Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Group of Democratic lawmakers donate paychecks to jobs organizations



STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A group of Democratic lawmakers donated on Tuesday their paychecks from the special session on jobless aid to Arizona organizations that help unemployed and homeless Arizonans.

The lawmakers returned tax dollars to Arizonans looking for jobs after a special session to extend jobless aid failed due to Republicans’ refusal to make the simple fix.

“It’s the very least we could do,” said Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15). “Many of our friends and neighbors are struggling right now to provide for their families after being laid off and not being able to find work. While this might not be the extension we all were looking for, it’s only fair that we change a waste of taxpayer dollars into something useful.”

Several Democratic lawmakers chose to donate their paychecks and time to help various community organizations to help unemployed and homeless Arizonans. One of the organizations, Community Voice Mail, is a free, local voicemail service to the unemployed and homeless.

Through Community Voice Mail every client receives their own unique number which they can personalize with their own greeting and password. This is a very simple yet profound tool when a point of contact is essential to securing employment. The organization also records messages about job openings, highlights of other service agencies and free community events.

“Community Voice Mail and unemployed and homeless Arizonans are so thankful for this donation to our service because every little bit helps, especially during this tough economic time,” said Juan Mendez, Arizona Community Voice Mail manager. “Our service has had a measurable impact on the ability of people to emerge from sometimes desperate and seemingly impossible situations and we’re happy to be able to help.”

Democratic lawmakers donated their individual checks of $240 or $140, out of county or in county respectively, which they received for the special session. They earn $35 per diem if they live in Maricopa County and $60 per diem outside of Maricopa County. The special session lasted four days.

Both Gov. Jan Brewer and Democratic lawmakers supported making the simple change to state law, allowing 45,000 unemployed Arizonans to receive jobless aid already appropriated by the federal government. The fix would have kept $3.5 million a week flowing into Arizona’s economy.

In April, 9.4 percent of Phoenix’s workers were unemployed. In Yuma County alone, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed past the worst year of the Great Depression to 25.3 percent.

For more information about Community Voice Mail, visit www.cvm.org.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Alston named career and tech ‘policy maker of the year’



STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix (District 15), has been selected for the 2011 Career and Technical Education Policy Maker of the Year award.

“It is a sincere honor to receive an award from an organization that helps further education and opportunity for so many Arizona students,” Alston said. “Career and technical education programs are what our students desperately need to prepare them for the global economy.”


The Association for Career Technical Education of Arizona is a non-profit association dedicated to working with educators and business professionals and is committed to career and technical education. The association is comprised of adult professionals who teach and lead student organizations.


“Your nomination clearly reflects your tremendous accomplishments and dedication to students and to Career and Technical Education,” said Doris A. Wojtulewicz, vice president of the association.


Alston will receive the award at the association’s annual summer conference in Tucson on July 20. For more information about the organization, go to http://www.acteaz.org/.

Miranda selected for two national Latino groups’ boards

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix (District 16), has been selected to serve on the board of directors of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials and on the executive committee of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators.

“I am proud to have been selected for the Board of Directors for NALEO and to have the opportunity to serve with such distinguished leaders of our community,” Miranda said. “I am also honored to have been chosen to serve on the executive committee for NHCSL. NHCSL has been the recognized voice for Latino legislators for more than 20 years. I look forward to the opportunity of bringing Arizona's concerns and issues to a national level.”

The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators represents the interests of Hispanic state legislators nationwide, serving as a catalyst for joint action on issues of common concern to all segments of the Hispanic community.

“On behalf of the NHCSL membership, we are proud to welcome Representative Catherine Miranda to our executive committee board,” said Iris Y. Martinez, caucus president and Illinois state senator. We are sure that she will add great value to the work that we do in furthering the NHCSL mission.”

NALEO, formed in 1976 by the late former California Congressman Edward R. Roybal, created a national forum for Latino issues and opened doors for a new generation of Latino leaders. NALEO works to increase the effectiveness of Latino policymakers, mobilize the Latino community to engage in civic life and promote policies that advance Latino civic engagement.

“The NALEO Board of Directors will be greatly enriched with the addition of Arizona state Rep. Catherine Miranda,” said Lorraine Cortes-Vasquez, Chair of the NALEO Nominations Committee. “Her particular insight into the challenges facing our community in her state will be invaluable as we seek to ensure that all Latinos are able to participate fully in American civic life. In addition, her service as an elected school board member will also bring added benefit to informing our work in education.”

For more information on these organizations, visit http://www.naleo.org/ and http://www.nhcsl.org/.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yuma unemployment rate surpasses worst year of Great Depression

Republican lawmakers cut off jobless aid to Arizonans

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Yuma’s unemployment rate has surpassed the unemployment level during the worst year of the Great Depression, according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

Yuma’s unemployment rate is 25.3 percent, the department reported in April. In 1933, the worst year of the Great Depression, the nationwide unemployment rate was 24.9 percent. (See:

“This is the last thing Yuma needs right now,” said Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24). “The only thing worse is that the majority of lawmakers chose ideology over the needs of the people of Arizona and refused to extend jobless aid at the capitol this week. So many people in Yuma depend on that extra cash to put food on the table while they look for jobs.”

