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Nick R. Martin

Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him at nick@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Nick

Two proposals that would clamp down on public employee unions in Arizona are scheduled for debate and a possible vote in the state Senate today.

The measures come from a sweeping package of bills that have been making their way through the Senate since late last month and were designed to devastate organized labor in the state.

The most contentious bill in the package appeared to be on life support earlier this week after Republicans said they didn't have enough votes to pass it. The measure would ban collective bargaining for government workers at city, county and state levels. Its supporters said it went beyond even the tough restrictions Wisconsin put in place last year.

The Senate, made up of 21 Republicans and nine Democrats, will now take on two of the remaining proposals. One would outlaw governments from paying employees to do union work, a practice known as "release time." The other would bar employees from getting their union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks. A fourth bill that also deals with paycheck deductions appears to have stalled and has not yet been scheduled for a vote.

If approved by a voice vote in the Committee of the Whole today, the measures would move on to a full vote on the floor of the Senate. If the Senate passes them, they'll be sent to the House, which is also controlled by a two-thirds Republican majority.

Ed note: A previous version of this story incorrectly said the bills would be up for a full Senate vote today.

 

Corrupt former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) will serve his time behind bars in a low-security prison near Denver, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Neither the US Prisons Bureau nor federal prosecutors would talk about the situation, but the newspaper's sources said Blagojevich would serve his 14-year sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood near the Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo.

Blagojevich was convicted last year for, among other things, trying to sell the US Senate seat vacated by President Obama. He is expected to report to the prison March 15.

A proposed law that would devastate public unions in Arizona appears to be stalled in the state Senate after Republicans said they failed to come up with enough votes to pass it.

The measure, which would strip collective bargaining rights from government workers throughout the state, sailed through two Senate committees earlier this month and seemed likely to become law because Republicans control two-thirds of both houses of the legislature. Unions scrambled to find a way to defeat it but none expressed much hope of success.

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Republicans in Utah have opened up the next front in a battle against public unions being waged in statehouses throughout the nation.

A bill introduced last week in the Utah legislature would ban government employees from collectively bargaining on any issue except for wages and health benefits. The proposal would bar unions from having a say in things like training, equipment and disciplinary procedures.

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When Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched his own federal political action committee last year, he vowed to move beyond his role as just a national leader for immigration hardliners. He wanted to become one of their more serious sources of campaign cash.

But months after announcing the creation of Joe PAC, the Arizona sheriff's desire to become a major financial backer for the movement is far from reality. Instead, it has been consumed by his own bid for reelection.

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A major union launched the first national response on Friday to a sweeping series of bills in the Arizona state Senate that could devastate organized labor there.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) created a website called "Razing Arizona" that asked their supporters and members to sign an open letter protesting the measures.

"To the lawmakers, governors, policy-wonks, and corporate backers who are dead set on destroying unions in America," the letter says, "Your latest attempt to dismantle workers' rights in Arizona will not go unnoticed."

The website also carried a video that featured a clip from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's disasterous 2010 debate in which she froze for 13 seconds during her opening remarks.

The group linked Brewer to the bills despite the governor saying she was never consulted on them.

Republicans in Arizona are continuing to move quickly on a sweeping series of bills that could devastate unions in the state. The measures are scheduled for a second state Senate committee hearing on Monday after soaring through their first just two days ago.

One of the bills would ban any type of collective bargaining by government employees at the state, county or city levels in Arizona. Another would bar governments from paying anyone to do union work, a practice known as "release time."

The bills were introduced Monday night and cleared the Senate's Government Reform Committee on Wednesday on a 4-2 vote along party lines. They are scheduled to go before the Senate's Rules Committee at 1 p.m. Arizona time on Monday. (3 p.m. ET)

The bills are advancing despite Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's warnings that the legislature should not send them to her unless they also take up her proposals that deal with state workers.

 

Employees at an independent movie theater in Arizona made a disturbing find while searching through their archives recently. They discovered a short film that Tucson shooter Jared Loughner had submitted for an event on Jan. 8, 2010, exactly one year before the massacre that resulted in the deaths of six people and injuries of several others, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Titled "W-I-L-D," it was a bizarre three-minute film, theater staffer J.J. Giddings told Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star. It "was a silent film with just the words 'Lucid Dream' written in the sand and some scenes of the desert and the beach alternating," he said. "There weren't any people in the film at all."

Giddings said he turned the film over to authorities investigating the case, hoping that it might provide some help. "Plus," he added, "it was pretty creepy having it in the office."

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