Friday, February 26, 2010

Campbell applauds GOP withdrawal of anti-solar bill from legislature

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell said he was pleased Thursday with Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko’s decision to withdraw her anti-jobs/anti-solar bill.

Under the Republican bill, House Bill 2701, it would have caused a solar manufacturer to stop its plans to open its first U.S. plant in Goodyear. Suntech Power Holdings warned Tuesday they would pull their plans if the bill passed.

Campbell, who voted against the bill in the House Government Committee, said, “I’m happy that Rep. Lesko recognized her mistake and withdrew her wrong-track bill. This bill was a classic example Republicans’ failed leadership and wrong priorities.”

Killing the Republican bill stopped it from working against the requirement that regulated utility companies work toward providing 15 percent of their power from renewable-energy sources by 2025.

“It is key to use solar to jump-start Arizona’s economy, creating jobs and getting our state back on track,” Campbell said. “As it stands, Arizona has the most sunshine in the nation, but the rest of the world and even rainy states like Oregon attract more solar companies. It’s time for a change.”

Thursday afternoon, Lesko withdrew the bill.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sinema bill to crack down on human trafficking passes committee unanimously

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill that gives police more tools to arrest criminals who traffic people for sex or labor slavery passed the House Judiciary Committee today.

House Bill 2673, sponsored by Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema, eliminates a clause in Arizona law that requires police to prove that the trafficked individual be obtained “for transport” to qualify as being trafficked for sex or labor. The bill also aids prosecutors to convict traffickers.

“This bill gives law enforcement a greater ability to fight heinous crimes like human trafficking for sex or slave labor,” Sinema said. “It’s a simple fix that makes a huge difference for public safety in our neighborhoods.”

HB 2673 eliminates the requirement that a person be enticed, recruited, harbored, provided or otherwise obtained for transport for an offense to qualify as sex trafficking or trafficking of persons for forced labor or services.

The bill passed committee unanimously with bipartisan support.

Republicans Steve Montenegro and Debbie Lesko vote to pass a wrong-track bill that would stop solar companies from moving to Arizona and creating jobs

Three of the state’s top economic development leaders talk about how Arizona can become more attractive to businesses like the solar industry.

Meyer anti-drug bill passes committee

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill that would prohibit the sale of a dangerous, hallucinogenic drug to people under 21 passed the House Judiciary Committee today.

House Bill 2687, sponsored by Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 11), would make it a Class 2 misdemeanor if a person is found guilty of selling any drug that contains the hallucinogenic herb Salvia divinorum or Salvinorin to anyone under age 21.

“More kids are starting to use this drug and it’s dangerous because they can hurt themselves and others,” Meyer said. “This has become a public safety issue in and out of schools, and it’s important that we do our part to make this unavailable to kids.”

Salvia divinorum is a type of sage plant that can cause intense hallucinations. It also can cause dangerous side effects such as the inability to control muscles and balance, extreme fear, terror and panic, increased perspiration, altered perceptions and dissociation with walking or standing when inhaled.

Other states already have similar laws.

To see a video interview with Meyer, please visit www.azhousedemocrats.com or www.youtube.com/azhousedems.

Meyer’s bill passed committee unanimously on a bipartisan vote.

Ariz. hospitals rip plans for health program cuts

By Paul Davenport
Associated Press

Cutting health care programs to help close Arizona's budget deficit would inflict pain on more state residents than the nearly 400,000 people who stand to lose Medicaid coverage or other services, Arizona hospital officials said Wednesday.

"The cure is worse than the disease," said John Rivers, president of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. "The proposed budget does a lot of long-term damage to the prospect of recovery in the economy."

The association said the proposed cuts in health care programs would result in 42,000 fewer jobs throughout the economy, and they would burden individuals and businesses with higher health care costs, clog emergency rooms, and generally make the state an unattractive place for people to live and businesses to locate.

Rivers said a tax increase may be needed to pay for the state's health care programs.

To gauge the jobs impact, the association commissioned a study by Arizona State University economists. The report was based on economic modeling of the impact of reduced state funding and lost federal matching dollars.

The hospital group, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other advocacy groups are pushing back against a part of Gov. Jan Brewer's budget-balancing proposal that calls for major cuts in health care programs, including Arizona's version of Medicaid, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.

