Monday, November 29, 2010

House Democrats urge immediate action on transplants

Death of transplant patient should be ‘wake-up call’ for GOP

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats again are calling on Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican majority, who have complete control of state government, to fix their admitted mistake on transplants before another Arizonan dies.

Mark Price, 37, died Sunday due to chemotherapy complications. He was one of many Arizona transplant patients who were denied care by Republicans. Luckily, an anonymous donor came to Price’s rescue, but Price died before the procedure could take place. See KTAR’s story here.

“This is an unbelievable tragedy,” said two-time transplant recipient Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13). “Mark Price was a hard-working Arizonan and my heart goes out to his family. Hopefully this will be the wake-up call for Gov. Brewer and Republicans to finally act.”

Like Price, Tovar suffered Leukemia. She was a bone marrow recipient.

“I know what Mark went through and he’s a fighter,” Tovar said. “There are nearly 100 more families in our state who are facing Brewercare death panels if it is not corrected. Gov. Brewer and Republicans, who made these cuts, admitted it was a mistake, have complete control of state government and have done absolutely nothing. This is outrageous.”

House Democrats are asking Brewer to use $30 million of unspent federal stimulus money to save the transplant patients. According to state economists, Brewer has $30 million in discretionary stimulus funds she can use at her will. She recently used $2 million on an algae program.

According to state economists, Brewer said she has used the $30 million, but has not disclosed to them how she used the funds. She also has hidden that fact from the public, prompting House Democrats to file a FOIA request (click here to view) with her office to uncover how she spent Arizona’s money. Brewer’s office has not responded.

To see more information on the transplant issue, including a fact check, timeline and vote detail, go to: http://www.azhousedemocrats.com/2010/11/fact-check-house-democrats-prove-brewer.html

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Arizona Republic FACT CHECK: 'Brewer wrong' on transplants

Transplant coverage for low-income Arizonans

By Mary Jo Pitzl
The Arizona Republic
November 22, 2010

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING AT: Gov. Jan Brewer has said the state can't afford to pay for certain transplant surgeries because of the constraints of the federal health-care-reform bill. Democrats say she's lying, and note Brewer could tap into federal stimulus dollars over which she has discretion to pay for the procedures. Alternatively, they argue she could call the Legislature into a special session to restore funding for the services. The rhetoric has been heated and impassioned: Incoming Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, has called the governor a “one-person death panel” because she refuses to act.

THE FORUM: Dueling news statements from legislative Democrats and Brewer.

ANALYSIS: The Legislature in March approved a fiscal 2011 budget that cut funding for optional services provided by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid alternative. That included coverage of certain transplant surgeries, including bone marrow, kidney, liver problems due to hepatitis C and others. Those cuts took effect Oct. 1.

The budget also eliminated 310,000 people from AHCCCS coverage as part of deficit-reduction moves. Those people would lose coverage as of Jan. 1.

Soon after the state budget was completed in March, President Barack Obama signed the federal health-care-reform bill into law. It locked the state into providing required Medicaid services at the level in place at the time. That meant Arizona had to continue covering the 310,000 people, or risk the loss of $7 billion in Medicaid dollars to services such as long-term-care centers. It did not have to continue optional services such as the transplants.

The state is obliged to continue the required coverage through fiscal 2014, when federal dollars would arrive to cover them. The state's estimated cost over the next three years is roughly $1 billion a year.

Although the state is part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the federal health-care-reform law, lawmakers and Brewer so far have concluded the state can't afford to ignore its requirements since $7 billion in Medicaid payments hangs in the balance. Therefore, they say they need to save money where they can - for example, by not covering optional services such as some transplants. However, the decision to cut off some transplant funding was made before the effects of the federal health-care bill were known.

Brewer has said she would consider restoring the transplant funding if she were provided ideas on where to raise the money.

