Monday, August 22, 2016

House Democrat to Host DCS Forum

Bad news has become old news when it comes to the Arizona Department of Child Safety. The agency is still responsible for 19,000 children. And the little progress it has made in the two years since CPS was dissolved and replaced with DCS pales in comparison to the danger and stress so many of Arizona’s children face.

House Democrats have long called for better accountability from the agency charged with protecting our most vulnerable children. We have pushed for greater investments in preventative services to keep more children from unnecessarily entering the system and to reduce the high turnover among caseworkers.

In the meantime, Gov. Ducey’s interpretation of “increasing transparency and accountability” has been to cut the number of organizations providing services in half, and to reduce by half the reimbursement rate to remaining organizations. With the governor apparently so disinterested in transparency and accountability, and Legislative Republicans unwilling to stand up for our children, it’s no wonder Arizona ranks 45th for child welfare.

But House Democrats are not willing to give up the fight, because our children’s wellbeing is just too important. To allow Arizonans to share their experiences with DCS and their ideas for its improvement, Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson (District 3), will host a DCS Feedback Forum on Aug. 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Valencia Library at 202 W Valencia Rd. Tucson, AZ 85706. The event will be free and open to the public and press.

The DCS crisis must be dealt with, and success will depend on transparency and communication among the agency, the governor, the Legislature, community advocates and the public. House Democrats are committed. Community advocates and the public are committed. Gov. Ducey, Legislative Republicans, are you?


#DemsLead

Monday, August 15, 2016

No more time to lose

No time to Lose is the top line of a new bipartisan report that the National Conference of State Legislatures just released outlining immediate steps that Legislatures across the country could take to help improve education.

The full report, No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State,
offers an overview of what NCSL’s Study Group on International Comparisons in Education—a bipartisan group of legislators, staff and private sector partners—found while studying for a year and a half what factors contributed to the success of high-performing countries.

There were some commonalities found in almost every world-class education system, including:

·         Strong early education systems
·         Reimagined and professionalized teacher workforces
·         Robust career and technical education programs
·         Comprehensive, aligned systems of education.

These priorities are the priorities that Democrats have been fighting for at the Capitol for years. Public schools should have the resources they need to prepare students for the 21st century economy; teacher pay should reflect the valuable role they play in our society; and career and technical education programs should be supported because they offer a foundation on which to build a sustainable economy.  

The governor just announced a back-to-school tour that will take him into schools that are demonstrating excellence in things like early literacy and career and technical education. It seems he knows the importance of these programs – so why aren’t he and other Republicans pushing for more resources for struggling schools? A recent Arizona Republic story shows another side  - students in school districts dealing with growing classroom sizes, teacher retention issues and discouraging test scores.  

The governor and his acolytes can’t just cherry pick the schools they want to show off so they can pretend there isn’t an education crisis in Arizona.  We know what has to be done to help our schools, to prepare Arizona kids for the future.  And Democrats are ready and willing as ever to get this work done. As the NCSL report stated, “our future workforce, national defense, economic vitality and democratic foundation depend on our ability and willingness to get this done.” We will keep working until the governor and the Republicans here start listening to the priorities of the people.


#DemsLead

Monday, August 08, 2016

Our students shouldn’t settle for fourth worst

Across the state students are going back to school but what will those schools be like?  The picture  isn’t all that pretty.

A recent study from a financial advice website, WalletHub, indicates that the Arizona school system is fourth worst in the nation. The website looks at 17 indicators in 50 states and Washington, DC – including the ratio of students to teachers. The study put Arizona 49th in that category.  Arizona did, however, fare better than Louisiana, New Mexico and Alaska overall.

Our kids deserve better than fourth worst.  This report did not appear to ruffle the feathers of anyone in the Governor’s Office. His spokesman called the study “baloney,” although he did not seem ready to dispute the findings.  This is a troubling response from a governor who has still provided no indication that he has a next step after Prop. 123, although that promise is what convinced many voters to approve the stopgap measure in the first place. Our public schools need more; how much more evidence do the governor and Legislative Republicans need before they act?

Republicans assured voters this would just be the start: it would be a first step for our schools. But they’ve not seen fit to offer a second step.  And the money being distributed to schools will not be enough to pull per pupil spending in Arizona up from the bottom of the barrel nationally. It will still leave schools short $1.2 billion each year.

Fortunately, AZ Schools Now, a growing coalition of education and community groups, has come forward with a long-term, sustainable revenue plan for education that will focus on three key areas:

  • Restoring funding for classroom supplies, updated technology and textbooks. This would require restoring district additional assistance.
  • Sustaining a workforce of quality, certified and caring teachers in the classroom by investing in competitive salaries and professional development.
  • Restoring capital funding to give our students schools and classrooms that are safe, clean and functional places to learn.

The lack of leadership and seemingly cavalier attitude about our school system coming from the Governor’s Office is not acceptable. Our kids deserve better. House Democrats will continue to be the champions of public education. We’ll stand with those fighting for our schools and we won’t settle for 48 out of 51. 


Visit the AZ Schools Now Facebook page here for more information.

#DemsLead

Monday, August 01, 2016

Hale, Eid pleased DOJ will review fatal police shooting of Navajo woman, call for additional steps

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), and former United States Attorney Troy Eid released these statements after the U.S. Justice Department announced it will further investigate the fatal officer-involved shooting of Loreal Tsingine, a 27-year-old Navajo woman. Recently, Maricopa County prosecutors decided not to file charges against the Winslow police officer.

