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The Skinny

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Joint Effort

Pro-legalization advocates come together to file marijuana initiative

After a brief separation over various issues, it appears as though the nationally based Marijuana Policy Project and the Arizona-based Arizonans for Responsible Legalization are once again working together on a ballot prop to legalize weed in the Grand Canyon State.

Some dispensary owners formed Arizonans for Responsible Legalization last month because they were concerned that the Marijuana Policy Project's plans didn't place a reasonable limit on the number of pot dispensaries.

But that issue and a few others were worked out, so the groups are now reunited and the Campaign To Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol last week filed an initiative called the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act with the Arizona Secretary of State. But we're told that there's some loose language in the proposed initiative and a tweaked version may be filed soon, so the petition effort hasn't started yet.

Here are the takeaways:

• Anyone over 21 could buy or possess up to an ounce of weed and grow up to six marijuana plants, but you could still face a fine of no more than $300 for smoking in public.

• A new state Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control would be created and could issue retailer licenses.

• Pot sales would be subject to a 15 percent tax, with the revenue—estimated to be between $60 million and $100 million a year—directed toward education and healthcare, with 40 percent going toward all-day kindergarten, 40 percent going to construction, maintenance and operations of the K-12 system, and 20 percent going to the Department of Health Services.

Organizers must collect roughly 150,000 valid signatures before July 7, 2016.

Gowan's Palace

House Speaker thinks he deserves a nicer office but poor kids don't deserve a decent meal

Arizona House Speaker David Gowan is facing an uprising among his fellow Republican lawmakers after Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Capitol Times revealed that Gowan was planning a makeover of the House of Representatives that sources said could cost a million bucks.

Gowan, who already sprung for a $375,000 remodel of the House offices last year, was evidently planning a makeover that would include a workout room and showers, among other amenities. (We say evidently because the legal team for the House of Representatives, in an effort to spare Gowan more embarrassment, is refusing to release the plans to the press because they say it would pose a security risk, according to the Capitol Times. Yes, if the public learns about Gowan's plans, the terrorists win.)

The revelation about the plans to spruce up the politicians' offices comes just weeks after Republicans approved a budget that reduced programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, which provides the down and out with a few extra hundred bucks a month to feed themselves; eliminated the state's contribution to help poor mom's afford daycare so they can go to their crappy jobs to support their families; and once again shortchanged education, from kindergarten all the way to the universities.

It seems unlikely that the remodel plans will now move forward because once news broke about the renovations, 18 of the 36 Republicans in the House said enough was enough in a letter to Gowan. They cited the $375,000 that has already been spent under Gowan's watch—"while some of the renovations may have been necessary, some were merely cosmetic in nature"—and expressed concern that staffing costs under Gowan increased by "hundreds of thousands" over the previous year.

"This excessive spending occurred at a time when the state has been facing a well-known fiscal crisis," the letter continued. "As Republicans, we support limited government and policies that promote fiscal responsibility."

The lawmakers asked for a bipartisan House committee to approve expenditures of more than $25,000 in the future.

"The taxpayers and their representatives deserve to know their money is being spent wisely and in Arizona's best interests," the lawmakers noted.

The episode aptly demonstrates Gowan's enormous hypocrisy in calling for smaller government everywhere but in his own personal fiefdom. But the Cochise County lawmaker has been hypocritical on that score from the start of his political career, when he happily scooped up tens of thousands of public dollars for his own campaigns at the same time that he argued that government should spend less.

But it also demonstrates a reality that Gowan and so many other Republican lawmakers—along with Gov. Doug Ducey—just don't want to acknowledge as they happily slice state spending and reduce taxes so that the financial hole grows deeper: The state has enormous unmet needs (and a gym in the basement of the House of Representatives is pretty low on the list). The problems at the House of Representatives are the same problems at our schools, in our state parks and along our highways. The state infrastructure is crumbling and our leaders are letting it happen while leaving the bill for someone else down the line.

Show Us the Money

Tucson City Council begins debating $1.3 billion budget

Interim City Manager Martha Durkin delivered a $1.368 billion proposed budget to the Tucson City Council this week.

That's a bump of $103 million from the current budget of $1.265 billion.

Most of that increase—close to $80 million—will be in the form of spending on big-ticket capital projects, with city staffing levels remaining flat.

The cops, firefighters and the justice system are responsible for roughly $13 million of the increased budget costs.

The City Council will continue discussing the budget at its May 5 meeting, with adoption of a tentative budget scheduled for May 19 and a June 9 public hearing before a final adoption of the budget.

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" airs Sunday at the special time of 9 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week's show features an interview with UA Lunar and Planetary Lab Professor Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator on the NASA's OSIRIS-REx asteroid mission, and an exit interview with outgoing Museum of Contemporary Art Executive Director Anne-Marie Russell.

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