Wednesday, March 31, 2010

McGuire's bi-partisan foreclosure rescue bill will help Arizona renters

By Kevin Tripp

KTAR

PHOENIX - Imagine getting kicked out of your home because your landlord did not pay the mortgage.

A bill that just passed the Arizona House with bi-partisan support would require landlords going through foreclosure to give tenants 90 days notice. Representative Barbara McGuire wrote the bill.

"I know of personal friends who were caught up in such a situation that they had three days to move an entire household full of belongings and find another place to live," she said.

And, if a landlord doesn't give that notice, the renter can fight back.

"They'll be able to recoup the monies that they've put out for rental by going to court and suing the landlord to recoup those costs," McGuire said.

The bill will now go to the Senate.

Watch Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson (District 29) discuss health reform on CNN

video

Arizona shouldn't waste money, effort on useless health-reform lawsuit

The Arizona Daily Star

By House Democratic Leader David Lujan

Gov. Jan Brewer called a special session this week that only will waste taxpayers' time and money on a misguided lawsuit against federal health reform.

Attorney General Terry Goddard was right when he said her lawsuit has no merit, and it is a waste of scarce taxpayer dollars.

As an attorney, in my legal opinion, Brewer's lawsuit is frivolous and based neither on fact nor on the law.

It's nothing new. Historically, opponents of reform have turned to the courts when major legislation they disagree with is signed into law.

The Social Security Act, The Civil Rights Act, The Voting Rights Act - constitutional challenges were brought to all of these monumental pieces of legislation, and all measures were upheld.

Brewer's claim that reform is a threat to our state's sovereignty is false and meritless.

(Read More)

(Video)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Farley bill to increase roadway safety passes House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A public safety bill that will keep large trucks out of the left-hand lane of a three-lane highway passed the House today.

House Bill 2300, sponsored by House Democratic Policy Leader Steve Farley, requires vehicles weighing more than 26,000 pounds or vehicles pulling trailers carrying more than 6,000 pounds to drive in the two right-hand lanes of highways with three or more lanes in each direction.

“Arizonans are all too familiar with the tragic toll of truck-related crashes on our highways, particularly on I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix,” Farley said. “This bill provides a common-sense way to make our roads safer and to save lives.”

The lane regulations of this bill will create safety benefits such as:

· Positioning largest vehicles out of the highest speed lanes
· Reducing the frequency of passenger vehicles being boxed in by large trucks
· Reducing evasive truck maneuvers to the trucker's blind side
· Providing additional spacing from life-saving median barrier systems
· Providing additional truck clearance from opposing direction traffic
· Improving visibility and clearance for disabled vehicles in or along median shoulders

Other states like South Carolina and Texas observed high reductions in truck-related crashes after a similar law was placed into effect.

The bill passed the House with strong bipartisan support.

Lujan urges stopping use of tax dollars in Brewer’s frivolous lawsuit

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader David Lujan is urging Republican lawmakers today to hear his bill that would ensure no taxpayer dollars are used in Gov. Jan Brewer’s frivolous lawsuit.

House Bill 2001 would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars to enter into a contract with a private attorney to sue over federal health reform.

“It is wrong to make Arizona's taxpayers use their hard-earned dollars to pay for Gov. Brewer’s frivolous and wrong-track lawsuit,” Lujan said. “We could use that money for many things the state is lacking, such as better public safety by putting more police officers on our streets to crack down on violent criminals and to make our neighborhoods safer.”

Brewer called a special session Friday to waste taxpayers’ time and money to sue the federal government over health reform law. Legal scholars from across the nation have determined her lawsuit to lack merit and to be a complete failure.

Republican lawmakers still have not yet heard Lujan’s bill, which would give a break to all Arizona taxpayers and save the state money in the face of Brewer’s reluctance to do so.

If Lujan’s bill is not heard, he plans to amend the House bill that authorizes Brewer to sue. His amendment would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for her frivolous lawsuit.

Monday, March 29, 2010

McGuire’s foreclosure rescue bill passes House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill in House Democrats’ Foreclosure Rescue for Arizona package passed the House today with a bipartisan vote.

House Bill 2766, sponsored by Rep. Barbara McGuire, D-Kearny (District 23), requires a landlord to allow a tenant at least 30 days to vacate a foreclosed property.

“This bill will help Arizona get back on the right track when our state ranked second in the nation for foreclosures,” McGuire said. “It gives families and renters enough time to find a new home at a time of foreclosure through no fault of their own.”

McGuire’s bill also requires a landlord to provide tenants with a written notice at least 90 days before the sale date and if the landlord fails to comply, the tenant may recover damages or one month’s rent plus the amount of the security deposit and attorney fees, which ever is greater.
“All of us have a financial interest in restoring property values, repairing neighborhoods and putting Arizona back on the right track,” McGuire said. “We can all benefit from these bills and working together, and that’s a winning combination for Arizona’s economy and quality of life.”

Suing over health care a waste of money

By E.J. Montini

The Arizona Republic

Gov. Jan Brewer called the state legislature into special session today to ask for the authority to sue the federal government over the recently passed health care reform bill.

State Attorney General Terry Goddard has refused to file suit, not only because he believes there are no constitutional grounds to win, but because a number of states ALREADY have challenged the law.

Whatever the outcome of those cases it will apply to ALL states. Including Arizona.

In other words, we don’t need to spend money we don't have on a special session or to hire an attorney to file a suit and so on.

That is, unless filing a lawsuit has nothing to do with challenging the federal government and everything to do with a governor who wants to win a future election.

