Thursday, March 31, 2011

GOP sucker punches Ariz. with more massive cuts to schools

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats are holding House Republicans accountable for their irresponsible budget that increases class sizes, steals money from voters and raises taxes on middle-class families.

House Republicans passed through committee on Thursday a budget that makes more massive cuts to education, diverts voter-approved funds to GOP pet projects and shifts the property tax burden even more heavily onto the shoulders of Arizona’s struggling middle-class.

“When is government and the Republicans who control it going to stop working for special interests and start working for We the People?” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “This budget is littered with the wrong priorities for Arizona and we’re sick of it. Arizona’s parents, kids, teachers and business leaders are sick of it. It’s time to hold Republicans accountable and fix a broken system.”

House Republicans’ budget:
-Cuts universities by $200 million and community colleges by $73 million.
-Cuts $180 million from K-12 education, which will increase our kids’ classroom sizes to more than 40. These cuts come after the largest cut to education in state history made by Republicans in the last two years and a tax increase voters approved for education.
-Shifts the costs of the state budget onto our struggling cities and counties. It requires five of Arizona’s counties to "donate" nearly $40 million to solving the state's budget mess.
-Requires counties to incarcerate any convicted felon given a sentence of less than a year, shifting $55 million in costs to counties and increasing taxes on homeowners.
-Shifts an additional $39 million of the burden of running the Motor Vehicle Division to cities and counties.
-Eliminates child care for working families struggling to keep their jobs during tough times and limits temporary aid to those families to 24 months, two thirds of what is now permitted.
-Cuts health care funding that will result in 45,000 jobs lost (Arizona Chamber of Commerce study from last year's similar proposal to eliminate Prop 204 funded populations) and doesn’t solve the transplant issue.
-Cuts 280,000 people off of health care.

House Republicans told the public about their budget only minutes before they began debating it in the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

“Arizonans deserve a government that is honest, open and transparent, but Republicans, who control all of state government, created their budget behind closed doors, where they determined the fate of Arizona’s middle-class families,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “That fate includes fewer jobs, a poor economy and a broken system that only helps rich CEOs and lobbyists.”

Business leaders have recently criticized Republicans for their massive cuts to education and their failure to fix a broken system.

“Republicans approved massive education cuts, increased class sizes, pay cuts for thousands of teachers and elimination of critical programs that help students get ahead in the worldwide economy,” said House Democratic Whip Anna Tovar. “Now Arizona spends less on our students than any other state in the country. Yet Republicans are proposing even deeper cuts to our local schools. Let’s hold them accountable.”


Democratic lawmakers to hold statewide ‘Office Hours’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Democratic lawmakers invite the public to meet and talk with them at a statewide “Office Hours” event on April 9.

Democratic legislators will host “Office Hours” in their districts to meet their constituents, address their concerns and answer questions.

“This is incredibly important that we continue to have open discussions and do our job as state representatives and senators,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16), who pioneered the event.

Office Hours will occur at the following locations:

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, Rep. Debbie McCune Davis and Sen. Robert Meza (District 14)
When: April 9, 10 a.m. to noon
Where: Fair Trade Cafe, 1020 N. First Ave., Phoenix

Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley and Rep. Bruce Wheeler (District 28)
When: April 9, 3 to 5 p.m.
Where: Grace St. Paul’s Church, 2331 E. Adams St., Tucson

Rep. Ruben Gallego, Rep. Catherine Miranda and Assistant Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor (District 16)
When: April 9, 10 to noon
Where: Starbucks, 5150 W. Baseline Road, Phoenix

Rep. Anna Tovar and Rep. Richard Miranda (District 13)
When: April 9, 11 a.m. to noon
Where: City of Tolleson Whoopee Daze Festival at Veterans Park, 8601 W. Van Buren St., Tolleson

Rep. Lynne Pancrazi (District 24)
When: April 9, 3 to 4 p.m.
Where: Yuma Main Library, 2951 S. 21st Drive, Yuma

House Democrats: ‘Pressure’s on for GOP to restore transplants’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Transplant patients and House Democrats are urging Republicans to act now to restore transplants after Gov. Jan Brewer reversed her stance today after six months of opposition to grant the life-saving procedures.

