Monday, November 28, 2016

House Democrats announce committee assignments for upcoming legislative session

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader-elect Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix (District 27), released committee assignments for the 53rd Legislature.

"House Democrats are welcoming a lot of new members into our caucus and welcoming back many returning members," Rios said. "We are already gearing up for the work we have ahead of us and will be focused on making our state stronger than ever. These assignments reflect the interests, strengths and expertise of our caucus members, who are prepared to work with our Republican colleagues to ensure the priorities of Arizona families are represented at the Capitol."

Committee on Appropriations
·         Rep. Lela Alston, District 24 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. Mark Cardenas, District 19
·         Rep. Ken Clark, District 24
·         Rep. Charlene Fernandez, District 4
·         Rep. Randall Friese, District 9

Committee on Banking and Insurance
·         Rep. – elect Kelli Butler, District 28
·         Rep. – elect Pamela Powers Hannley, District 9
·         Rep. – elect Athena Salman, District 26 (Ranking Member)

Committee on Commerce
·         Rep. – elect Cesar Chavez, District 29
·         Rep. Diego Espinoza, District 19 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. – elect Denise "Mitzi" Epstein, District 18

Committee on Education
·         Rep. Lela Alston, District 24
·         Rep. Reginald Bolding, District 27 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. Macario Saldate, District 3

Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources
·         Rep. – elect Eric Frank Descheenie, District 7
·         Rep. – elect Kristen Engel, District 10 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, District 3

Committee on Federalism, Property Rights and Public Policy
·         Rep. – elect Isela Blanc, District 26
·         Rep. – elect Daniel Hernandez, Jr., District 2
·         Rep. – elect Otoniel Navarrete, District 30 (Ranking Member)

Committee on Government
·         Rep. Ken Clark, District 24 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. – elect Ray Martinez, District 30
·         Rep. – elect Athena Salman, District 26

Committee on Health
·         Rep. – elect Kelli Butler, District 28
·         Rep. – elect Otoniel Navarrete, District 30
·         Rep. – elect Pamela Powers Hannley, District 9 (Ranking Member)

Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety
·         Rep. – elect Kristen Engel, District 10
·         Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, District 3 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. – elect Daniel Hernandez, Jr., District 2

Committee on Land, Agriculture and Rural Affairs
·         Rep. – elect Wenona Benally, District 7
·         Rep. Rosanna Gabaldón, District 2 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. – elect Jesus Rubalcava, District 4

Committee on Local and International Affairs
·         Rep. – elect Isela Blanc, District 26
·         Rep. – elect Cesar Chavez, District 29
·         Rep. Rosanna Gabaldón, District 2

Committee on Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs
·         Rep. Richard Andrade, District 29 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. – elect Eric Frank Descheenie, District 7
·         Rep. Diego Espinoza, District 19
·         Rep. – elect Ray Martinez, District 30 

Committee on Rules
·         Rep. – elect Wenona Benally, District 7
·         Rep. Diego Espinoza, District 19
·         Rep. Rebecca Rios, District 27 (Ranking Member)

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
·         Rep. Richard Andrade, District 29 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. – elect Jesus Rubalcava, District 4
·         Rep. Macario Saldate, District 3

Committee on Ways and Means
·         Rep. Reginald Bolding, District 27
·         Rep. Mark Cardenas, District 19 (Ranking Member)
·         Rep. – elect Denise "Mitzi" Epstein, District 18

Sub-Committee on Appropriations – Education
·         Rep. Lela Alston, District 24

Sub-Committee on Appropriations – Health and Welfare
·         Rep. Randall Friese, District 9

Sub-Committee on Appropriations – Public Safety, Infrastructure and Resources
·         Rep. Charlene Fernandez, District 4

House Democrats also recently elected a new leadership team for the next session, which begins Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. To see a message from the 2017 leadership team, click here.
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Monday, November 21, 2016

Thankful to serve

This is the season we are reminded to be grateful and give thanks. The Arizona House Democrats are especially thankful for the opportunity to serve so many people across the state.

We will continue to be your voice for your priorities at the Capitol, and are prepared to work for improved public education, job creation and transparent, accountable government. Additionally, we're committed to reducing wasteful spending, while supporting policies that will help people get back to work.

We are appreciative for the chance to help make Arizona stronger now, while preparing for the future. This will get done by finding common-sense solutions to improve the state.

The Legislature has been overly partisan in the past, and it has not served the best interest of all Arizonans. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we set aside the partisan bickering.  Moving the state forward will take a commitment to government accountability and transparency and open communications.  We take this to heart and encourage you to contact us with your thoughts and ideas about the upcoming year. Click here to find ways to be heard.

Arizona House Democrats want to wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 14, 2016

ICYMI: Rios, Friese, Fernandez elected new Arizona House Democrats' leadership team


Arizona House Democrats elected a new leadership team to take the reins for the 53rd Legislature. Rep. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix (District 27), will serve as the House Democratic leader. Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson (District 9), will be the House assistant Democratic leader and Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma (District 4), will join the team as the House Democratic whip.

Rios, a social worker, represented a rural Pinal County District in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1995-2000, and in the Arizona State Senate from 2005-2010. She also held the leadership positions of Senate Democratic whip and assistant Democratic Leader.

New House Democratic Leadership Team
"We have big expectations for the next Legislative session. We look forward to tackling the issues that are pressing for working families of Arizona, while improving government transparency and accountability ," Rios said.