Folks are sometimes are confused by the actions of politicians, not knowing when elected officials are acting to keep their jobs and when they are acting in the public interest.

Here’s a simple cheat-cheat for future reference.

Acting to keep their jobs: Always.

Acting in the public interest: Never.

Are their exceptions to this rule?

Yes.

In Arizona?

Ummm….

Wrong-track lawsuit is more proof of Brewer's inability to lead

Lawmakers to begin considering health care suit

Associated Press - March 29, 2010

PHOENIX (AP) - House Democrats are criticizing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican legislative leadership over plans for a lawsuit challenging a federal health care overhaul.

Democrats say the legislature should focus on reversing cuts to children's health care in order to avoid jeopardizing billions in federal funding.

Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Phoenix says Brewer is demonstrating "a colossal failure to lead."

Brewer called the legislature into a special session Monday. She asked lawmakers to pass legislation allowing her to sue on behalf of the state. Typically that authority belongs to Attorney General Terry Goddard.

Goddard has declined to sue the federal government saying a lawsuit probably wouldn't succeed and would waste taxpayer money.

Brewer ignores $7 billion hole, chooses to file frivolous lawsuit

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer’s frivolous lawsuit fails to address the real problem Arizona faces — Arizona will lose $7 billion in overall health care funding if Brewer and Republicans fail to restore KidsCare, House Democrats said Monday.

KidsCare can be restored for free, thanks to another round of federal stimulus dollars approved by the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

“What Attorney General Terry Goddard said about Gov. Brewer’s lawsuit is right — it has no merit, and participating in this type of suit is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “As an attorney, in my legal opinion, Gov. Brewer’s lawsuit is frivolous and it is based neither on fact nor on the law.”

National health reform law states that KidsCare must be maintained until 2019 to receive federal matching dollars for all health care, so that health care will be affordable for all Arizona families.

But Brewer and Republicans chose to kick 42,000 Arizona children off of health care, by eliminating KidsCare. To receive $7 billion in health care funding, Arizona must restore KidsCare, which costs about $15 million, a small fraction of the billions of dollars Arizona will receive if it’s restored. By not restoring it, Republicans also will cost the state thousands of more health care jobs.

“This program can easily be restored for free, thanks to another round of federal stimulus dollars coming our way in about a month, and it won’t cost Arizona a single penny,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “But, Gov. Brewer decided that she would rather pull a cheap political stunt —spending taxpayer dollars on a baseless lawsuit that has no legal merit whatsoever —than restore the KidsCare program.”

Another round of federal stimulus dollars was approved on March 10 in the U.S. Senate, including $400 million for Arizona. A small portion of that will cover the entire 2011 cost of KidsCare. The bill is expected to receive President Obama’s signature within a month.

“Republicans are sending the message that they would rather fight the federal government and make taxpayers pay for their frivolous lawsuit than make sure kids and seniors have health care,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “Republicans know that the simple option to apply the new round of federal stimulus dollars to KidsCare exists, but they haven’t done anything about it. That’s the kind of lack of common sense and failed leadership we see every day and that many Arizonans have seen for the past 40 years from Republican ideologues.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sinema releases statement on Brewer’s frivolous lawsuit, special session

Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema released the following statement:

“Gov. Brewer’s lawsuit is a cheap political stunt, spending taxpayer dollars on a baseless lawsuit that has no legal merit whatsoever. This is a failure to lead when Arizona’s kids and seniors need quality and affordable health care the most.

“Brewer is trying to turn to the courts to block tax cuts for small businesses, expanding coverage to 32 million Americans and ending the worst practices of the insurance industry.

“Her lawsuit is based neither on fact nor on the law. Instead, it is based on political motivation at the expense of Arizona taxpayers. Brewer clearly is playing games with public resources in order to score political points.

“The bottom line is that this week, President Obama signed into law landmark legislation to reform our broken health insurance system, expand coverage and bring down crippling costs for all Americans, including Arizonans. Her lawsuit has no merit and will not stop these historic reforms from taking place this year.”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tovar bill to crack down on graffiti, gang violence, passes House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A public safety bill that cracks down on graffiti and helps stop gang violence passed the House today.

House Bill 2738, sponsored by Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor if damage to the property is less than $999.

“Vandalism and graffiti are very real and very serious problems in Arizona,” Tovar said. “Property damage is very expensive to restore and has adverse affects for the communities they burden. Graffiti is a public safety issue, as it is most commonly linked to gang activity. Arizonans should have peace of mind in knowing that their neighborhoods and belongings are protected from these kinds of nuisances.”

The bill passed the House with bipartisan support.

Sinema bill honoring soldier burial wishes passes House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill that requires the state to honor the burial wishes of fallen soldiers passed the House 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.

“The Arizona men and women who put their lives on the lines each day to protect our country deserve to have their wishes respected,” Sinema said. “The very least that we can do to honor their sacrifice is to ensure that we honor their wishes in the event that they give their lives in the line of duty. 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.”

Sinema’s bill requires Arizona law to recognize that if a soldier died while serving in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, U.S. Reserve or National Guard, and they completed a U.S. Department of Defense record of burial wishes, the person the soldier listed on the form is the designated person to carry out their wishes.

Since 2006, active duty members must annually complete a federally mandated form to designate a person to take care of their remains. However, Arizona law designates arrangements for the dead in a descending order starting with the spouse, regardless of the soldier’s wishes on the federal form, and Arizona does not recognize the federal form, DD Form 93, as an equivalent document. This has lead to litigation between family members.

