Thursday, March 31, 2011

Another AEN Adventure in Live Blogging: AZ House begins work on budget

Welcome to another grand AEN live-blogging adventure! Your blogging team live-blogged the events and activities of the House, which began sometime around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 31, and wrapped in the wee small hours of the morning on Friday, April 1. The earliest post begins way down towards the bottom of the page.  As you page down through the festivities, your patience and forgiveness for various typos or grammatical errors is greatly appreciated.

Thank you
AEN Blogging Team

3:46 a.m. We're heading into another COW calendar. Again, the link is here.

Folks, while this is great fun, we are in sore-need of some beauty sleep. We'll have a summary on our website soon.

Also, our newsletter should go out sometime tomorrow afternoon. Be sure you've joined our mailing list!

**Just to clarify any confusion with prior posting of figures/cuts: In this budget--a compromise between the House and Senate leadership, and Governor Brewer--$183M will be cut from K-12 funding, and $198M will be cut from the funding for state's universities and community colleges.

Our apologies for any confusion prior postings may have caused. And with that, thank you for joining us for this adventure in live-blogging!

3:21 a.m. House COW underway.

2:58 a.m. Movement in the House. Everyone looks a little rested. Arizona Students' Association tweeted there will be 18 floor amendments.

Live video from the House Floor here.

2:49 a.m. Well, twenty minutes and no one's milling anymore.

2:21 a.m. A few House members have been spotted milling around on the House floor.

Looks like we're going sunset to sunshine, folks.

1:22 a.m. No movement on the House floor. Won't expect any activity until 2 a.m. Will see how much longer we can hang. Sense a second wind coming.

12:45 a.m. Some word is getting out that the Senate will be voting on the budget at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Wait. Did we say, "tomorrow"? How silly...of course we meant TODAY! Blame it on the moon. Or the exhaustion. Whatever.

Presently, there isn't a confirmation of the Senate's schedule change on the leg website.

AZ Republic report on the budget here.

12:22 a.m. Caucus meetings wrap up for both R's and D's. Word is the House will go to the floor to vote at 1:30 a.m. Members will take an hour siesta.

If you're still awake and fighting sleep, you can review the JLBC fiscal analysis of the budget going before the full House here.

House Floor Session can be watched here.

11:27 p.m. Caucus meetings are still underway, as Joint Legislative Budget Council makes presentation of the cuts to various state programs/agencies. We're listening while trying to get our newsletter ready for distribution tomorrow.

JLBC reports cut to K-12 will equal $183 million. Cut to universities will be $198 million.

If House goes to Committee of the Whole (COW) while the toothpicks are still holding our eyelids wide open, we'll post here. If not, we'll leave the link here, should there be any insomniacs out there.

10:45 p.m. Speaker Adams just announced that following caucus meetings, the budget will proceed for a full vote of the House. Not tomorrow. Tonight. For real. This is not an April Fool's joke. Sadly.

10:24 p.m. House Rules has adjourned.

Up next: Caucus meetings.

House R's will Caucus in House Hearing Room 1. Watch here.
House D's will Caucus in House Hearing Room 2. Watch here.

We don't advise trying to watch them both at the same time. ;)

10:14 p.m. House Rules is underway.

10:05 p.m. SB1624 passes, 9-3. Now all thirteen bills move through House Rules Committee. Live feed for House Hearing Room 4, where rules will meet, is here. This should go rather quickly and then the House should adjourn for the evening.

9:43 p.m. SB1623 passes, 9-3. On to the final bill of the evening, SB1624, environment budget. We're on our way to the finish line, folks! Oh, you're so awesome to have hung with us this long.

9:35 p.m. SB 1621 passes, 9-3. Now SB1622, the general government budget. SB1622 passes, 9-3.

9:04 p.m. SB1621 up now; criminal justice budget.

