Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Republicans fail to make government work for Arizona families

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats released the following statements Wednesday after the legislative session ended:
“This session should be remembered for controversial bills like the birther bill, the guns on campus bill and the bill to give the Tea Party its own Arizona plate. This legislation, all sponsored by Republicans, who have total control of state government, is a waste of time for the state, and that’s exactly what this session was. Arizona is still at a 9.5 percent unemployment rate, we’re still second in the nation in foreclosures and nearly last in the nation in education funding. None of that has been fixed and most of it has been made worse.” –House Minority Leader Chad Campbell

“The sad part is that Republicans continue to tout their corporate bailout package, what they call a ‘jobs’ bill, although it doesn’t create single job in Arizona. Instead it gives away tax breaks to big, out-of-state corporations when they should be paying their fair share. It increases taxes on homeowners and continues to make Arizona fall behind the rest of the nation in economic recovery.” –Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley

“What Republicans and Gov. Jan Brewer have done this session negatively affects the quality of life of Arizona families. Due to their massive cuts to higher education, our kids won’t have access to good-paying jobs or be able to compete in the worldwide economy. It’s time that we get our money’s worth from government, elect responsible leaders and apply strict accountability measures to keep politicians in line at the capitol.” –House Minority Whip Anna Tovar


GOP works hard to pass state firearm bill, doesn’t lift a finger on jobless aid

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Minority Whip Anna Tovar released the following statement today on making the Colt Action Army Revolver the official state firearm (SB 1610), which passed the House and will be sent to the governor:

“Another day, another waste of taxpayers’ time and money at the state capitol. My family owns guns, and I’m embarrassed that state government chose to spend hours on a state gun — even brought it back on reconsideration after it was defeated — instead of changing one word in statute to ensure 20,000 Arizonans’ jobless aid isn’t cut off during tough times. This is absolutely ridiculous and offensive, and it’s even more humiliating that the weapon they chose isn’t even manufactured in Arizona. It’s time for a change.”


Chabin bill to effectively sterilize cats and dogs goes to governor

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill by Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff (District 2), that allows veterinarians more options for sterilizing cats and dogs has been sent to the governor for her signature.

Chabin’s HB 2137, allows for sterilization by other means, such as medicinal sterilization. This allows Arizona to “expedite the successful introduction of methods to non-surgically sterilize dogs and cats and to support the distribution and promotion of these products to humanely control cat and dog populations worldwide,” as stated by the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs.

“This bill is another tool and cost-effective method for veterinarians,” Chabin said. “I’m happy to highlight an NAU professor while helping Arizonans’ pets find good homes and their owners find jobs at the same time.”

According to statute, Arizona law requires that all dogs or cats being released for adoption or released to its owner from a county, city or town pound or from an animal shelter to have been surgically spayed or neutered first.

Dr. Loretta Mayer, Assistant Research Professor at Northern Arizona University, who developed the medicinal method and supports the bill, said it improves the health and welfare of cats and dogs in the state.

With the signing of the bill, Mayer will start clinical trials for FDA approval for a product that is being used in other parts of the world. That product will soon be manufactured in Phoenix, and her company will create more than 100 new jobs in Flagstaff.

The bill was also amended to include an ordinance holding dog owner’s responsible for a “dog-on-dog” attack. Glendale residents Richard and Sally Andrade have been working to pass such a law after an unleashed pit bull attacked and killed their dog Fabian two years ago. No current law holding pet owners criminally liable for “dog-on-dog” attacks exists. Since Fabian’s death, there have been more than 900 similar “dog-on-dog” attacks in Maricopa County alone, the couple said.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Meyer bill to boost school savings sent to governor

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bipartisan bill by Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 11), that saves school districts money by allowing them to efficiently and cheaply store public records was sent to the governor Tuesday night.

“This is a balanced, responsible solution for schools that makes schools more efficient and effective,” Meyer said. “It will save school districts thousands of dollars each year.”

State law requires school districts to store public records on microfilm, which costs schools thousands of dollars each year.

Meyer’s bill, HB 2670, which was amended onto SB 1263, instead allows school districts to store public records on either paper or in electronic format, or a combination of both. The records each district must maintain include transcripts and immunization records.

“Quality education is both a moral and economic issue, key to both our state’s economic recovery and children’s future,” Meyer said. “It is critical we invest in Arizona's children to ensure our schools receive proper funding. I believe in a government that is honest and effective, but the current record-keeping system in Arizona is wasteful and burdensome. It’s time that taxpayers’ dollars are spent in the classroom.”


Hobbs bill to hold dentists accountable signed into law

A bill by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), which provides more accountability for dental patients, was signed into law 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 b
e 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.

Harmful special-interest, power-line bill dies in House

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats and their colleagues worked late Monday to defeat a bill that would have given more power to special interests and damaged Arizona’s property rights, wildlife and beautiful lands.