Democrats last week said the governor could tap into federal stimulus dollars that she controls. The latest available accounting of those dollars, from May, shows the governor had $46 million at her disposal. It would cost about $800,000 to restore transplant coverage through the June 30 end of this fiscal year; another $1.4 million for the following year.

Brewer's office did not respond to requests on whether she would consider using the stimulus dollars. Her office also did not immediately respond to a public-records request for the amount of stimulus money still unspent.

THE FINDING: Brewer is wrong to directly link the denial of transplant coverage to federal health-care reform; it was a decision lawmakers made before the federal bill became law. But she is correct in noting that the federal law puts pressure on the state budget, which is facing chronic deficits.

Tovar honored with award from youth program she attended as teen


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), has been honored with an award by the Jobs for America’s Graduates, the same program for at-risk youth she attended as a teenager.

Now a successful state lawmaker, Tovar received the Legacy of Excellence Award for being an inspirational role-model for young people.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to a program that helped make me who I am,” Tovar said. “Right now, youth in Arizona deserve adequate, equitable and sustainable funding to make every public school a great school.”

Tovar, a 1992 graduate of Tolleson Union High School, entered the JAG youth development program that helped her graduate from high school and make a successful transition to postsecondary education and employment. She acts as a mentor for current JAG students who aspire to careers in civic leadership.

The organization has served more than 750,000 youth since 1980, including 12 months of post-graduation follow-up services that will result in the graduate pursuing a post-secondary education and/or entering the workforce in a quality job leading to a career.


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AZ Dems Lead Attack on Brewer for AHCCCS Cuts

http://www.myfoxphoenix.com/dpp/news/politics/state_politics/brewer-attack-ahcccs-cuts-11-23-2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Democratic lawmaker to hold Tucson town hall

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson (District 29) invites constituents to a town hall next week in Tucson.

When: Saturday, Dec. 4, 2 to 4 p.m.
Where: Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library, 4350 E. 22nd St., Tucson

At his eighth town hall, Patterson will discuss the upcoming session and hear from Tucsonans about their needs, ideas and concerns so he can take them with him to the capitol.

"Unfortunately, tough times are about to get tougher in Arizona, and I want to hear from the people I represent about their ideas and concerns for the state,” Patterson said. “Jobs, the economy, education, health care and our own public safety all are at stake. We need real solutions or Arizona will just continue down the wrong track.”

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Monday, November 22, 2010

McGuire’s efforts aid in helping state’s rural economy

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Thanks in part to Rep. Barbara McGuire's efforts to keep farming and rural economic development moving, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to not hinder Hayden's jobs and businesses.

The EPA has decided to allow ASARCO Mine to continue to operate in Hayden because the EPA has determined that the city has not failed to meet air quality standards. McGuire, D-Kearny (District 23), took the lead on the issue. She fought to allow mines and the communities and schools they economically support from Tucson to Apache Junction to Coolidge to stay in business.

McGuire supported farming and rural economic development by opposing the EPA's planned strict regulation this year. She also gained support for her bill that removes an unnecessary roadblock for operating mines also was signed into law. HB 2133 ensures that mines throughout the state are not penalized by the EPA for weather abnormalities that lead to inaccurate readings of air pollution by the mine.

The EPA's new policy almost doubles the stringency of the standard by which dust is regulated. Many farming activities kick up dust, and the economic impact this regulation would have on farmers and rural communities in Arizona could be devastating, hindering farmers' ability to maintain production and bringing economic growth to a standstill, McGuire said.

"I am relieved and proud that Hayden will be able to continue to grow and operate during such tough economic times," McGuire said. "We need rural towns, their businesses, families and values because they are the backbone of our state's economy."


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FACT CHECK: House Democrats prove Brewer lying about transplants

Brewercare creates death panels for transplant patients

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer is lying to the public about her cuts to funding for life-saving transplants, and House Democrats are holding her accountable.

