We are closing in on the 100-day mark at the state capitol, which usually means the state budget (and adjournment) is right around the corner. But maybe not this year…
We hear a lot of rumors about the budget at the state capitol, and I try to take most of them with a grain of salt. Details leaked out about the House proposal last week, and there is significant breathing room between that proposal and the governor’s original request. A bigger pay raise for teachers, no university bonding proposal, and fewer HURF fund sweeps highlighted some of the differences. Quite a bit of room between the two, which leads me to believe we’re going to be at the capitol for a while.
We debated some bad bills last week, including several more Article V bills. For those of you who haven’t heard about these bills, they are part of an overall national attempt to convince 34 states to call for a constitutional convention to propose new amendments to the federal constitution. The problem here, however, is that once a convention is called, and the delegates meet, they could disregard the U.S. Constitution and just start a brand new document! In these partisan times, I tend to think that’s a bad idea. The bills passed, on a 100% partisan vote, which means Arizona is now added to the list of states who have called for this convention.
Coming up this week, we have several days with floor sessions starting in the morning, instead of the usual afternoon sessions. This means Senate leadership is trying to get all of the bills that are remaining to the floor to be voted on, meaning the budget is theoretically around the corner. But given the amount of disagreement that exists in the majority caucus at the moment, I think we’re headed for at least a couple more weeks of session.
Away from the capitol last week, I participated in two budget town halls with some of my Democratic colleagues. The first was in Flagstaff, and the second was held in south Tempe, just outside of LD18. We presented our budgetary priorities, and outlined how budget cuts and decisions made over the years have impacted our schools and our economy. We answered dozens of questions from voters across the state, who shared with us their concerns and what they would like to see in this year’s legislative budget.
The big takeaway was a feeling of frustration about our state’s budgetary priorities, and an overall groundswell for additional support for our state’s teachers and our schools. I am going to take the feedback we received at these town halls with me as we continue to debate and discuss the budget. It’s always great to hear from voters, and I really appreciate hearing their feedback and their unique perspectives on the issues impacting all of us.
On Friday, I spoke to the Tempe South Rotary club at Friendship Village in Tempe. I very much enjoyed the Q and A with its members. I also spoke to the ASU Young Democrats on campus, and gave them an update on how the session is progressing and what students can do to make their voices heard on higher education funding.
One of the more common questions I receive is how to get in touch with legislators. With all the modes of communication available, what is the BEST way to have an impact and get legislators to hear your concerns?
I receive several hundred emails a day, and our office receives a couple dozen phone calls. While all of these messages are received, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the messages will stick with us, or that we will follow up.
The majority of emails we receive are “form letters,” meaning it’s the same email text sent by multiple people. These are easy to spot, and worst of all, often times we don’t know if the senders live in our district. I am more likely to respond to emails if I know the sender is someone I represent!
So to answer the question, the best way to get in touch is to choose a specific legislator or two, and personalize your message. If you are sending the same email time and time again, with no personalization, it will get glossed over. Anything you can do to stand out will help enormously.
For example, talk about how you live in the legislator’s district, and specify which city, neighborhood, or cross streets. Mention schools you graduated from or your children attend. Mention how you attended an event for the legislator, or met them at a debate or campaign event.
As far as methods, here is how I would rank them, with the most effective starting at #1:
#1 – Personal, hand written letters mailed to the state capitol. These definitely get read. I read every single one of them that come in each day. And there are far fewer of these than there are emails or phone calls.
#2 – Phone calls. Leave a message with the legislator’s assistant. Calmly mention that you are a constituent, and that a specific bill is important to you, and explain why. Recruit friends and neighbors to do the same. These can add up quickly, and CAN make an impact.
#3 – Personalized email to the legislator’s email address. As I mentioned above, do whatever you can to personalize the information. You are much more likely to receive a reply, at least if they are anything like me!
Hope that helps! I try my best to respond to all of the personalized emails and phone calls I receive, but it can be difficult to find the time, especially during session.
District Snapshot – A special edition of my trips throughout the district last week!
This past Tuesday, I had the honor of joining Governor Ducey as he toured one of the high schools in LD18. But it wasn’t just any high school – it was my alma mater, Mountain Pointe High School!
I joined fellow elected officials and administrators as the governor met with teachers, students, and guidance counselors.
I graduated from Mountain Pointe fifteen years ago, and it was amazing to see all of the new CTE courses and programs the school offers. We visited the school’s preschool (which did not exist when I was a student), where students work with actual preschool students and train for careers in early childhood education. We also toured several other programs that did not exist in 2002, like culinary arts (where the students were making lemon bars and ice lattes, both of which were delicious!) and robotics.
Needless to say, I was a proud alumni that day, and so happy to see the school excelling and thriving, just as it was when I attended all those years ago. Go Pride!
As always, you can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter for more up to the minute updates. I appreciate all of your help and support – if you can, please consider showing your support today so I can keep fighting for our values and priorities at the state capitol. It is an honor to represent you in the state senate!
Yours in the fight,