Corporation Commissioner Robert Burns refuses to vote for APS items until company discloses ‘dark money’ ties

Utility regulator Robert Burns on Tuesday refused to vote for a bill adjustment for Arizona Public Service Co., saying he will not advance any of the utility’s business matters until it complies with his request to review any spending it has done on elections. “Until APS complies with my request in its entirety, I will be voting no on all APS matters that do not impact the safety and health of ratepayers,” Burns said in a statement shared with The Arizona Republic. APS is widely believed to have contributed to the successful campaigns of two fellow utility regulators, Tom Forese and Doug Little, in the 2014 elections. APS has not denied supporting independent political, or “dark money,” groups that supported Forese and Little. But the company has declined to provide Burns with documentation he has requested regarding the company’s political spending. Tuesday’s request from APS was a routine adjustment to one of the many line items on APS bills. It would have added 34 cents to the average customer bill. But with Burns’ “no” vote, Commissioner Andy Tobin’s recusal from the vote because of a potential conflict of interest, and Commissioner Bob Stump’s absence, the matter failed on a 2-1 vote.

Source: Corporation Commissioner Robert Burns refuses to vote for APS items until company discloses ‘dark money’ ties

Republicans at the legislature are OUT OF CONTROL

Just read this section from an Arizona Capitol Times story on Republican Speaker David Gowan’s pattern of retaliating against reporters who dare to point out his illegal use of state resources to boost his congressional campaign ↓

Look, a culture of corruption is THRIVING within GOP leadership — and we’ve got to stop it.

Democrats have a real shot at taking back the Senate and picking up a bunch of seats in the House. We can change the makeup of our legislative leadership in only a few months — but to make that happen we need your help.

Will you chip in today to help Democrats take back the legislature and put an end to this culture of corruption?

What Does Early Vote Say About Who Will Do Well in Arizona? – NBC News

Early and absentee voting is changing the face of elections in the United States. Casting a ballot before Election Day allows campaigns to build advantages – sometimes significant ones. In the Arizona presidential primary Tuesday, the early vote will be pivotal in determining the outcome. Arizona has a very high early and absentee voting rate. In the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, around 75 percent of 505,613overall ballots cast were of this type. Who wins the absentee vote in Arizona has a very high likelihood of winning the state. In the 2016 presidential primaries, as of March 21 (see below for exact dates county by county) 297,714 Democratic and 371,693 Republican voters have already cast ballots in Arizona. This is according to data obtained from NBC’s data partner TargetSmart—a leading voter-file company in the United States. NBC News According the TargetSmart data, 29 percent of registered Democrats and 31 percent of registered Republicans have already cast ballot. Arizona is a closed primary state, meaning that those registered as independent or “other” would need to update their voter registration by February 22, 2016 to be eligible to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary.

Source: What Does Early Vote Say About Who Will Do Well in Arizona? – NBC News

Arizona Democrats want to allow DREAMers to work for Congress

PHOENIX — An Arizona congresswoman introduced a bill Monday that would allow DREAMers – undocumented young people exempted from deportation – to be employed by congressional offices. U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., introduced the American Employment Act to open up jobs to DREAMers, whom she says would benefit Congress with “their unique abilities and perspectives.” “DREAMers are young people who call our country home, and they deserve a fair shot at opportunities that can shape their future,” Kirkpatrick said in a release. “Telling these young people they cannot work in the seat of our government is like telling them they deserve something less than the American dream.” Kirkpatrick’s colleague, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., is one of the original co-sponsors of the bill. “They are a part of our community, and rather than making their lives more difficult, we should celebrate their contributions and give them opportunities to succeed,” Gallego said in the same release.“These talented, smart individuals have a lot to contribute, and we would be fortunate to have them working with us on Capitol Hill and at home in our districts.”

Source: Arizona Democrats want to allow DREAMers to work for Congress

Arizona Democrats complain about guns – Toledo Blade

sixshootersArizona House Democrats are complaining that some representatives are apparently carrying guns on the House floor. Rep. Randy Friese and five other Democrats sent a letter to Speaker David Gowan Wednesday asking him to clarity in writing whether members are allowed to be armed. The letter says the House has a sign requiring weapons to be checked at the door so being armed violates state law. Gowan spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham says he took down the “no weapons” sign at the members’ entrance, so there is no legal bar on armed people entering that door. Friese said he saw a lawmaker with a gun on Tuesday. He says he asked the Speaker to clarify the rules and got no response. Friese declined to identify the member or their party affiliation.

Source: Arizona Democrats complain about guns – Toledo Blade

Arizona Democrats say hours-long poll lines suppressed vote – Times Union

PHOENIX (AP) — Hours-long waits for some Arizona residents wanting to vote in the presidential primary have led to accusations of voter suppression from Democrats and civil rights proponents who cite a decision by elections officials to slash the number of polling places this year. Residents in metro Phoenix have been bristling for years over a perception that state leaders want to make it harder for them to vote, and the mess at the polls Tuesday only heightened their frustration. Republican lawmakers passed a series of measures in recent years aimed at cracking down on voter fraud, but opponents believe the changes were merely ploys to stifle Democratic turnout. Those battles are being waged again after people waited in line for five hours to vote in some places. “Let’s be clear — voter suppression happened,” U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego said at a news conference Thursday, adding it might not have been intentional, but it happened nonetheless.

