FOLLOWING MONEY IN 2016 PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mr.Tobin's Wild Salary Ride In 2015; Takes (At Least) 45% PAY CUT For Corporation Commissioner Position

A good deal of the focus of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's appointment of  Andy Tobin to the Corporation Commission today has been on the number of taxpayer-funded jobs he has had in the 2015 calendar year; however, also noteworthy has been his wild salary ride for the year.
(from Arizona Republic)

Channel 12's (KPNX, Phoenix) anchor/political-reporter-extraordinaire Brahm Resnik pointed out that it is his 4th gig. However, the former Speaker of the House held that position (through his Congressional campaign, and) through the new Legislators were sworn in on January 5.




Salary that first week: $24,000.

Governor Ducey then appointed Tobin to take over the Department of Weights and Measures. Tobin gave that up in October when Ducey tapped him to become the director of the Department of Insurance.

Salary for that job: $145,000

Two weeks ago, the Governor added Interim Superintendent of the Department of Financial Institutions to his portfolio.  There was no word as to whether he would be drawing a full salary for that well-paid position, in addition to the Insurance Department Director's paycheck.

The appointment to serve out resigned Chair Susan Bitter Smith's term on the Arizona Corporation Commission means that Tobin will surrender the other two department heads and will take the voter-set ACC salary of $79,500.

The pay cut from $145,000(+?) to $79,500 is 45%. Of course, you could also look at the 231% increase from his Jan. 1 legislative salary to his Dec. 30 Corporation Commissioner salary.

This also may make for an interesting decision for Tobin next year. Pension considerations could influence his choice as to whether or not to run for a full term on the Corporation Commission, or return to a higher-paid agency head position.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

For Various Reasons, Arizona Congressional Delegation Overwhelmingly Votes Against Omnibus Spending Bill; From "Monstrosity" To "Refreshing"

(Article corrected to reflect that Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva also voted against today's spending bill.)

Arizona's Senators both voted "nay" on the omnibus $1.1 trillion spending bill today, as did six of Arizona's nine Representatives.  It passed easily, and the President is expected to sign it today.

The House yesterday passed the $680 billion tax package portion, 318-109. Only three Republicans voted against that - none of them from Arizona. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1-running-for-Senate) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) were among the 77 Democratic Reps to join the Republicans in supporting it (vs. 106 Democrats opposing).

Today, the $1.1T bill that will keep government from shutting down for at least the next 9 months, passed the House 316-113.  Four of Arizona's 5 GOP Representatives bucked the party majority and voted "nay" on the spending portion; Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) voted "aye".  Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) and  Ruben Gallego (D-CD7) were two of only 18 Democrats to oppose the measure.

The Senate passed the companion measures together, 65-33.  Both John McCain and Jeff Flake were among the 27 Republicans casting no votes.

McCain's reason for opposing the package was made known earlier this week in a blistering 26-minute rant against fellow Republican Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.) and others for "lining Putin's pockets" with an end-around provision to allow Russian-made rocket engines into the U.S. (See separate video posted here.) He tweeted that it "represents everything the American people hate about Washington."


Flake's reason for opposing focused on the amount of spending: "I voted against the omnibus because it adds to our growing debt, fails to address wasteful spending, and is full of the same tired giveaways we’ve seen over the years.”

Selected tweets from Arizona's House Republicans:




Rep. Matt Salmon (R-CD5) called it "a win for big government and backroom deals", and neither Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD6) nor McSally issued statements today.

Democratic Rep. Gallego outlined a bevy of reasons for his "nay" vote, including Puerto Rico, election transparency and climate change. He said that "in reality was packed with Republican policy provisions that only compromise our values. The omnibus should be about funding the government – not about pushing through policies that could not pass on their own."