8:58 p.m. SB1619 passes, 9-3 without the Tovar Amendment. Now on to SB1620. This bill will reduce max. income eligibility for child care assistance and require Department of Economic Security to screen/drug test each adult recipient of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Considering the subject of the legislation, we're betting this one is going down, 9-3.

8:54 p.m. House Appropriations hearing room looks pretty empty. Late hour. Remember, we have 5 more bills to go through this hearing before the entire budget goes to the House Rules Committee. The entire budget will likely not be voted on by the full House this evening, rather will go to House Committee of the Whole tomorrow morning.

8:28 p.m. SB1618 passes, 9-3. Per Arizona Students' Association: amendment was offered as supported by ASA to save financial aid. Amendment passed appropriations.

They are on to SB1619, which addresses Arizona's AHCCCS program.

Rep. Tovar offered an amendment that would pay for transplants at no cost to the state; private funds would be used. Chairman expressed that the late arrival of the amendment made it a challenge to give a thorough vetting in committee. Late arrival of amendment due largely, if not wholly, to the availability of the strikers to members of the minority party. With that said, the amendment has been tabled so that it can be analyzed and given a chance to be adopted.

8:22 p.m. SB1617 passes, 9-3. On to SB1618, higher education.

8:10 p.m. A lot of data being discussed in tonight's committee hearing. Very frustrating, as some of the same flawed talking points from '09 have been resuscitated re: per-pupil expenditures and where AZ falls nationally. We've already rebutted this, folks.

"Response to ATRA's K-12 Education Funding Comparison" (June 2009)

"AZ Schools--Examination of the Facts" (June 2009)

8:01 p.m. Committee is getting ready to vote on SB1617. It's impossible to find words to summarize some of the comments that have been made.

7:35 p.m. Rep. Williams asking Ms. Loredo about percentage of dollars making it to the classroom.

Ms. Loredo says the size of the "pie" being appropriated to schools is impacting the ability of how many dollars actually are available to get into the classroom. Additionally, other issues (like heating and cooling) and various outside factors, with fewer funding, there are simply fewer dollars to stretch into the classroom.

7:26 p.m. Jennifer Loredo is up again for the AEA, to remind about the organization's support for Prop 100 and how these cuts are going to impact the classrooms in schools across the state.

Rep. Campbell asks Ms. Loredo about the per-pupil funding and how the cuts are going to play out.

Ms. Loredo says different things are going to play depending upon the school district. Declining enrollment districts are going to have some hard decisions to make. No way to hold off any of these cuts from making it into the classroom. Two big funds: one is soft capital (supplies, technology); 80% of soft capital off of the table, making it highly probable teachers are going to pay out of their pocket for supplies. Another fund is CORL (capitol outlay). Has been allowed to transfer to Maintenance and Operation budget. With cut to CORL, that will cut the M&O for a lot of school districts. Already hearing of districts doing a salary reduction across the district. AZ has one of the highest student-to-teacher ratios.

Rep. Williams interrupts Ms. Loredo to speak to the point of student-to-teacher ratio. Wants to know where's the data related to the student : teacher ratio.

Rep. Campbell says his data comes from ALEC.

7:21 p.m. We're on to SB1617, the K-12 budget reconciliation bill.

7:17 p.m. Committee still on a pizza break. Can nothing happen on time at the capitol?!?

6:59 p.m. SB1616 passes, 8-4. It's becoming clear there are number of agencies in the state, not just public education, as well as cash-strapped counties that are going to be devastated by this budget.

AEN team blogger commentary: I can't help but consider that many of the voices in today's appropriation hearing come from the very same people/agencies who made up the Yes on 100 coalition (Prop 100--the temporary 1-cent sales tax). It's sad to see so many who find themselves faced with a broken promise.

On to the K-12 budget, SB1617. Wait. Nope. Not yet. It's pizza time. Committee takes a 15-minute break to get grub.

So stretch your legs and catch the last ray of what has been a spectacular sunset.

6:27 p.m. SB1614 passes 9-3. On to SB1615, consolidation of state agencies. Passes committee 9-3. On to SB1616.