After at least two Arizonans died, Brewer finally said today in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that she would support restoring transplants (see letter). But that action still depends on the Republican-controlled legislature to make it happen in their budget, and even then, the restoration wouldn’t take effect until at least 90 days after the budget is signed.

“After six grueling months of living each day like it’s their last, this is exciting news for all of the men and women who need transplants in order to live, but we aren’t out of the woods yet,” said two-time transplant recipient and House Minority Whip Anna Tovar. “Republican lawmakers still refuse to restore transplants, and Gov. Brewer still hasn’t signed a budget. They need to be held accountable, and now the pressure’s on for them to act.”

Tovar, who underwent two bone-marrow transplants for leukemia, has been a champion for nearly 100 Arizonans who need transplants to live.

On Oct. 1, 2010, transplant cuts went into effect and nearly 100 Arizonans were denied medical care for transplants. Reinstating transplant funding this year would cost $1.2 million, or one tenth of 1 percent of Arizona’s total budget deficit. For a timeline on the transplant issue, go to:

In response to Brewer’s requests, Tovar and several other Democratic lawmakers have proposed several bills to fund transplants. One of Tovar’s bills, HB 2605, restores transplant funding by closing Arizona’s Accounting Tax Credit Loophole. This bill would end a tax credit of up to $10,000 each that big corporations and special interests receive just to do their taxes and would bring in $20 million. Brewer has ignored these proposals.

Kim Vega, sister of Douglas Gravagna, who needs a heart transplant, said she is cautiously optimistic and thankful for Democrats’ help when Republicans and Brewer turned a blind eye for nearly half a year while her brother suffered.

“This is only a flicker of hope, and we will continue this fight that I’m in not only for my brother but also for all transplant patients who need this vital care in order to survive,” Vega said. “We are thankful that Gov. Brewer seems to finally be listening to us after these long months, and I want to thank Rep. Tovar and all of the Democrats and Arizonans who helped us when no one else would. We hope that Republicans finally act so that we can have a positive outcome. Everyone deserves a chance at life.”

Tovar said she will continue to work with all transplant patients to hold Brewer to her intentions.

“I know that these families and their loved ones are fighting for their lives and I know how difficult that can be,” Tovar said. “It’s time to hold government accountable and make sure Republicans listen to We the People.”


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hobbs named Social Worker of the Year

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), has been named Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

Hobbs was selected by the association’s Arizona chapter for her commitment to fighting for vulnerable populations in Arizona.

“I am honored to receive such a prestigious award from an organization so admired for its efforts in social work,” Hobbs said. “I will continue to fight for essential services to preserve our communities.”

The association is the largest professional group of social workers in Arizona with more than 2,000 members.

The organization is dedicated to promoting the quality and effectiveness of social work practice in a state rich with diversity.

Before serving as a legislator, Hobbs was active in fighting issues like domestic violence and homelessness. Hobbs has been a professional social worker since 1992.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

‘Effective leader’ Tovar selected as new House Minority Whip

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats selected on Tuesday Rep. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13) as their new Minority Whip, citing her strong leadership and work ethic.

Tovar replaces Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson (District 29), who stepped down last week in order to devote more of his time to the legislative process.

“Rep. Tovar always has been an effective and strong leader, and I am confident she will exceed expectations as whip,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “Anna is always willing to talk and work with colleagues and solve an issue from the bottom up.”

Tovar, who has fought tirelessly to restore life-saving transplants for Arizonans, has a history of public service.

For the past two and a half years, Tovar, a Tolleson native, has served as a state representative for District 13, serving on the House Judiciary, Education, and Appropriations committees.

Before becoming a lawmaker, Tovar served as the vice mayor of Tolleson for two years and on the Tolleson City Council for seven and a half years.

