Friday, May 20, 2016

Guv declares passage of Prop 123 as Step 1, begins Step 2 by taking the day off

Here are essential snippets from reporting by Howard Fischer in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required for Scriber, but free if you take the Daily Star).

The vote count (current as of Thursday late)

The lead was holding around 7-8 thousand but early and provisional ballots appear to have doubled that number.

Ahead by 16,766 votes and with a widening lead, Proposition 123 has apparently been approved by voters, and Gov. Doug Ducey has declared its victory.

Figures as of late Thursday showed 520,425 votes in support of the proposition to boost school funding, with 503,659 against.

The largest share of votes to be tallied is in Maricopa County with 15,400 early ballots and about 1,270 provisional ballots where registrations need to be verified. But given the trend of votes counted in the previous 24 hours, there may not be enough uncounted ballots out there to make a difference.

State Treasurer Jeff DeWit takes exception:

Despite Ducey’s declaration of victory, state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, the highest-profile opponent of the school financing plan, said he’s not ready to concede.

“With a vote this close still, it is important to wait until all the votes are counted,” he said Thursday evening.

Prop 123, What's in it for me?

If you are a lawyer ... plenty! That is, if you are a lawyer who already had your briefs ready to go.

Even presuming the apparent approval holds, the measure still has a significant legal hurdle.

On Wednesday, a Phoenix man asked a federal judge to block the change in withdrawals from the state land trust that Proposition 123 is designed to permit.

Michael Pierce contends that simply amending the Arizona Constitution, as the ballot measure does, is insufficient to allow the state to take an extra $2.2 billion from the education trust account over the next decade. That is the prime source of funds for the $3.5 billion settlement to end the lawsuit filed by schools against the state.

Pierce contends that can happen only if Congress agrees to amend the law that gave Arizona 10 million acres of federal land in 1912 when it became a state. He is arguing that the change voters may have approved on Tuesday cannot take place.

Pierce’s lawsuit mirrors the arguments DeWit made to a legislative committee late last year. He said any attempt to divert more dollars from the trust needs congressional approval.

Ducey, of course, hired his own counsel who disputed the need for "congressional approval." DeWit hired his own lawyer to counter Ducey's lawyer's opinion.

So there it is. At least three lawyers now engaged in the predicted legal battle over the constitutionality of the constitutional changes in Prop 123.

If you supported Prop 123 ... you might get some more or less immediate relief for our K-12 teachers. But that comes at a cost. Ducey's Choice was crafted to force you to decide between immediate relief and future value of the income from the land trust. Any way you slice it, education's source of funding will be diminished in value relative to what it would be without Prop 123.

If you opposed Prop 123... you can take comfort in the narrow margin, right now at 1.6%, showing that voters are nearly completely split on 123. You can argue that large number of "no" votes indicate a large body of the electorate deeply distrustful of what 123 does and what comes next.

If you are Guv Duce... you get to celebrate. Prop 123 is in his (public) thinking, just Step 1. Now he gets to hatch his plan for Step 2.

“The votes have been counted and the result is clear,” he said in a prepared statement. And the governor noted that the package should put to rest a lawsuit filed by schools against the state six years ago for ignoring a voter mandate to boost aid to education annually to account for inflation.

“After years of lawsuits and fighting, we are moving forward and funding our teachers, students and schools instead of lawyers,” he said.

Ducey, who promised all throughout the campaign that Proposition 123 was just a “first step” in boosting school funding, sidestepped questions Thursday night about what comes next.

“We’re going to take the rest of the day off,” he said. “We’re going to celebrate a little bit.”

I guess that's Step 2. In fact, when it comes to education funding, the legislature has been taking a day off for years and years.

If you are in the legislature... there is no day off. Now you have to roll those bills back out and get to work. You know, the bills with more tax cuts and more school vouchers with which to take money from public education and pass it through to private schools. And don't forget grabbing a few hundred million from the desegregation funding. All totaled? The numbers suggest that what Duce giveth the Lege taketh away.

If you are a concerned citizen... then VOTE, damn it, and vote every anti-public education legislator out of office starting this November.

If you are a TeaPublican... you no longer have to listen to the mind-numbing arguments about the facts of Prop 123. You can do as you always have. When you vote just mark all the R's.

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