Brewer lie #1: Federal health care law makes it too hard to fund transplants.
FACTS:
The federal health care law has nothing to do with transplants in Arizona. Brewer signed into law the cuts to life-saving transplants BEFORE the federal law passed.
The federal health care law in 2010 gave Brewer a choice by saying that if Arizona wants to keep federal matching money, it needs to maintain current spending on AHCCCS. However, transplants are not included in this requirement, which shows again that federal law has nothing to do with funding transplants in Arizona.
Every other state in the country funds transplants and they are bound to the same federal law.

Brewer lie #2: Brewer says the 2009 federal stimulus act came with rules saying she can’t make any cuts to AHCCCS that would allow her to free up money to spend on transplants. She claims that all the budget money went to AHCCCS, leaving no room to fund transplants, which weren’t included in the federal requirement.
FACT:
Brewer cut $60.6 million from AHCCCS after the stimulus bill passed, because the stimulus bill allowed all states to cut money from AHCCCS.

Transplant timeline:
January 2009
· Brewer cuts funding for transplants.
· The state legislature cuts the statutory requirement that AHCCCS provide transplants.
· Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema’s amendment successfully restores the statutory requirement but an amendment to restore the funding for transplants is not approved.
· Therefore, state law requires AHCCCS to provide transplants, but it also doesn’t allow specific funding for those transplants.
Bill: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/1s/bills/sb1004p.pdf
Floor Amendment: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/1s/adopted/s.1004grayctopb.pdf

February 2009
· Federal stimulus bill passes, which requires the state fund AHCCCS to a certain point and still allows major cuts to AHCCCS.
· Since the passage, Brewer has made more than $60.6 million in cuts to AHCCCS.
· AHCCCS continued covering transplants through October 2010 using general AHCCCS funds not appropriated to transplants.

March 2010
· Brewer eliminates the statutory requirement that AHCCCS cover transplants.
· Democratic amendments to restore it are unsuccessful.
· Federal health care law passes, saying the state must maintain AHCCCS funding to receive matching funds, but transplants are not part of that requirement.
Statute that eliminated certain transplants: http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/36/02907.htm&Title=36&DocType=ARS

September 2010
· Brewer spends $2 million on discretionary stimulus money on algae research.

October 2010
· Bone marrow transplant patient Mark Price loses AHCCCS coverage for his transplant surgery, is saved by a benefactor/donor.
· Brewer still has $30 million of discretionary stimulus dollars in her coffers, according to state economists.

November 2010
· A family friend of liver transplant patient Francisco Felix dies and donates her liver to him.
· Felix, who is on AHCCCS no longer has transplant coverage and is left with a few hours to come up with $200,000 to pay for the transplant.
· Felix loses his opportunity and the family friend’s liver goes to someone else.
· State economists say Brewer has said she used $30 million of discretionary stimulus dollars, but has not told the public what she used them for.
· House Democrats file a public records request to find out what she spent Arizona’s tax dollars on.
· State economists say transplants will cost only $1.2 million next year.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Group of counties honors Brown before retirement


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader Pro Tem Jack Brown, D-St. Johns (District 5), has been honored for his public service by the Arizona County Supervisors Association.
Brown, who is retiring on Jan. 9, has fought tirelessly to protect the interests of his constituents and those in other rural communities, the association’s members said.

“The key to his success was that he didn’t approach rural issues from a partisan standpoint,” said Jim Palmer, the association’s former president and longtime friend of the Brown family. “His ability to find common ground was the hallmark of his leadership.”

Left to right: Former CSA President Liz Archuleta, House Democratic Leader Pro Tem Jack Brown, and Greenlee County Supervisor Hector Ruedas celebrate Brown’s service. Photo from County Supervisors Association of Arizona.Brown received artwork depicting him on horseback in Apache County.

“We have always appreciated Jack’s wisdom and leadership,” said Freeport McMoran Inc. President “Red” Conger. “He experienced firsthand the importance of agriculture, ranching and mining to rural Arizona and our entire state. And, he has been a great champion to ensure these industries create jobs and strengthen communities into the future.”

