Monday, May 04, 2015

Short Attention Span Musing

...Being offensive isn't a capital crime.

From CNN, via Phoenix Channel 3 (KTVK), written by Saeed Ahmed, Ed Lavandera and Joe Sutton -
A cartoon contest featuring controversial images of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed turned deadly Sunday night when two men pulled up in a car and opened fire. Police returned fire, killing both men after one wounded a security guard.

None of the approximately 200 people attending the event were hurt.

The two shooters have Phoenix ties, sharing an apartment in north Phoenix.

Let's keep it short and simple: 

"Freedom of speech", as an American value, is almost universally treasured, even revered, here. It covers many activities, from "speaking truth to power" to "being obnoxiously offensive".

The organizers of the "cartoon contest" are rabid Islamophobes and were deliberately trying to offend and upset as many people, mostly Islamic, as possible.

They exhibit no redeeming qualities as human beings and offer no benefit to civil society.

They were completely wrong in their behavior.


And as wrong as they were (and still are), they were less wrong than the people they so offended and outraged that those people expressed their outrage by grabbing guns and attempting to kill those that offended them.

And2, this is not even a close call.


...The GOP 2016 presidential field may have to trade in their clown car for a tour bus if this keeps up.

From the Huffington Post, written by Chris Weigant -
Last week, the field of officially-announced Democratic presidential candidates doubled in size, from one person to two. This week, the Republican presidential field is likewise going to double, from three candidates to six. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio have all previously officially announced their candidacies, and this week they will be joined by Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson (who announced today), and Mike Huckabee (scheduled to announce tomorrow).

There are at least a half-dozen more Republicans who are looking to jump into the race, ranging from serious (i.e. - Jeb Bush) to "serious" (wink, wink) (i.e. - the Rick twins, Perry and Santorum).

There are others who are also making noises about getting in the race like Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-bat shit crazy) and Governor John Kasich (R-OH).

Assuming that all of the people who are "rumored" to be running (in quotes because some, like Jeb Bush, are widely known to be running, but haven't officially announced their candidacies) and that at least a few of the dark horses get into the race, the R field will need a larger vehicle to go from state to state.

I'm sure the Koch Brothers can afford it though.


...Doug Ducey may not be courageous, but no one can say that he is stupid.

From the Arizona Republic, written by Laurie Roberts -
The Arizona Board of Regents are voting today on a plan to raise tuition and fees at the state's three universities.

MIA from today's meeting: the person responsible for the Board of Regents having to raise tuition and fees at the state's three universities.

Gov. Doug Ducey, that would be.


...The Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club released its report card on the 2015 legislative session, and to no one's surprise, every Republican at the Capitol except for two, Rep. Noel Campbell and Gov. Doug Ducey, earned "Fs".

Those two earned "Ds".

Next year being an election year, expect all of them to earn "Fs"...unless the Sierra Club adds "G" to their list of possible grades.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Know who had a bad week this week? Joe Arpaio





It is far too early to gloat - Arpaio has a seemingly uncanny ability to weasel out of trouble, often by throwing others under the bus.

He did that a lot this week, only to see many of his "throwees" drag him under the same bus.


First up: a primer (see the video above).

Note: it isn't perfectly accurate (for example, the infamous nativist bill SB1070 became law in 2010, not in "the 2008 - 2009 time frame") and most lawyers will cringe at it (much of the terminology used is for laymen, not those with JDs).  However, it effectively explains the factors that lead up to the current situation.


Second up: what happened this week in federal court in Phoenix.

A. A civil contempt hearing looking into possible violations of a court order by Arpaio took place.

B. At the hearing:
     1. Arpaio threw his lawyer under the bus.
     2. One of Arpaio's senior officers threw Arpaio under the bus.
     3. Arpaio's lawyer withdrew from the case.
     4. Arpaio admitted, under oath, to news broken last year by Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times - that he had the wife of the judge in this case, Murray Snow, investigated.

Personal observation: I don't know if Arpaio is a praying man, but if he is one, he should give a heartfelt prayer of thanks that Snow is the judge hearing this case.  Upon hearing that admission, most other people, including many judges, would have simply turned to the nearest court officer and ordered that Arpaio be taken to the darkest, dankest hole in the federal prison system and dropped in it.

Because Snow is the judge, Arpaio is still sleeping in his own bed.

So far, most of Arizona's Republicans haven't publicly weighed in on Arpaio's travails, though a couple of "fringe-y" folks have (in this case, "fringe-y" speaks to their likelihood of holding office in the near future, not to their political positions.  At this point, most members of the AZGOP espouse positions that are pretty "fringe-y.)

One that is (very) mildly critical of Arpaio: Christine Jones, a 2014 candidate for governor.  From her Twitter feed:


Another, stridently supportive of Arpaio: Jack Harper, a former state legislator and legendary whackjob.  From Donna Gratehouse, friend and fellow blogger:


Personal observation2: If one thinks about the ramifications of it, Harper's "logic" would ultimately preclude court actions against public officials who are corrupt or otherwise abuse the powers of their offices.


Anyway, it really is too soon to start gloating over Arpaio's political demise (this is a long way from over), but that hasn't stopped some people from quietly speculating over who among Maricopa County's Rs will angle for the sheriff's job should Arpaio not run for reelection next year.

My (not-so-quiet) speculations:

1. Someone from MCSO who is unfamiliar to the general public but who is an Arpaio lifer.
2. Russell Pearce, former legislator and longtime Arpaio ally.
3. John Kavanagh, current legislator and also a long-time Arpaio ally.

One thing all have in common:  If they gain the office, they almost certainly won't investigate the previous administration.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Netroots Nation 2015 coming to Phoenix



Netroots Nation is an annual gathering of progressive activists with an online bent.  They gather to share ideas, knowledge, and inspiration with each other. 

There are special guests, discussion panels, film screenings, trainings, and more.

Just in time to help get ready for the 2016 election cycle, the 10th annual meeting will be held in Phoenix from July 16th to 19th.

The exact schedule of the panels and trainings has yet to be determined, but the subjects will cover all sort of subject areas related to organizing, fund raising, and enhancing online campaign efforts.  The emphasis (but not the sole focus) this year will be on immigration-related issues (hey, it *is* being held in Arizona.  Didja think the main focus would be on building an aerodynamically perfect snowball? :) ).

People can register here.

The registration fee for a regular ("activist") admission is currently $325 plus a $9.12 service fee, but if that is too pricey for some (and let's face it, we're grassroots brothers and sisters, not Koch or Walton brothers and sisters; find a way to attend.  If you can afford to, donate to NN to help defray the cost for others), scholarships are available.  Apply for one here.

Some scholarships have already been awarded.  The list of recipients is here.