Laurie Crehan, representing the U.S. Department of Defense State Liaison Office, testified in committee in support of Sinema’s bill.

For example, Crehan said, a deceased soldier who was married but estranged from his wife, elected his mother as the person to take care of his remains on DD Form 93. The mother wanted to cremate the soldier, but the funeral home refused to cremate the remains without the wife's consent based on the rules of the state. The spouse was reluctant to sign the consent for cremation and only after a military attorney intervened, did the wife eventually consent. The situation, and the unnecessary delay it caused, could have been avoided if the state statute in question had referred to the DD Form 93.

“The proposed amendment to state law on disposition removes confusion for the family and enables funeral directors to confidently refer to a single document to approach the service member’s choice for directing the disposition of his or her remains,” Crehan said.

The bill passed the House unanimously with bipartisan support.

Of Arizona's 90 legislators, 40 voted against education 100 percent of the time; and all 40 are Republican, according to a study

The Arizona Education Network has compiled a summary of all legislators’ voting records pertaining to their support of public education at all levels (K-University) during the 2009 Regular and Special Sessions. Sifting through all the bills that were passed by the Legislature and sent onto the Governor’s office, AEN found twenty-one (21) different pieces of legislation that dealt directly with public education budgets and the dollars allocated to it. AEN totaled each legislator’s votes “FOR” and “AGAINST” public education. AEN also tallied the number of times a legislator did NOT vote on the legislation pertaining to public education budgets. In our state, which is ranked last in education funding, AEN defines a vote to protect dollars allocated to public education as a vote “FOR” public education. Conversely, AEN defines a vote to take budget dollars away from public education as a vote “AGAINST” public education.

The summary is organized by district and then by house: Senate first, followed by the House of Representatives. The first set of numbers following a legislator’s name provides the percentage of times the legislator voted “FOR” and “AGAINST” public education, as well as the percentages of times that legislator did NOT vote on the legislation. This percentage was derived using the total number of bills on which the legislator could have voted.

The second set of numbers for each legislator shows the percentage of times he or she voted “FOR” and “AGAINST” public education, adjusted for the number of public education votes missed. In some cases, adjusting for the number of missed votes resulted in a significant change in a legislator’s numbers.

(Read More)

Brewer's assumption an outrage

The Arizona Republic

As a physician, I resent Gov. Jan Brewer's assumption that doctors and hospitals should just accept the 300,000 uninsured patients she plans to create with her budget.

I, and many of my colleagues, have lived up to my obligation to provide care regardless of ability to pay, but there are limits.

(Read More)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meyer anti-drug bill passes House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill that would prohibit the sale of a dangerous, hallucinogenic drug to people under 21 passed the House 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 visit www.youtube.com/azhousedems.

Restore KidsCare now to avert fiscal disaster

The Arizona Republic

Republic Editorial

Our fiscally conservative lawmakers made a big mistake when they eliminated a federal health-care program for children.

KidsCare, which has served needy children in Arizona since 1998, costs the state $18 million a year but brings in $56 million a year in federal funds.

Nearly 39,000 Arizona children get medical care as a result.

The plan to eliminate KidsCare, with its 3-1 federal match, was pound-foolish when lawmakers included it in the budget that Gov. Jan Brewer blessed.

The idea became downright reckless when President Barack Obama signed federal health-care reform on Tuesday.


(Read More)

Republicans' wrong-track budget will leave hospitals in jeopardy

Fewer doctors, longer ER waits are expected
The Arizona Republic- Ken Alltucker

Arizona hospitals say the Legislature's steep cuts to health-care programs may trigger more hospital cuts and layoffs, longer emergency-room waits and a deepening doctor shortage.

The budget cuts will eliminate health insurance for nearly 350,000 low-income adults and children enrolled in the state's Medicaid program, leaving them few options for care.

Hospital executives worry that they will have to absorb the cost and burden of providing treatment for the low-income residents and children until the more generous federal subsidies arrive in 2014 as part of the federal health-reform bill. Hospitals are required to provide care regardless of a patient's ability to pay.

(Read More)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Waters bill to make schools safer passes House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill that will make school structures safer and prevent dangers like roof collapses passed the House Tuesday, a week after the anniversary of a Tempe school’s roof collapse.

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.”

On March 16, 2009, C.I. Waggoner Elementary School’s roof 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.

The collapse at Waggoner was just one incident in a disturbing trend of infrastructure failures at schools last year — McDowell Mountain Elementary in Fountain Hills and Santa Maria Middle School in Tolleson both endured roof collapses.

The bill passed the House unanimously.

For more information and photos of roof collapses and infrastructure issues please visit http://www.azsfb.gov/sfb/Announcements/ASBA%20Presentation%20121009.pdf.

To see an exclusive interview with Waters about her bill, please visit www.azhousedemocrats.com.

Republicans' wrong-track elimination of health care could cost Arizona billions in federal funding

End of KidsCare could cost state billions from feds
by Casey Newton
The Arizona Republic

Arizona's moves to reduce access to health care for low-income families appear to run afoul of federal reform legislation, putting at risk the state's entire allotment of Medicaid funding.

Gov. Jan Brewer last week signed into law a budget that eliminates health insurance
for about 350,000 adults and children, a move she says is essential to bring government spending in line with shrinking revenue.

But the elimination of KidsCare in June and a planned $385 million cut to the state's Medicaid program in January violate requirements of the health-care reform legislation awaiting President Barack Obama's signature, officials said.

