Arizona Corporation Commission Defies Will of the Voters With Green New Deal Proposal

While so many Arizonans are preoccupied with COVID-19 numbers, Presidential bids, a destabilized economy and an uncertain school year, the already obscure Arizona Corporation Commission has quietly released their plan to impose California-style energy mandates in Arizona.

As drafted, the proposed energy mandate will lead to skyrocketing utility bills, ban future natural gas development and generation in Arizona, provide billions in subsidies and corporate welfare for inefficient and costly energy sources and ignores the will of the voters that have already spoken and oppose a statewide energy mandate.

The Commission is intentionally pushing controversial policies during a crisis

Aside from the multiple policy concerns the Club has with this proposal, it is extremely disconcerting and unfair to the ratepayers of Arizona that the commission is even considering moving forward with such a sweeping proposal during the current pandemic.

It is hard enough during normal times for citizens to engage in the byzantine format at the corporation commission. The entire process is confusing, lacks transparency and caters to the lawyers, lobbyists and political insiders who know how to use the system to their benefit.

Now, in the middle of a pandemic, the commission is forging ahead with sweeping new energy mandates while the public is focused on other critical issues. Even if the public was fully aware of what the commission is considering, due to social distancing and other Covid-19 restrictions, it is more difficult than ever for regular people to engage in the process. On the flipside, the insiders at the commission benefit from this arrangement because it amplifies their voice and influence at the commission.

Mandate will lead to higher utility bills

No matter how proponents attempt to spin this, imposing their own version of the Green New Deal will lead to higher utility bills for customers. This is because the proposal punishes any source of energy that does not meet this “clean” definition, irrespective of cost.

As has been pointed out by Commissioner Justin Olson in the past, the current 15% mandate imposed by the Commission in 2007 led to ratepayers overpaying for their electricity by over $1 Billion Dollars. This was caused largely by forcing utilities to adopt renewable energy sources with little regard to the cost of construction or generation. It is inevitable that this new proposal will suffer the same costly result.

This proposal does not require utility providers or the commission to prioritize affordability regarding clean energy sources. Instead it imposes large scale mandates for clean sources and ignores the cost implications for ratepayers.

The good news for supporters of clean energy technology is that ratepayer affordability can be prioritized while developing some types of clean energy.  For example, industrial grade solar is now selling for as little as 3 cents/kilowatt when operating at peak levels, beating other fossil fuel competitors and nuclear. Industrial grade solar could easily be paired with other base load power sources (such as natural gas) that would be a win-win for ratepayers and supporters of clean energy.

Proposal Bans Future Natural Gas Development

It is clear from the staff proposal that the long-term goal of this clean energy mandate is to ban future fossil fuel use in Arizona, including the development and construction of natural gas power plants. Suffice to say this would be a huge mistake and very costly for ratepayers.

Natural gas has become one of the cheapest, most reliable and clean energy sources available in the United States. This is largely due to the fracking boom, which has guaranteed our energy security and independence for decades to come.

Additionally, natural gas is by far the most affordable and dependable fuel to use in conjunction with industrial grade solar. The idea that the commission is going to ban this source from future expansion is a disastrous policy decision that will damage both ratepayers and our economy.

Corporate Welfare for Rooftop Solar

Included in the energy mandate proposal is a requirement for clean energy generation to come from rooftop solar.  It is difficult to see how the inclusion of this policy carve-out as a required clean energy source as anything more than a special interest giveaway to a politically connected group at the Commission.

Lazard is a nationally recognized firm that produces an annual report showing the true cost of energy production by different sources, both subsidized and unsubsidized. Not surprisingly, the report shows that natural gas, industrial grade solar and geothermal are the most cost-effective sources of energy. The most expensive? Residential Rooftop Solar. And it’s not even close.

Given the superior energy alternatives that exist (including various types of solar energy generation), it makes no sense to force ratepayers to pay higher utility bills to subsidize more rooftop solar. The only beneficiaries from this corporate welfare are the rooftop solar companies that will be cashing in on the mandate.

Proposed Rules Ignore the Will of the Voters

In November 2018, Arizona voters soundly rejected the idea of increasing renewable energy standards. Ratepayers recognized that increasing the renewable energy mandate would result in higher utility bills and potentially destabilize the power grid. That is why 68% of Arizona voters rejected the idea.

Yet the proposed energy rules and amendments being offered by Commissioner Burns and Kennedy are almost a carbon copy of what voters opposed. It appears they don’t care what voters think and that they know better.

Fortunately, we are still in the early stages of the rulemaking process at the Corporation Commission, which means voters still have time to have their voices heard.  We cannot let the commission adopt their own version of the Green New Deal that will be disastrous for Arizona ratepayers and the economy.

Parents Should #WalkAway From Public Schools Unwilling to Educate AZ Kids

The would-be school year is fast approaching and thousands of parents across Arizona are panicking. 

How will their children learn this year?  When will they have a physical place to go?  Will parents be able to return to work?  Will they have to pay for tutors out of pocket? 