Brown also recently was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Arizona Capitol Times and the Arizona Farm Bureau's Distinguished Service to Arizona Agriculture award.
"I'll continue working for the citizens of District 5 and all of Arizona in my retirement years,” Brown said. “I’m not done yet.”

Brown will continue to serve his constituents through Jan. 9. He is available at 602-926-4129.
Photo left to right: Former CSA President Liz Archuleta, House Democratic Leader Pro Tem Jack Brown, and Greenlee County Supervisor Hector Ruedas celebrate Brown’s service. Photo from County Supervisors Association of Arizona.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

House Democrats: ‘Brewer and GOP lying about transplants’

Caucus files public records request on Brewer’s use of discretionary stimulus dollars

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats are holding accountable Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican majority in the state legislature today for lying to the media and the public about funding for transplants.

Brewer’s office lied by blaming federal law on Tuesday for their own state cuts to transplants after a man was turned away from a liver transplant. In fact, Brewer and the Republican majority attempted to cut transplants in 2009, then successfully cut transplants in 2010 before the federal health care law passed.

“This was no one else’s choice but that of the Republican majority and Gov. Brewer, and it was theirs only,” said Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema. “Every other state in the entire country pays for these transplants, every single one. The federal law has nothing to do with this.”

In 2009, the transplant program was saved thanks to a Sinema amendment.

Republicans hide use of stimulus dollars, Democrats FOIA
No special session is needed to save the $5 million transplant program, and House Democrats are urging Brewer to use federal stimulus dollars to save the transplant patients. According to state economists, Brewer has $30 million in discretionary stimulus funds she can use on anything. She recently used $2 million on an algae program. According to state economists, Brewer said she has used the $30 million, but has not disclosed what she spent the money on. She also has not disclosed that to the public, so House Democrats have sent a FOIA request (click here to view) to her office to uncover how she spent Arizona’s money.

“This is absolutely outrageous,” said transplant survivor and state Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13). “Gov. Brewer and the Republican majority are acting as judge, jury and especially in this case, executioner, and they won’t even come face to face with Arizonans who will die because of their mistakes. What they are doing is wrong, disgusting and despicable.”

Francisco Felix, who was ready to receive a liver transplant Tuesday but was sent home due to cuts to AHCCCS, is now living out what likely will be his final days with his wife and four children.

“The Republican majority and Gov. Brewer need to be held accountable for lying to the public and turning their backs people whose lives hang in the balance,” said House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell. “They won’t even give the patients, the public or the media the time of day when it comes to tough issues like this or Arizona’s failed private prison system. The public needs to know that they won’t even face the people who elected them and explain themselves. They need to be held accountable.”

Voting history on cuts to transplants
HB 2010: health; budget reconciliation; 2010-2011. (Seventh Special Session in 2010), reference to the liver transplants with Hepatitis C is on page 21, line 37: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/7s/bills/hb2010h.pdf

The final House vote on transplants includes all House Democrats voting against it, with all House Republicans voting for it except for Rep. Doug Quelland: http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/49leg/7s/bills/hb2010.hthird.1.asp

The final Senate vote on transplants includes all Senate Democrats voting against it, with all Senate Republicans voting for it except for Sen. Jay Tibshraeny. Sen. Carolyn Allen did not vote: http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/49leg/7s/bills/hb2010.sthird.1.asp

Brewer then signed the bill into law.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

House Democrats demand funding for transplants, action from GOP majority

Man’s life threatened when discharged from scheduled transplant due to GOP health care cuts

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats are urging Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican majority to reinstate funding that will save a transplant candidate’s life, which is in jeopardy today due to their cuts.

Francisco Felix was discharged today from Banner Good Samaritan Hospital after losing his opportunity for a liver transplant, according to KTAR. The liver Felix was due to receive will be given to someone else because he was kicked off of AHCCCS thanks to cuts by a Republican majority and Brewer; Felix needed AHCCCS coverage or $200,000 to pay for it himself, his wife, Flor Felix said.