The reform package requires states to continue providing health care at the funding level they are providing it when the legislation is signed, a requirement known as "maintenance of effort." Obama is expected to sign the package today.

"The short version is that states are locked into their existing programs at the moment the president signs the bill," said Monica Coury, spokeswoman for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. AHCCCS operates the state's Medicaid program.

(Read More)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sinema to attend landmark health reform bill signing at White House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema will attend President Obama’s bill signing ceremony for landmark health reform Tuesday at the White House.

In an historic moment Sunday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 3590, which puts American families and small business owners in control of their own health care and cracks down on waste, fraud and abuse.

“I am deeply honored and proud to support health reform that makes health care affordable for all families, provides greater accountability, ends discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions and gets our economy back on track,” Sinema said. “It is incredibly humbling to stand with President Obama during such an historic victory in our nation’s history. Tomorrow’s ceremony marks the culmination of nearly 100 years of attempted health reform and a new beginning for all Americans.”
Sinema was chosen last year as one of 32 state lawmakers nationwide for the White House Health Reform Task Force to help shape national health reform.

Sinema will stand in support while President Obama signs the bill Tuesday at 11 a.m. EST and will be available for comments before and after. To schedule an interview, please e-mail House Democratic PIO Sarah Muench at smuench@azleg.gov

House Democrats urge GOP to restore health care, close loophole

House Democrats urge GOP to restore health care, close loophole
Republicans' elimination of KidsCare eradicates all health-care federal matching funds


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats urged House Speaker Kirk Adams today to allow them to introduce bills that could save health care for children, seniors and adults by closing a simple tax loophole.

When Republicans and Gov. Jan Brewer eliminated health care for 42,000 Arizona children in their budget last week, they forfeited all future federal matching funds for health care in Arizona. Even if the federal matching dollars are gone, Arizona still will have to pay for this health care with state dollars, creating an even bigger budget deficit.

“Republicans just made tough times tougher and just pushed Arizona down the wrong track for years to come,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “It’s an easy fix to close just one tax loophole and restore health care for kids in Arizona so that we can make sure all Arizonans get their fair share of federal tax dollars.”

KidsCare, Arizona’s health care for middle-class children, has saved Arizona money in the long-run, providing preventative services to keep kids out of the emergency room.
The national health reform bill passed Sunday states that KidsCare must be maintained until 2019 to receive federal matching dollars for all health care.

“While Gov. Brewer and Republicans have chosen to eliminate KidsCare and the accompanying 3:1 federal match that accompanies it, I cannot understand that they would be willing to forfeit all of our federal Medicaid dollars,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “Today, House Democrats asked Speaker Adams to allow us to make this easy fix to save these vital programs for Arizona’s kids.”

If allowed by Speaker Adams to be introduced, House Democrats’ bills would close a tax loophole that gives away a tax break on warranty purchases and fully restore and fund KidsCare.

“Republicans knew the simple fix existed to close tax loopholes like this, but they chose to cut health care instead,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “Here’s a chance for them to do something right. I don’t know why anyone would refuse to close a loophole and rob health care from kids. It’s just wrong.”

(Read the Letter to the House Speaker and Chairman)
(Read the Letter to the Governor)
(Read the Letter to CMS)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sinema releases statement on health care

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema released the following statement in response to Republicans’ anti-health reform speak:

“Today Gov. Jan Brewer and Republicans continued to show they are more than willing to push Arizona further down the wrong track. On the same day Brewer boasted about signing a budget that kicks 400,000 kids, seniors and adults off of health care and eliminates 42,000 health-care jobs, she and her colleagues in the Party of No continued to oppose putting American families and small business owners in control of their own health care. There’s no telling what they will do to support big corporations and insurance companies.

“The President’s proposal:
* Makes insurance more affordable by providing the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, reducing premium costs for tens of millions of families and small business owners who are priced out of coverage today. This helps more than 32 million Americans afford health care who do not get it today – and makes coverage more affordable for many more.
*Sets up a new competitive health insurance market giving tens of millions of Americans the exact same insurance choices that members of Congress will have.
*Brings greater accountability to health care by laying out common-sense rules of the road to keep premiums down and prevent insurance industry abuses and denial of care.
*Will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.
* Brings down the national deficit by $130 billion in the first 10 years and $1.2 trillion in the next 10 years by cutting government overspending and reining in waste, fraud and abuse.
*Fills the “donut hole” entirely. The Medicare drug benefit provides vital help to seniors who take prescription drugs, but under current law, it leaves many beneficiaries without assistance when they need it most. Medicare stops paying for prescriptions after the plan and beneficiary have spent $2,830 on prescription drugs, and only starts paying again after out-of-pocket spending hits $4,550. This “donut hole” leaves seniors paying the full cost of expensive medicines, causing many to skip doses or not fill prescriptions at all – harming their health and raising other types of health costs.

“The President’s proposal also recognizes the early investment that some states have made in helping the uninsured by expanding Medicaid to adults with income below 100 percent of poverty by increasing those states’ matching rate on certain health care services by 8 percentage points beginning in 2014. Arizona was one of those states, thanks to the will of the voters when they passed Prop 204 back in 2000.

Unfortunately, Gov. Brewer and Republicans unlawfully reversed the will of the voters today. As a result, Arizona will lose $2.5 billion in enhanced matching funds for AHCCCS and $130 million in enhanced matching funds for Kids Care. While we’ll still be required to cover these populations in the future, thanks to their penny-wise and pound-foolish actions, we’ll now have to pay more out of our general fund.