With most of the critical reopening decisions now in the hands of Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, school districts and ultimately the teachers’ union, it’s obvious now that crafting a system that works for parents and kids won’t be the top priority for the educational establishment.  Every decision from here on out will be to cater to the desires of administrators and teachers. Period.

Come August 17th, district school families will be forced to accept whatever dysfunctional Covid-schooling platform that is thrusted into their laps.  Parents of low-income families will be hit the hardest, especially those who can’t work from home. Special needs children will be hung out to dry. Kids in abusive households will continue to have no escape from a hostile environment.

And if any parent or taxpayer questions why their needs appear to be secondary to those of the educational establishment, they are immediately shouted down and told that they just want people to die.  So what if your child needs in person learning—you should just accept paying unlimited amounts in taxes to feed a substandard educational system that only adds to the chaos in your life.

Even more infuriating is the “solution” now being offered to parents that require in person schooling to address their work/life situations. Rather than open up for learning, several school districts are now offering paid childcare services

That’s right – residents already paying over half of their state taxes to education are now expected to pay to have their kids in school to not learn.   Representatives of the teachers’ union claim it is too risky to teach kids in a classroom, but apparently it is plenty safe to not teach them in a classroom. 

Parents and kids deserve better than this. 

Families were willing to extend grace at the end of the school year when districts scrambled to reformat the educational experience for online and distant learning.  The legislature passed emergency measures to ensure funding would be uninterrupted. And instead of developing a real plan that catered to families that MUST HAVE in person learning, the school districts and education lobby instead put all their time and energy into a public relations campaign to push back the start date of school to October 1st

It should be noted that there are many schoolteachers and administrators ready and willing to resume in person learning.  Afterall, through the peaks and valleys of the pandemic, essential workers have stepped up and done their jobs.  Truck workers continued to deliver critical goods, grocery store workers continued to stock shelves, and doctors and nurses continued to man hospitals and treat the unwell.  Those teachers that recognize that education is an essential service and wish to provide in person learning to our children should not be stopped by administrators and union thug bosses.

If district schools believe that there is no limit to the mistreatment of hardworking families, they are in for a rude awakening.  Most parents are very supportive of their local district school, but they will have no problem walking away from a broken K-12 system if it benefits their child.   

They may not be vocal or have active twitter accounts, but these parents are paying attention and are wide awake to this rolling disaster. They are thinking creatively about education and observing more closely than ever the best ways in which their children learn.  This will lead to rapid innovation and adoption of flexible models. 

Post-pandemic, there may very well be an explosive demand for testing new educational models, from micro-schools, “forest schools,” digital classrooms, to expanded ESAs.  An educational Renaissance is a possible and welcome outcome. 

Misleading Ballot Initiatives Should Be Thrown Out By The Courts

There is an obvious reason why our state is constantly being preyed upon by out of state interests, pushing radical ideas every cycle at the ballot box as “citizen initiatives”. Arizona has exceptionally low standards for qualification compared to other states.  

Despite extremely high stakes, (if an initiative passes it is basically permanent and can never be changed), none of the best practices applied in other states have been adopted.  A measure only requires a simple majority passage.  Proponents do not need buy-in from the whole state, only the major metropolitan areas.  There is no required sunset on the measure to allow an ever-changing electorate to revisit the issue.  And a measure need not be restricted to just one subject but instead may be packed with a myriad of policies even if the campaign only ever promotes one “winning” issue.  Even up to two years ago, campaigns could hire felons to collect signatures.

Most citizens intuitively know there is something wrong with the initiative process.  Polling done in 2019 demonstrated clearly that voters believe these measures are intentionally misleading and confusing.  Of those polled, 70 percent of individuals were concerned with ballot language being confusing and the intent difficult to understand.  This applied across party lines.

And groups pushing these initiatives have fully taken advantage of the confusion and lack of guardrails. 

Therefore, it was a major win in 2018 when groups challenged the InvestInEd initiative’s 100-word description for being misleading to voters and the courts ruled in their favor.  The education union had very clearly made several serious misrepresentations in their description to voters, by both omitting the fact that all taxpayers were going to see a tax increase as well as wrongly confusing their tax on the rich as percent increases not percentage-point increases. 

This set a new and needed precedent.  Initiative proponents cannot lie to voters to make their initiative seem more palatable.  In other circumstances, lying for material benefit is called fraud.

These radical measures are back this year and luckily so are the legal challenges. Although the education union has done much to rewrite the 2018 version of InvestInEd in their effort to make the public more accepting of a massive new tax increase, they have still failed to be completely transparent about what the measure purports to do.  Challengers are again making the argument that the 100-word summary of the petition which is usually what singers read (not the entire initiative language) omits critical information about the measure including that many businesses and higher income persons would see an almost 80 percent increase in their taxes.  The description also fails to mention that new funds generated do not only go to teachers but to any non-administrative employee.

Hopefully, the courts make the right decision again and do not erode the previous legal determinations.  Afterall, given the few safeguards in place to qualify a measure, the very least we can expect is proponents are not allowed to obfuscate the truth to get their proposal passed. 

