Monday, July 28, 2014

U.S. Senators urged to reject federal Child Tax Credit legislation

U.S. Senators urged to reject federal Child Tax Credit legislation
Miranda says bill would disproportionately penalize Latino families

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix (District 27), today urged Arizona’s U.S. Senators to use their influence to stop H.R. 4935, the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014, after it passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives on a vote of 237-173. The bill now faces Senate consideration.

“Overall, this legislation will hurt Latino families,” Miranda said. “It appears to target the Latino community and other immigrants by requiring social security numbers for a taxpayer to be eligible for the child tax credit. It effectively will make millions of families ineligible for the child tax credit, just because they are immigrants.”

The child tax credit is only available to taxpayers who are working, earning an income and raising children. Currently, individuals with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) can qualify for the child tax credit but under section 3 of the proposed congressional bill, they would no longer be eligible. Only those with social security numbers would qualify for the child tax credit. The types of taxpayers that typically utilize ITINs versus social security numbers are primarily noncitizens. Domestic violence victims sometimes also utilize ITINs out of privacy concerns.

“The child tax credit is a powerful tool in combating poverty. It helps families, which are struggling to pay the bills, keep more of their income to meet basic needs. Effectively singling out immigrant families and penalizing them under our tax code is unfair and inhumane,” Miranda said.

Experts estimate that 4.4 million Latino children will lose eligibility for the child tax credit under the proposed bill and 80% of the families adversely impacted by the policy change would be Latino. http://nationalhispanicleadership.org/assets/NHLA_CTC_Act.pdf

“I thank Congressmen Pastor and Grijalva and Congresswoman Kirkpatrick for voting against this dangerous bill. I urge all of our congressional delegation to reject this attempt to use the tax code to target and disadvantage Latino families,” Miranda said.

“Congress should be passing laws to help the economy rebound, not hurt those families that are hardest hit by the recession,” Miranda said.

There is one provision in the bill that Miranda favors and that is indexing the amount of the child tax credit to inflation so that the amount increases each year to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

“I think it would be best for Congress to go back to the drawing board on the child tax credit issue and focus on good provisions, like the inflation issue, that help all families,” Miranda said. “Arizona’s families deserve a no vote from their congressional representatives on this bill.”


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Hale and Fowler work with government agencies to make it easier for Indian Nation citizens born outside health facilities to get “delayed” birth certificates

Hale and Fowler work with government agencies to make it easier for Indian Nation
citizens born outside health facilities to get “delayed” birth certificates

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A birth certificate is something most people take for granted. It is an essential document needed to get a driver’s license, a social security card, even to prove legal residency and United States citizenship. But some of our country’s original Native American citizens – born at home or in the care of a traditional midwife in one of Arizona’s rural, remote Indian Nation areas – have been unable to obtain this vital document.

State Representative Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), and Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler, D-Tuba City (District 5), are helping change that.

“Native Americans are the first Americans. They are citizens of the United States and the state of Arizona. It is their right to have access to this basic documentation needed to enjoy the rights and privileges afforded to citizens of this country,” Hale said.

As a result of Hale and Fowler’s work with state officials over the past few months, the Arizona Department of Health Services met and consulted with Indian Nation leaders Friday, July 18 on a new, draft streamlined process for obtaining a delayed birth certificate if there was not one initiated for a Indian Nation citizen at the time of his or her birth.

“Our objective is to correct the injustice that Native American citizens of our state must endure because they cannot obtain this personal documentation that proves their legal citizenship. Arizona tribal members at this very moment are being denied services they are eligible for,” Fowler said. “For this reason, Rep. Hale and I are working to change the department policy, regulation and state law.”

“There are a lot of people, even today, who are not born in hospitals. In Indian Nation communities, sometimes there is no choice but to have a baby at home because the closest health care facility may be miles away,” Hale said. “If you don’t have the baby at a hospital, no one starts immediately working on the documents required to create a birth certificate.”

If a birth certificate is not immediately processed at the time of birth, a person must go through a lengthy process with the state to obtain a “delayed” birth certificate. This process currently involves producing four separate forms of verification or “proof” that a person was born at a specific time and place. The more time that passes from the date of birth to the time a delayed birth certificate is sought, the harder it often is to produce the required documentation.

“For many people, it is almost impossible to get through the process and actually obtain a birth certificate,” Hale said. “If you don’t have a birth certificate, that means no social security card, no driver’s license, no passport. You have Native Americans unable to prove they are U.S. citizens. It just doesn’t make sense,” Hale said.

Hale, Fowler and other Indian Nation representatives raised concerns about the “delayed” birth certificate process to DHS and found that DHS was sympathetic to the concern, especially as it disproportionately appeared to impact people living in Native American communities.