“It is amazing that the same week Republicans and Gov. Brewer decide to lead our state down the wrong track and say how “tough” it was take away health care from 400,000 Arizonans, they reject a plan that would bring health care back to middle-class families.

“Republicans, who have been in the majority for more than 40 years, have failed to lead. It’s time for a change.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tovar to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), will join an effort for comprehensive immigration reform this weekend in Washington, D.C. at the March for America rally.

March for America is an open gathering on Sunday on the National Mall that urges Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, or the problem simply will get worse.

“I’m proud to participate in March for America along with many Arizonans this weekend,” Tovar said. “I will be urging Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year that will help America, and Arizona, get back on the right track.”

Comprehensive immigration reform would enhance border security, require employers to enforce immigration laws and level the playing field for law-abiding employers and workers.

“Republicans have failed to deal with crime and violence along the border and in our neighborhoods,” Tovar said. “We need tough immigration reform that cracks down on human smugglers, the illegal sale of weapons to drug cartels and other violent criminals, and we need to give law enforcement the tools they need to secure our borders. This is an issue that also requires leadership and action at the federal level or it will simply get worse.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Waters bill to make schools safer moving through House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill that will make school structures safer and prevent dangers like roof collapses passed a first vote in the House Monday, one day before the anniversary of a Tempe school’s roof collapse.

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)

Republicans cut from kids and seniors, want to give tax breaks to big corporations and the rich

Arizona lawmakers aim to wrap up session today
The Arizona Republic- Mary Jo Pitzl

The Legislature finished the heavy lifting on the state budget Thursday, but returns today to wrap up work on two bills in the Senate.

Even before the ink was dry on the $8.9 billion plan, protests were forming at the state Capitol over some of its cuts.

On Friday, caregivers and advocates for the poor held a news conference to plead that Gov. Jan Brewer reject cuts to a cash-assistance program that reduce the benefit to 36 months from the current 60 months. Advocates estimate 17,000 children will lose out once the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefit is reduced.

(Read More)

Friday, March 12, 2010

GOP votes to push Arizona further down the wrong track

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Republicans pushed Arizona further down the wrong track today when they passed a phony budget that eagerly cuts more from public safety, jobs, education and health care.

The GOP budget fails to solve the state’s economic crisis.

“Republicans’ failure to lead and create a balanced budget solution has just made tough times even tougher for Arizonans,” House Democratic Leader David Lujan said. “We are losing police officers off our streets and teachers from our classrooms, but they eagerly want to cut more. That’s not the right track.”

Republicans’ phony budget:

Triggers lawsuits and ultimately will save the state nothing. For example, Republicans’ cut 420,000 people off of health care, which violates a voter-passed initiative and can violate the state constitution.

Cuts another $765 million from K-12 education on top of the largest cut to education in state history last year, causing class sizes to grow larger and more teacher layoffs.

Cuts public safety jobs when we’re already missing police and firefighters from our neighborhoods by pushing costs onto cities and counties to shoulder the burden of the state.
Still eliminates the Department of Juvenile Corrections in one year, burdening cities and counties even further.

Closes the majority of state parks that bring vital tourism dollars to Arizona’s rural and small town communities.

“Republicans chose once again to eagerly cut public safety, jobs, education and health care,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “That’s no solution when these phony cuts will only trigger lawsuits and ultimately save the state nothing.”

Republicans also failed to lead when they crafted their budget behind closed doors, out of public view, and now they’re making Arizonans pay for it.

“Arizona can’t afford to lose more jobs, just like they can’t afford more bad budgets,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “Republicans’ failure to lead just shows that they’ve been in office for too long and it’s time for a change.”



-30-

GOP lawmakers won't cut own pay

Lawmakers won't cut own pay
HOWARD FISCHER Capitol Media Services | Posted: Friday, March 12, 2010 5:00 am

PHOENIX It's one thing to balance the state budget with a 5 percent pay cut for state workers.

But most Republican state senators said Thursday it's quite something else to cut their pay by the same amount.

On a 15-14 vote, the Senate killed a proposal by Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, to extend the across-the-board pay cut being mandated next year for most state workers should also apply to those who enact the budget.

"As an employer, I never ask my employees to do something that I'm not willing to ask myself to do also," said Cheuvront, who runs a wine bar.

"We are asking many people in this state to make sacrifices," he continued. "And we should also be willing to make those same sacrifices."

(Read more)

Republicans phony budget is no solution

Lawmakers OK bulk of GOP's strategy to slash $1.2 billion

AZ budget plan with major cuts advances
Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services | Posted: Friday, March 12, 2010 12:00 am

PHOENIX - State lawmakers approved most of a budget plan late Thursday to cut $1.2 billion in spending - if not more.

The package of measures, pushed through by Republican leaders over Democratic objections, is designed to help bring expenses into line with revenues. Aside from cuts, it also takes nearly $500 million from special funds and defers payment of some bills to balance the books.

But to make up the $2.7 billion deficit for next fiscal year, the budget presumes voters will approve a temporary 1-cent-per-dollar hike in the state sales tax in a special election May 18. If that fails, the plan calls for another $867.5 million in spending cuts, more than half of that in state aid to public schools.

Even with that, the plan still may not be in balance. The new budget year begins July 1.

The budget is built on the assumption voters will agree in November to repeal a 2006 mandate to fund programs for early childhood development.

Lawmakers want to use the $150 million a year raised from the 80-cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes, enacted in that initiative, to fund other programs. And they want to drain the estimated $325 million in the account.

