Arizona is officially not embarrassing anymore, according to Governor Doug Ducey, who touted a recent New York Times article that claimed Arizona was experiencing a "tech boom" as a result of its role as a testing ground for self-driving cars.
"When’s the last time the New York Times had anything positive to say about Arizona?" the governor asked at today's State of the State address. "Keep it up and who knows – The Daily Show might even have something nice to say about us."
We won't hold our breath. In the meantime, here are the other main takeaways from the governor's speech:
1. Women are awesome.
Ducey started out his speech by giving a shoutout to the state's past and present female leaders, in a move clearly inspired by recent exposés that highlighted sexual harassment and ingrained sexism at the Capitol.
"Icons like Rose Mofford and Sandra Day O’Connor fought with grit and determination for fair treatment, and achieved greatness," he said. "And they didn’t do it for women in the year 2018 to face discrimination, misogyny, or harassment."
Some female lawmakers wondered out loud if this meant that Ducey would support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed to gain traction in the legislature last year.
With all the talk about women by the Governor, I didn’t hear a call for the ratification of the #ERA. You’d think guaranteeing equality for women in the US Constitution would be at the top of his list.— Rep. Athena Salman (@AthenaSalman) January 8, 2018
Typical #DoubleTalkDucey tactic.#AZLeg #azsots https://t.co/gNGBNWX1TR
2. Opioid addiction will be a major focus of this year's legislative session.
Ducey called for a special session in January to address the opioid crisis, saying that more than 800 Arizona residents have died of overdoses since his last State of the State address.
Already, lawmakers have introduced a number of bills inspired by the ongoing crisis. They range from enacting "Good Samaritan" laws to protect people who report overdoses to increasing criminal penalties for possession of fentanyl.
However, there's a lot more to come, including a yet-to-be-released package of legislation with Ducey's stamp of approval. The governor was vague about what that might look like, but hinted that "all bad actors will be held accountable – whether they are doctors, manufacturers, or just plain drug dealers."
Gov Ducey will call Special Session to focus specifically on the opioid epidemic in our state. I am hoping that we can combat the bad by reducing use of opioids and looking into other methods such as further investing in medicinal marijuana initiatives. #AZLeg #SOTS2018— Rep. César Chávez (@CesarChavezAZ) January 8, 2018
3. There won't be any money going toward expanding prisons this year.
Ducey sounded downright progressive when telling the crowd that his goal was "shutting down prisons, not building new ones" and that he'd liked to see those millions of dollars be directed toward K-12 education.
He also pledged to continue expanding programs aimed at lowering recidivism rates, and announced that he'd directed the Department of Transportation to work with the Department of Corrections to help inmates get legal forms of identification before they leave prison.
However, Ducey didn't indicate whether he'd support sentencing-reform initiatives that would reduce the number of people who wind up in prison in the first place. And given his anti-pot stance, it seems unlikely that he'd back legalization efforts, which could drastically reduce the number of people who wind up in prison due to minor drug charges.
4. Ducey says he'll invest in education, but hasn't yet specified where that money will come from.
Ducey has been heavily criticized for the state's ongoing teacher crisis — on Saturday, literally thousands of parents and teachers marched on the Capitol to demand that he fully fund Arizona public schools.
In his speech, Ducey pledged that his executive budget this year would "include a full commitment to accelerate the state’s K-12 investment, and restore longstanding cuts from the recession made before many of us were here." In addition, 80 percent of new spending will be directed toward public education, he said.
Those promises didn't do much to satisfy his critics, however, and it didn't take long for the Arizona Democratic Party to put out a press release blasting Ducey for "the exodus of the unqualified warm bodies he allowed into the classrooms." (Wait, do we want unqualified warm bodies or not?)
.#DoubleTalkDucey says 80% of new budget priorities in future budget will be for #PublicEducation and gave NO details. That doesn't make me feel confident if our revenue continues to shrink because of #CorporateTaxCuts and #SpecialInterest giveaways.— Sen. Martín Quezada (@SenQuezada29) January 8, 2018
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5. The governor's psyched about getting rid of obscure boards and regulations.
As we've noted before, Ducey is a big fan of cutting back on what he sees as unnecessary government red tape. This theme emerged once again during his State of the State address, when he described the state's cosmetology board as "bullies."
(The context: A guy down in Tucson had been giving free haircuts to the homeless, until some anonymous narc complained and the state board of cosmetology opened up a complaint, making it quite possibly the most-hated state agency of all time.)
He also indicated that he'll be supporting HB 2011, introduced by state representative Michelle Ugenti-Rita, which would get rid of licensing requirements for blow dry bars like Drybar. Apologies for burying the lead and saving the biggest news for last.