Note: Steve Muratore, friend, friend of the blog, and fellow blogger (Arizona Eagletarian) is in the running for a scholarship to this year's Netroots Nation, courtesy Democracy for America.  Vote for him here, please.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

It's 2015, but candidates are already filing for 2016

The calendar still says that it is 2015, but some candidates have already started filing paperwork for 2016 runs for office*.

* = Filing of campaign paperwork is no guarantee that a particular candidate will be on a ballot next year, or, if they've indicated a particular office on their current paperwork, that they will be running for that particular office in 2016.

In other words, this is a snapshot of right now.  Things will change in the weeks and months ahead.

Note: In the interest of brevity, most office holders who have filed for reelection to the same office will not be covered here

Note2: "R" = Republican, "D" = Democrat, "I" = Independent or other party


Committees for state level office (courtesy the website of the Arizona Secretary of State):

R Susan Bittersmith, current member of the AZ Corporation Commission, filed for reelection

R Bob Burns, current member of the AZ Corporation Commission, filed for reelection

R Daniel Cassidy, challenger, filed for LD24 House

D Barry McCain, challenger, filed for LD11 House

D Eric Meyer, current state representative, filed for LD28 Senate

I Alex O'Neil (full name: Michael Alexander O'Neil), challenger, filed for LD9 Senate

R Frank Pratt, current state representative, filed for LD8 Senate

R Brice Willoughby, challenger, filed for LD28 House

D Paula Aboud, former legislator, filed exploratory paperwork for an unspecified office

D Sean Bowie, challenger, filed exploratory paperwork for LD18 Senate

R Steve Montenegro, current state representative, filed exploratory paperwork for an unspecified office


Committees for Maricopa County offices:

R Bill Montgomery, current County Attorney, filed for reelection

R Helen Purcell, current County Recorder, filed for reelection

D John Rowan, challenger, filed for Sheriff

I Kenneth Wayne Baker, challenger, filed for Sheriff

R Roger Baldwin, challenger, filed for Sheriff

R Joe Arpaio, current County Sheriff, filed for reelection in 2013

D Tim Coomer, challenger, filed for Sheriff as a $500 Threshold Exception candidate (meaning that his committee cannot raise or spend more than $500 in pursuit of the office)


Committees for Pima County offices:

D Joel Feinman, challenger, filed exploratory paperwork for County Attorney




Committee for federal office:

D Cesar Chavez, aka former R Scott Fistler, challenger, filed for CD7

R Dave Giles, challenger, filed for CD9

R Gary Kiehne, challenger, filed for CD1

I John Mealer, challenger, filed for US Senate

R Kelli Ward, currently a state senator, filed exploratory paperwork for a run at R John "Never Met A War He Didn't Monger" McCain for US Senate, from the right (filed with the IRS, not the FEC)


Rumors (no paperwork yet, but fairly credible nonetheless):

R Ken Bennett, former AZSOS, is rumored to be looking at a CD9 run in the US Supreme Court allows the AZ legislature to redraw the district in a way that is less "competitive" and more "R-leaning"

R Matt Salmon, currently a member of Congress, is being urged to challenge McCain from the right for the US Senate seat

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ducey pays off a critic, begging the question: Is there a "hush money" line item in the state budget?

From the Arizona Republic, written by Mary Jo Pitzl and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez -

Arizona Board of Regents Chairman Mark Killian, an outspoken critic of the state budget backed by Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature, is now a Ducey Cabinet member.

Ducey announced Friday that Killian is being installed as his Department of Agriculture director, and noting that he "brings decades of unique public service and private sector experience, and his extensive and successful background in farming and ranching will be hugely valuable in this role. He's a welcome addition to this department and our administration."

 Per Ballotpedia, the director position pays better than $102K per year.

Guess that I never have to worry about the Ducey administration offering me a job - I may be soft-spoken, but biting my tongue is not in my job skill repertoire.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Whether we are talking about abused children in AZ or students paying more for an education here, it's "deja vu all over again"

...Remember just a couple of years ago when a huge scandal broke here in Arizona over the failure of Arizona's then-child welfare agency, Child Protective Services, to investigate thousands of reports of child abuse?

One of the "fixes" implemented was to take the agency out from under the auspices of the Department of Economic Security (DES), change its name to "Department of Child Safety", and make it a stand-alone cabinet-level department.

Turns out that they were just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

From the Arizona Republic, written by Mary Jo Pitzl -
The state's child-welfare agency, at the direction of its new chief, has stopped assigning lower-priority cases of child abuse and neglect for investigation.
 
The policy shift echoes a practice that threw the system into turmoil nearly 1 1/2 years ago.

Guess that it's not a scandal when it is an official policy...


...Remember back to all of less than a year ago when candidate Doug Ducey blamed his Democratic opponent for students (or parents) having to pay more to attend a state university?

When it comes time to blame someone for the latest developments in that area, Governor Doug Ducey should be looking in a mirror.

From the Arizona Republic, written by Anne Ryman and Kaila White -
Arizona's three state universities responded Friday to a 13 percent cut in their state funding by proposing to raise the price of higher education for many of their students.
 
Arizona State University students could take the biggest hit. President Michael Crow proposed a one-time, $320 surcharge for all in-state students to offset some of the $53 million in state funding cuts to ASU.

So, in business education, is the practice of promising anything to get the job but delivering almost the opposite when in the job covered in undergraduate coursework or is it part of MBA work?

Could be wrong here, but there's no mention of an MBA in Ducey's official bio, so it is probably covered in undergraduate coursework.

Of course, he could just be a natural-born ethical skell "prodigy".


My question for readers:  How long will it be before we look back on the days of the Brewer administration, as ugly as they were, and think of them as "the good old days"?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Arizona legislature: the coming week

There is going to be almost no committee activity this week as the lege looks to adjourn for the year.

Sources say that the goal of leadership is to wrap up by Thursday, but that they aren't optimistic about meeting that particular goal.

As of right now, expectations are that if the lege doesn't finish things up by the start of holiday period next weekend (it's a significant period in many faiths), the lege will adjourn for the weekend and come back to town next week for a day or two.

That would put sine die on Tuesday or Wednesday, still making this one of the shortest legislative sessions in memory (just a guess here, because I haven't been able to find a definitive record of such things, but if this session isn't the shortest ever, it is almost certainly the shortest non-election year session).

Having said all of that, Governor Doug Ducey may be the key here.  If he shows any indication that he is willing to sign off on some of the nuggets of ugly (aka - the crazy bills) that remain under legislative consideration, the session may continue until the bay at the moon caucus gets votes on everything that they want.