On Monday, Republican lawmakers dismissed a special session called by Gov. Jan Brewer to extend unemployment benefits without taking any action. At least 15,000 unemployed Arizonans stopped receiving their unemployment insurance Tuesday, and an additional 25,000 will lose it later this year.

$3.5 million a week in already-appropriated federal dollars stopped coming into Arizona’s businesses and economy due to the inaction.

“This truly is kicking Arizona when it’s down, and it hits Yuma especially hard,” Pancrazi said. “It truly is outrageous and we ought to hold them accountable.”

Farley selected as fellow for national leadership program

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Assistant House Democratic Leader Steve Farley has been selected as one of 48 state leaders nationwide for the prestigious Toll Fellowship Program sponsored by the Council of State Governments.

Farley was selected by a committee of state elected and appointed officials as one of the most promising leaders of state government. This year’s applicant pool included state leaders from all three branches and represented 42 states and two U.S. territories. Past fellowship graduates include governors, members of Congress and leaders in state government.

“I am honored to be selected for this prestigious fellowship, and I’m looking forward to expanding my leadership skills to do the hard work of creating jobs and protecting our schools,” Farley said. “Arizona needs leadership right now.”

The annual week-long seminar, named in honor of Henry Toll, a Colorado senator who founded the council in 1933, seeks to develop the next generation of leaders from all three branches of state government. The September program, held in Lexington, Ky., focuses on trends analysis, policy development, media and constituent relations, and leadership and institutional changes.

Farley is a small-business owner and was elected to the Arizona Legislature as state representative from Tucson (District 28) in 2006. He now serves as the Assistant House Minority Leader, Ranking Member on the Ways & Means committee and Member of the Transportation committee.

The Council of State Governments forecasts policy trends for the community of states, commonwealths and territories on a national and regional basis. It promotes excellence in decision-making and leadership skills and champions state sovereignty. Past attendees include:
Gov. Jane Dee Hull, Gov. Jan Brewer, Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, and U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Republicans hit Arizona where it hurts, dismiss session without UI fix

Lawmakers take home pay while cutting off jobless aid to 45,000 Arizonans


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – GOP lawmakers made it harder Monday for unemployed Arizonans to search for jobs by cutting off their unemployment during the recession and closing out a special session with no action.

Both Gov. Jan Brewer and Democratic lawmakers supported making the simple change to state law, allowing 45,000 unemployed Arizonans to receive jobless aid already appropriated by the federal government. But Republicans refused and failed to act, making the job search and putting food on the table harder for middle-class Arizona families.

“Everyone wanted to make this fix — the governor wanted this, Democrats wanted this and Arizonans wanted it to help the unemployed during this worldwide recession, not hold them hostage to partisan politics,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “Everyone but Republicans, who made a conscious decision to cut off $3.5 million per week coming into our state’s economy. It is absolutely outrageous and it’s time to hold Republicans accountable.”

Republican lawmakers, who have supermajorities in both chambers (more than enough to pass the fix on their own), had opportunities to make a simple change in state law so nearly 45,000 Arizonans can continue to receive jobless benefits while they search for work — Democrats asked them to make the change in March during the regular session but they refused. And last week, Gov. Jan Brewer called a special session just to make the fix, but on Friday, the first day of the session, Republicans again refused, missing a deadline. They even rejected a bill Democrats introduced using Brewer’s own bill language.

“It is disappointing that after four days of the legislature being in session and collecting per diem we have done nothing to create jobs or to help Arizona’s jobless,” said Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, who introduced a bill to waive the “per diem” pay this session. “While legislators got a bonus this week for doing nothing, many of Arizona’s jobless will go empty-handed.”

But state lawmakers will take home cash for doing absolutely nothing — they earn $35 per diem if they live in Maricopa County and $60 per diem for living outside of Maricopa County. The amount collected per diem in this session by out-of-county representatives — $240 — is more than one week of unemployment insurance payment.

In April, 9.4 percent of Phoenix’s workers were unemployed. In Yuma County alone, the unemployment rate is three times higher. The fix would keep nearly $3.5 million a week flowing into the Arizona economy.

Even Brewer said this in a press release Friday: “…you don’t balance the federal budget by turning your back on Arizonans in their time of need. That’s not principled fiscal conservatism. It’s just cruel…get to work. The people of Arizona, your constituents, are counting on it.”

But Republican lawmakers failed.

-30-

House Democrats: ‘Shame on GOP for failing to fix jobless aid’

Minority party joins governor in calling for fix from GOP supermajorities

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats are calling Republicans’ inaction on the jobless aid issue “irresponsible,” saying today is “strike three” if GOP lawmakers can’t get it together and do the right thing for Arizona.