(Read more)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson, and Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, discuss Foreclosure Rescue for Arizona

Sinema bill honoring soldier burial wishes passes committee

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill that requires the state to honor the burial wishes of fallen soldiers passed the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee today.

House Bill 2400, sponsored by Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema, fixes an existing Arizona law that ignores the burial wishes of fallen soldiers and causes delays for the soldier’s family during a time of mourning.

“This bill is incredibly important to our brave military service men and women because they sacrificed their lives to our country and our state, and at the very least they deserve to be laid to rest according to their wishes,” Sinema said. “Currently, Arizona law creates a roadblock after these soldiers give their lives, and that’s the last thing military families should have to deal with during a time of mourning.”

(Read More)

Wrong-track bill could drive solar company out of AZ

The Arizona Republic

The governor last month touted a solar-panel manufacturer's plan to open its first U.S. plant in Goodyear, but on Tuesday the company warned it could pull those plans if a bill impacting renewable energy is passed.

The House Government Committee voted 5-2 to pass House Bill 2701. It now moves on to the Rules Committee.

The measure chips away at the requirement that regulated utility companies work toward providing 15 percent of their power from renewable-energy sources by 2025 in several ways, including allowing nuclear power to count toward the goal.

(Read More)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Watch Rep. Rae Waters, D-Ahwatukee, talk about her bill that passed committee to make schools safer

Arizona school safety bill passes committee

PHOENIX -- The Education Committee passed a bill Monday that would make school structures safer and prevent dangers like the roof collapses that occurred at several Valley schools last year.

House Bill 2760, sponsored by Rep. Rae Waters, D-Ahwatukee (District 20), requires that that each school adopts preventative maintenance guidelines for its buildings, including plumbing, electrical systems, heating, ventilation, and other special systems.

It also recommends that roofing systems be inspected for signs of structural weakness by a licensed contractor.

“My hope is that this bill will ensure a safer learning environment for our children while at the same time improve our schools,” Waters said. “The value of education is only as good as the structures that support and maintain it, and improved infrastructure puts us one step closer in getting Arizona on the right track.”

Nearly a year ago on March 16, Tempe's Waggoner Elementary School’s roof to collapsed onto the multipurpose room. Luckily, no children were in the school at the time, but the disaster flooded 12 classrooms and forced students to miss several days of school.

(Read more)

Monday, February 22, 2010

House Democrats announce Foreclosure Rescue for Arizona

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats announced on Monday a foreclosure rescue package to get Arizona back on the right track when the state ranked second in the nation last month for foreclosures.

The Foreclosure Rescue for Arizona Act, House Bill 2765, an omnibus bill, and other foreclosure bills introduced by House Democrats will prevent fraud and help families, homeowners and renters stay in their homes.

“Foreclosure Rescue for Arizona not only will combat fraud and bad actors preying on homeowners, but also it will help get our economy back on track,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “Arizona ranks second in the nation in foreclosures, and these bills protect the safety and financial health of hard-working Arizonans.”

(Read More)

(Read More About The Foreclosure Rescue for Arizona)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Republicans would rather balance the state budget over 20 years than within six years

Legislature dismisses alternative budget plan
Proposal would have paid down state's debt quicker


by Mary Jo Pitzl - Feb. 19, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

The Legislature's budget committee took a look Thursday at an alternative proposal that pays down state debt quickly, prevents further program cuts and raises taxes - then quickly dismissed it.

The lawmakers spent more time debating the authorship of the "mystery budget" than discussing its merits.

The plan emerged earlier this month in the House of Representatives as an alternative to the budget that Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed for the rest of this fiscal year and fiscal 2011.

Although no one has claimed authorship, some lawmakers saw promising elements in it and unsuccessfully urged Speaker Kirk Adams to let it be introduced as a late bill package.

Instead, they got a hearing at which the plan's major elements were contrasted with Brewer's budget.

The plan's major points are:

• Elimination of most of a projected $3 billion in debt in six years, compared with the 20 years in current plans.

• Tax increases, such as a 10 percent hike in the individual income tax and an expansion of the sales tax to food. It would later cut the sales tax to 4 cents on the dollar - a rate last seen in the early 1980s - but apply the tax to various services.

• An end to the state subsidy on residential property rates, which would increase residential tax bills.

• A 28 percent cut in the corporate income tax to spur business creation.

