Monday, April 30, 2012
The bill passed a House vote today 37-22 and will now go to the governor.
“I hope the governor has the good sense to veto this bill,” McCune Davis said. “We should be focused on legislation that creates real jobs, not just jobs in the debt collection industry.”
Tea Party lawmakers and governor sweeping money intended to help with the mortgage crisis to finance irresponsible budget
“This settlement was supposed to provide $97.7 million for state foreclosure prevention programs,” McCune Davis said. “All of that money should be used to help families. Not a penny should go to subsidize the governor’s unrealistic budget. That’s why tomorrow I intend to offer an amendment that would remove this item from the Republican budget proposal.”
For more information on the mortgage settlement fund go to www.azag.gov/consumer/foreclosure/settlement.html.
“This budget shows a lack a vision from the governor and the Republicans,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “The Democratic Budget focused on promoting the long-term, economic stability for the state. It would have created jobs and improved education. The Republican bait-and-switch budget falls short.”
Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), said that the Tea Party funding priorities are out of touch with the needs of Arizonans. The Republican bait-and-switch budget hoards money instead of investing it in job creation and education. This leaves vital programs without resources and creates a nearly $150 million shortfall in fiscal year 2015.
“This is just plain irresponsible,” Farley said. “The Republicans are baiting with the promise of savings but all that money has to be used to fill a portion of the huge budget deficit in 2015. That’s the switch. It’s not really savings if they have to use it to pay down the deficit they create in 2015. Even if all of the so-called savings is used, the Republican budget deficit is so large that the state still gets stuck with a shortfall.”
The newly proposed Republican bait-and-switch budget deal:
• Sweeps $50 million from the Arizona Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund. This is a joint state-federal settlement reached with Arizona and 48 other states, the federal government and the country’s five largest residential mortgage loan servicers who engaged in fraudulent loan services and foreclosure practices. The money is supposed to be used to help families impacted by the foreclosure crisis which is still plaguing Arizona. The state had the highest foreclosure rate in the country last month.
• Ignores a request by the Independent Redistricting Commission for money to cover legal costs the commission incurred when the governor and Republican legislators attempted to oust IRC Chair Colleen Mathis. The courts sided with Mathis and upheld the IRC’s independent process. Now the Office of the Courts is facing $12 million funding sweeps in fiscal years 2013 and 2014.
• Fails to provide a 3 percent inflation adjustment for hospitals or increase supplemental payments for rural hospitals. Arizona hospitals have faced nearly $1 billion in Republican-approved budget cuts during the past few years. These budget cuts increase the cost to patients and jeopardize jobs in the health care system. They also make it more difficult for health care providers, especially in small rural hospitals, to continue to offer services.
• Neglects to restore KidsCare funding, leaving thousands of Arizona children without adequate health care coverage. Arizona is the only state in the country not funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
• Fails to provide funding for the State Parks Department and limits future funding for the Office of Tourism. Both are major job creators in Arizona.
• Repeals the “merit system” laws designed to prevent political patronage during the hiring process for state employees. These laws ensure that state employees are hired based on their qualifications and fired for cause. The budget will only provide pay raises for political appointees and state employees willing to give up merit system rights.
“Their budget deal wasn’t much of a deal,” Campbell said. “It is frivolous to spend money on private prisons and irresponsible tax cuts while KidsCare goes unfunded. If they want to concede to the demands of the governor, that is their prerogative but Arizonans deserve better.”
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
“Gov. Jan Brewer’s political grandstanding is preventing this body from doing the only thing the state Constitution requires, passing a budget,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “Her budget is unrealistic and negotiations between the governor and the Republicans appear to be breaking down because of it.”
House Democrats proposed a budget that is responsible and realistic. The Democratic Budget invests modest amounts in areas that have been ignored by the governor. In fiscal year 2013, the proposed Democratic Budget creates jobs in tourism, health care and construction. It is the only budget proposal that reinstates funding for KidsCare, so that Arizona is no longer the only state in the nation not funding this healthcare program for children of working parents.