On the other hand, Kirkpatrick called the omnibus "refreshing": “It was refreshing to vote for an omnibus bill that includes smart investments in jobs, education, transportation and infrastructure. And this bill is especially good for Arizona, with increases for wildfire grants programs, national parks, Pell Grants, Head Start, Impact Aid and much more. Instead of the usual shutdown threats and brinksmanship, Congress worked together on this compromise bill, and while it isn’t perfect, it deserved to pass with overwhelming support. As I’ve often said, bipartisanship is the way to get things done. In 2016, I hope Congress will chart a similar path -- one that is paved with more results than rancor.”

Rep. Grijalva did not appear to release a statement, and here is Sinema's tweet with a link to her full statement:



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Thursday, December 17, 2015

BREAKING, READ: Bitter Smith Resignation Remarks





http://bit.ly/AZp1220

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

READ: In Jangly Juxtaposition, Rep. Franks Signs On To Defending Nation In War Against Christmas As He Commits To Fight To Defend Bill Of Rights

Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-CD8) is co-sponsoring a Congressional Resolution to protect the symbols of Christmas from a secular war on the holiday, as he tweets this morning about the defending the Bill of Rights.

Franks is one of 35 Republicans to sign on to Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn's resolution (H.Res.564) stating that Congress "that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas." The annual battles in the so-called War on Christmas were most typified this year by outrage among some Christians (and talk show hosts) when Starbucks' made its annual holiday cups a solid red instead of featuring a Christmas tree.

The resolution that Franks is supporting (no other Arizona Representatives signed on) calls for the protection of Christmas symbols and traditions and "strongly disapproves" of any (private) "attempts to ban references to Christmas" - even though that might infringe on people's First Amendment right to free speech. The resolution attempts to avoid the First Amendment clause prohibiting government establishment of a state religion by noting that Christmas is a national holiday.

Franks co-sponsored the salvo in the War On Christmas this past Friday; this morning, he tweeted celebrating the Bill of Rights - Amendments 1-10 of the Constitutions - and that he will "continue 2 fight & defend these freedoms protecting indiv liberties from government."

 

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Friday, December 11, 2015

LISTEN: Audio From U.S. Supreme Court Oral Argument On Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission

Here is the oral argument from Tuesday's oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The transcript was posted here on Tuesday.

Please feel free to annotate and comment the Soundcloud recording below.



Here is further analysis from acclaimed redistricting blogger Steve Muratore, also good to follow along with.

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LIST: 11 Safest Hospitals In Arizona, 10 Least Safe Hospitals In Arizona

This accompanies the article (below) about "16 Arizona Hospitals Penalized For Patient Safety Issues - Including Big Name Centers, 7 Repeat Offenders"

Per the data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, here is the FY2016 list of the Arizona hospitals which scored the best and worst in the annual survey for the "Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program".

10 best scores:
1.  Oasis Hospital (1.00)
2.   Valley View Medical Center (1.50)
3. (tie)  Western Arizona Regional Medical Center
             Havasu Regional Medical Center
             Fort Defiance Indian Hospital (2.00)
6.  Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility (2.50)
7.  (tie) Verde Valley Medical Center
             Yuma Regional Medical Center
             Chandler Regional Medical Center
             Arizona Spine and Joint Hospital,
             The Surgical Hospital of Phoenix (3.00)

10 worst scores:
1.  Banner Ironwood Medical Center (9.50)
2.  (tie) Banner-University Medical Center
             Sells Indian Health Service Hospital (9.25)
4.  (tie) Arizona Orthopedic and Surgical Specialty Hospital
             Whiteriver PHS Indian Hospital
              Yavapai Regional Medical Center - East (9.00)
7.  Maricopa Medical Center (8.75)
8.  Scottsdale Shea Medical Center (8.50)
9.  Abrazo West Campus (7.75)
10. Banner Thunderbird Medical Center (7.50)

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16 Arizona Hospitals Penalized For Patient Safety Issues - Including Big Name Centers, 7 Repeat Offenders

Sixteen Arizona hospitals are getting dinged by Medicare for their higher rates of patient safety incidents - certain infections, sepsis, hip fractures and other complications. A few of them are from the big healthcare networks, a few are rural, and 7 are repeat offenders from last year's list.