One thing to watch for this week: committee meetings scheduled on short notice.  As of right now, no bills are scheduled to be considered by any committee, but that can change in the time that it takes a lobbyist to write a check for a "campaign contribution".


Notes:

All committees meetings and agendas are subject to change without notice, and frequently do.  If you plan to travel to the Capitol to observe or weigh in on the consideration of a particular measure, check with the lege ahead of time to confirm that the meeting that you are interesting in is still on schedule and your item(s) of interest is still on the agenda for that meeting.

Meeting rooms designated "HHR" are in the House of Representatives building.

Meeting rooms designated "SHR" are in the Senate building.

Some agendas are summarized as "looks harmless", but if they cover an area of interest to you, examine the agenda and the bills on it.  If I missed something significant, please leave a comment letting me know.

All House committee agendas can be found here. All Senate committee agendas can be found here.


On the Senate side of the Capitol -


Other than the Rules committee, the Senate committees that are scheduled to meet have only executive nominations on their agendas. 

Water and Energy, Monday, 2 p.m., SHR3.  Executive nomination.

Rules, Monday, 1 p.m., Caucus Room 1.  Short agenda of bills to be rubberstamped on their way to floor consideration.

Commerce and Workforce Development, Monday, 1:45 p.m., SHR1.  Executive nominations.


Education, Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., SHR1.  Executive nominations.

Judiciary, Tuesday, 9:30 a.m., SHR109.  Executive nominations.


Public Safety, Military, and Technology, Wednesday, 9 a.m., SHR1.  Executive nomination.

Rural Affairs and Environment, Wednesday, 10 a.m., SHR109,  Executive nominations.

Government, Wednesday, 10 a.m., SHR1.  Executive nominations.  Includes the nomination of Andy Tobin, former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, to be the director of the Department of Weights and Measures (DWM).  There is a live bill pending to close that department and speculation is that Tobin will use this as the foundation for another run at a seat in Congress (appealing to the "any government is bad government" crowd).

Best guess:  Assuming that the shutdown of DWM takes place and that Tobin runs for Congress, his plan is to get the hell out of Dodge Arizona before the inevitable scandal hits (you know, somebody, probably a well-connected somebody, increasing their profit margin by shorting something [i.e. - charging customers for a gallon of gasoline, but dispensing only 3/4 of a gallon])

Health and Human Services, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR1.  Executive nominations.


On the House side of the Capitol -

Rules, Monday, 1 p.m., HHR4.  Short agenda of bills to be rubberstamped on their way to floor consideration.



The House has posted a COW (Committee of the Whole) calendar here and here, a Final Read (
to approve changes to bills made by the Senate; if they fail, they aren't dead.  They will go to aconference committee) calendar, and a Third Read calendar for Monday.

The Senate has posted a COW calendar here and here, and a Third Read calendar, for Monday.
 
The Capitol Events calendar is here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hypocrite of the month: State Sen. Sylvia Allen on morality




It can be tough to single out a solitary Arizona legislator whose hypocrisy is greater than that of his/her colleagues, but the infamous Sen. Sylvia Allen served this one up like a BP fastball.

She's infamous for things like pronouncing that mining uranium on the Navajo reservation and elsewhere in Arizona is OK because the Earth is 6000 years old and is doing just fine and for opining that American society doesn't do enough to benefit the wealthy.

Recently, she added to her dubious legend by running a bill to help her son-in-law out of trouble of his own making (he was working as a detention officer at the Navajo County jail and was accused engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior by multiple female inmates).

Which is all bad enough, but with the likes of Allen, "enough" never is.

As can be seen in the above video, at Tuesday's meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she offered her idea that the lege consider (and presumably pass) a bill to mandate church attendance for everybody, in the interest of combating what she perceives as America's moral decline.

As someone who tries to use her elected position to benefit a family member yet uses that the platform afforded to her by that elected position to bemoan everybody else's moral decline, she easily earns distinction as the lege's biggest hypocrite.

Very easily.


While Sen. Allen, later in her remarks, concedes that such a bill is unlikely to come before the lege, this lege has never let the letter or spirit of the US Constitution get in the way of something that it wants to do, so don't be surprised to see this crop up in some form next year.

With that in mind, some preparatory ordination might be in order.

Introducing the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. :)



Note: the full meeting video is available on the lege's website here.  Look for the video of Senate Appropriation, dated 3/24/2015.  Her spouting off starts at approximately at the 1:26:18 mark.


Monday, March 23, 2015

AZLege and priorities: A Tale of Two Bills

You'd think that people elected by the public to serve in office would act as public servants.

You'd think that...but you'd think wrong.

First up:

SB1273, giving Arizonans the option of requesting a drivers license that is REAL ID-compliant.

Beginning next year, Arizona's drivers licenses will not be adequate proof of identity for things like flying or entering federal buildings.  In fact, that has already started causing problems.

From the Arizona Republic, written by Mary Jo Pitzl -
Phoenix Councilwoman Kate Gallego said she was turned away from the Federal Emergency Management Agency last year, and again earlier this year, when she traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet about relief from the floods her south Phoenix district suffered last year.

The federal government began phasing in the requirement for a secure identification early last year, with airport restrictions scheduled to start no sooner than Jan. 19, 2016.

Gallego said she had to move her FEMA meeting to an off-site location.

Then there is HB2415.  Last week is was amended from being a bill about sanitary districts and contracts to one regarding campaign finance that:

- Raises campaign contribution limits 25%

- Reverts to the requirement that candidates form a committee for each election cycle and ending the current requirement that candidates have separate committees for each of the primary election and the general election.

- Changes the current prohibition on legislators and the governor on accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session to allowing them to accept contributions during the first three days of the legislative session, if a contribution is mailed to the recipient and is postmarked before the start of the session.


SB1273 is a "good government" bill, one that benefits any Arizonan who travels or interacts with the federal government.

HB2415 benefits only elected officials, particularly legislators and the governor.


So, naturally, 1273 is DOA (for lack of committee consideration) while 2415 is moving merrily along.


One question:

Are people who are elected to be public servants still considered to be that when their primary focus is on serving their own interests?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Arizona legislature: the coming week

The craziness at the Capitol isn't over yet, but it will be more concentrated - from here on, the only standing committees that can consider a bill without special permission are the Appropriations committees of the respective chambers. 

As such, those are the agendas to watch this week.

Beyond that, most of the action at the lege this week will take place during floor action, so keep an eye on those floor calendars during the week. 


Notes:

All committees meetings and agendas are subject to change without notice, and frequently do.  If you plan to travel to the Capitol to observe or weigh in on the consideration of a particular measure, check with the lege ahead of time to confirm that the meeting that you are interesting in is still on schedule and your item(s) of interest is still on the agenda for that meeting.