Officials at DHS have been working with Hale, Fowler, other legislators, Indian Nation representatives, and county officials to develop an alternative process for Indian Nation citizens to use in obtaining a delayed birth certificate. This new process will only require two forms of verification and will allow Indian Nation government documents and U.S. Indian Health Service official records to meet most of the documentation requirements.

At this time, it is unclear when the new alternative process for Indian Nation citizens to use in obtaining a delayed birth certificate will be available. But Hale said, “Things continue to move in a positive direction. The meeting last Friday with stakeholders was very productive. There will be other meetings to continue to refine the alternative process.”

“I am pleased that government officials joined with Indian Nation representatives to find a common-sense solution to this problem,” Hale said. “I stand ready to introduce legislation and advocate to make this new process and policy become a permanent part of Arizona state law.”

The existing delayed birth certificate process can be found at this link:

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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.




Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Steele to receive Legislative Leadership Award from the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy

Steele to receive Legislative Leadership Award from the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy


PRESCOTT, Ariz. – Arizona State University’s Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy will recognize Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9), for her efforts to improve access to behavioral health care in Arizona.

The CABHP selected Steele, according to a letter from the organization, because of her “profound, positive impact on behavioral health care in Arizona.”  Steele, a mental health professional, said she is honored to receive the award.  

“Mental and behavioral health services are important parts of overall health care services,” Steele said. “Advocating for more funding and more services is a responsibility I take to heart.”

Steele was instrumental in getting funding for Youth Mental Health First Aid and for the Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison Program. She worked on legislation that was included in the past two budgets that allocated a total of half a million dollars to the Department of Health Services to expand Youth Mental Health First Aid. The program is designed to help people identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness, eating disorders and substance abuse disorders in adolescents.

“Mental health issues manifest differently in young people,” Steele said. “This program helps prepare those who interact with kids on a regular basis to recognize the warning signs. It has already trained hundreds of Arizonans including educators, school staff, coaches and even young people.  The goal is to provide the skills to recognize when a young person is struggling and how to intervene and get the appropriate help.”

Steele was also involved this year in securing $250,000 for the DTAP program, which allows drug-addicted criminal defendants to plead guilty to an offense and enter a treatment facility for three years, instead of going to prison. In the facility, the person receives addiction treatment and a variety of other training and support services, while being monitored by the court.

“In Pima County, DTAP saves lives and money while reducing crime,” Steele said. “This is an investment in the safety of our communities.”

The CABHP will present Steele with the Legislative Leadership Award during its 15th Annual Summer Institute at the Prescott Resort on July 17 at 5:30 p.m.

“I am grateful for the support that CABHP is providing to the community and hope that its work will inspire others to get involved,” Steele said.

To learn more about CABHP, go to www.cabhp.asu.edu.

For more information on Youth Mental Health First Aid, visit www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/take-a-course/course-types/youth/.

For additional information about DTAP, go to http://www.pcao.pima.gov/dtap.aspx.



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Monday, July 14, 2014

NHCSL Vice President Miranda says unified effort, humane solutions needed for immigration crisis

NHCSL Vice President Miranda says unified effort, humane solutions needed for immigration crisis

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix (District 27), along with other members of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, a group of lawmakers from across the country, expressed concern about the current immigration crisis and called for effective, humane solutions.

Miranda, who is the NHCSL vice president for public policy, said there must be a united effort to help the unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors who are migrating to border states.

“NHCSL is emphasizing the importance of working on a long-term plan, while dealing with the immediate crisis,” Miranda said. “We will work to help educate Congress on the importance of having adequate resources to provide the necessary emergency services these young people require. The masses of immigrant children and refugees left abandoned are unconscionable. As a nation we should respond in a unified manner to help these children as it is our country they’ve fled to. America is seen as a country people come to in search for a better life; many of their home countries are corrupt and crime ridden. It is our duty to serve.”

The NHCSL is the premier national association of Hispanic state legislators working to design and implement policies and procedures that will improve the quality of life for Hispanics throughout the country.  NHCSL was founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with the mission to be the most effective voice for the more than 350 Hispanic legislators.  

For more information, visit www.nhcsl.org.


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House Democrats urge Brewer to call education special session

House Democrats urge Brewer to call education special session
Schools need court-mandated inflation funding immediately

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona House Democrats today asked Gov. Jan Brewer to call a special session immediately to pay the $317 million in inflation funding that a superior court judge recently ruled the state owes schools.

“It’s crucial that we get this money into our classrooms and fulfill our obligation to the voters before the start of the next school year,” House Minority Whip Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), said. “Schools can use this money to hire teachers and reduce classroom sizes. The money could also be used to make repairs to buildings and infrastructure that have been put off because education has suffered drastic budget cuts over the years.”