COVID-19 One-Size Fits All Policies Have Unintended Consequences

Dr. Jeffrey Singer is in a unique position to opine on the current situation in our country and state.  Not only has he worked as a general surgeon for 35 years, including within a hospital, he is also a Senior Fellow with the Cato Institute, researching and analyzing public policy.

Dr. Singer has published several articles on the COVID-19 pandemic, two recently in the Washington Examiner and USA Today.  Both highlight areas in which governments have taken broad policy actions that have had major costs and harmful unintended consequences.  He instead recommends policymakers take both a targeted as well as softer, education-focused approach to public health directives.

Our leaders are in a difficult situation trying to balance the roller coaster of public opinion which often supports those decisions which avoid consequences that can be readily observed.  This explains why elected officials have gravitated toward sweeping lockdowns, bans, and mandates.  Yet Singer points out, these policies do not consider the consequences that are not as easily observed.  Aside from the obvious financial hardships forced shutdowns have wreaked on employment, businesses, life savings and the overall economy, there have been massive public health costs.

These include the untold lives that will be claimed from serious illnesses because of bans on screening procedures, from chronic diseases because patients could not keep routine appointments, and from suicides as those already battling depression fail to cope with prolonged isolation. 

Furthermore, Arizona’s Governor, like in many other states, issued an executive order prohibiting “elective” surgery. This was a strategy to ensure the hospitals could build capacity and not be overrun by pandemic patients.  But as Dr. Singer points out in his USA Today article, elective surgeries are not the same as unnecessary surgeries.  He suggests instead that a more lasered and effective approach would be to allow doctors, not bureaucrats, discern which surgeries should be done based upon an analysis of risk to the hospital and patient on an individual basis.

A wise approach.

Aside from economic and health repercussions to top-down mandates, our country and state has seen dramatic civil unrest.  Afterall, this is still the “land of the free” and Americans do not accept controls and dictates from government as easily as citizens of other countries.

Ultimately Singer’s conclusion is the right one, “Central governments and public health officials should use a light touch when responding to public health emergencies. Responses should be targeted, nuanced, flexible, and easily adjust to changes on the ground based upon local knowledge. For this to happen, the government should provide people with accurate and up-to-date information on the nature and status of the public health emergency, along with the necessary information and tools so they can best cope with the emergency. There is good reason to believe that, given the right information and using persuasion instead of coercion, public health officials are more likely to get cooperation from the public.”

Never-Trumper New York Billionaire Spending Big $$$ to Elect Liberal Republicans in Arizona

Arizona’s primary election took a strange twist this week when campaign finance reports revealed an obscure out-of-state group had dumped nearly $300,000 into Republican primary races throughout the state.

The mysterious group, Unite America, is spending big money to elect a slate of liberal Republicans facing tough primary opposition from conservative challengers. Their targets include supporting Heather Carter in LD 15, Michelle Udall in LD 25 and Joanne Osborne in LD 13. Most of their spending has been used to attack their conservative opponents, attempting to paint them as either unethical or closet liberals.

Who is Unite America? Until a couple of years ago, they were a boutique organization based out of Denver, Colorado that advocated for liberal niche issues such as independent redistricting, in-home universal voting and ranked choice voting.

That all changed last year when New York billionaire Kathryn Murdoch, daughter-in-law to Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch, became their co-chair and primary funder. The liberal Murdoch has been active with both the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Climate Initiative and donated nearly $90,000 to the Hillary victory fund in 2016.  She is an outspoken Never-Trumper who supports giveaways to illegal immigrants, radical green new deal policies and Mike Bloomberg’s gun control agenda.

After she started bankrolling Unite America, Kathryn Murdoch has used the group to target conservatives in heavily republican districts around the country in an effort to replace them with moderate/liberal politicians who will back her agenda and vote with Democrats.  She has pledged $100 Million to these efforts, and now Arizona is in her crosshairs.

Based on the attacks levied so far, it is pretty obvious they will say or do anything to succeed in their quest, even if it means exposing themselves as unprincipled. For instance, in Legislative District 15 Unite America is distributing attack ads claiming that conservative Nancy Barto is a Hillary Clinton supporter that wanted her to be president. That’s right, the same New York Billionaire that worked for the Clinton Foundation, the Clinton Climate Initiative and supported Hillary for president is now funding anti-Hillary hit pieces against conservatives in a Republican Primary. It doesn’t get much swampier than that.

So, to all Arizona Primary voters in LD 13, LD 15 and LD 25—just say no to liberal New York Billionaires looking to buy elections in our state. These Never-Trumpers would not have parachuted into Arizona throwing money around if they did not believe their preferred candidates would deliver for them on open borders, gun control and the green new deal. Make sure to back the true conservatives in these races:

  • Steve Montenegro and Tim Dunn in LD 13
  • Nancy Barto in LD 15
  • Kathy Pearce and Rusty Bowers in LD 25

Vote for these candidates and tell these out of state liberal billionaires to take a hike.