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Census touches every life in Arizona, count must be complete

A Census 2020 form is seen Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Toksook Bay, Alaska. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
A Census 2020 form. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Arizona has seen major growth over the past ten years, and we’re on track for more. The 2020 Census is our opportunity to ensure that through our complete count, we can preserve Arizona’s outstanding quality of life and plan for the next decade.

Census participation is not only our civic duty and a founding element of our democracy, the results touch nearly every element of our lives. From planning our transportation infrastructure to the way businesses make decisions – the Census matters.

What’s at stake for Arizona?

Debbie Johnson
Debbie Johnson

Federal funding totaling $675 billion is on the line for distribution to states. In fact, nearly $3,000 per Arizonan every year can be tied to the Census count – that’s more than $20.5 billion annually. These funds support things like education, health care, infrastructure, child safety, and so much more.

An undercount could result in a direct loss of millions of dollars over the next decade. By responding to the Census, we can preserve the outstanding quality of life Arizona offers and plan for our future.

But the Census is about more than money.

The 2020 Census directly impacts Arizona’s representation at every level of government – from our cities and towns here in Arizona to Washington, D.C. Depending on population, federal and state representative seats will be allocated and district lines that determine our political boundaries will be set based on the results of the 2020 Census.

And Census data drives research and impacts private sector transactions every day, like a company deciding to move to Arizona because of our growing workforce.

So what is Arizona doing to make sure every Arizonan knows they count?

Allie Bones
Allie Bones

Last year, Gov. Doug Ducey created the Arizona Complete Count Committee, a diverse group of individuals from across the state, to work directly in their communities to share the message that the Census is safe, easy, and important. We’re working in tandem with our local partners and the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure that Arizona’s count is complete in 2020. It’s truly a team effort, covering every corner of the state.

Arizona’s population is as diverse as its geography, and that’s something we’re proud of – this effort is implementing a multifaceted approach focused on reaching traditionally undercounted communities and the most rural parts of our great state to motivate Arizonans to respond.

This week marked the official launch of the AZ Census 2020 effort, including community-based initiatives, engagement by all of Arizona’s state agencies, an informational website with grassroots community tools, a comprehensive communications campaign, and much more.

AZ Census 2020 has developed a broad array of innovative and locally targeted approaches to reach the communities where Arizona has historically seen under-represented counts, some of which include: young children, multi-family housing residents, military families, non-native English speakers, low-income households and minorities.

We need your help.

We’re calling on all Arizonans to learn more about the 2020 U.S. Census and to start talking about the significance of this democratic tradition. Learn more and pledge your support at azcensus2020.gov.

Every Arizonan can be part of shaping our future.

Debbie Johnson is director of the Arizona Office of Tourism and chairs the Arizona Complete Count Committee. Allies Bones is an assistant secretary of State and is vice chair of the committee.

Hobbs wants bigger budget – doesn’t ask nicely

katie-hobbs
Katie Hobbs

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs wants to nearly double her office’s funding next year because of new burdens imposed by Republican legislators. 

In a scathing letter accompanying her $37 million budget request, Hobbs, a Democrat, described a year of legislative attacks on her office, including new laws that block her ability to seek outside grants, receive legal guidance from the Attorney General’s Office or hire outside counsel.  

“At every step of the way, members of the legislature have sought to undermine my Office,” Hobbs wrote. “While these attempts are aimed at me and my administration, the true victims are the people of Arizona.” 

Roughly a third of the new funding Hobbs requested would go toward voter outreach, which has been a sticking point with Republican lawmakers over the past year. In 2020, Republican lawmakers lobbied by GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich blocked Hobbs from using $500,000 in federal grant money for a statewide voter information campaign. Instead, the legislators divided those funds among counties, though the 15 counties supported Hobbs’ original plan. 

The Secretary of State’s Office first sought aid from Gov. Doug Ducey, who had a pot of federal Covid relief money at his disposal and offered $9 million for election security. The office then received additional private grants, and ended up spending $4.75 million during the 2020 election cycle on voter information campaigns detailing how, when and where to vote and combatting disinformation. 

Those private grants won’t be an option in 2022, because legislative Republicans passed a bill banning any private funding of elections on a party line vote. Instead, Hobbs is asking for an additional $5 million in state funding for voter education.  

“The fact of the matter is, is that we spent close to $5 million in the 2020 election on public education, and the legislature eliminated our ability to get private grants for those purposes in the future,” Assistant Secretary of State Allie Bones said. “We still need to be able to communicate with the public.” 