Meeting rooms designated "HHR" are in the House of Representatives building.

Meeting rooms designated "SHR" are in the Senate building.

Some agendas are summarized as "looks harmless", but if they cover an area of interest to you, examine the agenda and the bills on it.  If I missed something significant, please leave a comment letting me know.

All House committee agendas can be found here. All Senate committee agendas can be found here.


On the Senate side of the Capitol -


Natural Resources, Monday, 10  a.m., SHR109.  Executive nomination under consideration.

Rules, Monday, 1 p.m., Caucus Room 1.  Not a "standing committee" in the traditional sense, Rules only considers the "form" of a bill, not the actual content, so it can keep meeting.  This committee serves as a gatekeeper for the chambers' leadership, so any bill that make it to this committee's agenda is slated for rubberstamping on its way to floor action.

Appropriations, Tuesday, 2 p.m., SHR109.  On the agenda: a striker to HB2240, creating a special fund, administered by the governor, to pay for "public safety activities" at "special sporting events" (this is from Sen. Don Shooter [R-Yuma?], who is seeking to convert a bill that would have created tuition waivers for members of the Arizona National Guard into a slush fund for Doug Ducey); a striker to HB2291, taking $1 million from the state's concealed weapon permit fund and giving to the police departments in Phoenix, Mesa, and Lake Havasu City to pay for their participation in an predictive policing software pilot program; HB2320, a guns in public places bill; HB2431, an interstate compact regarding firearms, essentially prohibiting anything that would increase regulation of firearms; a striker to HB2419, barring a "city or town from imposing a fee, tax or assessment on reportable transactions of a pawnbroker or person in the business of buying gold".


Health and Human Services, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR1.  Executive nominations.


Education, Thursday, 9 a.m., SHR1.  Executive nomination.



On the House side of the Capitol -

Rules, Monday, 12 p.m., HHR4.  Long agenda to be rubberstamped on its way to floor action.


Appropriations, Wednesday, 2 p.m., HHR1.  On the agenda: SB1293, similar to the striker to HB2291, above, but with some differences; a striker to SB1450, text unavailable as of this writing, listed subject of "banks; insuring organization"



The House has posted a COW (Committee of the Whole) calendar here and here and a Third Read calendar for Monday.

The Senate has posted a COW calendar here and here for Monday.
 
The Capitol Events calendar is here.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Arizona legislature: the coming week (part 2)

It's shaping up to be a crazy week at the Capitol.

I'm not talking about the content of some of the bills that will be under consideration (though there will be plenty of hate, tin foil, and bat guano to go around on that front).

Nope, it is the last week that bills can be considered in any committee other than Appropriations, which always leads to a chaotic week at the Capitol.

Add in the fact that they are going for an early adjournment of the session and running bills through the Appropriations committees won't be as viable an option as in other years, and pretty much every committee agenda will be full and/or subject to amendment without notice.

In other words, at the Capitol this week, the one constant will be change.

In light of that fact, and the fact that many of the agendas are incredibly long this week, this post will be done in three parts.

The second part will cover the committee agendas for Monday and Tuesday; the second part will cover agendas for Wednesday.

The third part will cover agendas for Thursday.

Notes:

All committees meetings and agendas are subject to change without notice, and frequently do.  If you plan to travel to the Capitol to observe or weigh in on the consideration of a particular measure, check with the lege ahead of time to confirm that the meeting that you are interesting in is still on schedule and your item(s) of interest is still on the agenda for that meeting.

Meeting rooms designated "HHR" are in the House of Representatives building.

Meeting rooms designated "SHR" are in the Senate building.

Some agendas are summarized as "looks harmless", but if they cover an area of interest to you, examine the agenda and the bills on it.  If I missed something significant, please leave a comment letting me know.

All House committee agendas can be found here. All Senate committee agendas can be found here.


On the Senate side of the Capitol -


Public Safety, Military, and Technology, Wednesday, 9 a.m., SHR1.  The two gun bills that were previewed in the first post have been removed.  Still on the agenda: HB2008, further restricting the ability of counties and municipalities to regulate the use of fireworks within their jurisdictions.  The gun bills may be off the agenda now, but continue to pay attention to this one - the bills can reappear at any time.

Finance, Wednesday, 9 a.m., SHR3.   On the agenda: HB2131, mandating that a court award attorneys fees to a "non-government entity" that defeats the government in a tax adjudication action, and remove the limits on the fees that can be awarded; HB2450, exempting billboard leases from the state's transaction privilege tax (commonly known as "sales tax"); HCR2016, a proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution to exempt from taxation the first $2.4 million of value of "business personal property" (i.e. - office furniture, equipment, tools, etc.).  Currently, the AZconstitution sets the exemption limit at $50K; HB2483, a proposal to allow public and charter school to take 20% of undesignated donations received to support extracurricular activities and redirect them to support classroom activities; a striker to HB2325, pertaining to the removal of land from the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District (CAGRD); a striker to HB2383, creating a process for the owners of land in an area annexed by a municipality to de-annex from that municipality.

Health and Human Services, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR1.  On the agenda: HB2047, requiring that a DCS worker obtain a supervisor's approval before removing a child from the custody of his/her guardian, except in emergency situations.

Government, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR3.  And the gun bills reappear, along with some tin foil hat/bay at the moon stuff...  On the agenda: HB2055, prohibiting "this state or any political subdivision from using any resource to enforce, administer or cooperate with changes made by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to waters of the U.S. An exception is also provided on a case-by-case basis by a vote of the Legislature if in session or by the Governor, President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House if not in session" (quoting the legislative summary of the bill); HB2058, similar to HB2055, except applying to all federal rules and regulations, not just ones focused on water; HB2063, weakening county employee merit systems; a striker to HB2420, creating an "inspector general" position in the executive branch; HB2431, entering into an interstate compact regarding gun sales (ugly gun bill number one); HB2540, crafting some specific administrative rules for initiative and referendum efforts (it looks like an attempt to incrementally implement some of the voter suppression clauses in 2013's infamous HB2305); HB2320, more guns in public places (ugly gun bill number two); HB2613, essentially barring any political subdivision from expending resources in a way that could be construed as supporting a bond, budget override, or tax election.

Financial Institutions, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR109.  Looks harmless so far.


On the House side of the Capitol -

Judiciary, Wednesday, 9 a.m., HHR3.  On the agenda: SB1222, an anti-immigrant measure, judicial system-focused; a striker to SB1419, under certain circumstances, allowing a grocery store that is near a school or church to sell liquor.

Federalism and States' Rights, Wednesday, 9 a.m., HHR5.  Three love letters to the feds opposing national monument designations in Arizona, supporting the ceding of control of rights-of way across federal land to the state, and opposing the reintroduction of Mexican gray wolves into Arizona.