She was a member of the Maricopa Association of Governments, Tolleson’s Park Committee and Teen Council. She also was a Board Member for the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“Rep. Tovar is one of the hardest working members in our caucus, and her balanced approach is part of what makes her an honest and efficient leader,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “As a two-time transplant survivor herself, Anna has worked day and night to help Arizonans regain the life-saving transplants Gov. Jan Brewer and Republicans eliminated.”

Also a former teacher at Tolleson Elementary, Tovar has served as Tolleson Elementary School PTA Vice President and Tolleson Teacher Education Association Vice President. On a national level, Tovar has been a member of the National League of Cities, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, Women in Municipal Government, Young Elected Officials and the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.

She also is a board member for Jobs for Arizona Graduates (JAG), Friendly House and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society of Arizona. As a former high school basketball player, Tovar enjoys shooting hoops with her two sons and husband.

“It is an honor to be voted by my peers for a job to work with and among them on a broader level,” Tovar said. “It’s time we work together to hold government accountable to We the People.”


Monday, March 28, 2011

House Democrats call out GOP plan to steal from public safety officers

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats are holding Republicans accountable for voting against public safety officers’ lifetime service.

House Republicans voted in committee to steal retirement from firefighters, police and correctional officers in Arizona with passing Senate Bill 1609, which now goes to the House floor.

“House Democrats support the men and women who protect our families every day by putting their lives on the line, and it is unconscionable that government could vote to make their lives even harder after serving our communities,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “Now more than ever, we need to hold government accountable to We the People.”

SB 1609 would:
-Make it difficult to recruit and retain public safety officers and protect family members’ when an officer is injured or killed in the line of duty.
-Not allow for a cost of living adjustment for approximately 17 years. The adjustment is currently used to offset increasing health care costs because public safety officers don’t qualify for Medicare or receive social security.
-Reduce the amount of an officer’s pension from 75 percent to 50 percent that is transferred to the widow or widower of an officer killed in the line of duty.
-Require law enforcement personnel to work five years longer before being eligible to retire.
-Increase the amount that public safety officers are required to contribute from their salary into their retirement plans at a drastic rate.

“Once again, state government is stealing money away from our hardworking Arizonans to pay for their own tax breaks to their rich and special interest friends,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “Instead of working with the men and women who risk their lives every day to preserve our communities and protect and serve our families, Republicans dishonor them with their disregard for our officers’ families.”

Firefighters, police and correctional officers took a balanced approach to fix the bill and have offered amendments, but Republicans voted against them and passed it. Police stated that Republicans’ claims that law enforcement pension systems are on the verge of collapse are incorrect.

“The state constitution already protects public safety officers’ retirement through a voter-approved measure and this bill undermines the will of Arizona voters,” said Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24). “These are the people on the front lines, protecting our citizens every single day, and they deserve retirement where enjoying basic necessities of life like health care does not turn into a luxury.”


Monday, March 21, 2011

House Democrats hold GOP accountable for plan to ax education

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats are taking on the politicians at the capitol who have jeopardized Arizona’s future by repeatedly slashing funding for our local public schools and plan to do so again with the Senate Republicans’ budget.

“House Democrats know that quality education is both a moral and economic issue — key to both our state’s economic recovery and children’s future,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “It is completely irresponsible and makes no sense to massively cut something that so greatly contributes to our economic recovery.”

The Senate Republicans’ budget, headed for the House:
-Cuts an additional $172 million from K-12 education over the governor’s budget, which will increase our kids’ classroom sizes exponentially.
-Cuts universities by $65 million more than the $170 million reduction proposed by Gov. Jan Brewer
-Cuts $73 million from community colleges.

These cuts come after the largest cut to education in state history made by Republicans in the last two years and it takes away what voters intended to do as a last resort by increasing the sales tax – fund our kids’ schools.

