction (IHS) and tribal programs (BIA); monitoring for legislation affecting Native American tribes; tribal tax exempt bonding authority; arbitration legislation; lease review authority legislation; land purchase valuation legislation; law enforcement issues; trust claim settlement; restrictions on off-reservation gaming; environmental restrictions on Navajo Generation station; H.R. 308/S. 152; negotiation of congressional settlement of tribal trust accounting claim and drafting legislation."

Of course, the smallest reference - to "H.R. 308/S.152" - is probably what generated the largest portion of those lobbying fees.  Those are the bills from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-CD2) opposing the casino being built by the Tohono O'odham in Glendale.  Despite Akin Gump's best efforts to push the measure, both bills are languishing in their respective chambers.

For point of comparison, the Tohono O'odham split $410,000 among four lobbying firms in the same period.

(Arizona's Politics has requested comment and will update as warranted.)




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