Unlike Brewer's plan, it assumes no more cuts in state programs and it saves millions in debt payments.

(Read more)

Watch Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe, debate Republican Rep. Rick Murphy on school tuition tax credits

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Secretary of Transportation awards the Tucson streetcar project $63 million

Watch U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood make a federal stimulus announcement for Tucson's modern street car system, a project House Democratic Policy Leader Steve Farley helped secure.

Farley’s advocacy for street car in Tucson helps land federal stimulus grant

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Policy Leader Steve Farley, who has advocated for nearly a decade to build a sustainable public transportation system in Tucson, was pleased to learn Wednesday that a federal stimulus grant will complete Tucson’s Modern Streetcar starter rail line.

President Obama’s federal stimulus act awarded Tucson $63 million for the Modern Streetcar Starter Light Rail System. This is the third largest project grant in the nation from the TIGER program, a federal grant program for transportation.

“This project will create hundreds of quality jobs this year when we need them the most and thousands more once the line opens in less than two years,” Farley said. “This also is great news for local businesses and entrepreneurs who see the potential in setting up shop along the streetcar route along with those who are already have businesses in the area. This is the catalyst that will make downtown our regional economic engine.”

Tucson’s streetcar project has been in the works for more than nine years. It started with Farley’s creation of the community group Tucson for Sensible Transportation in 2001. The group grew from five members to more than 1,600 members in one year and was active in developing and advocating for comprehensive transportation plans for Tucson. Farley was a key leader in the creation of the Regional Transportation Authority Plan and its approval by voters in 2006, which provided $88 million in local matching funds for the Modern Streetcar that qualified Tucson for the federal money.

Farley continued his work with the City of Tucson, Congressman Raul Grijalva, and citizen groups to secure the federal grant.

“Our Modern Streetcar will not only revolutionize the way Tucson residents get around town, but also it will increase our quality of life in the central city for decades to come,” Farley said.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood will make a formal public announcement today at 10 a.m. in Downtown Tucson’s Historic Depot at Pastor Plaza, 400 E. Toole Ave., Tucson.

Brewer suggests cuts to education

Cronkite News Service

Dozens rallied Wednesday at the state Capitol against Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposal to drop state funding for GED testing services and adult education courses.

As part of her budget proposal, Brewer called for eliminating funding for several state Department of Education programs for adult learners.

During the 2008-2009 school year, more than 14,000 adults participated in Adult Basic Education programs while about 1,500 took part in Adult Secondary Education programs. About 7,500 adults also attended English language courses, the department reported.

About 14,500 got GEDs, accounting for almost 20 percent of all high school diplomas issued that year, the agency said.

Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson, told the crowd adult education helps the economy. “If we cut these programs to the level that’s being suggested, then we are going to be dimming the future for so many people,” Young Wright said. “They won’t be able to get a good job and take care of their children.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Republicans' corporate bailout package continues to lead Arizona down the wrong track by costing the state $3.7 billion

Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) — A new report says a legislative proposal for phased-in general tax cuts and business tax breaks for creating jobs would cost the state $942 million in lost revenue once fully implemented seven years from now.

That amount is about 11 percent of the current state budget.

The nonpartisan legislative budget staff on Friday released a review of expected fiscal impacts of the bill recently approved by the House and now pending in the state Senate.

Republican supporters say the legislation would create more high-paying jobs by encouraging business relocations and expansions. Democratic critics say the bill amounts to a corporate bailout.

(Read more)

We need to use our local resources to solve energy needs, financial woes

Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson (District 29)

We begin a new decade this year and a new legislative session here in Arizona. It brings hope for new opportunities, jobs and a better future, but we also face very serious problems in Tucson and statewide.

Unfortunately, Arizona now has a $3 billion budget deficit that needs an innovative solution. Problems of this magnitude affect everyone in our state, rural and urban, young and old, Republican, Democrat and Independent.

The solution will not be found by looking backward at what we should have done to prevent this economic crisis. Instead, we need to look forward, perhaps with a little help from the global community. In December, international climate talks in Copenhagen provided us with a very important lesson - that solutions to the energy and financial crisis are local and region-specific.

In other words, we need to use our local resources here at home to find a solution not only to our energy needs, but also to our financial problems.