SB 1517, sponsored by Rep. Frank Pratt, R-Casa Grande (District 23) and Sen. Al Melvin, R-Saddlebrooke (District 26), would have allowed special interests to bypass a state power-line siting committee, instead use a weaker federal process and rush to build power lines over rural counties and conservation areas. It would have allowed huge power lines to be built without public hearings or input.

“I’m thankful to all of my colleagues, Democratic and Republican, who saw the harmful potential of this bill to our Arizona lands,” said Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson (District 29), Ranking Member on the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “The few who supported this bill were the few who supported special interests over Arizona and closed doors over transparency. That is never the right thing to do. Government should work for ‘We, the people’.”

The bill died in the House on a 14-40 vote.

Monday, April 18, 2011

GOP passes special interest bill giving Tea Party special Arizona license plate

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Minority Leader Chad Campbell released the following statement tonight on Tea Party license plate bill (SB 1402), which was sent to the governor:

“Arizonans are sick of the shenanigans. Here again is another wasteful bill that Republicans, who control all of state government, passed on behalf of their special interest friends. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ time and money, and it’s a waste of state government. We’re all fed up with the way those in control are abusing a government that is supposed to work for Arizona families, that is supposed to be honest and effective. A bill to give a special license plate away to raise money for the Tea Party is not something that will help this state dig itself out of a recession, help families get jobs, help schoolchildren get a better education or help businesses to grow. It’s time for strict accountability measures that make government work for Arizonans.”


House Democrats urge jobless aid fix

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats urged Republicans today to fix language in state law so 20,000 Arizonans do not lose their unemployment benefits as early as May.

The fix is simple, and Republicans, who control all of state government, should make the change to boost Arizona’s economy and help middle-class families find jobs, House Democrats said. They want Republicans to amend HB 2619 to include the fix.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “While the nation’s unemployment rate is getting better, Arizona’s is hovering at 9.5 percent. Republicans need to step up and fix this so Arizonans can get jobs.”

Nearly 20,000 Arizonans who are unemployed due to economic hard times could lose jobless aid in May if Republicans refuse to act on fixing language in state law. The state also will lose $4.5 million a week being pumped into the economy.

Because of the economic downturn, Congress voted to expand unemployment benefits. Workers qualify for an additional federal unemployment aid, for a total of 99 weeks. Extended benefits are those paid during the final 20 weeks of that 99-week period.

At issue is a state law that helps Arizonans take advantage of federal unemployment aid. Arizonans get extended benefits because the state's unemployment rate has remained high. But it will lose the aid because the rate fell slightly, although overall, it is still high.

The complex formula compares the current three-month average unemployment rate with what that average was two years ago. If the legislature changes the "look back" provision from two years to three years, Arizona will continue to get the federal unemployment benefits.

“I talk face-to-face with my constituents to understand their concerns about the state, and by far their number one concern is jobs,” said Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14). “Choosing not to make this fix could mean the difference between a laid-off, middle-class father being unable to put food on the table and finding a job.”

Fixing the language wouldn’t cost the state at all, and although the legislative session is wrapping up, the fix can be done quickly.

“Although we have little time in the session, there is still a bill that could be amended to include this fix,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28). “Let’s not forget that Republicans were quick to act on matters like HB 2549, an emergency measure to give Arizona an official nickname. Bottom line, this can be done and it can be done before 20,000 Arizona families lose their unemployment insurance and have to suffer more.”


Monday, April 11, 2011

House Democrats thank transplant patients, urge audit of AHCCCS

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats thanked transplant patients today for fighting with them to get transplant funding restored at least until 2013 and requested an audit of AHCCCS’s handling of the transplant issue.

House Democrats said outdated information from AHCCCS led to Republicans’ justification of their decision to eliminate transplants, and the agency failed to notify some patients without notification.

“Over the past two years, and especially during the past six months, transplant patients and their families, along with House Democrats, have been fighting to save lives,” said House Democratic Whip Anna Tovar, a two-time transplant recipient. “Today, we can say that according to information that AHCCCS has posted to its website, finally, after this long fight, we have won, at least temporarily, but there is still more work to do.”

House Democrats and Tovar, who has had two bone-marrow transplants for leukemia have been working for the past six months with transplant patients to restore the procedures Republicans eliminated in their 2010 budget.

Since the elimination, two patients have died and nearly 100 others were unable to receive the life-saving procedures they needed. Gov. Jan Brewer called transplants “optional” and asked for funded solutions that Democrats produced but that she ignored.

Finally, after an agonizing six months for transplant patients who didn’t know if they would live or die, Brewer decided to include an “intent” clause in the budget to restore transplants, but only until 2013.

But outdated statistics from AHCCCS claiming some transplants were ineffective originally led to Republicans’ decision to eliminate them. AHCCCS also approved at least one patient they originally eliminated but didn’t inform him.

Tovar announced today she is asking for an audit of the agency on their handling of transplants to ensure these life-endangering mistakes never happen again.