“In the Senate Republicans’ budget, one of the biggest cuts to education is to higher education, which is one of the biggest economic generators in Arizona,” said Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff (District 2), ranking member on the House Higher Education Committee. “Let’s think about that for a moment: The biggest cut in this budget is a cut to one of the biggest economic generators in Arizona. It’s cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
Instead of going after tax cheats and uncollected taxes, Republicans made massive cuts to an economic generator and thus, a strong future. There are nearly $10 billion of exemptions from the sales tax in Arizona, but Republicans refuse to close the loopholes that benefit their rich, special interest friends.

“Meanwhile, House Democrats are fighting to fully fund our schools, ensuring our children have access to all-day Kindergarten and that our public universities and community colleges remain affordable and provide needed job training for all Arizonans,” said Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix (District 15).


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

House Democrats hold Brewer accountable for irresponsible health care plan

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer’s new ideas on how to devastate health care for seniors, kids and adults in Arizona is another irresponsible plan that shows Republicans in the state legislature are not on your side, House Democrats said Wednesday.

Brewer’s newest proposal cuts more than half a billion dollars from hospitals.

“Gov. Brewer’s wrong priorities are failing to fix Arizona’s broken system and we’re holding her accountable,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “It’s time for accountability — plain and simple. It’s time that government and the Republicans who control it stop working for special interests and start working for We the People.”

Brewer’s plan would:

-Slash health care payments to providers by 5 percent on Oct. 1 on top of a 5 percent cut already set to take place on April 1.
-Drive up the cumulative cuts to Arizona hospitals to $1.3 billion, contributing to the lack of affordable health care and shortage of doctors in rural areas.
-Force Arizona hospitals to cut jobs and life-saving services.
-Increase costs of health insurance for families.

“This ridiculous plan continues to drive Arizona backward by axing more jobs at a time of 10 percent unemployment,” Campbell said. “A lot of things aren’t making sense right now in Arizona and the governor is no exception. It’s past due for a government that is on your side: a good government, a government that is transparent and a responsive, efficient government. It’s time to hold government accountable to We the People.”


Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Hobbs bill to hold dentists accountable passes House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill by Rep. Katie Hobbs’, D-Phoenix (District 15), which provides more accountability for dental patients passed the House today.

House Bill 2554 is designed to allow the State Board of Dental Examiners to facilitate to patients’ needs by examining the dental licensees in the state more thoroughly. The board would investigate complaints made by the public and dental professionals, and consequences would be considered, should disciplinary action be necessary.

“This bill will be effective in allowing transparency in our dental system to assure better public safety for Arizona citizens,” Hobbs said.

The current board consists of six licensed dentists, two licensed dental hygienists, two public members and a business entity member all appointed by the governor to serve four-year terms. The board’s mission, for as long as it has been in existence, has been to “provide professional, courteous service and information to the dental profession and the general public,” as stated in the law. The board oversees approximately 8,100 licensees practicing in the state.

Hobbs’ bill updates the investigating process of the board to make it more efficient.


Monday, March 07, 2011

Arizonans agree GOP lacks common sense on guns

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats are holding government accountable by showing that most Arizonans don’t agree with Republicans’ wrong focus — more lenient gun laws.

Instead, House Democrats are focused on jobs, the economy and education and say Republicans should be too.

“I am a gun-toting Arizonan and I am a proud owner of an Interarms .40-caliber handgun,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “I respect and believe in the Second Amendment. I also believe in common sense. And right now, Republicans at the legislature are not taking a balanced, common-sense approach, and it’s time we hold them accountable.”

A recent poll showed that Republican priorities don’t match those of Arizona. The poll, carried out by Republican polling firms and published in the Arizona Daily Star, showed that 47 percent of Arizonans live in a household where guns are owned.

Of those living in gun-owning Arizona households, only 8 percent favored more lenient gun laws, 56 percent said they want gun laws to stay the same, and 35 percent said they want stricter gun laws.

“Right now, our state’s unemployment rate is still 9.6 percent, we still have one of the top foreclosure rates in the country and nearly 100 Arizonans’ lives are at stake because Republicans eliminated their life-saving transplants,” Campbell said. “Our priority at the capitol should be improving citizens’ quality of life, not looser gun bills we don’t really need now.”