Meyer, who serves on the House Education Committee and previously was a member of the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board, added that the court’s decision affirms the will of the voters and deserves immediate attention.

“The court ruling makes it clear that the Legislature must respect the will of the voters and cannot make education funding a political football,” Meyer said.

In 2000, voters approved Prop 301, which included a provision that required the Legislature to adjust school funding to keep pace with inflation. In recent years, the Republican-controlled Legislature ignored that provision, leaving schools underfunded. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled earlier that the Legislature must comply with the will of the voters and provide inflation funding. However, it asked the superior court to determine the extent of the state’s financial obligation. On July 11, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper decided the Legislature will need to pay schools $317 million for the upcoming year and a total of $1.6 billion during the next five years. Still in question is whether the state will need to pay an additional $1.3 billion for inflation costs that the Legislature withheld since 2009.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 24), said the Legislature should
have made funding for education a priority, even during the recession.

“Education and our economy are inextricably linked,” Campbell said. “Ensuring Arizona kids have access to a solid education is key to any economic recovery plan and to long-term economic stability. Instead of making education a priority, Republicans in the Legislature favored tax cuts for corporations that haven’t benefited our state and have depleted our resources.”

Campbell added that to fulfill its obligations, the state should utilize some of the money in the “rainy-day fund” and consider closing wasteful corporate tax loopholes.

“The Republican-controlled Legislature cannot continue to protect special interest tax cuts at the expense of school children,” Campbell said. “The courts and the voters have made that clear.”


For more information on the state budget impacts of this ruling, go to http://www.azleg.gov/jlbc/K-12InflationFundingLawsuitUpdate.pdf.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Quezada statement on Superior Court ruling requiring state to pay $317 million to schools for inflation


Quezada statement on Superior Court ruling requiring state
to pay $317 million to schools for inflation
 

 
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Martín Quezada, D-Phoenix (District 29), today applauded Arizona Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper’s decision to require the state to pay $317 million in inflation funding that should have been allocated to schools in the 2013-2014 school year.

“The immediate restoration of $317 million, and possibly an additional $1.3 billion, in funding to our schools is huge for our children. They have suffered from poor and ultimately illegal policy decisions by the Republican-controlled legislature for too long,” Quezada said.

“Not only does this decision provide funding that our schools have desperately needed over the past several years, it ultimately requires that the will of the voters be respected. The voters said they want our schools to have the funding needed when they passed Prop 301 back in 2000,” Quezada said.

“Even when budgets are tight, we have to prioritize education. Not only is it good for our economic recovery and long-term economic stability, it has been mandated by the voters. The Republicans ignored that mandate and, instead, passed huge tax cuts that primarily benefitted large corporations. I am glad that they are now being held accountable by the judicial process. When I hear my Republican colleagues at the Legislature say they can’t afford to pay the bill that is due, I will remind them about the funding they squandered with that tax cut legislation,” Quezada said.

House Bill 2001 passed in 2011 during the Second Special Session. The fiscal impact of the tax cuts increases over time and when fully implemented in 2018, it will cost the state $538 million in lost revenue each year.

The school funding was mandated by the voters’ approval of Prop 301 in the year 2000 but the inflation funding has not been budgeted by the Republican-controlled Arizona State Legislature in recent years. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the State Legislature must provide the inflation funding each year but asked the Superior Court to determine whether back payments for prior years is required. Judge Cooper’s decision addressed the question of back payments for the 2013-2014 but still unclear is whether the schools are due $1.3 billion in funds from previous years that the Legislature did not allocate inflation dollars.

More details can be found at the attached link:


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Peshlakai advocates for creation of Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument

Peshlakai advocates for creation of Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron (District 7), recently added her name to a letter sent to President Barack Obama, urging him to establish the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument.

The proposed national monument would be located within the Kaibab Plateau in the Grand Canyon watershed region.   

“The Grand Canyon is a sacred site for many Native American nations,” Peshlakai said. “It has both cultural and environmental significance. The Kaibab Plateau alone is home to 22 sensitive plants and animals, some of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It is an invaluable resource and must be kept safe.”

The letter called for the president to use his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect the Grand Canyon’s watershed by establishing it as a national monument. It also outlined several key threats to the area, such as:

  • Uranium mining
  • Loss of habit connections for wildlife
  • Logging of ancient trees
  • Irresponsible off-road vehicle use
  • Unsustainable livestock grazing

“Making this region a national monument will protect it, which will ensure it is respected and taken care of for generations to come,” Peshlakai said. “Regardless of when the president acts, I will continue to advocate for safeguarding this region.”



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