While the House passed that measure, the Senate postponed a final vote until Monday to give GOP leaders the chance to round up the necessary votes.

The budget package also counts on taking another $123.5 million out of a fund to preserve open space in urban areas. That, too, will be on the November ballot since the fund was approved by voters in 1998.

And the spending plan also is built on decision by GOP lawmakers to remove more than 310,000 people from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program, to save $385 million. Voters mandated expanded coverage in 2000, with nearly 1.3 million Arizonans - close to 20 percent of the state population - now getting free care.

But Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said such a change without voter permission will be declared illegal. "That's about a billion dollars of phony budget solutions," she said. Sinema said there is no contingency plan if the two measures are defeated in November or if a judge voids changes in health-care eligibility.

The votes for the budget package, largely along party lines, came after Republicans beat back efforts by Democrats to restore funding for some programs.

Sen. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, said that makes no sense when there are alternate sources of revenue.

For example, she proposed doubling the state tax on hard liquor to $6.08 a gallon, with similar increases in the levies on beer and wine. McCune Davis said the money raised would partly restore funding for full-day kindergarten, at least at schools with a high percentage of needy children.

That was defeated, as was a proposal to subject soda and candy to the state sales tax to continue to fund certain optional medical services for the poor, like prosthetic devices, insulin pumps and transplants.

Sen. Paula Aboud, D-Tucson, had no better luck trying to keep funding for programs for the disabled by taking money from the Arizona Automobile Theft Prevention Authority.

While he didn't have a specific alternate funding source, Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, complained about raiding lottery proceeds that fund local bus and dial-a-ride services. "Many rural transit systems will be forced to shut down entirely," he said.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the $2.7 billion deficit leaves no choice.

"We stand in a situation where, over the last decade, we grew government at a particularly fast pace because the money was there," he said. Kavanagh said the recession sent tax collections into a tailspin.

But Sinema said there are alternatives.

She pointed out virtually all services are exempt from state sales taxes. Sinema said there is no reason not to tax country club memberships when education funding is being slashed.

The other piece of the budget awaiting final Senate action would repeal a tax break for retailers that lets them keep a small percentage of what they collect to cover their costs. Because that would raise state revenues, it requires a two-thirds vote, something that was lacking Thursday.

GOP lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer did agree to postpone one part of the plan that would have closed the Department of Juvenile Corrections and forced each county to house and pay for rehabilitation programs for delinquents. The issue will be studied for the next year.

In the interim, though, Pima County will need to give the state $6 million to defray costs, with another $38 million from Maricopa County.

GOP votes to pass wrong-track budget, eagerly cutting jobs, education and health care

Ariz. Lawmakers Pass Budget
Sarah Buduson
Reporter, KPHO.com

PHOENIX -- After eight months without a spending plan, Arizona lawmakers have passed a budget.

Lawmakers OK'd a spending plan for FY10-11 and closed a $700 million shortfall for FY10 Thursday night.

Gov. Jan Brewer is expected to sign the budget bills.

However, Democrats and the state treasurer said the budget leaves a lot of the state’s fiscal future up in the air.

"We believe this budget is a phony budget,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-District 15.

"It's not a balanced budget,” said Dean Martin, Arizona State Treasurer.

The governor’s spending plan counts on voters agreeing to a one percent sales tax increase in May.

It also assumes voters will give lawmakers permission to sweep millions of dollars from First Things First, a fund for early childhood services, and the Growing Smart Land Conservation Fund.

"If the voters don't agree to give those dollars to give to the state to fill the deficit, then this budget will be potentially a billion dollars back in the hole,” said Sinema.

The state could also face lawsuits over the plan to cut 310,000 adults from AHCCCS. If they are sued and lose, the state would be forced to re-enroll everyone on the state health plan.

"They may pass the budget today. It may get signed over the weekend, but this is long from being over,” said Martin.

Gov. Brewer’s spokesman, Paul Senseman, defended the budget.

“This is a very solid plan,” he said. “This budget is balanced, it's reasonable and it's the only budget that's been proposed."
Copyright 2010 by KPHO.com. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Republicans have been in office for more than 40 years. It's time for a change.

Arizonans, sweep out the Legislature

I just had an epiphany. I now know why the state legislators and Gov. Jan Brewer are working to cut the education budget. They want to ensure and perpetuate the status quo in our state Legislature by poorly educating the future voters.

This will ensure their re-election and ease passage of more inane bills that do nothing to move this state into the 21st century. Perpetuate our stagnation. Don't invest in the future.

(Read More)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Check out Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson, on 12News!

Republicans plan to shift budget burden onto counties, risk public safety just 'bad public policy'

No used tires in abandoned mines

The Explorer

A wrong-track bill that passed the House Wednesday will fill abandoned mines with old waste tires and will risk southern Arizona's public safety and health.

House Bill 2290, sponsored by Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma, poses risks of tire fires, where heavy soot and oil is released into the ground, contaminating vital water supplies and creating a public health risk.

Current law already dictates that materials used to seal mines cannot present a danger to Arizona's water standard, and using waste tires could do just that. No other states have laws allowing mines to be filled with tires, and most prohibit doing so.

The bill stipulates that after the mine has been filled with tires, at least 10 feet of earth must cover the tires. But this could possibly contaminate Arizona's already limited water supply. The decomposition of these tires could emit potentially harmful chemicals into the water that is vital to Arizona's residents.

(Read More)

Republicans still want to pass phony, wrong-track budget despite numerous concerns

Howard Fischer- Capitol Media Service

PHOENIX -- Legislative panels approved more than $1 billion in spending cuts, nearly $500 million in raids on special funds and some other budget maneuvers on Tuesday in their bid to balance the budget.