Commerce, Wednesday, 9:30 a.m., HHR1.  On the agenda: a striker to SB1241, barring municipalities from regulating "auxiliary containers" or requiring a business, commercial building, or multifamily property from monitoring or reporting energy usage or efficiency;. a striker to SB1344, relating to lobbyists for cities and towns, requiring them to disclose to the legislature if a member of the body that the lobbyist represents is opposed to the position that the lobbyist is presenting.

Education, Wednesday, 2 p.m., HHR4.  On the agenda: SB1172, barring school districts and charter schools from releasing student information for the purpose on engaging in political activity; SB1173, micromanaging school bond and override elections.

Appropriations, Wednesday, 2 p.m., HHR1.  On the agenda: a striker to SB1147, transferring funds from the Nevada operating and resource subaccounts of the Arizona water banking fund to the Arizona water banking authority.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Arizona legislature: the coming week (part 1)

It's shaping up to be a crazy week at the Capitol.

I'm not talking about the content of some of the bills that will be under consideration (though there will be plenty of hate, tin foil, and bat guano to go around on that front).

Nope, it is the last week that bills can be considered in any committee other than Appropriations, which always leads to a chaotic week at the Capitol.

Add in the fact that they are going for an early adjournment of the session and running bills through the Appropriations committees won't be as viable an option as in other years, and pretty much every committee agenda will be full and/or subject to amendment without notice.

In other words, at the Capitol this week, the one constant will be change.

In light of that fact, and the fact that many of the agendas are incredibly long this week, this post will be done in two parts.

The first part will cover the committee agendas for Monday and Tuesday; the second part will cover agendas for Wednesday and Thursday.




Notes:

All committees meetings and agendas are subject to change without notice, and frequently do.  If you plan to travel to the Capitol to observe or weigh in on the consideration of a particular measure, check with the lege ahead of time to confirm that the meeting that you are interesting in is still on schedule and your item(s) of interest is still on the agenda for that meeting.

Meeting rooms designated "HHR" are in the House of Representatives building.

Meeting rooms designated "SHR" are in the Senate building.

Some agendas are summarized as "looks harmless", but if they cover an area of interest to you, examine the agenda and the bills on it.  If I missed something significant, please leave a comment letting me know.

All House committee agendas can be found here. All Senate committee agendas can be found here.


On the Senate side of the Capitol -

Natural Resources, Monday, 10 a.m., SHR109.  Looks harmless so far. 

Rules, Monday, 1 p.m., Caucus Room 1.  Long agenda (90+ items) to be rubberstamped on their way to floor consideration. 

Water and Energy, Monday, 2 p.m., SHR3.  Two items on the agenda:  The appointment of David Tenney as director of the Residential Utility Consumer Office and HB2316.  The Tenney nomination should go through without a hiccup - the vice-chair of the committee is Sen. Sylvia *Tenney* Allen (yes, she's David Tenney's sister).  HB2316 makes changes to the way that the Small Water Systems Fund can be used.

Commerce and Workforce Development, Monday, 2 p.m., SHR1.  On the agenda: a striker to HB2094, creating a veterans' preference in employment situations; a striker to HB2360, creating a (worker-unfriendly)  process for filing a complaint about the processing of a workers' compensation claim (check out the time limit and the maximum compensation is such a complaint is upheld).

Federalism, Mandates, and Fiscal Responsibility, Tuesday, 9 a.m., SHR3. Short agenda, but all neo-secessionist nuggets of ugly.  On that agenda: HB2175, claiming state dominion over rights-of-way across otherwise federally-controlled public lands (my attempt at a summary, there are a *lot* of clauses to this one.  Nuances may be missed here); HB2358, establishing a committee to "study" the best way to transfer federal lands in Arizona to state control; HB2368, barring any political subdivision (county, city, etc.) from "using any personnel or financial resources to enforce, administer, or cooperate" with a presidential executive order or a Department of Justice directive unless the order or directive has been specifically approved by Congress; HB2643, prohibiting the state or its political subdivisions from cooperating with or doing anything to support the Affordable Care Act (aka - Obamacare).

Rural Affairs and Environment, Tuesday, 9 a.m., SHR109.  Another short agenda.  Not all of the items are bad, but the neo-secessionists will be out in force for this one, too.  On the agenda: HB2176, requiring the state land commissioner and state attorney generally to take steps needed for the state to take over "constitutionally nonenumerated" federal lands in the state; HB2318, entering into a compact with certain other states for the purpose taking over federal lands in those states; HCM2005, a love letter to Congress and the Department of Interior asking that they transfer control of all federal lands in Arizona to state government of Arizona.

Appropriations, Tuesday, 2 p.m., SHR109.  On the agenda: HB2568, reducing the tax paid by insurers on the premiums that they receive.


On the House side of the Capitol - 

Elections, Monday, 10 a.m., HHR4. On the agenda: SB1184, micromanaging the ballot language of municipal bond, sales tax, and property tax elections; SCR1001, repealing Clean Elections.

Rules, Monday, 1 p.m., HHR4.  Long agenda of items to be rubberstamped on their way to floor consideration.

Ways and Means, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR3.  On the agenda: SB1120, exempting certain works of fine art from sales tax; SB1133, creating a process whereby a customer can claim a refund of paid transaction privilege tax (aka - sales tax); a striker to SB1088, listed subject as "empowerment scholarship accounts; eligibility" (text not available as of this writing).  This one has popped up before as its own bill; it's all about expanding school vouchers "empowerment scholarships".

Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR1.  Looks harmless so far.

Children and Family Affairs, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR5.  Looks harmless so far.


Transportation and Infrastructure, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR1.  Looks harmless so far. 

Rural and Economic Development, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR5.  Looks harmless so far.

Health, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR4.  On the agenda: a striker to SB1039, broadening the definition of "health care sharing ministry" by removing "faith based" and adding "common set of ethical or religious beliefs".  Under the proposed language, a street gang or the KKK could offer health care coverage to their members, so long as they file the correct paperwork.

Banking and Financial Services, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR3.  Looks harmless so far.


Wednesday preview: 

Senate Public Safety, Military, and Technology will be considering two gun bills at 9 a.m. in SHR1.  The are a "guns in public places" bill and a bill regarding entering into an interstate compact relating to firearms sales.



The House has posted a COW (Committee of the Whole) calendar here, here, and here and a Third Read calendar for Monday.
The Senate has posted no floor calendars at this point.
 
The Capitol Events calendar is here.


Sunday, March 08, 2015

Arizona legislature: the coming week

Note: because of time considerations, Thursday's agendas for House committees have not been covered.  This post will be updated on Monday or Tuesday evening.

