With the 2018 legislative session at an end, Democratic leaders discuss the teacher rally, education budget and how the House saw one of their own expelled.
The session closed with a bang following the new budget that plans to raise teacher pay by 20 percent by 2020. Minority leaders in both the House and Senate, Rep. Rebecca Rios and Sen. Katie Hobbs, agree it’s been an interesting session that they are happy to put behind them.
“I think overall there were some wins for Democrats,” Rios says. “Clearly the whole RedForEd movement descended on the capitol. I think there were a lot of fails on the governor’s part, including his attempt in putting forward gun safety regulations. Nothing passed.”
Hobbs mentions that Governor Doug Ducey avoided the language “gun safety” and used “school safety” instead. The school safety plan he put forward was endorsed by the NRA, and received hardly any support from the left.
“We have an issue of gun violence in Arizona and in America,” Hobbs says. “We need to address the larger picture than school safety. On our side, it was the issue of not going far enough. I can’t tell you what the Republicans’ opposition to it was.”
At the end of the day, Rios and Hobbs feel the teachers’ story was a happy one. They didn’t receive support for everything, but they were able to pressure a governor, who at the beginning was going to give a one percent stipend for educators, into proposing a plan that will help them get a 20 percent raise. However, there are many skeptics surrounding this plan.
“Don’t mistake that this was a ploy to get him through the next election,” Rios says. “Whether or not this truly ends up being a nine percent raise this year is in question, and a lot of us are concerned it’s not going to be.”
Voters are pushing an initiative to increase income taxes for the top one percent as a source of revenue for education funding. Hobbs says the initiative is most likely “a response to the lack of government attention to increasing revenue to support education.” The governor’s plan for funding includes cutting other areas and relying on a successful economy.
” I think it’s important for people to recognize while we’re increasing the income tax for the less than top one percent of Arizonans, those are the people who have benefited from income tax rate cuts over the last 30 years,” Rios says.
This session also saw the expulsion of House Representative Don Shooter for sexual harassment allegations. Rios says it created a diversion for the few weeks everyone was focused on it, then it went back to business as usual.
“I hope it doesn’t get forgotten, because there are certainly somethings we need to address concerning the culture of the capitol and the way people are treated,” Hobbs says.
Republican leaders will offer their perspective on the 2018 session on Thursday’s “Arizona Horizon.”
TED SIMONS: THE 2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION ENDED LAST FRIDAY, AND WAS NOTHING IF NOT EVENTFUL, WITH TEACHER RALLIES LEADING TO INCREASED EDUCATION FUNDING, A BIPARTISAN PLAN TO FIGHT OPIOD ABUSE AND A LAWMAKER IN THE HOUSE EXPELLED. HERE WITH A LOOK BACK AT THE SESSION, ARE SENATE MINORITY LEADER KATIE HOBBS:, AND HOUSE MINORITY LEADER REBECCA RIOS. BOTH DEMOCRATS. WE HEAR FROM REPUBLICANS TOMORROW. RIGHT NOW YOUR TURN, YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SESSION?
KATIE HOBBS: IT'S PROBABLY THE MOST INTERESTING SESSION I HAVE SEEN AT THE CAPITOL. YOU MENTIONED THE OPIOID SESSION AND THAT SEEMS YEARS AGO. I'M CERTAINLY GLAD IT'S OVER.
TED SIMONS: OVERALL THOUGHTS?
REBECCA RIOS: IT WAS QUITE A RIDE. THERE WERE WINS FOR DEMOCRATS. THE RED FOR ED MOVEMENT WE HAD TEACHERS AT THE CAPITOL SAYING THE SAME THINGS WE HAVE BEEN SAYING FOR A DECADE. THERE WERE FAILS ON THE GOVERNOR'S PARK, THE GUN SAFETY LEGISLATION HE CROWED WOULD BE BI-PARTISAN DID NOTHING. NOTHING PASSED.
TED SIMONS: WHY DID IT DO NOTHING?