Many Arizonans moved to our beautiful state for one major reason: our beautiful weather. It seems so simple, but to overlook the opportunities presented by our abundance of a very powerful natural resource - sunshine - would ignore a practical and innovative solution to our fiscal problems.

(Read more)

Watch Rep. Rae Waters, D-Ahwatukee, talk about her bill to make schools safer

Monday, February 15, 2010

Watch Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson, debate Rep. Vic Williams, R-Tucson on Arizona Illustrated

Watch Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson, talk about smart budget solutions and protecting education and jobs, while Rep. Vic Williams, R-Tucson, proposes cutting more Arizonans off of health care during tough times.

video

Waters bill to make schools safer to be heard in committee

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The Education Committee will consider a bill next week that will make school structures safer and prevent dangers like the roof collapses that occurred at several Valley schools last year.

House Bill 2760, sponsored by Rep. Rae Waters, D-Ahwatukee (District 20), requires that that each school adopts preventative maintenance guidelines for its buildings, including plumbing, electrical systems, heating, ventilation, and other special systems. It also recommends that roofing systems be inspected for signs of structural weakness by a licensed contractor.

“My hope is that this bill will ensure a safer learning environment for our children while at the same time improve our schools,” Waters said. “The value of education is only as good as the structures that support and maintain it, and improved infrastructure puts us one step closer in getting Arizona on the right track.”

(Read More)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lawmaker moves put sales-tax election into limbo

Mary Jo Pitzl
The Arizona Republic


The House of Representatives on Wednesday derailed plans to close out a special session on the state budget, throwing into question the fate of a May 18 sales-tax election and hopes of balancing this year's budget.

With just one bill left to consider, House Republicans threw a monkey wrench into what was expected to be a quick end to the 10-day session by linking the remaining bill to their much-sought job-creation/tax-cut package.

That put the House at odds with the Senate, which had wrapped up work last week on the six-bill budget package, which includes the tax referral. The dispute between the two chambers resumes today.

Although both the House and Senate last week approved sending a temporary, 1-cent-per-dollar increase in the state sales tax to voters, the bill authorizing the May 18 election can't take effect until 90 days after the special session adjourns "sine die," or for the last time.

Tuesday is the deadline.

Senate President Bob Burns attempted to beat that deadline by ending the special session late Wednesday, but House Speaker Kirk Adams already had sent his members home. Both chambers must agree to end a legislative session.

(Read More)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Republicans halt budget progress with corporate bailout package

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Republican lawmakers dismantled progress on the state budget today when they amended the final budget bill so that it would only be enacted if their corporate bailout package also becomes law.

The final budget bill of the special session, Senate Bill 1002, would have freed up $450 million toward closing this year’s $1.4 billion budget deficit, but the fate of the bill is unknown because Republicans tied their corporate bailout package, House Bill 2250, to the bill.

“Republicans are holding the state budget and funding for schools, health care and vital services hostage until their $650 million a year bailout for the rich and big corporations is enacted,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “Here they go again pushing Arizona down the wrong track. How many more bad Republican lawmakers can Arizona afford?”

(Read More)

House OKs 20 years of debt to balance books now

Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services | Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 12:00 am

PHOENIX - Without a vote to spare, the House on Tuesday gave final approval to putting the state in debt for the next 20 years to balance the books this year.

The 31-27 vote came over objections by lawmakers from both parties who had different reasons they did not like the plan. But a majority said they saw little alternative.

Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, said the state's position is not unlike one she faced during the recession of the early 1990s with her janitorial firm.

First she and her husband stopped taking a salary, then borrowed against a bank line of credit until that was exhausted, then maxed out the credit cards, just to stay afloat, she said.

Rep. Bill Konopnicki, R-Safford, said he also has run into situations as the owner of McDonald's restaurant franchises, and recognizes there is a place for debt. But this is excessive.

"Never, never, never do you take a 20-year note to meet payroll," he said. "This is absolutely, totally irresponsible."

(Read More)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

LiveWire - Legislator's pivotal vote benefits his own business

By Ronald J. Hansen

A bill to reform and financially benefit the organizations that distribute private-school tax-credit scholarships passed its first legislative hurdle Monday with help from a lawmaker who stands to benefit from the bill.

Rep. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, voted to approve HB 2664 during a meeting of the Ways and Means Committee. The bill, which passed 4-3 on a party-line vote, would raise by 50 percent the amount of the maximum tax credit that Arizonans can take on their state income taxes for donations to private schools. Those donations are collected and distributed by nonprofit school tuition organizations.