Update: the post has been completed. 

Last week was shaping up to be a quiet week, and it was.

That is, until Wednesday, when news broke that the governor and leadership in the lege had brokered a deal on the state budget, putting forth a proposal that is even more draconian than the one that the governor proposed in January.

That new budget proposal was literally passed in the dark of night on Friday/by dawn's early light on Saturday.

Lesson (re-) learned: whenever the lege is in session, don't turn your back on them.

Ever.


Having said that, passage of the budget marks the start of a time-honored tradition at the Capitol - Sine Die rumor season.

One source speculates that this session of the lege will finish up by the end of March.  If that happens, this will become one of the shortest legislative sessions ever.

The source's speculation was that they will try to finish up this week, but that there are too many outstanding bills for that to be feasible.

My speculation: there are too many bad bills to keeping moving as payoffs for budget votes for the session to end quickly.  I see the session lasting until the last week of March or the first week of April.

On the other hand, I also thought that last week was going to be a quiet week. :)


On to this week's committee schedules...


Notes:

All committees meetings and agendas are subject to change without notice, and frequently do.  If you plan to travel to the Capitol to observe or weigh in on the consideration of a particular measure, check with the lege ahead of time to confirm that the meeting that you are interesting in is still on schedule and your item(s) of interest is still on the agenda for that meeting.

Meeting rooms designated "HHR" are in the House of Representatives building.

Meeting rooms designated "SHR" are in the Senate building.

Some agendas are summarized as "looks harmless", but if they cover an area of interest to you, examine the agenda and the bills on it.  If I missed something significant, please leave a comment letting me know.

All House committee agendas can be found here. All Senate committee agendas can be found here.


On the Senate side of the Capitol -


Natural Resources, Monday, 9 a.m., SHR109.   On the agenda: a striker to HB2150, relating to "livestock; poultry; animal cruelty; violation".  This is a carbon copy of HB2429, which passed the House and was assigned to committee in the Senate, but looks to have died there for lack of consideration.  While HB2429 passed the House, it ran into some significant resistance because it waters down the state's animal cruelty laws.

State Debt and Budget Reform, Monday, 10 a.m., SHR3.  Presentations only at this point.

Water and Energy, Monday, 2 p.m., SHR3.  Looks harmless so far.

Commerce and Workforce Development, Monday, 2 p.m., SHR1.  On the agenda: HB2213, hamstringing the business inspection/audit process under that guise of being "business friendly"; HB2578, relating to "real property; purchaser dwelling actions".


Transportation, Tuesday, 2 p.m., SHR1.  Looks harmless so far, but a couple of the bills may be "sneak bad" and may merit a closer look.

Appropriations, Tuesday, 2 p.m., SHR109.  Looks harmless now, but as we saw last week, that can change in a heartbeat.


Public Safety, Military, and Technology, Wednesday, 9 a.m., SHR1.  On the agenda: HB2408, relating to DPS and towing contracts.  Not sure what is wrong with this one, but 19 House members voted against this one.

Finance, Wednesday, 9 a.m., SHR3.  Let's just make it official and rename this the "Senate Committee on Revenue Reduction".  On the agenda: HB2108, classifying "improvements and property used exclusively for convention activities as class nine property"; HB2153, expanding school vouchers tax credits for donations to school tuition organizations (STOs); HB2358, exempting crop dusters from sales tax liability.

Health and Human Services, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR1.  Looks harmless so far.

Government, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR3.  A bad one.  On the agenda: HB2067, requiring the disclosure of any political committee that makes contributions to an Independent Expenditure committee that total to more than 25% of the IE's total contributions received; sounds good, until one realizes that this is so easy to get around as to be ineffectual posturing and nothing more (can you say "dark money" people?); HB2297, essentially barring state agencies from crafting or enforcing any rules that are more restrictive than current rules; HB2315, stating that if a local government's financial reporting website is deemed to be out of compliance with state statute, then the public officer responsible for that website can be removed from office (sounds like a personal vendetta bill, but I don't know who it is aimed at); HB2407, making the already incredibly difficult referendum and recall processes even more difficult for citizen groups; HB2558, regarding the sale of publicly-owned real property, tripling the value threshold below which a municipality doesn't have to hold a special election to gain voter approval of the sale; HB2646, barring state agencies from rulemaking without written approval of the governor.

Financial Institutions, Wednesday, 2 p.m, SHR109.  Looks harmless so far.


Judiciary, Thursday, 9 a.m., SHR109.  On the agenda:  a striker to HB2214, subject "majority vote calculation; municipal elections" (text unavailable at this time).

Education, Thursday, 9 a.m., SHR1.  On the agenda: HB2261, requiring the state's universities to accept career and technical education credits as fine arts credits, for the purpose of admissions; HB2448, requiring public and charter schools to allow homeschooled students to enroll in specific courses if the students so desire.


On the House side of the Capitol - 

Rules, Monday, 1 p.m., HHR4.  Long agenda of bills that originated in the Senate to be rubberstamped on the way to the House floor for final approval.

Ways and Means, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR3.  Looks harmless so far.

Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR1.  Looks relatively harmless.

County and Municipal Affairs, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR4.  Looks harmless so far.


Rural and Economic Development, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR5.  Looks harmless so far.

Health, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR4.  Looks harmless so far.


Federalism and States' Rights, Wednesday, 9 a.m., HHR5.  Short agenda, but it make up for its brevity with a surfeit of tin foil and bat guano.  On the agenda: SB1318, well, let me just copy and paste the list of provisions from the legislative summary of the bill:

1.      Prohibits any health care exchange operating in Arizona, rather than only Arizona-based exchanges, from providing coverage for abortions.

2.      Retracts the exception to the prohibition of health care exchanges providing coverage for abortion when coverage is offered as a separate optional rider where an additional premium is charged.

3.      Adds an exception to the prohibition of insurance coverage for abortions when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

4.      Requires an abortion clinic to submit to the Director all required documentation, including verification that the physicians who are required to be available have the required admitting privileges at a health care institution, on initial licensure and any subsequent renewal.


Also on the agenda:  SCM1014, a love letter to the EPA (and assorted others) urging the EPA to not lower the ozone concentration standard; SCR1003, expressing the lege's opposition to the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact.

Judiciary, Wednesday, 10 a.m., HHR3.  Looks harmless so far.

Commerce, Wednesday, 9:30 a.m., HHR1.  On the agenda: SB1098, Raising the size of a public service corporation (measured by revenue) that can ask for a rate increase without an administrative hearing.

Appropriations, Wednesday, 2 p.m. HHR1.  Looks harmless so far.