The voters of Legislative District 9 first elected Friese to the House in 2014. Since 2008, he has been a trauma surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. He was one of the trauma surgeons who cared for the victims of the January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson that wounded Congresswoman Giffords.

"This team and caucus are ready to work across the aisle to find solutions that work for all Arizonans. Moving the state forward will take bipartisan leadership and a commitment to communication and inclusiveness," Friese said.

Fernandez also came to the House of Representatives in 2014. She is a former educator who wanted to make a difference outside of the classroom by being elected to the Yuma Union High School District Governing Board. There she served as president and vice president. She remains an outspoken advocate for students, teachers and parents.

"The future of our state depends on the quality of our education system. Finding resources for students, teachers and classroom infrastructure remains a top priority for us. We will work together to make sure our kids are prepared for success," Fernandez said.

The next Legislative Session officially begins on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. For more information about the leadership team, click here. To see a video message, click here. 



Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Message from the New House Democratic Leadership Team

A quick message: 

Arizona House Democrats elected a new leadership team to take the reins for 53rd Legislature. Rep. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix (District 27), will serve as the House Democratic leader. Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson (District 9), will be the House assistant Democratic leader and Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma (District 4), will join the team as the House Democratic whip.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Improving AZ’s education reputation

In a few weeks, legislators will be heading back to the Capitol to start making choices for Arizona kids and classrooms.

An Arizona Republic columnist recently wrote, “Why Republican leaders hate public schools is a
question that confounds me, but they’ve demonstrated every year that they do.”  The writer was referencing long-standing efforts to divert money from public schools, which have been robbed of resources for years, to private schools by expanding Empowerment Scholarship Account voucher programs. Supporters defend the program by saying they want to give more students the opportunity to leave underperforming schools. However, an Arizona Republic investigation showed most children using the program were leaving good schools in wealthy districts. There are additional concerns about the lack of oversight of how the funding, which is siphoned away from public schools, is used.

The voucher program seems to have some serious issues with administration and with meeting goals since it’s not helping the students it’s supposed to. Most Arizona students still attend public schools, and so we should find a better way. By investing in K-12 public education, we can start to reverse the trends that our state is becoming all too well known for – crowded classrooms, low per-student funding and high teacher turnover.


Also, there is a growing movement to restore full-day Kindergarten in the state.  Already, legislators, members of the business community and educators are working together to make this a reality. The biggest hurdle seems to be the $240 million that it could cost. Overcoming this obstacle means focusing on the right priorities -- funding ideas that work and scrapping the ones that don’t.  That would go a long way to improve Arizona’s education reputation.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Are they listening to the people?

Maybe this time the governor and the Republican leadership will listen to what the people of Arizona want? Recently, a poll showed that a majority of Republican, Democratic and Independent voters oppose using public money for private schools. But that is exactly what Republican leaders have been pushing at the Legislature by expanding voucher programs.

The poll results came on the heels of a national report that names Arizona as one of the few states in the nation to cut student funding by about 10 percent or more since 2008, while enacting tax cuts.

“Our country’s future depends heavily on the quality of its schools.  Increasing financial support can help K-12 schools implement proven reforms such as hiring and retaining excellent teachers, reducing class sizes, and expanding the availability of high-quality early education.  So it’s problematic that so many states have headed in the opposite direction over the last decade.  These cuts risk undermining schools’ capacity to develop the intelligence and creativity of the next generation of workers and entrepreneurs.”  

That is not the future House Democrats want for Arizona students and businesses. Our state leaders have an obligation to support the public education system that serves the majority of Arizona students. As long as Republican leadership continues to fail to prioritize schools, we can expect our classroom sizes to continue to grow, our teachers to continue to leave the state and business executives to continue to see schools as a “key weakness” for our state. House Democrats will continue to carry this message to the governor and Republican leadership until it gets through.  Click here to find ways to ensure your voice is heard.

#DemsLead





Monday, October 24, 2016

The Crisis Continues at DCS

The committee currently tasked with overseeing Arizona’s Department of Child Safety held its last quarterly hearing last week. The bottom line from that hearing was that, although the agency has made some improvements over the last two years, it remains very much in crisis. But despite the significant problems his agency continues to face, Director McKay’s testimony was once again more evasive than transparent.

Many of the problems DCS has faced since its creation, and which were supposed to be resolved by agency’s high caseworker turnover rate. And it takes DCS more than twelve months to find permanent homes for more than two-thirds of children in its system. Every one of those factors is bad for Arizona’s most vulnerable children.
now, continue to plague the agency. DCS still has more than 18,000 children in out-of-home care and more than 4,000 backlogged cases. McKay has not yet solved his

The lack of transparency at DCS has been a problem in the past, and members of the oversight committee repeatedly made it clear during last week’s hearing that DCS was not providing enough useful information about the agency’s progress. McKay has resisted recommendations for reform and actually reduced his agency’s transparency. And there is no evidence that Gov. Ducey will start holding McKay accountable. It is critical that a new Legislative oversight committee is established.

Arizonans and their Legislators cannot become complacent with the marginal progress and limited cooperation that DCS has displayed under Director McKay. Protecting our most vulnerable children is simply far too important. McKay needs to truly be held accountable, and the children in our DCS system need robust legislative oversight to make that happen.