We are two days in to session and things are just settling in. My goal is to scribe this journal for as long as I can, until things get too busy. (It sounds like I'm writing from a submarine that's running out of air, huh?)
Most newly-elected members are running around now, getting bills signed and submitted. The very first bills have been assigned to committee, with the governor's plan to require students to pass a civics test as the priority. As an Eagle Scout and a guy with an under-used Master's in International Affairs, I dig the idea at first glance. Why shouldn't kids understand more about how our government works? After all, with a little education, they will clearly see that corporations are not people and that Citizens United is a grave mistate.
However, this bill leaves us with many, many questions. Will private school children have to pass the test? What if you are getting a Highschool Equivalency Degree? What happens if a student transfers in from another state? Wouldn't it be better to just FUND civics education in schools (along with schools) than add an unfunded test? And, of course, the meta-question: why is a bill about civics being rushed through so quickly and what does that say about this legislature's regard for our civic process of public debate? Unless these questions are answered, this bill may be more about political points than anything else.
Musings on the Budget
I've not commented on the governor's State of the State, as I like to sit on things like this sometimes, and really reflect. It was boggling to me that the governor spoke so broadly about the need to continue special interest tax breaks (Really folks, this is not just a political trope. You should see this list of tax give-aways.), when we are so far in the hole.
I understand the desire not to raise taxes while the economy is struggling, but we passed the last stop on the "Common Sense Express" sometime in the last 23 or so years that we cut taxes for special groups, while our infrastructure and schools suffer.
This is a larger question, which this legislature is not willing to take up: at what point will you know that you cut government enough? Is it when you can "drown it in a bathtub"? This hackneyed old number brought to us from the right wing think takes of the 1970s is a rhetorical argument, not a recipe for responsible leadership. At some point, you cut so far that you can't do the basic things that government should do. Roads can't be built (check: the HURF fund is shrinking). Kids are not educated properly (check: we've known for years about the disparity in education in this state). Tourism suffers (check: we've been cutting funds to protect our public lands for years). We can't attract businesses like we should (I've seen this personally in my previous time in government). And the list goes on.
This brings me to the following info-graphic. Yep, only 7 out of 100 high school students will complete college.
This is not new, but it is shocking. This reality should tell us that we really are nearing the point of dysfunction with these cuts. The sad part of the tale is that our political process favors ideological fealty over common sense solutions.
After about 30% cuts during the Great Recession, we really have almost nothing to cut. So, in reflecting on the governor's comments, I can't figure out how the math works. Somehow, we are going to come up with $1.3 billion, cut some taxes, "get more students in to unused classrooms" and do our duty to our citizens.
I don't pretend to know it all, but I do know there is something missing here.
In other News
I'm leaving in a few minutes to prepare for our first monthly BeAZ event. This is a fun, monthly event that will expose folks to incredible things around them --things which they may have never known were there and which relate to public policy and their lives directly. We will show that there is a difference between policy and politics. I hope you can join us this evening at Refugee Focus. Learn more at our Facebook Page.
A Harmless Little Pitch
It takes a lot to organize these events, so please consider volunteering on future events and consider becoming a sustaining supporter so that we can keep them going. We are trying new ways to engage the public and make Arizona even better, and we can't do it without you.