Government and Higher Education, Thursday, 9 a.m., HHR1.  On the agenda: SB1063, Sen. John Kavanagh's (R-of course) attack on "aggressive" panhandlers.

Military Affairs and Public Safety, Thursday, 9:30 a.m., HHR5.  On the agenda: SB1291, prescribing penalties for any political subdivision or agency that crafts and/or enacts a rule, ordinance, etc., that restricts firearms any more than state law does.  In addition, it prescribes punishment for the elected or appointed official who oversees said subdivision or agency.


The House has posted a COW (Committee of the Whole) calendar here and a Third Read calendar for Tuesday.  The Third Read calendar is chock full o'bad House bills.

 
The Senate has posted no floor calendars at this point.
 
The Capitol Events calendar is here.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

President Obama's speech in commemoration of 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches


Picture courtesy Yahoo News

President Obama, joined by thousands of people, today commemorated the 50th anniversary of the famed civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery Alabama.

His speech at the event, possibly the finest and most moving that he has given while in office, and that's saying something.

From WhiteHouse.gov -

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you, President Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know I love you back.  (Applause.)

It is a rare honor in this life to follow one of your heroes.  And John Lewis is one of my heroes.
Now, I have to imagine that when a younger John Lewis woke up that morning 50 years ago and made his way to Brown Chapel, heroics were not on his mind.  A day like this was not on his mind.  Young folks with bedrolls and backpacks were milling about.  Veterans of the movement trained newcomers in the tactics of non-violence; the right way to protect yourself when attacked.  A doctor described what tear gas does to the body, while marchers scribbled down instructions for contacting their loved ones.  The air was thick with doubt, anticipation and fear.  And they comforted themselves with the final verse of the final hymn they sung:

“No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;

Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.”

And then, his knapsack stocked with an apple, a toothbrush, and a book on government -- all you need for a night behind bars -- John Lewis led them out of the church on a mission to change America.

President and Mrs. Bush, Governor Bentley, Mayor Evans, Sewell, Reverend Strong, members of Congress, elected officials, foot soldiers, friends, fellow Americans:

As John noted, there are places and moments in America where this nation’s destiny has been decided.  Many are sites of war -- Concord and Lexington, Appomattox, Gettysburg.  Others are sites that symbolize the daring of America’s character -- Independence Hall and Seneca Falls, Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral.

Selma is such a place.  In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history -- the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher -- all that history met on this bridge.
It was not a clash of armies, but a clash of wills; a contest to determine the true meaning of America.

And because of men and women like John Lewis, Joseph Lowery, Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton, Diane Nash, Ralph Abernathy, C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others, the idea of a just America and a fair America, an inclusive America, and a generous America -- that idea ultimately triumphed.

As is true across the landscape of American history, we cannot examine this moment in isolation.  The march on Selma was part of a broader campaign that spanned generations; the leaders that day part of a long line of heroes.

We gather here to celebrate them.  We gather here to honor the courage of ordinary Americans willing to endure billy clubs and the chastening rod; tear gas and the trampling hoof; men and women who despite the gush of blood and splintered bone would stay true to their North Star and keep marching towards justice.

They did as Scripture instructed:  “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”  And in the days to come, they went back again and again.  When the trumpet call sounded for more to join, the people came –- black and white, young and old, Christian and Jew, waving the American flag and singing the same anthems full of faith and hope.  A white newsman, Bill Plante, who covered the marches then and who is with us here today, quipped that the growing number of white people lowered the quality of the singing.  (Laughter.)  To those who marched, though, those old gospel songs must have never sounded so sweet.

In time, their chorus would well up and reach President Johnson.  And he would send them protection, and speak to the nation, echoing their call for America and the world to hear:  “We shall overcome.”  (Applause.)  What enormous faith these men and women had.  Faith in God, but also faith in America.

The Americans who crossed this bridge, they were not physically imposing.  But they gave courage to millions.  They held no elected office.  But they led a nation.  They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, countless daily indignities –- but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before.  (Applause.)

What they did here will reverberate through the ages.  Not because the change they won was preordained; not because their victory was complete; but because they proved that nonviolent change is possible, that love and hope can conquer hate.

As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them.  Back then, they were called Communists, or half-breeds, or outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse –- they were called everything but the name their parents gave them.  Their faith was questioned.  Their lives were threatened.  Their patriotism challenged.

And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?  (Applause.)  What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people –- unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many, coming together to shape their country’s course?

What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals?  (Applause.)

That’s why Selma is not some outlier in the American experience.  That’s why it’s not a museum or a static monument to behold from a distance.  It is instead the manifestation of a creed written into our founding documents:  “We the People…in order to form a more perfect union.”  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  (Applause.)

These are not just words.  They’re a living thing, a call to action, a roadmap for citizenship and an insistence in the capacity of free men and women to shape our own destiny.  For founders like Franklin and Jefferson, for leaders like Lincoln and FDR, the success of our experiment in self-government rested on engaging all of our citizens in this work.  And that’s what we celebrate here in Selma.  That’s what this movement was all about, one leg in our long journey toward freedom.  (Applause.)

The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge, that’s the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny.  It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot, workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.  (Applause.)

It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths.  It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what is right, to shake up the status quo.  That’s America.  (Applause.)

That’s what makes us unique.  That’s what cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity.  Young people behind the Iron Curtain would see Selma and eventually tear down that wall.  Young people in Soweto would hear Bobby Kennedy talk about ripples of hope and eventually banish the scourge of apartheid.  Young people in Burma went to prison rather than submit to military rule.  They saw what John Lewis had done.  From the streets of Tunis to the Maidan in Ukraine, this generation of young people can draw strength from this place, where the powerless could change the world’s greatest power and push their leaders to expand the boundaries of freedom.

They saw that idea made real right here in Selma, Alabama.  They saw that idea manifest itself here in America.

Because of campaigns like this, a Voting Rights Act was passed.  Political and economic and social barriers came down.  And the change these men and women wrought is visible here today in the presence of African Americans who run boardrooms, who sit on the bench, who serve in elected office from small towns to big cities; from the Congressional Black Caucus all the way to the Oval Office.  (Applause.)

Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for black folks, but for every American.  Women marched through those doors.  Latinos marched through those doors.  Asian Americans, gay Americans, Americans with disabilities -- they all came through those doors.  (Applause.)  Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past.

What a glorious thing, Dr. King might say.  And what a solemn debt we owe.  Which leads us to ask, just how might we repay that debt?

First and foremost, we have to recognize that one day’s commemoration, no matter how special, is not enough.  If Selma taught us anything, it’s that our work is never done.  (Applause.)  The American experiment in self-government gives work and purpose to each generation.

Selma teaches us, as well, that action requires that we shed our cynicism.  For when it comes to the pursuit of justice, we can afford neither complacency nor despair.