Hale said:

“While I am grateful to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for their work on the initial investigation into this incident, I joined Navajo Nation community leaders in calling for an outside investigation. Former U.S. Attorney Eid and I called for an independent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice when this tragic event first came to light. I am pleased that the Department of Justice has agreed to review this matter. It is a welcome next step and necessary in finding the answers to lingering questions that are persisting in our community.

“Ultimately, Winslow police officers and Navajo Nation police officers in Winslow should be cross-deputized to provide better awareness of Native people and nations. It is my understanding that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Navajo Nation Department of Justice already have an agreement in place to provide this kind of training. This should begin immediately. We must focus on solutions that prevent violence and bring our communities together.”

Eid added the following:

“As Rep. Hale and I said back in April, a federal civil rights investigation by the Justice Department is warranted, given this tragedy. This is also an opportunity to strengthen how the Winslow Police Department serves the needs of all its citizens, including the Dine’ and other Native Americans.”

A link to articles featuring more information about the shooting of Loreal Tsingine is available here, https://turtletalk.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/justice-department-investigating-fatal-police-shooting-of-loreal-tsingine/.


******************************************************************************
Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012).  He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.

-30-

Arizona has KidsCare again

In 2010, Arizona’s Republican leaders froze enrollment in KidsCare, our state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program. As a result, Arizona ranks third in the United States for the number of children without health insurance. Democrats recognized KidsCare’s importance all along and, and with community partners, we led the years-long charge to restore the program.

Reopening KidsCare enrollment should have been the least controversial vote in the legislature this year. The program helps keep our children healthy and is completely free to Arizona until at least 2018, and likely until 2020. Instead, it took several votes over several months while Republican legislators used the issue as a political football. But Democratic perseverance paid off and about 30,000 children became eligible this month to sign up for KidsCare.

And the benefits of an active and robust KidsCare program are many. Beyond getting 30,000 children health insurance, for free, KidsCare offers Arizona numerous economic benefits. Reinstating enrollment is expected to add around $75 million to Arizona’s economy next year alone, not to mention millions of federal dollars that would have gone to other states if we had not acted. And the nonpartisan Grand Canyon Institute found that KidsCare has long-term benefits as well, including increasing high school and college graduation rates.


Families who meet the necessary qualifications can apply for KidsCare online or print an application here, or call 1-800-377-3536 for free assistance. Coverage begins Sept. 1, 2016. Families in and around Tucson looking for enrollment assistance can also attend an event on Aug. 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., hosted by the El Rio Community Health Center at 839 West Congress Street in downtown Tucson.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rep. McCune Davis, House Democrats urge consumer protection agency to tighten loopholes on potential debt trap loans


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – All House Democrats signed a letter from Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 30), urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to strengthen proposed rules for high-cost loans, citing continued predatory lending risks.
                                   
McCune Davis addressed the letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray applauding agency efforts to curb predatory lending practices and advising that, despite Arizona laws that cap small loan interest rates, some “lenders continue to seek exemptions and carve outs.”

“In our state, many former payday lenders don’t have a good track record,” McCune Davis said. “We’ve seen them take advantage of weaknesses in the laws. They find and exploit loopholes.”

McCune Davis and her colleagues encouraged the CFPB to propose rules to close regulatory loopholes, like those for title loans under Arizona statutes.  The letter also encourages the CFPB to require lenders to consider a borrower’s ability to repay a loan – taking both income and expenses into consideration for all loan products.

The letter reads: “CFPB rules should prevent loans from becoming debt traps by limiting the duration of indebtedness.”

The CFPB is taking public comment on high-risk loan products through Oct. 7, 2016.

People can send comments to CFPB Director Cordray by going to this link: http://stoppaydaypredators.org/az/. To see a full copy of the letter House Democrats sent to the CFPB, see below. 







Monday, July 25, 2016

Why Are Republicans Pouring More Money into For-Profit, Private Prisons?

Arizona Republican leaders continue to pour money into the for-profit, private prison industry, although Arizonans have stated clearly they want more #SchoolsNotPrisons. Earlier this month, the state increased its reliance on private prisons and began moving inmates into a newly expanded facility in Eloy. This move, which could cost the taxpayers up to about $24 million annually, will fund 1,000 new beds in the private prison—beds the state is promising to keep at least 90 percent full. 

Republican leaders are handing over a total of about $168 million this year to for-profit, private prisons operators, although it is difficult to determine whether these facilities are saving the state money. Republican legislators outlawed cost comparisons in 2012, but prior to that, reports indicated that private prisons weren’t actually saving money. In 2010, the Department of Corrections showed that daily per capita cost of prisoners in private prisons was almost 10 percent higher than those in state prisons.

Arizona has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.  Republicans here are spending more on the Department of Corrections than on universities. House Democrats have been and will continue pushing for more oversight, transparency and accountability within the corrections system. One of our proposals is to have the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission study the current system and make reform recommendations. Additionally, the Joint Select Committee on Corrections should be immediately reinstated so that it can provide Legislative oversight of the DOC and of private prisons. None of this would cost the state a dime.

Prison reform should be a bipartisan issue. We should be investing in our schools, so that our students have the resources they need to prepare for high-quality jobs. And so that qualified teachers stop “fleeing Arizona in droves.” Democrats agree that the priority is #EducationNotIncarceration.



#DemsLead