“A special audit will hold government accountable and ensure that ineffective AHCCCS policies are reformed to ensure patients’ rights,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “It will guarantee the legislature receives up-to-date, accurate information when making these highly sensitive and enormously important policy decisions. These decisions not only impact the livelihood of our citizens but their very ability to live.”

So far, Sen. Rick Murphy, the chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, has not responded to Tovar’s letter. “These infractions are problems I hope Sen. Murphy will take seriously,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said. “Arizonans are ready for government to start solving problems and working for them and their families.”


Letter from Kim Vega, sister of transplant patient Douglas Gravagna

Tovar's letter to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Alston selected as Friend of Education recipient

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix (District 15) has been selected as the recipient of the Friend of Education award by the Arizona Delta Kappa Gamma Society.

“I am honored to be the recipient of such a prestigious award,” said Alston. “I applaud the work of Delta Kappa Gamma Society and their dedication to education.”

Delta Kappa Gamma Society is an international society for key women educators. In Arizona, the organization has more than 900 members of active and retired educators.

Alston has been a life-long advocate for education. She worked as a teacher in the Phoenix Union High School District for several years and continues her service to Phoenix students and families as a member of the PUHSD Governing Board. The Lela Alston Elementary School in Phoenix serves grades K-3 and was named after Alston.

“I am dedicated to the students of Arizona,” Alston said. “As a legislator, I will continue to advocate for education reform.”

House Democrats: ‘Transplant patients deserve answer from GOP now’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, a two-time bone marrow transplant recipient, released the following statement today about Gov. Jan Brewer’s “intent” to fund transplants:

“As a leukemia survivor, I know what it’s like to be in a life-or-death situation — I’ve been in one twice. Thankfully, both times, I was fortunate enough to be a bone-marrow transplant recipient and live. But I’m most thankful to be able to be right here at the capitol, fighting for transplant patients in Arizona and taking on the politicians who continue to leave a question mark on their lives at the expense of their own political agenda.

“At least two people in Arizona have died after Republicans and Gov. Brewer eliminated their health-care coverage for transplants six months ago. Now, nearly 100 Arizonans’ lives could still hang in the balance, no matter what Gov. Brewer’s ‘intent’ is.

“Republicans’ budget currently has an unclear provision that is an ‘intent clause’ stating that it is the intent of the legislature to fund the transplant services that were eliminated in last year’s budget. But to reinstate coverage for transplants, the legislature would have to add back into statute coverage eliminated in last year’s budget. Otherwise, AHCCCS does not have statutory authorization to fund transplants. The legislature also would have to either make an appropriation or direct AHCCCS to find the money within the agency’s budget. Republicans’ budget passed last week does neither.

“Gov. Brewer’s letter outlining her Medicaid plan and the Republicans’ budget including a transplant provision express the intent to restore transplant coverage, but neither actually restores transplant coverage in state statute. Therefore, it is unclear if transplants currently are covered, even though Gov. Brewer is saying they are.

“Just as most Americans get the run around from their health insurance companies, these transplant patients’ lives are getting run over by Arizona’s government and it’s time to hold government accountable.

“Transplant patients in Arizona have been living every day like it’s their last for the past six months, and for some of them it was their last, while Gov. Brewer and Republicans did nothing — nothing — to correct their admitted mistake. Democrats offered funding solutions multiple times but Republicans and Gov. Brewer ignored them (See: Tovar proposes bills to restore transplants, save lives).

“I know what these transplant patients are going through, and they don’t want to see an ‘intent’ to give them a chance to live. They want to know they will have a chance to live. Until Arizona’s transplant patients receive their coverage, ‘We, the people’ must hold Gov. Brewer and Republicans accountable for their inaction on transplants.

“Therefore, we hope Gov. Brewer would prove her ‘intent’ by sending letters in writing to transplant patients that they are in fact covered and will receive their life-saving procedures.”

Monday, April 04, 2011

GOP approves bill to limit consumer protections from dangerous practitioners

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Republicans voted today to approve a bill that would protect practitioners from losing their licenses even if their methods end in injury or death.

SB 1288 prohibits a government from denying, suspending or revoking a professional or occupational license, certificate or registration based on a person’s exercise of religion.

“Republicans should be held accountable for passing crazy bills like these that do nothing to fix Arizona’s economy and only endanger public safety,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “The First Amendment is doing a great job at protecting freedom of religion. This bill does nothing of the sort and only puts public safety at risk.”

In 2009, self-help guru James Arthur Ray held a sweat-lodge ceremony at the Angel Valley Retreat Center in Sedona where three people died. Had Ray been licensed and had SB 1288 been signed into law, he could retain his license to practice. Many of the practitioners who work at the retreat center are licensed to practice various forms of alternative medicine in Arizona:

Other types of licensed and certified professionals that would be impacted by this bill would include child-care providers, licensed foster-care providers, businesses that hold liquor licenses and people who work in the financial services industry.

“This is a dangerous bill and a complete waste of time for Arizona taxpayers,” Campbell said. “It’s time for accountability for these irresponsible bills Republicans have made their priorities at the capitol.”