We're going to take a small bathroom break before we get to K-12 (SB1617)....

6:22 p.m. Jennifer Loredo with the Arizona Education Association speaking about SB 1614; "We're the one system that does the 50/50." In other words, teachers are the only public sector employees that participate in the 50/50 split. Ms. Loredo states to the committee that she's aware that when the majority party has caucused "behind close doors" there was a great deal of concerns about this policy change.

6:16 p.m. The rest of the bills are clipping right along; SB163 and now to SB1614. SB1614 will reduce pension contributions to public sector--state, university, school district and charter school employees--from a 50/50 contribution split to a 53/47 split. The reduction in contributions will be transferred to the state General Fund.

5:54 p.m After a great deal of explanation of votes, SB 1612 passes 9-3.

5:24 p.m. Ms. Johnson speaking before the committee re: the cuts impacting rural hospitals.

Just to catch you all up, we're still on the General Fund Appropriation Bill for FY 2011-2012 (SB 1612).

5:14 p.m. Conversation about $10 billion in tax loopholes/tax exemptions. Well, not so much conversations as debating/spinning and "twisting" of a report published by the Arizona Department of Revenue.

AEN blog team member's commentary: Close the loopholes, broaden the base, or attempt to meet somewhere in the middle. Do something! It's time we take a serious and realistic approach to addressing our state's fiscal stability. But to cut funding to vital programs that are proven to GROW our economic base is not a healthy approach. IF AZ is broke, if the state's checkbook is empty, how can we afford to hand over approx. $500M to corporations?

5:06 p.m. Rep. Vic Williams (LD 26) reads letter from Craig Barrett that speaks to reforming K-12, money to the classroom and various charter school successes. Not entirely clear if this letter was an op-ed or just a note to various legislative leaders. "Hear from the K-12 community this twisting of what our corporate leaders are saying. He's [Craig Barrett] looking for reform in our current system. Continuously hear this twisting of what our corporate leaders are saying and I wanted to speak to that."

5:00 p.m. Rep. Vic Williams (LD 26) breaks down the budget pie, while reminding committee he supported Prop 100. Rep. Williams suggests educational districts can look at their district budgets--all 228 can find some fiscal solutions.

Rep. Campbell offers support for Ms. Anderson. Several options out there to reform tax code that would make it fair and lower it for average citizens. GI and Morrison Institute have said there are some good choices. Rep. Campbell Reminds committee of $10 billion in lost revenue opportunities. "Some [exemptions] are good, but several exemptions don't need to be there."

Like say the exemption for 4-inch pipe in the amount of $17M a year?

4:56 p.m. Ms. Anderson with Interfaith community addressing the committee is urging committee to expand the tax base, instead of passing the budget.  Lower the rate and broaden the base, to include more services that will increase revenue but not increase rates. Sounds reasonable to us!

4:38 p.m. Mr. Barnes with Association of Arizona Community Colleges speaking about cuts to community colleges right now.

Rep. Alston makes comment re: businesses come to community colleges to ask them to design a course for my business, which train workforce for the jobs they are bringing to the state.

Rep. Kavanagh states cut to community colleges is "a 54% reduction to what the state gives to the community colleges. Not a 50% reduction of their funding."

Historical note: funding/providing public education to citizens was one of four MAJOR provisions to a territory joining the union of states.

John Goodwin, the first governor of the Arizona Territory, stated definitively that “self-government and universal education are inseparable. The one can be exercised only as the other is enjoyed.” As early as 1864 he called on the territory legislature to establish free public K-12 and university education, noting that “The first duty of the legislators of a free state is to make, as far as lies within their power, education as free to all its citizens as the air they breathe.”

Thus public schools were already well established in our state by December of 1910, when 52 delegates from across the Arizona territory came together to draft a state constitution.