The votes in the House and Senate Appropriations committees, largely along party lines, came over the objections of various interests whose pet programs will get less funding or who are finding themselves with new financial obligations. Those calls went largely unheeded.

But there are indications that one element of the plan is in trouble.

House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, conceded that he may have to reconsider making counties responsible for housing juvenile delinquents. That move, which also is backed by Gov. Jan Brewer, would save the state $63 million a year.

Several lawmakers said they were concerned by claims by county officials that they have neither the staff nor the facilities to suddenly absorb what has for years been a state function. And Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma, pointed out that shift is coming without the state providing any cash.

(Read More)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Constituents invited to have ‘Coffee with Cloves’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Cloves C. Campbell Jr., D-Phoenix (District 16), is inviting constituents to discuss important issues and learn about their priorities over coffee on March 12.

Constituents will be able to meet with Campbell while he answers questions and discusses what’s happening at the Capitol.

“I value the priorities and concerns of my constituents,” Campbell said. “I look forward to sitting down with my constituents to get their input on issues like the state budget health care, jobs and education. This dialogue will help me better serve the community in my role as a state representative.”

When: Friday, March 12, 8 to 9:30 a.m.
Where: Starbucks, 2340 E. Baseline Road, Phoenix

No RSVP is required.

Farley to have ‘Coffee with Constituents’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Policy Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), is inviting constituents to discuss important issues and the current legislative session over coffee at K G’s East Side Café on March 27.

Constituents are encouraged to meet with Farley while he answers questions and discusses what’s happening at the Capitol over coffee and treats.

“It is my responsibility as a state representative to provide direct answers to the citizens I represent,” Farley said. “The priorities of Tucsonans always come first. I look forward to our dialogue addressing some of our shared concerns about health care, the job market and education.”

No RSVP is required.

When: Saturday, March 27, 1 to 2 p.m.
Where: K G’s East Side Café, 8735 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson

Republicans' wrong-track budget plan includes massive cuts to education, denies children access to health care

By Mary Jo Pitzl
The Arizona Republic

Lawmakers are poised to vote this week on a state budget that would eliminate health-care coverage for 47,000 children, remove 310,000 Arizonans from the state's Medicaid program and shift juvenile corrections to the counties.

And that's the kinder, gentler version of the fiscal 2011 budget.

Lawmakers based the plan on the assumption that voters will approve a temporary 1-cent-per-dollar increase in the state sales tax on May 18. If they don't, an alternative plan released Monday would cut an additional $918 million from the budget, with education - from K-12 to universities - absorbing 60 percent of the amount.

Residents will get their only chance to comment on the $8.9 billion budget and its myriad spending cuts in hearings today They start at 9:30 a.m. The budget has been worked out behind closed doors, with no public testimony and no input this year from agency directors. Lawmakers are hoping to wrap up work this week, although it was unclear whether they had the votes.

The budget tackles two budget years at once, erasing a $700 million deficit in this year's budget, as well as a $2.6 billion deficit for fiscal 2011.

The budget is an agreement between Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican legislative leadership; Democrats rejected invitations to submit their own budget, saying they wanted to be part of bipartisan talks.

(Read More)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Republicans to produce phony budget from behind closed doors

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Republicans are working behind closed doors away from the public to produce their own partisan and phony budget that only pushes Arizona farther down the wrong track.

After failing to even begin work on the budget after declaring last week “budget week” and after a year of unsuccessful attempts to solve the budget, Republicans will try again this week in a special session with their wrong-track and phony budget plans.

“It sounds a little bit too familiar — it’s the same failed leadership and the same failed budget process,” House Democratic Leader David said.“Once again, Republicans failed to do what they said they were going to do — work on the budget. Meanwhile, Arizona is still on the wrong track."

For example, Republicans want to take health care away from 417,000 people, something voters already approved in Proposition 204.

“Voter-passed initiatives like these are protected by the state constitution, and cutting hundreds of thousands of people from health care will only trigger a lawsuit, award health care back to Arizonans and ultimately will save the state nothing,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “This is just another phony attempt at cutting more from the budget, when in reality it will yield no results and only take away health care from kids, seniors and adults.”

Arizonans can see the same failed leadership in the way Republicans are handling the budget.

“All last year and this year, Republicans lied to the public, telling them that they would act in a transparent way in dealing with the budget,” House Democratic Policy Leader Steve Farley said. “Instead, they continue to craft a budget behind closed doors and are deciding the fate Arizona’s schoolchildren, their teachers and thousands of jobs. It’s time for a change.”

Wrong-track plan could cost more for Arizona schools.

The Yuma Sun

The last thing that local schools need as they struggle to cope with budget cuts is another mandated program that creates more paperwork and diverts resources away from the classroom.

Yet that is a distinct possibility if a proposal from State Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, makes it into law. He wants the schools to track how many students who are not legal residents of this country attend Arizona schools.

He openly admits that his goal really is a political one. He thinks it would help build a case so the U.S. Supreme Court can be challenged to reverse itself on the issue of educating children who are not legal residents of the nation.

(Read More)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Teachers rally against Brewer's wrong-track and massive cuts to education

Cronkite News Service

Katie Barnes said state lawmakers should spend time with her and other teachers before making deep cuts to education funding.

"These are tough times and there are tough decisions to be made, but continuing to attack education, teachers and education professionals is wrong," sad Barnes, who teaches American history to seventh-graders at Fees Middle School in Tempe.

