Thursday, April 18, 2019

House Democrats Unanimously Support Texting and Driving Ban

PHOENIX – Saying it was a vote to make Arizona a safer place to live, House Democrats voted unanimously Thursday to ban texting and driving in the state. Their votes helped propel House Bill 2318 to the Governor's desk with a final read vote of 44-16.

The bill bans texting while driving and makes it a primary offense. That was a request of family members who have lost loved ones in accidents involving drivers using cell phones, including the family of Officer Clayton Townsend of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Police Department, who was killed on January 8.

“It has taken almost a decade of efforts from numerous individuals to reach today, Thursday April 18th – a day in which the Arizona State Legislature acts upon this epidemic that haunts the roads of the state of Arizona," said Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, who sponsored a texting ban as well this year. “To the Townsend Family – I know that there are no words and no actions this body can take to heal the loss of Officer Clayton Townsend. But I do thank you for letting us have him through his service and the work that you have all done in Clayton’s name that are being engraved in the walls of this institution.”

House Democrats opposed a Republican effort to confuse the issue with a second, overly broad ban on "distracted driving" that will increase racial profiling and other unintended consequences. Senate Bill 1141 passed along party lines with all Democrats voting no.

Several Democratic members applauded the efforts over the past decade to pass the ban, including multiple bills sponsored by former Senator Steve Farley of Tucson.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

House Democrats Statement on vote to repeal AZ's outdated 'no promo homo' law

PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez released the following statement after the House voted 55-5 today to repeal Arizona's outdated 'no promo homo' law that prohibits discussion of homosexuality in public school sexual education classes. Democrats have pushed for years to repeal the 1991 law, and helped negotiate an amendment to Senate Bill 1346 after the law was challenged in court. The bill now faces a potential final vote in the Senate.

"Today we had the opportunity to stand together in a bi-partisan manner and right a wrong. We are repealing a law that has stigmatized untold numbers of Arizonans, and has led to erroneous and dangerous stereotypes, discrimination and bullying. Schools should be a safe, inclusive environment where every student has the opportunity to  learn free from harassment and bullying. In Arizona we can't say that's the case. For the past 28 years, this law has amounted to an official state-sanctioned climate of discrimination. I am so proud of my colleagues who voted yes today to put this chapter in the rear-view mirror and move our state forward."


Friday, March 29, 2019

Speaker Bowers and Representative Fernandez Release Joint Statement on Stringer Investigation

Arizona House of Representatives
Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers (R-25)
House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez (D-4)
1700 West Washington l Phoenix, Arizona l 85007-2844


Speaker Bowers and Representative Fernandez Release Joint Statement on Stringer Investigation

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-25) and House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez (D-4) today released the following statement regarding the investigation of David Stringer:

“While we disagree on matters of policy every day, each of us regards our colleagues as friends and family. The shock and horror we felt when we learned the details in this report are indescribable, not just as elected officials but as parents. This is not about politics, it's about the safety and security of children. It will not be easy, but for the sake of our state, for children, and for this institution that we love, we must resolve to move forward from this. The public must know that we hold each other to the highest standards of character, and that they are safe and protected in the Arizona House of Representatives.”

Speaker Bowers and Representative Fernandez will hold a media availability today at 4:00 p.m. in House Hearing Room 1 to respond to documents released by the House Ethics Committee.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

House Democrats' statement on Speaker, Republicans disingenuously pulling plug on charter school reform

PHOENIX- House Democratic Co-Whip Reginald Bolding today spoke out against House Speaker Rusty Bowers' arbitrary decision on Monday to kill much-needed charter school reform for this legislative session. Bolding is the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, which was supposed to debate Senate Bill 1394 on Monday, and the lead negotiator on reforms for the House Democratic Caucus. Bowers refused to first read the bill, preventing a planned hearing in the House Education Committee on Monday, and then tried to blame Democrats in a press release.