And as Article XI, Section X in the AZ Constitution states:

"The revenue for the maintenance of the respective state educational institutions shall be derived from the investment of the proceeds of the sale, and from the rental of such lands as have been set aside by the enabling act approved June 20, 1910, or other legislative enactment of the United States, for the use and benefit of the respective state educational institutions. In addition to such income the legislature shall make such appropriations, to be met by taxation, as shall insure the proper maintenance of all state educational institutions, and shall make such special appropriations as shall provide for their development and improvement.”

4:19 p.m. Testimony re: cost shift to counties being given right now. Missed his name. Our apologies. Gentleman was told by his rep: State is the parent, counties children. If true, he says, then the budget is the equivalent of "Cutting kids allowance, demanding more chores and then demanding that they make your truck payments."

Feeling social? Check out and LIKE Support Adult Basic Education in Arizona on Facebook!

4:16 p.m. ASU student from a middle-class home, whose father works for Intel, gives testimony to committee re: cuts to higher education and the struggle families face to provide an education for their children.

4:00 p.m. Lost of last update due to gremlins. Testimony from David Martinez with the Arizona Students' Association re: the impact to the universities and community colleges. Rep. Kavanagh referenced report from Arizona Board of Regents, where it was shared that 45% of the university students do not pay tuition. Mr. Martinez notes that is an average of the student population who qualify and receive financial aid.

Rep. Alston notes that it is a loss to our state/community when being poor is an obstacle in a student being able to attend to college; references fmr. Intel CEO, Craig Barrett's comments from Tuesday.

3:51 p.m. State parks rep speaking about fund sweeps to state parks between $3-5M. "We are operating on a thread and the thread is about to break."

State parks bring in $266M, in addition to $23 million in state and local taxes.

3:47 p.m. If you were ever worried about the move of one Kyrsten Sinema from the House to the Senate Appropriations Committee, rest assured. Rep. Chad Campbell is on it.

3:38 p.m. Representative for Protecting Arizona's Family Coalition, Mr. Schmoltz (sorry for misspelling) is speaking about impact of cuts to families and vulnerable. Concern about the rush and "behind closed door" negotiations.

"Not open and transparent and accountable government....[W]e might not be able to change your minds, we just ask you to step back and slow down and run an open government...that allows for cooling off periods and vetting." Mr. Schmoltz

3:30 p.m. Official word in hearing is there will be a cut of $179M.
Please hold, while we get our thoughts together....

Watch here. Warning: Keep the Motrin handy....

3:20 p.m. House Approps underway. First word is leadership in the House and Senate and Governor Brewer have agreed to a K-12 fund reduction of approx. $200M. If correct, that's a $40M reduction from the Senate's proposed cut. However, it's approx. 

3:08 p.m. It looks like we have another 15 minute delay. We're hesitant to suggest this thing might not happen, as we've lived through one too many late night budget cram sessions. Some of us have yet to recover from the '09 Senate session that ran out the fiscal year clock.

2:09 p.m. Now word is Appropriations hearing has been moved to 3:00. If hearing gets started at all, there's no way members get home before midnight tonight.

Arizona Students' Association is reporting cuts to higher ed have been reduced from $235 million to $198 million. We're still searching for K-12 striker.

1:48 p.m. House is recessing. Appropriations will get underway shortly. Find a link to the strikers for SB 1612-1624 (the budget bills), here. The striker for K-12 (SB1617) is not up.

Gang, it looks like it's going to be a very, very long and "fluid" afternoon, as House Speaker Adams requests members to stay close to the Capitol for the remainder of the day.

Link below will take you to HHR 1.

1:37 p.m. Today's Arizona House Appropriations hearing was originally scheduled to take place at 9 a.m. It was later rescheduled for 1:45 p.m. this afternoon. However, with the House Floor Session just underway, it would appear as though the Appropriations hearing won't begin on time.

Link to live feed here.

Your AEN team will be live blogging today's activities/details on the budget deal/compromise. Again, your patience and forgiveness for various typos or grammatical errors is greatly appreciated. Thank you.