Yarbrough is executive director of the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization, the largest STO in the state. If the bill becomes law and his organization's donations rose by 50 percent from the latest reported totals, the organization would stand to collect an extra $5.8 million beginning in 2011. Of that, he could keep more than $500,000 for administrative overhead, which includes his salary.

By law, STOs are permitted to keep up to 10 percent of donations, though Yarbrough’s has kept about 5 percent, according to an Arizona Republic analysis.

(Read More)

Bill proposed by So. Ariz. Republican could take away Arizona voters' rights

Lawmaker seeks to change senate nomination process
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

A freshman southern Arizona lawmaker is leading the effort to strip Arizona voters of the right to nominate U.S. senators.

The proposal by Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, would give that right to the elected legislators from each party. Only after that process is complete would voters get a say, in the general election, who they actually want to send to Washington.

Stevens said his measure, if approved by Arizona voters in November, would be a partial return to the way things were before the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted.

Until then, each state legislature actually got to choose its U.S. senators, with voters allowed to pick only the folks going to the House of Representatives. The 1913 amendment requires direct election of all members of Congress.

Stevens said that amendment was a mistake. He said the old system ensured that senators were responsive to the desires of state lawmakers.

“The state is supreme over the federal government,” he said. “And when they weren’t doing what we thought they should be doing, we could recall them at any time.”

(Read More)

Republicans push Arizona farther down the wrong track with corporate bailout package

Economist: AZ Unattractive To Businesses
Sarah Buduson
Reporter, KPHO.com


PHOENIX -- A leading state economist says Arizona needs to fix its budget problem in order to attract business and create more jobs in the state.

“Direct attention on solving the budget problem can be as growth enhancing as job creating as anything we could do today,” said Dennis Hoffman, economist for the W.P Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

"I think, right now, we have a stop sign out on borders,” he said.

Arizona has one of the worst deficits of any state in the nation, and state leaders have failed to come up with a plan to balance the budget.

House Republicans have taken aim at the improving the economy by passing a piece of legislation called the Arizona Economic and Job Recovery bill.

(Read More)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Arizona House Democrats get hip to social media

Posted by Brian White
KOLD News 13

PHOENIX (KOLD) - House Democrats launched new ways to reach their constituents Friday with the announcement of a their own web page and several social media accounts.

Those wanting to communicate with the Democratic House members can go to azhousedemocrats.com where they can find exclusive interviews and press conferences.

The House Democrats also opened accounts with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

•Facebook.com/azhousedems
•Twitter.com/azhousedems
•YouTube.com/azhousedems

House Democrats will continue to post updates on Arizona's budget crisis and its impact as well on www.strongerarizona.com .

"Our new avenues of communication provide media with even more accessibility to House Democrats through photos, videos and exclusive interviews," said House Democrats' Public Information Officer Sarah Muench. "These are new tools media can feel free to use every day."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Rep. David Schapira, D-Tempe, and Rep. Ed. Ableser, D-Tempe, are putting Arizona on the right track

Tempe legislators achieve early success
The Arizona Republic

In a Legislature dominated by Republicans, Tempe's two state representatives are already doing better than might have been expected in the 2010 session. Committees in the state House of Representatives have approved a handful of bills sponsored by Rep. David Schapira and Rep. Ed Ableser.

Meanwhile, action is under way on many measures sponsored by Southeast Valley Republicans. A bill by Rep. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler would ban governments from land-use actions that impose an unreasonable burden on churches. And Rep. John McComish of Phoenix, whose district includes portions of Chandler, has introduced a bill to encourage the use of renewable energy.

(Read More)

Monday, February 01, 2010

House Democrats call for bipartisanship from Republicans, governor

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats sent a letter to Republicans and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer today asking them to work with Democrats in a bipartisan way to solve Arizona’s continuing budget crisis.

Republicans continue to support a wrong-track, no-solution process that would create competing budgets instead of working to solve the budget together.

“We hope Republicans finally step up and do the hard work to solve this budget crisis by negotiating together,” House Democratic Leader David Lujan said. “Arizonans know a budget crisis this big can’t be solved from one side of the aisle. Republicans’ failure to lead just pushes Arizona farther down the wrong track."
(Read More)