Republicans are sponsoring the following gun bills:
SB 1201: Prevents the banning of firearms in public buildings and public events, including places where people are drinking alcohol. (Gould)
SB 1335: Allows jackrabbits, raccoons and predatory animals to be hunted during nighttime hours, which is dangerous and should be the decision of the Arizona Game & Fish Department. (Antenori)
HB 2563: Would make it easier for mentally ill people to get their gun rights restored. (Harper)
HB 2001: Would allow community colleges and university faculty to carry concealed weapons on Arizona college campuses if they have a proper permit. (Harper)
HB 2014: Would allow gun holders with valid permits to carry guns on ASU campuses. (Harper)
HB 2392: Allows a person who lawfully owns a gun to carry it immediately outside school grounds. (Seel)
HB 2479: Prohibits the governing board of an education institution to restrict firearms on campuses. (Gowan)
Just last year Republicans passed bills that allow guns in bars and college-aged students to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, which means they are no longer required to take gun safety classes and target practice, and therefore, may have little knowledge of using a gun.

“Arizona gun owners believe in the Second Amendment and they too believe in common sense,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16), a former Marine who fought in Iraq. “These same people don’t support these bills. But what they do support is fixing Arizona’s broken system, preserving our communities and creating world-class education for our children. It’s time to hold Republicans accountable so that we can finally have honesty and effectiveness in government.”


Distracted driving victim’s father: ‘Pass public safety bills’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A father whose son was killed by a texting driver joined Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley on Monday and urged lawmakers to support bills addressing distracted driving.

Dr. Robert Okerblom retold the horrific story about his son Eric, who was killed in 2009 while bicycling by a teenage driver distracted while using her cell phone.

“I function well and I laugh and I enjoy things but I still have not fully learned to accept that this is the way life is," Okerblom told to a San Diego newspaper. "That a good, wonderful person could be killed from – not malice, just their inattention – and they’re gone.”

Okerblom will only be in the Phoenix area briefly. He left San Diego on Sunday morning as part of a cycling trip across the country to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

Farley discussed two bills that address distracted driving.
· HB 2426, which Farley introduced, prohibits people under 18 from driving a vehicle on a highway while using any wireless communication devices.
· SB 1538, which Farley is also supporting, prohibits texting while driving.

Farley citied a 2010 study by the American Journal of Public Health that texting while driving likely caused more than 16,000 road fatalities between 2002 and 2007.

"In 2007, I was the first legislator in the United States to introduce legislation banning driving while texting and I continue to fight for a law to protect Arizonans today," Farley said. "If Arizona passes common-sense laws like HB 2426 and SB 1538, we might be able to prevent tragic deaths like that of Dr. Okerblom's son."

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

House Democrats' News of the Day

Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15) and House Minority Whip Matt Heinz advocate for a woman's right to choose

GOP admits they have money for transplants, but won't fund them

House Minority Leader Steve Farley listens to union members' concerns about GOP legislation at the capitol on Monday

House Minority Whip Matt Heinz advocates for the University of Arizona's medical programs in light of dangerous GOP legislation

Heinz bill helping authorities, doctors ID medical marijuana use passes House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Minority Whip Matt Heinz’s bipartisan bill that gives authorities and medical providers a new tool to identify illegal activity of medical marijuana and to ensure patient safety passed the House today.

House Bill 2585, sponsored by Heinz and Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 11), both physicians, adds medical marijuana to a list of controlled substances dispensed by doctors and pharmacies.

The Arizona State Board of Pharmacy currently keeps a comprehensive database of controlled substances dispensed by doctors and pharmacies and assists authorities to identify illegal activity. The bill would add medical marijuana to that database.

“Now that medical marijuana has been approved by Arizona to aid those who need it for medical conditions, it is equally important to fight its abuse,” Heinz said. “It’s important that authorities have the tools to identify if it falls into the wrong hands and it’s also important that doctors can identify what medicine patients are using when administering other drugs.”