“This is outrageous,” said Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), a transplant survivor. “Republicans and Gov. Brewer should be ashamed of themselves for turning a blind eye to someone who has a family and will die without this transplant. They made the cuts and now Mr. Felix and his family will suffer the deadly consequences for Republicans’ decisions.”

On Oct. 5, House Appropriations Chair Rep. John Kavanagh told The Arizona Guardian:
"It does look like an error was made and needs to be corrected. We're not going to let people die because of a mistake. If a mistake was made, we'll come back and undo it... Obviously it will have to be in the next couple of weeks."

Kavanagh then made no effort to correct the mistake and now Felix’s life hangs in the balance.

“It is just unbelievable that Republicans, who now control virtually all of state government, would allow people to die on their watch due to their own mistake,” said House Democratic Leader David Lujan. “Gov. Brewer and Republicans need to correct this mistake by giving back what they took away from these families and ensuring that they have a chance to live.”

The Felix family reached out to Assistant House Democratic Leader Kyrsten Sinema Monday night before the scheduled transplant. The family asked Sinema for help because she has been working on reinstating the funding for months.

Felix’s wife is Flor Felix is available for comment at 623-695-5060. Sinema will be available for comment at 602-570-7217 until 3 p.m. and Tovar is available for comment after 4 p.m. at 623-208-3338.


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Thursday, November 04, 2010

House Democrats elect new leadership to hold GOP accountable

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats elected new leadership today that will hold Republicans accountable for their actions and fight for jobs, schools and small businesses to get Arizona’s economy moving again.

House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell will serve as House Democratic Leader, House Democratic Policy Leader Steve Farley will be Assistant House Democratic Leader and Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson (District 29) will be House Democratic Whip.

“We are Arizona’s new watchdog,” Campbell said. “Republicans own the budget mess they've created, and House Democrats plan to hold them accountable for their decisions. The voters deserve better than continued cuts to education and jobs.”

Campbell, a Phoenix native, graduate of Northern Arizona University and life-long Arizona resident, has served in the House since 2007 in District 14, which covers parts of central and West Phoenix.

“The absolute number one goal for Arizona has to be jobs and the economy,” said Farley, who is a small-business owner from Tucson, serving District 28 in the House since 2007. “It’s time we back our small businesses and get the economic engine of Arizona moving again.”

Heinz, who has served in the House since 2009 in District 29 which covers Tucson, is a hospital physician at Tucson Medical Center.

“Arizonans are entitled to jobs, no more cuts to education, big corporations and the rich paying their fair share in taxes and real solutions to border security,” Heinz said. “It’s time for accountability, and it’s way past time to get Arizona back on track.”


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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pancrazi named ‘Legislator of the Year’ by education organization

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24) has been named Legislator of the Year by an educational organization.

Arizona Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance selected Pancrazi for her commitment to keeping children healthy and active and her support of an education bill that requires school boards to consider providing at least 30 total minutes of recess each day grades K-5.

“The Recess Bill is a great start to educating the whole child,” said Vicky Bonavito, the organization’s president-elect. “We are also honored by the effort that Rep. Pancrazi has exhibited throughout the years as to the importance of PE in the academic day.”

The organization’s mission is to promote healthful lifestyles through quality education for populations and provide leadership to school, community and statewide programs in the areas of health, physical education, recreation, dance and other movement-related programs.

“I am so honored and thankful to AzAHPERD and I’m pleased to be able to work with them to make sure Arizona kids are getting the physical education they need so they can be healthy Arizonans,” Pancrazi said. “As a former sports coach, I know the importance of exercise for children at a time when the obesity rate in our country is overwhelming. Teaching children the health benefits of exercise is key to their physical future.”

For more information about the organization, go to www.azahperd.org.
Attached photo: Kathy Dean, current president of the Arizona Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, presents the Legislator of the Year Award to Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24).
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