REBECCA RIOS: I'M NOT SURE BUT IT NEVER CAME TO THE HOUSE. MANY OF US WERE MORE CONCERNED WITH WHAT WAS BEING PUSHED. AT THE END OF THE DAY, YOU HAD AN NRA BACKED GUN SAFETY PLAN. IF THAT DOESN'T SEND UP RED FLAGS, NOTHING WILL. GUN ADEQUACY, SAFETY GROUPS WERE CONCERNED THAT STOP ORDERS WERE WORSE THAN WE HAVE IN LAW CURRENTLY.
TED SIMONS: THIS WAS A TOUGH TIME WITH SCHOOL SHOOTINGS. DID LAWMAKERS FEEL WHAT HE SUGGESTED WAS WORSE THAN THE STATUS QUO?
KATIE HOBBS: HE NEVER TOUTED IT AS A GUN TOPIC. I WAS SWORN IN TWO DAYS AFTER GABBY GIFFORD WAS SHOT. WE NEED TO ADDRESS THE LARGER PICTURE THAN SCHOOL SAFETY. ON OUR SIDE, IT WAS THE ISSUE OF NOT GOING FAR ENOUGH. I CAN'T TELL YOU WHAT THE REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION WAS TO IT, BUT IT WAS WATERED DOWN BEFORE NRA CAME ONBOARD.
TED SIMONS: SO IT WAS WORSE THAN DOING NOTHING?
REBECCA RIOS: ABSOLUTELY. CURRENTLY THERE IS A THREE-STEP PROCESS. THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSAL HAD SEVEN STEPS, MORE ONEROUS AND DIFFICULT TO GET GUNS AWAY THAN IS CURRENTLY IN LAW. THIS WAS ENDORSED BY THE NRA.
TED SIMONS: AN INCREASE IN TEACHER PAY, AS IT PASSED, A POSITIVE?
REBECCA RIOS: OVERALL A POSITIVE. ABSOLUTELY. THIS IS A GOVERNOR OFFERING A 1% STIPEND BEGINNING OF SESSION. ONLY BECAUSE OF TEACHERS, 75,000 PEOPLE IN RED WAS HE FORCED TO PUT SOMETHING ON TABLE. THIS WAS A PLOY TO GET HIM THROUGH THE NEXT ELECTION. WHETHER IT'S TRULY A 9% RAISE THIS YEAR IS IN QUESTION. A LOT OF US ARE CONCERNED IT'S NOT GOING TO BE.
TED SIMONS: DEMOCRATIC VOTES AGAINST THIS. WAS IT A POSITIVE? IF SO, WHY THE VOTES NAY?
KATIE HOBBS: AT THE END OF THE DAY, WE TALKED A FEW WEEKS AGO, DO YOU SUPPORT A TEACHER STRIKE? I SAID I SUPPORT THE TEACHERS IF THEY DECIDE TO STRIKE. THE BOTTOM LINE WAS THIS WASN'T ABOUT THEM GETTING RAISES, BUT THE BIGGER PICTURE OF EDUCATION IN ARIZONA AND THE GOVERNOR LEVEL CONTINUING TO GIVE TAX CUTS THAT REDUCE REVENUE SO WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TO INVEST IN EDUCATION THE WAY WE NEED TO. THAT'S WHAT THIS WAS ABOUT. THEY FELT NOT LISTENED TO. EVERY PERSON I TALKED TO, THEY WANTED TO BE LISTEN TO.
TED SIMONS: WITH THAT IN MIND, DO YOU SUPPORT THE INITIATIVE TO RAISE INCOME TAXES TO FUND EDUCATION?
KATIE HOBBS: I THINK THE INITIATIVE IS THE LACK OF RESPONSE TO INCREASING REVENUE WE NEED TO SUPPORT EDUCATION AND OTHER NEEDS. THE GOVERNOR'S PLAN CUT IN OTHER AREAS. IT'S NOT SUSTAINABLE TO GOVERN THIS WAY.
TED SIMONS: IS THAT A YES ON INITIATIVE?
KATIE HOBBS:IT GIVES THE VOTERS A CHANCE TO WEIGH IN ON WHAT SHOULD BE DONE.