(Accompanying: List of the 11 safest hospitals and 10 least safe hospitals in Arizona)

The program ("Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program") was mandated by the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and results in the hospitals on the list receiving 1% less reimbursements from Medicare for the current fiscal year.

In the Phoenix area, penalized hospitals are Banner Thunderbird and Banner Ironwood, Maricopa Medical Center, Honor Health Deer Valley, Abrazo West (Goodyear), Scottsdale Shea, and the Arizona Orthopedic and Surgical Specialty Hospital.  In Tucson, Banner-UMC, St. Joe's and TMC are on the list. The others can be found below.

Seven are being penalized for the 2nd year in a row: AZ Orthopedic, Banner Ironwood, Banner-UMC, Maricopa Medical, TMC, Florence Hospital at Anthem, and Sells Indian Health Service Hospital.


The above list was compiled by Kaiser Health News. The original data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services can be found here.

(Accompanying: List of the 11 safest hospitals and 10 least safe hospitals in Arizona)

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

READ: AG Brnovich's Argument To U.S. Supreme Court Re: Redistricting, Entire Argument

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court today, on behalf of the State and on the same side as the Republicans challenging Arizona's most-recent redistricting.
The entire argument was one hour, and Brnovich's portion was approximately 10 minutes. (Brnovich transcript below)

Brnovich argued that it did not matter that the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission had good motives - complying with the Voting Rights Act - for not making sure all districts had the same number of voters, because the motive does not matter "when what you have is an 20 undermining of the fundamental principle of one­person, 21 one­vote."

The Justices let him finish his opening statement before peppering him with questions. The Supreme Court has not struck down redistricting plans in the past if the population deviation is below 10%.  Brnovich's most persistent argument was that the AIRC intentionally under-populated minority-favorable districts, even though it remained under 10%. Which led to this exchange:
JUSTICE KAGAN:  It's a policy.  I mean, it's an intentional policy.
MR. BRNOVICH:  I guess, you know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  And so our position is, regardless of their intention, if they are doing it in a systematic way or intending to overpopulate certain districts, under­populate other districts, that is unconstitutional. The Voting Rights Act then would ­­
JUSTICE KAGAN:  Even though it just, say, takes you from 4 to 5 percent, or from 7 to 8 percent.You're not crossing the 10 percent threshold.  But as long as you're going up, and you're doing it purposefully ­­
MR. BRNOVICH:  Yes.
JUSTICE KAGAN:  ­­ in the sense of we have a policy to maintain county lines, that's impermissible? 8
MR. BRNOVICH:  Yes, Justice Kagan.  The position of the State is that when it's done in a systematic and intentional manner, when you create, essentially, barrios of ­­ boroughs, excuse me ­­ of certain folks, and then you overpopulate other districts, that violates this Court's one­person, one­vote principle.




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WATCH: Rep. McSally Condemns Trump's Muslim Remarks, Blasts Carson's Female Combat Views

Arizona Rep. Martha McSally (R-CD2) today joined much of the Republican establishment in condemning GOP Presidential front-runner Donald Trump's proposal to halt all Muslim immigration to the U.S. She was interviewed on MSNBC by host Andrea Mitchell, who also gave McSally an opportunity to praise the military's announcement that women can serve in any position, and to blast GOP candidate Ben Carson's comments promoting stereotypes (of women not wanting to be in the "dirt and slime".





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Sunday, December 6, 2015

UPDATE: Rep. Sinema Holding Firm, No Second Thoughts On Vote To Restrict Syrian Refugee Process

(UPDATE, 12/8, 12:15pm: The letter was released today. 87 signatures from Democratic Reps. Three of four of Arizona's Democrats signed. Sinema did not. Article updated to include now-released letter.)

