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The 2016 Arizona Legislature’s ‘political magic’

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“The magician and the politician have much in common: they both have to draw our attention away from what they are really doing.” – Ben Okri

This isn’t news to political junkies, but average citizens don’t have a clue about what the governor and Legislature have been doing other than occasional splashy stories, the “magic.”

Rebekah Friend

Rebekah Friend

For example, we know that:

  • After killing it off 6 years ago, they revived KidsCare so about 30,000 kids can go see a doctor.
  • Governor Ducey brokered a deal, Prop.123, so Arizona’s starving schools could get more cash.
  • When voting in the presidential primary was marked by long lines and the special election blew up with missing mail, a few of the people responsible for the mess “apologized.”

Now here’s some of what political junkies saw while citizens were focused on the “magic tricks.”

  • Ducey waved a “magic” pen and Arizona Corporation Commissioner and former House Speaker Andy Tobin’s (R) “conflict of interest” vanished. Poof.
  • Legislators said over and over again that “dark money” in political campaigns is bad. Then they passed some “reforms” turning “dark” into a deep “black hole.”
  • Ducey flexed his “grabbing” muscle and told cities and towns they’d be subject to his wrath if they adopted pro-worker benefits like paid sick leave, maternal leave, and a living wage. (In all fairness he did tell cities and towns it’s okay for them to raise or lower speed limits near parks.)
  • And since his muscle was already flexed, Ducey moved to “pack” the Arizona Supreme Court with two new members (despite the objections of the  chief justice who said they weren’t needed). With one new appointment already in place and three more on the way, Ducey just increased his odds of getting 4-3 rulings.

But here’s the worst “political magic” trick of all: Making citizens ignore some important matters so they won’t ask tough questions. Here’s just a random few out of dozens and dozens:

  • Are there fewer Arizona children living in poverty?
  • How long will it really take before our education system moves out of the national cellar to at least average?
  • Is our water and air getting cleaner or more polluted?
  • Is Arizona still “outsourcing” prisons to private for profit corporations with a stake in seeing our prison population increasing?
  • Has the “total cost” to a student, including tuition, fees, and books, attending college in Arizona decreased?
  • Are Arizona Legislators now subject to the state’s “conflict of interest” laws instead of their own “rules”? And have they been prohibited from owning or profiting from “charter schools?”
  • Have lobbyist-inspired business tax loopholes and giveaways been closed, saving Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars every year, so the money can go to Arizona’s education system?

Of course this is just a small sample. There are many, many more questions that citizens can and should think about. So this year expect citizens, no matter their politics, will look for candidates they can trust to attack tough issues with real solutions.

And weed out those who just know some good sounding slogans and a few magic tricks?

Rebekah Friend is executive director and secretary-treasurer of Arizona AFL-CIO.

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