Just this week, I was asked whether I thought the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report shows that, with respect to race, little has changed in this country.  And I understood the question; the report’s narrative was sadly familiar.  It evoked the kind of abuse and disregard for citizens that spawned the Civil Rights Movement.  But I rejected the notion that nothing’s changed.  What happened in Ferguson may not be unique, but it’s no longer endemic.  It’s no longer sanctioned by law or by custom.  And before the Civil Rights Movement, it most surely was.  (Applause.)

We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America.  If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or Los Angeles of the 1950s.  Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed.  Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago.  To deny this progress, this hard-won progress -– our progress –- would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.

Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that Ferguson is an isolated incident; that racism is banished; that the work that drew men and women to Selma is now complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes.  We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true.  We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us.

We know the march is not yet over.  We know the race is not yet won.  We know that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged, all of us, by the content of our character requires admitting as much, facing up to the truth.  “We are capable of bearing a great burden,” James Baldwin once wrote, “once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.”

There’s nothing America can’t handle if we actually look squarely at the problem.  And this is work for all Americans, not just some.  Not just whites.  Not just blacks.  If we want to honor the courage of those who marched that day, then all of us are called to possess their moral imagination.  All of us will need to feel as they did the fierce urgency of now.  All of us need to recognize as they did that change depends on our actions, on our attitudes, the things we teach our children.  And if we make such an effort, no matter how hard it may sometimes seem, laws can be passed, and consciences can be stirred, and consensus can be built.  (Applause.)

With such an effort, we can make sure our criminal justice system serves all and not just some.  Together, we can raise the level of mutual trust that policing is built on –- the idea that police officers are members of the community they risk their lives to protect, and citizens in Ferguson and New York and Cleveland, they just want the same thing young people here marched for 50 years ago -– the protection of the law.  (Applause.)  Together, we can address unfair sentencing and overcrowded prisons, and the stunted circumstances that rob too many boys of the chance to become men, and rob the nation of too many men who could be good dads, and good workers, and good neighbors.  (Applause.)

With effort, we can roll back poverty and the roadblocks to opportunity.  Americans don’t accept a free ride for anybody, nor do we believe in equality of outcomes.  But we do expect equal opportunity.  And if we really mean it, if we’re not just giving lip service to it, but if we really mean it and are willing to sacrifice for it, then, yes, we can make sure every child gets an education suitable to this new century, one that expands imaginations and lifts sights and gives those children the skills they need.  We can make sure every person willing to work has the dignity of a job, and a fair wage, and a real voice, and sturdier rungs on that ladder into the middle class.

And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge –- and that is the right to vote.  (Applause.)  Right now, in 2015, 50 years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote.  As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed.  Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, the Voting Rights Act stands weakened, its future subject to political rancor.

How can that be?  The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic efforts.  (Applause.)  President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office.  President George W. Bush signed its renewal when he was in office.  (Applause.)  One hundred members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right to protect it.  If we want to honor this day, let that hundred go back to Washington and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore that law this year.  That’s how we honor those on this bridge.  (Applause.)

Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or even the President alone.  If every new voter-suppression law was struck down today, we would still have, here in America, one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples.  Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar, the number of bubbles on a bar of soap.  It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life.

What’s our excuse today for not voting?  How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought?  (Applause.)  How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America’s future?  Why are we pointing to somebody else when we could take the time just to go to the polling places?  (Applause.)  We give away our power.

Fellow marchers, so much has changed in 50 years.  We have endured war and we’ve fashioned peace.  We’ve seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives.  We take for granted conveniences that our parents could have scarcely imagined.  But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship; that willingness of a 26-year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five to decide they loved this country so much that they’d risk everything to realize its promise.

That’s what it means to love America.  That’s what it means to believe in America.  That’s what it means when we say America is exceptional.

For we were born of change.  We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.  We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people.  That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction -- because we know our efforts matter.  We know America is what we make of it.

Look at our history.  We are Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea, pioneers who braved the unfamiliar, followed by a stampede of farmers and miners, and entrepreneurs and hucksters.  That’s our spirit.  That’s who we are.

We are Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer, women who could do as much as any man and then some.  And we’re Susan B. Anthony, who shook the system until the law reflected that truth.  That is our character.

We’re the immigrants who stowed away on ships to reach these shores, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free –- Holocaust survivors, Soviet defectors, the Lost Boys of Sudan.  We’re the hopeful strivers who cross the Rio Grande because we want our kids to know a better life.  That’s how we came to be.  (Applause.)

We’re the slaves who built the White House and the economy of the South.  (Applause.)  We’re the ranch hands and cowboys who opened up the West, and countless laborers who laid rail, and raised skyscrapers, and organized for workers’ rights.

We’re the fresh-faced GIs who fought to liberate a continent.  And we’re the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the Navajo code-talkers, and the Japanese Americans who fought for this country even as their own liberty had been denied.

We’re the firefighters who rushed into those buildings on 9/11, the volunteers who signed up to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re the gay Americans whose blood ran in the streets of San Francisco and New York, just as blood ran down this bridge. (Applause.)

We are storytellers, writers, poets, artists who abhor unfairness, and despise hypocrisy, and give voice to the voiceless, and tell truths that need to be told.

We’re the inventors of gospel and jazz and blues, bluegrass and country, and hip-hop and rock and roll, and our very own sound with all the sweet sorrow and reckless joy of freedom.
We are Jackie Robinson, enduring scorn and spiked cleats and pitches coming straight to his head, and stealing home in the World Series anyway.  (Applause.)

We are the people Langston Hughes wrote of who “build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how.”  We are the people Emerson wrote of, “who for truth and honor’s sake stand fast and suffer long;” who are “never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”

That’s what America is.  Not stock photos or airbrushed history, or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American than others.  (Applause.)  We respect the past, but we don’t pine for the past.  We don’t fear the future; we grab for it.  America is not some fragile thing.  We are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes.  We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit.  That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe old age of 25 could lead a mighty march.

And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day.  You are America.  Unconstrained by habit and convention.  Unencumbered by what is, because you’re ready to seize what ought to be.

For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there’s new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed.  And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.

Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.  Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.”  “We The People.”  “We Shall Overcome.”  “Yes We Can.”  (Applause.)  That word is owned by no one.  It belongs to everyone.  Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.

Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we’re getting closer.  Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer.  Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile.  Somebody already got us over that bridge.  When it feels the road is too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on [the] wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not be faint.”  (Applause.)

We honor those who walked so we could run.  We must run so our children soar.  And we will not grow weary.  For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.

May He bless those warriors of justice no longer with us, and bless the United States of America.

Thank you, everybody.