(Correction, 11:15am: The article has been edited to show the 80+ signatures on the Polis letter, and a correct quote; the number and quote originally used were from the Vargas letter.)

Most of the 47 Democrats who voted "aye" on a bill two weeks ago to restrict the refugee resettlement process in the wake of the Paris terrorist attack have signed a letter urging that the measure be kept out of the important omnibus spending bill this coming week; Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-CD9) is not among them.

The letter was circulated by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and has 87 signatures. (It was first reported on Saturday by Politico. Washington Post reported on the letter later.)

A portion of the letter states that "we should all agree that inserting wholesale changes to refugee admission policies into a year-end spending bill – where they cannot be properly debated or amended – is not the appropriate way to consider these issues." The full letter is published below.

The skirmishing over whether the issue will be one of those included in an omnibus spending bill or a stopgap spending bill is still going on - mostly, behind the scenes.

As of Sunday morning, Sinema had not signed on, Yasmine Taeb of the Friends Committee on National Legislation tells Arizona's Politics.  The FCNL is assisting in circulating the letter.  Taeb notes that Arizona Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego (CD7) and Ann Kirkpatrick (CD1-running-for-Senate), and that they are confident that Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) supports it. (Grijalva ended up being the final signer.)

After the vote on the bill on November 27 (which Arizona's Politics was first to report on), Sinema released a statement explaining her vote by saying that it should not stop the government from resettling refugees because the Administration should certify that each refugee passes the "already thorough screening process".  Sinema came under attack from many Democrats for her vote.

Arizona's Politics has reached out to Rep. Sinema's office a number of times, but has not yet heard back.

Gallego and Grijalva have also signed off on a letter urging an increase in funding for the refugee resettlement and assistance programs.


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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

WATCH: House Passes Grijalva's PRISM Bill By Voice Vote; 1 GOP Presidential Candidate Co-Sponsor In Senate

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) passed a bill through the U.S. House yesterday that would allow
colleges serving large numbers of Hispanic, Asian American, or Native American/Pacific Islander studnts to apply for federal grants to help establish programs to preserve their cultures.

The PRISM Act passed unanimously, on a voice vote, and now goes to the Senate.

Here is Grijalva explaining the measure yesterday on the House floor.

Afterwards, he recognized that this was more a symbolic step to put all minorities on the same level:
“Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Asian American and Native American/Pacific Islander-serving Institutions are one step closer to the access they deserve of funds that are already available to other Minority-Serving Institutions. The American identity is enriched by every culture that has come to our shores. It is crucial that we assure all students have the opportunity to participate in projects to preserve their heritage.”
The symbolism comes because the federal government has not given out any grants for these types of programs in at least six years, and there is no sign that monies are going to be made available any time soon. Here is the House Report on the bill, which notes that the Congressional Budget Office therefore said the PRISM Act would not cost the government anything over at least the next four years.



While Grijalva's co-sponsors in the House were all Democrats, the identical bill in the Senate (S.805) does contain one notable Republican co-sponsor. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is currently embroiled in a competitive campaign for the GOP Presidential nomination. The current status of that race may make it slightly more likely that the Senate will take up the measure.

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RALLY: Mitt Romney Comes To Mesa To Support John McCain Next Saturday (12th)

The GOP's two most-recent Presidential nominees will share a rally stage in Mesa next Saturday.
 Mitt Romney is the special guest on December 12th to support Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in his 2016 re-election effort.

The rally will be at the Dobson High School gym, with doors opening at 2:30pm. No word yet on whether there will be a fundraiser before or after.  (Although the email announcing the rally was also for a contribution-related drawing to meet the two.)

McCain defeated Romney - among others - for the nomination in 2008, but endorsed him four years later.

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(Photo credits: #1 from McCain Campaign. #2 from Reuters/Robert Galbraith)