Source: Arizona Democrats say hours-long poll lines suppressed vote – Times Union

MoveOn Petitions – Dept. of Justice: Investigate Arizona voter suppression

In Maricopa County Arizona, the number of polling places was reduced from 200 during the 2012 primary election, to just 60 for 2016. Some predominantly Latino areas only got one or no polling places at all. People had to wait in 5+ hour lines to vote. Please investigate and put a stop to the voter suppression before the general election.

Source: MoveOn Petitions – Dept. of Justice: Investigate Arizona voter suppression

Arizona House approves 204-percent ‘flex’ loans

Arizona representatives OK’d a bill to allow flexible-credit loans, with interest rates of 204 percent, as an option for people who need quick cash but have no borrowing options

A bill authorizing short-term loans at an annual interest rate of 204 percent squeaked through the Arizona House of Representatives Monday after intense lobbying to lift the 36-percent cap on the state’s usury statutes.

The 31-26 vote moves the debate to the Senate, where the bill died last month in a committee but was revived as a strike-everything amendment.

Senate Bill 1316 would permit flexible-credit loans of up to $2,500 for a maximum two-year period. It proposes a 17-percent monthly interest rate for unsecured loans, which works out to 204 percent annual interest. Secured loans would carry a slightly lower rate: 15 percent per month, or 180 percent annually.

Supporters say the loans would provide a way for people facing emergencies but who have poor credit and no savings a way to get quick cash. Critics say the bill only opens an already vulnerable population up to predatory lending.

Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson, kicked off the debate by contradicting supporters who say there is no other place for a person to get quick cash.

“It is not true,” she said, pointing to a “payday loan alternative” promoted by the National Credit Union Association.

“This legislation is moving across the nation by a group of investors to make changes in all states,” Barton said.  It has already failed in four states, she said, but is still alive in Arizona and Mississippi.

Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, said the focus on triple-digit interest rates obscures the needs flex loans fill. It could be someone facing a medical emergency, he said.

“There’s that one little person sitting there saying where am I going to go? What am I going to do?” Lawrence said, as he voted for the bill.

The debate echoed the discussion in the House last week when it first reviewed the bill.

Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, was viewed as undecided going into Monday’s vote. He gave a winding speech about his personal financial philosophy to carry no debt, and spoke of a friend who lost a $3 million life-insurance policy because he had to sign it over to collateralize a debt.

He concluded by observing he has seen no hand-wringing over the national debt and voted for the bill.

“I vote aye to give another option,” Bowers said.

Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, said lawmakers spend a lot of time talking about the need to avoid debt as they manage the state’s finances.

The 204-percent rate the bill would authorize will only put more people into debt, she said. Student loans carry rates of 7 to 9 percent.

“I talk to young people every day who are crushed by that rate,” McCune Davis said. “We somehow think we’re going to do a favor by creating a new kind of lending, a new option?” She voted no.

Arizona voters outlawed payday loans in 2008, sending the lending industry on a search for other products that can be marketed to people with immediate needs and poor credit. The ban led to the creation of auto title loans, which require a loan to be secured by the title a borrower holds on his or her vehicle.

Reach the reporter at maryjo.pitzl@arizonarepublic.com and follow her on Twitter@maryjpitzl.

How they voted

The House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1316 Monday after more than two hours of comments. Here’s how the vote breaks down:

YES – Republicans 

John Allen, Scottsdale

Sonny Borrelli, Lake Havasu City

Rusty Bowers, Mesa

Paul Boyer, Glendale

Noel Campbell, Prescott

Regina Cobb, Kingman

Doug Coleman, Apache Junction

Karen Fann, Prescott

Eddie Farnsworth, Gilbert

Mark Finchem, Oro Valley

David Gowan, Sierra Vista

Rick Gray, Sun City

Anthony Kern, Glendale

Jay Lawrence, Scottsdale

Vince Leach, Tucson

David Livingston, Peoria

Phil Lovas, Peoria

J.D. Mesnard, Chandler

Darin Mitchell, Litchfield Park

Steve Montenegro, Litchfield Park

Jill Norgaard, Phoenix

Justin Olson, Mesa

Warren Petersen, Gilbert

Frank Pratt, Casa Grande

Bob Robson, Chandler

T.J. Shope, Coolidge

David Stevens, Sierra Vista

Bob Thorpe, Flagstaff

Kelly Townsend, Mesa

Michelle Ugenti-Rita, Scottsdale

Jeff Weninger, Chandler

NO – Republicans

John Ackerley, Tucson

Brenda Barton, Payson

Kate Brophy McGee, Phoenix

Tony Rivero, Peoria

NO – Democrats

Richard Andrade, Glendale

Jennifer Benally, Tuba City

Reginald Bolding, Phoenix

Mark Cardenas, Phoenix

Ken Clark, Phoenix

Diego Espinoza, Tolleson

Charlene Fernandez, Yuma

Randy Friese, Tucson

Rosanna Gabaldon, Green Valley

Sally Ann Gonzales, Tucson

Albert Hale, St. Michaels 

Matt Kopec, Tucson

Jonathan Larkin, Glendale

Stefanie Mach, Tucson

Debbie McCune Davis, Phoenix

Juan Mendez, Tempe

Eric Meyer, Paradise Valley

Lisa Otondo, Yuma

Celeste Plumlee, Tempe

Macario Saldate, Tucson

Ceci Velasquez, Litchfield Park

Bruce Wheeler, Tucson

ABSENT

Lela Alston, D-Phoenix

Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek

Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix

Source: Arizona House approves 204-percent ‘flex’ loans