"The Speaker is disingenuously trying to blame Democrats for his decision to kill charter school reform when he supports the status quo that has enriched unscrupulous charter school owners with taxpayer money and outraged the public across the state. In reality, Senate Bill 1394's sponsor, Senator Kate Brophy McGee, would only accept input approved or written by charter school lobbyists on the so-called reforms, and even those purely cosmetic tweaks were too much for the Speaker, so he stuck it in his drawer and denied it a hearing.

Despite the Speaker's unfounded claim, Democrats do not oppose charter schools. Democrats oppose powerful legislators owning charter schools and gaming the system to cash out with millions of dollars. Democrats oppose self-dealing and conflicts of interest that have gotten at least one district public school superintendent prosecuted but will still be legal for charter school owners because of this Republican failure. We have 29 House Democrats ready to support relatively minor changes to the bill that would add some actual transparency, oversight and teeth, and most importantly would restore public trust in our charter school system."

Bolding's proposed amendments to SB1394 were:
  • Establish a prospective ban on for-profit charter schools(LINK).
  • Require additional transparency for charter management organizations, CMOs, by requiring the disclosure of how much charters are paying for each service a CMO provides(LINK).
  • Cap how much state money CMOs can spend on administration expenses(LINK).
  • Provide additional transparency for charter holders by requiring the establishment of charter holder boards that are required to follow open meetings laws  and cannot be filled with family members(LINK).
  • Prohibit self-dealing by charter school board members(LINK).


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Butler grateful for veto promise, Ducey's strong support of vaccines, public health

PHOENIX, State Capitol – Gov. Doug Ducey's promise to veto any anti-vaccination bill that reaches his desk is a strong stand for public health, Rep. Kelli Butler said today. Butler, ranking Democratic member on the House Health and Human Services committee, thanked Gov. Ducey for his opposition to a trio of House bills that could greatly increase the number of unvaccinated Arizonans and lead to a public health crisis.

"It’s a relief to see Governor Ducey’s support of proven public health policy in his commitment to veto these dangerous bills," said Butler, D-Phoenix. "As many states are currently dealing with crisis-level disease outbreaks, it is important that Arizona send a strong message that vaccines are safe, effective and save lives. Health experts warn that many areas of our state are already below safe levels of immunization, and these harmful bills would have made this very serious public health problem even worse."

Ducey was quoted this week saying he is "pro-vaccination and anti-measles," referring to a trio of bills sponsored by Republican Health and Human Services Chairwoman Nancy Barto that she forced through her committee last week. Butler and other Democrats on the committee argued the bills would put Arizona residents, especially school-age children, at risk of contracting and spreading previously eradicated diseases, such as measles, polio, and smallpox.

House Bill 2470 would add a religious exemption from vaccinations on top of the existing personal exemption.

House Bill 2471 would require doctors to give an inches-thick packet on each vaccination's research and ingredients. During committee, an infectious disease researcher testified that even she has a hard time understanding the information packet, let alone parents.

House Bill 2472 would outline notifications and potential exemptions that health care professionals must provide to patients who are receiving immunizations.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Chávez Appointed Vice President of Membership for NHCSL

PHOENIX, State Capitol – Rep. César Chávez was appointed on Wednesday as Vice President of Membership for the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. NHCSL includes Hispanic state legislators from both parties who communicate and advocate for Hispanic communities in the United States and territories. Chávez was appointed by Senator Carmelo Rios, the Puerto Rico Senate Majority Leader and President of NHCSL. Chávez's position will deal with recruitment for NHCSL.

"NHCSL has always been a voice for Latinos on numerous controversial issues that have surfaced in the United States. They have always taken the bold position of doing what is right for our communities," said Chavez, D-Phoenix. "It is an honor that I will be serving in the capacity of Vice President for Membership. Thank you, President Carmelo Rios, for your trust. I will serve our organization with the utmost respect and dignity.”
Chávez also the Co-Chair of the Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus and the first formerly undocumented member of the Arizona Legislature.