"We work with kids and teach our subjects, so we know what we are talking about."

On Wednesday, Barnes and dozens of other teachers and education leaders descended on the State Capitol for the Arizona Education Association's March4Schools, hoping to make their case as lawmakers consider another round of budget cuts.

AEA President John Wright said cutting all-day kindergarten, AIMS intervention programs and career and technical programs would make Arizona less competitive.

"We are at risk of losing exactly the types of programs that international research says we need to be improving," he said.

(Read more)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Republicans pass wrong-track waste tire bill, threatening public safety, health

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The majority of Republicans voted to pass a bill today that allows scrap tires to be placed into abandoned mines, risking Arizonans’ safety and health.

House Bill 2290, sponsored by Republican Rep. Russ Jones, poses risks of tire fires where heavy soot and oil is released into the ground, contaminating vital water supplies and creating a public health risk.

“We don’t allow tires in our landfills,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson (District 29). “We should not allow tires in our mines. This bill would increase the threat to public safety and health from abandoned mines, and could harm economic markets for recycled tire products.”

Current state law requires materials used to fill mines not be flammable, not decompose, and not leak substances into groundwater. No other states have laws allowing mines to be filled with tires and most prohibit doing so.

"This bill is of concern because it could contaminate water supplies throughout Arizona,” said Rep. Nancy Young Wright, D-Tucson (District 26). “Clearly there is a reason why no other states across the country have done this, and it’s because it’s a public health risk. Other states do in fact specifically prohibit this practice.”

The Rubber Manufacturers Association is in strong opposition to this bill.

“Tires easily can be reused and recycled to create other products like rubberized asphalt, sport tracks and energy,” said Rep. Chris Deschene, D-St. Michaels (District 2). “It makes no sense to fill up old mines with tire resources that cause public safety and health risks.”

Patterson, Young Wright and Deschene are all members of the House Water and Energy Committee.

House to determine if abandoned mines can be filled with waste tires today

Verde Independent

Waste tires

The House gave preliminary approval Monday to a plan to see if abandoned mines can be filled with waste tires.

HB 2290 would let the state mine inspector pick three sites to place tires in the mines to close them up. Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, said the death of a 13-year-old girl several years ago who riding her all-terrain vehicle shows the danger of these unmarked and unprotected holes in the ground.

But Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, said he fears that the waste from the tires will end up polluting the water. "We don't allow tires in our landfills,' he said. "I don't think we should allow them in our mines.'

Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma, said all the legislation does is set up a test to determine if using tires can be done safely. A final roll-call vote sends the measure to the Senate.

Brewer's wrong-track budget could eliminate troubled youths' last chance

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Brewer’s Web site fails to cover her own cuts to jobs, education

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats were pleased today to hear that Gov. Jan Brewer announced a new Web site to help Arizonans suffering from the massive cuts she herself made to jobs and education, but it won’t reverse the damage she already has done.

Enlisting charity organizations’ help will be minimally helpful in the coming year when Brewer again eagerly cuts 400,000 more people off of health care and cuts at least $750 million more from education on top of the largest cut to education in state history last year.

“Bringing together charity organizations is a great idea, but it’s no replacement for the more than $1 billion in cuts to services Gov. Brewer and Republicans made so far during her administration, and it’s no replacement for taking health care away from 417,000 people,” Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema said.

Non-profit organizations themselves also are struggling to keep up with the increasing caseloads as a result of Republicans’ massive budget cuts to jobs, education and health care.

Brewer signed a budget last year that eliminated the 2-1-1 system, a nationally recognized model that served as a place for people to go to find information about non-profit and faith-based organizations.

“These organizations are incredibly important to middle-class families, and it’s important that Arizonans know where to turn during tough times — the 2-1-1 system did exactly that,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “When times are tough, it’s great to know that charities are helping out, but their help is a pebble in a lake of massive and deep wrong-track budget cuts that Brewer herself made and will eagerly make to middle-class families in Arizona.”

Campbell deemed a pioneer by ASU Black History Month Committee

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Cloves C. Campbell Jr., D-Phoenix (District 16), has been awarded with the Pioneer Award by the ASU Black History Month Committee.

Campbell received the award for more than 20 years of activism in the development of African-American life and culture. He accepted the award on Saturday, February 27, 2010 at the Ninth Annual Pioneer Award Dinner at Arizona State University’s West campus.

“It is an honor to be considered a pioneer in the African-American community,” Campbell said. “I am humbled to see how my involvement in the community and as a state representative has served as an inspiration to future generations.”

Campbell is the son of Arizona’s first black senator, the late Cloves Campbell Sr., and is currently Board Chairman and Co-Publisher of The Arizona Informant. The publication is the only African-American owned weekly newspaper in the state.

As a state representative, Campbell currently serves on the House Appropriations Committee, Banking and Insurance Committee and the sub-committee on Library and Archives.

The ASU Black History Month Committee is made up of 17 members and has presented The Pioneer Award to other civil rights activists including Jean Fairfax and Calvin C. Goode in previous years.

House Democratic leaders to encourage Latino participation in 2010 census

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader David Lujan and Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema will speak at a press conference Friday to encourage census participation among the Latino population.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a non-profit organization, is holding the press conference as a part of its “ya es hora” Campaign to encourage Latino participation in the 2010 census.

Press Confrence
When: Friday, March 5 at 1 p.m.
Where: House of Representatives Lawn, 1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix

For more information about the campaign, please visit www.yaeshora.info.

Monday, March 01, 2010