The Secretary of State’s Office also requested slightly more than $715,000 to create a legal services program within the office, after a provision of the state budget barred Brnovich’s office from representing or providing legal advice to Hobbs’ office through June 2023 and blocked Hobbs from hiring outside counsel. 

The new law gave Hobbs the authority to hire an in-house attorney, but it didn’t provide any funding. The office or Hobbs herself are typically named in lawsuits over election matters. 

A proposed new division would have a general counsel, paid $150,000 annually, as well as two staff attorneys paid $83,358, and a paralegal and legal fellow, both paid around $50,000.   

Those attorneys would provide legal advice on election issues, including the six current referendum petitions, complying with new election administration laws and handling lawsuits over signatures on candidate or initiative petitions. They would also have to provide legal advice to non-elections divisions of the office, including helping with contracts, rules created by the business services division and complying with public meetings and records laws.  

“By refusing the SOS adequate legal counsel, the Attorney General and Legislature have put the department at risk of not being able to fulfill the responsibilities of the office of Secretary of State and ensure full compliance with all applicable laws,” Hobbs wrote. “The SOS has had to create a position out of nothing, with no support.”  

Her office also asked to add three new employees to its 12-person election division, adding two customer service representatives and one budget analyst.  

After tabling a July request from Hobbs to use $1.5 million in federal grant funds to add new employees and set up a call center system, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee is expected to hear the pitch during its fall meeting. Several Republicans on the panel were leaning toward voting against the request this summer.  

Bones said the office, one of the smallest in the country, desperately needs more help. As the Senate’s audit and national attention on Arizona elections continue, staff have spent more time fielding calls and requests for information.  

“Our staff capacity is stretched to the absolute limit,” Bones said. 

 

Senate Republicans introduce budget bills

Deposit Photos

The Senate completed the first step towards passing a budget on Monday while the House hit a snag.  

Republican leaders in the Senate introduced budget bills on Monday that would continue funding to state agencies for the next fiscal year, but not add new monies. 

This is a far cry from the $17.1 billion dollar budget proposal Gov. Katie Hobbs put out Jan. 13. Republican legislators called elements of Hobbs’ proposal non-starters.  

Now, it seems that Republican leadership is making its own move for a budget that has non-starters for Hobbs and her staff. 

“The governor has been very clear that her door is open for anybody who wants to work to find solutions for the people of Arizona, and a continuation budget is not working for the people of Arizona,” Bones said on Jan. 13. 

The Republican budget is a continuation of fiscal-year 2023 funding with a handful of small changes. 

Hobbs may not veto the entire continuation budget as soon as it hits her desk. Her spokeswoman Josselyn Berry said on Monday that Hobbs will use “all tools at her disposal, including line item vetoes if necessary.” 

Republican leadership argues that in a long session with split government, the Legislature and the governor could take many months to work on their bills and won’t get to a finished budget for some time. They say that passing a continuation budget now ensures that the government won’t shut down later on and will alleviate state agencies of the anxiety of waiting to see whether they’ll have funding.  

Democrats say that if Republicans get their continuation budget now, they’ll have no reason to work with Democrats on anything else for the rest of the session. 

The bills were read on the Senate floor on Monday afternoon during a committee hearing recess. Only a handful of members attended the first reading, and none of the Democrats were present.  

The House tried to read the mirror budget bills on Monday afternoon but were held up by technical difficulties and the absence of one of the members. 

House Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City, made a motion to suspend a House rule that limits representatives from being the prime sponsor of more than seven bills introduced after the fourth day of the session to allow Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, to sponsor measures related to the budget.  

None of the House members’ microphones were working on the floor, which forced members to either shout or approach the speaker’s desk to speak into the only working microphones on Monday.  

Democrats requested a roll call vote, and Biasiucci then withdrew his motion. House Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, explained to members the House didn’t have the technical capacity to go through the vote and have members explain their vote.  

“We can either attempt to do that or we can let him withdraw and we won’t deal with it today,” Grantham said.  

Rep. Beverly Pingerelli, R-Peoria, was also absent Monday. Her absence cut the slim one-member Republican majority in the House, leaving them without enough votes to suspend the rule against a unified Democratic caucus. No other House members filed budget bills by Monday evening. 

The Senate scheduled a meeting of the appropriations committee for Tuesday morning where the budget bills will be heard.  

Senate Democrat spokeswoman Calli Jones said that the argument between Republicans and Democrats over the bills will likely happen at tomorrow’s appropriations meeting.