While the Arizona Legislative year has begun, Arizona Farm Bureau continues to reach out to our legislative leaders to connect with them on the issues important to Arizona Agriculture. As we always do, we asked the top legislative leaders for their take on 2021 and their hopes for the legislative year.
In the meantime, we also will share our legislative priorities based on what our farmer/rancher leaders have asked us to make a priority. Watch for that in the next few days on our channels.
Russell Bowers, (R-Dist 25)
Speaker of the House
Looking forward to the legislative session is like growing apples up at Madera. We look through our motley trees and try to figure out how the animals succeeded in reducing our dreams of a bounteous harvest, trees filled with blossoms and the hum of bees pollinating, through the toil of pruning, grafting, watering, fertilizing, trapping gophers, thinning and teaching kids to climb the oaks and junipers, not the apples…then facing the onslaught of every conceivable forest dweller: deer, coatimundi, raccoon, ring-tailed cats, rodents, javelina, birds, ants, and the bees as well; the circle of life reducing the harvest down to the phrase –“We’ll do better next year.”
So now we are prepping. Mr. Toma, our majority leader is putting together a package of member initiatives, including COVID or emergency governance, tax reform, elections, justice reform, and fast-tracking all the orphaned bills that were sidetracked by the pandimoniemic! Democrats doing the same. We have our challenges and differences of opinion, but I hope we can pull together and mandate that every roof must grow cotton!!! Heck with that solar silly stuff, we want our kids to catch up with school and learn how to learn how!!
About 65 years ago I was looking out the kitchen window and saw my dad crawling out of the cornfield toward the ditch. I thought that was unusual, and so did Mom running through the gate over the siphon pipes to kneel beside him. He’d overexerted himself in the sun and had heatstroke. She yelled for my older siblings and they leaned him into the water and got some water into him as well and he finally pulled out of it. Likewise, we will pace ourselves and try to keep everyone together moving forward. God blesses unity more than contention. Together is better.
Reginald Bolding, (D-Dist 27)
House Minority Leader
We enter 2021 amid deep uncertainty surrounding public health and our economy because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
One thing that is certain is Arizona agriculture has never been more important to our shared future. As a vital and multi-billion-dollar source of food and goods for our state and our country, our caucus is committed to keeping the agriculture sector strong. Now more than ever that means working to keep all frontline and essential workers -- including more than 160,000 Arizonans who grow, pick and ship produce, dairy, grains, meet, and other products -- safe and healthy.
We must make sure vital businesses have access to protective gear and testing to keep the workforce safe, and in the very near future a vaccine. And we must streamline Arizona's overly complicated and ineffective unemployment insurance program to continue to help those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own from going under.
I am proud to lead a 29-member caucus, who represent every corner and embody the rich diversity, of our great state. We have small business owners struggling to make payroll, teachers, members of rural and Indigenous communities, as well as doctors and an EMT working on the frontlines of this healthcare crisis. And, like many of you, we have been personally impacted – including the loss of many loved ones.
Until that vaccine is widely available, we are committed to doing what needs to be done so we can return to a strong economy and normal day-to-day activities. To best help your vital industry, we must set aside politics and work together to ensure small businesses stay afloat and retain jobs, keep customers safe, and help workers weather the ongoing economic consequences of the pandemic.
You can also count on our caucus to support sensible water policy as we build on Arizona's historic bi-partisan Drought Contingency Plan, which sought to protect agriculture while taking strong steps to contend with the ongoing drought and potential shortages. Our goal is to protect our air, water and land for generations to come, and we see no greater partner in that effort than agriculture.
And finally, we hope to work with Republicans to boost Arizona's investment in job-creating infrastructure. Our economy, and especially our rural and tribal communities, depend heavily on our roads, bridges, airports and ports of entry to get crops and products to market. And in too many cases repairs are long overdue.
I know I speak for each of our members when I say our doors are open and we look forward to working with your members on strong, common-sense public policy during the upcoming session.
Rebecca Rios, (D-Dist 27)
Senate Minority Leaders
As elected leaders, it is our duty to look out for and protect the people of Arizona. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed severe cracks in Arizona's foundation and shortcomings in the ability to address statewide emergencies, especially in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Legislative Democrats are working for all Arizonans, communities, and small businesses. Mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic will be our number one priority on day one of the 55th Legislative Session.
To start, we must streamline Arizona's overly complicated and ineffective unemployment insurance program, fix the inaccessible housing assistance programs, expand access to childcare subsidies and food programs, help those still trying to stay afloat after the statewide shutdown, protect the right to vote safely, and pass common-sense criminal justice reforms to a prison system that has exacerbated the spread and death toll of COVID-19. It's time to reimagine a new Arizona with a strong foundation that works for everyone in our state. COVID-19 has created economic distress and fallout that Arizonans could feel for years to come. To mitigate this, lawmakers must work together to ensure small businesses stay afloat and retain jobs, keep customers safe, and help workers weather the ongoing economic consequences of the pandemic. Unemployment in America is the highest since the Great Depression. Now more than ever, we must increase unemployment insurance benefits, lower the threshold to qualify, and fix structural issues, including chronic underfunded and outdated IT systems.
Our other priorities include ensuring all of Arizona's children should have access to quality education and sustainably funded schools. Arizonans need to stay home during this pandemic. Arizona is facing an eviction tsunami when the CDC’s COVID19 eviction moratorium expires on Dec. 31. Democrats have requested Governor Ducey reinstate the moratorium, replenish the Rental Assistance Fund and help small businesses apply. We must step up to provide better protection for workers, children, and teachers as Arizona reopens its economy and schools. This pandemic may not pass for months, or even years, so we must prepare for a "new normal" of social distancing and precautionary measures to help control and slow the spread.
Editor’s Note: As this article goes to print, Senate President Karen Fann (R -Dist 1), had not yet submitted her Legislative priorities. Additionally, join us tomorrow at noon for the launch of Arizona Farm Bureau’s Ag Fest celebration that begins with a Roundtable at noon. For more information, contact the Government Relations team at 480.635.3613.