“Shame on Republicans for holding unemployed Arizonans hostage while they play political games,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “They are not on your side and they are turning their backs on Arizonans who were laid off, unemployed and struggling to put food on the table. They could have fixed this back in April. They could have fixed this on Friday. Arizonans should consider today strike three.”

Republican lawmakers, who have supermajorities in both chambers, had opportunities to make a one-word change in state law so nearly 45,000 Arizonans can continue to receive jobless benefits while they search for work — House Democrats asked them to make the change in April during the regular session but they refused. And last week, Gov. Jan Brewer called a special session just to make the fix, but on Friday, the first day of the session, Republicans again refused, missing a deadline when attendance was high.

Even Brewer said this in a press release Friday: “…you don’t balance the federal budget by turning your back on Arizonans in their time of need. That’s not principled fiscal conservatism. It’s just cruel…get to work. The people of Arizona, your constituents, are counting on it.”

In April, 9.4 percent of Phoenix’s workers were unemployed. In Yuma County alone, the unemployment rate is three times higher. The fix would keep nearly $3.5 million a week flowing into the Arizona economy.
“This is absolutely outrageous that they can’t make a one-word change that virtually costs the state nothing,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “If we don’t make use of our own tax dollars, another state will get them. It’s time to hold Republican lawmakers, who have total control of state government, accountable for their inaction on this. The governor, minority Democrats and Arizonans are all calling for this fix. This is the prime example of how Republicans just aren’t on your side.”

-30-

Friday, June 10, 2011

House Democrats invite colleagues to vote ‘yes’ on jobless-aid fix, meet deadline

Unemployed Arizonan stresses importance of benefit extension in job search

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats invited their Republican colleagues Friday to join them in a bipartisan vote to extend jobless aid and help Arizonans find jobs before their benefits run out today.

The fix is a one-word change to state statute and would cost the state nothing. Without it, today Arizona stands to lose $3.5 million a week pumped into the economy, and 15,000 middle-class families will lose a benefit that aids them in putting food on the table while they search for jobs.

“We want to thank Gov. Brewer for calling this special session to make this fix,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “We invite our Republican colleagues to join us to help make this important fix now. This is the right thing to do and we must do it today before time runs out.”

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.

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. If the legislature changes the "look back" provision from two years to three years, Arizona will continue to get the federal unemployment benefits.

“If we don’t do this, our economy and businesses lose $3.5 million per week beginning today, families will be unable to put food on the table, local businesses will lose out and more people will be forced to turn to welfare,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “We have the opportunity to help Arizonans as they continue their job hunt while our economy recovers.”

In April, 9.4 percent of Phoenix’s workers were unemployed. In Yuma County alone, the unemployment rate is three times higher. For 15,000 middle-class Arizonans across the state who are still job hunting, losing their benefits next week could catapult them into crisis, when they are averaging $212 each week minus taxes, making Arizona rank last in the nation for maximum benefits allowed.

Patricia Horan, who was laid off from IBM in 2009, is one of the 15,000 people who would lose her jobless aid today without the fix.

“I worked for IBM for 13 years, and after being laid off it’s been tough to find work in this economy,” said Horan, a Buckeye resident. “To me, unemployment insurance has helped me going so I can continue to search for a job. I hope the state legislature can work together to make this small, but extremely important change.”

Horan called House Minority Whip Anna Tovar to ask her to vote for the fix.

“Patricia and so many Arizona families like her use this jobless aid to keep them going while they look for jobs,” Tovar said. “We need a government that starts solving problems and working for Arizonans and their families. This one-word fix is the right thing to do.”



-30-

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Chance to fix jobless aid better late than never

House Democrats called for change in April

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats, who urged Gov. Jan Brewer and Republican lawmakers in April to make a fix to jobless aid, say they fully support a special session that’s better late than never to help middle-class Arizonans.

“Unfortunately, a special session wasn’t necessary to make this fix,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “We notified Gov. Brewer and Republicans about this back in April and urged them to make the one-word fix while we were on the House floor in the middle of the night.”

See: http://www.azhousedemocrats.com/2011/04/house-democrats-urge-jobless-aid-fix.html

House Democrats even provided an avenue to make the fix by proposing to amend HB 2619 to include the fix. But Republicans refused.

“We aren’t sure what changed their minds between now and then,” said House Minority Whip Anna Tovar. “We’re just happy that to help struggling Arizona families to continue to put food on the table while they search for jobs and help local businesses by bringing $3.5 million a week to our economy.”

If Republicans, who control all of state government, fail to make the fix, 15,000 unemployed Arizonans could lose jobless aid at the end of this week and nearly 30,000 by the end of the year.

“It’s about time,” Campbell said. “We hope that Republicans finally will listen to us and now the governor and do what is right. Otherwise, we know that Arizonans will hold them accountable.”

-30-**