TED SIMONS: WHAT ABOUT YOU?
REBECCA RIOS: I DO SUPPORT IT. THE TOP LESS THAN 1% HAVE BENEFITED FROM CUTS OVER THE PAST 30 YEARS. WE ARE SAYING IT'S TIME FOR YOU TO PAY YOUR FAIR SHARE AS WELL AS EVERYONE ELSE.
TED SIMONS: YOU HAVE EXPANSION FOR VOUCHERS. YOU HAVE A DARK MONEY INITIATIVE OUT THERE. IS THERE ENOUGH IN THE WAY OF RESOURCES FOR THOSE THAT SEEM TO BE ON THE SAME TEAM ON THESE ISSUES. THESE ARE DEMOCRATICALLY STRONG ISSUES. YOU HAVE ENOUGH RESOURCES FOR THIS?
REBECCA RIOS: I THINK YOU WILL SEE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS OF KOK BROTHER, BETSY DEVOS MONEY TRYING TO FIGHT THE VOUCHER REPEAL. THERE IS A GROUND SWELL OF EDUCATOR SUPPORTERS AND TEACHERS, AND IT'S POLLING WELL, THAT I THINK WITHOUT THE MILLIONS THE OPPOSITION WILL HAVE, IT COULD BE REPEAL AND IN THE VOUCHERS FOR NOW.
TED SIMONS: IS THERE ENOUGH WHERE WITH ALL FOR THOSE SUPPORTING THE ISSUES TO GET THEM ON THE BALLOT FOR THE INCOME TAX HIKE AND GET THEM PASSED?
KATIE HOBBS: I THINK WE ARE SEEING A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT LIKE WE HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE AND THEY LAID THE GROUND WORK FOR THAT. 75,000 SUPPORTERS NOT TUNED IN BEFORE AND NOW THEY ARE, THEY ARE NOT GOING AWAY. I THINK THEY'LL BE ENGAGED IN HELPING THE EFFORTS.
TED SIMONS: THE TEACHER'S MOVEMENT THAT HAD TO BE A SURPRISE. YOU NEVER SAW THAT COMING, DID YOU?
KATIE HOBBS: NO. I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT. I STOOD ON THE ROOF OF THE SENATE AND WATCHED THEM WALKING DOWN THE STREET, AND IT'S AMAZING.
TED SIMONS: WITH THAT AMAZING PICTURE, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT NEXT FROM THIS MOMENT?
REBECCA RIOS: I HOPE THEY STAY ENGAGED. THEY WERE ENLIGHTENED. SOME WERE SURPRISED, SOME DISMAYED BY COMMENTS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE, AND IT'S MOTIVATED A FEW TO RUN FOR OFFICE. WE HAVE WOKEN A GROUP OF FOLKS NOW ENGAGED AND WON'T LET UP ANYMORE.
TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION. IT SEEMED LIKE THIS WAS THE BIGGEST STORY IN THE UNIVERSE FOR A WHILE. HOUSE EXPELLED A LAWMAKER, VERY RARE. WHAT WAS ACHIEVED?
REBECCA RIOS: I THINK IT WAS A DIVERSION FOR THOSE FEW WEEKS BEGINNING OF THE SESSION. AFTER THAT, IT WAS BUSINESS AS USUAL. THERE WAS SO MUCH TO DO THAT IT WAS FORGOTTEN QUICKLY AS IT HAPPENED. WE MOVED ON.
TED SIMONS: WAS IT A LOT OF HUBBUB AT THE CAPITOL? THIS WAS A BIG STORY IN ITS TIME.
KATIE HOBBS: IT WAS. I HOPE IT DOESN'T GET FORGOTTEN. THERE ARE THINGS WE NEED TO ADDRESS IN TERMS OF THE CULTURE AT THE CAPITOL AND THE WAY PEOPLE ARE TREATED.
TED SIMONS: WE THANK YOU BOTH FOR BEING HERE. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.
Sen. Katie Hobbs: Senate Minority Leader
Rep. Rebecca Rios: House Minority Leader