“The governor’s proposed budget does nothing for KidsCare, leaving thousands of Arizona children without health care coverage,” Campbell said. “She also sticks the state with a $540 million shortfall by fiscal year 2015. That is shortsighted and irresponsible.”
Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), said he would like to set aside the partisan bickering and work with the Republicans on a budget that will create jobs and improve education.
“We must pass a budget and it must be realistic and responsible,” Farley said. “We can’t afford to play politics with this.”
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Today Hobbs and all Arizona House Democrats voted against HB 2625, which would require women to “prove” that they aren’t using birth control as contraception and allows employers to fire women for using contraception.
From the House floor, Hobbs said the legislation violates women’s privacy rights and would limit family planning and health care choices for women across the state.
“This bill politicizes women’s health,” Hobbs said. “It’s another example of how Tea Party lawmakers are too extreme and focused on their rigid ideology, instead of working to create jobs and improve education.”
This bill was defeated in the Senate but brought back for reconsideration and passed last week. Today Tea Party legislators approved HB 2625 by a vote of 36-21 on final passage. The bill now goes back to the Senate for a final vote and then to the governor’s desk.
“This bill is still intrusive, and I urge the governor to veto it,” Hobbs said.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
The bill will allow taxpayers to fund a tax-deductible savings account to pay for non-hospital expenses, such as nursing home care, home health care, and assisted or alternative family living. It also would allow taxpayers to take deductions for long-term health care insurance premiums.
“Now that this bill has passed the Senate, we are about two steps away from helping middle-class families by allowing some financial relief,” Farley said. “This will help families better manage medical expenses for themselves and the seniors they love.”
HB 2713 passed the Senate 28-1 and now goes back to the House for a final vote before being sent to the governor.
Monday, April 16, 2012
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats continue to advocate restoring funding for KidsCare so thousands of Arizona children can again receive health care coverage.
House Democrats recently proposed a realistic and responsible budget that allocates $6.5 million for KidsCare. The Republican and governor’s budget fail to fund KidsCare. That failure has kept thousands of children from receiving medical coverage since 2010.
“Restoring KidsCare funding must be a priority,” Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), said. “Arizona is the only state in the country that has not lifted the freeze on the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”
Before the KidsCare freeze in Jan. 2010, there were more than 45,000 children enrolled in the program. Now there are fewer than 13,000 children in the program. Many of the children removed from the program had no alternative health care coverage.
“Overall, the Democratic Budget’s $6.5 million investment in this program has the long-term payoff of having healthier children and a stronger health care system,” Tovar said.
Earlier this month the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved a state request to establish a new health care coverage program for children called Safety Net Care Pool. A partnership between the state, UA Health Network, Maricopa Integrated Health Systems and Phoenix Children’s Hospital allows the state to use municipal and federal money to expand KidsCare. This program will provide coverage for an additional 21,200 children.
This program also will provide funding to supplement costs of uncompensated care, the unreimbursed or uncollectable costs hospitals incur for providing health care services to patients who cannot or will not pay. The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association estimates that Arizona hospitals provided $412 million of uncompensated care in 2010. Uninsured adults and children, who still need health care, contribute to this total. This directly impacts hospital operations; increases government costs and raises health insurance premiums. The U.S. Censure Bureau reported that Arizona has the fifth highest rate of uninsured people in the country, with nearly 1.3 million people living without health care coverage. There are about 281,000 children in Arizona without health care coverage.
“We must make health care accessible for children,” Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 11), said. “KidsCare is a program that provides preventative care and treats children’s illnesses early avoiding uncompensated hospitalizations and costly emergency room visits.”
Meyer is an emergency medicine physician and says that people often will forgo preventative care if it is too expensive.
“This jeopardizes personal health while creating extra strain on the system,” he said. “If people wait until they are very ill to seek medical help they face increased costs of care and risks to their health. We must find a solution and the $6.5 million investment in KidsCare is a great start."
Friday, April 13, 2012
This controversial bill would require women to “prove” that they aren’t using birth control as contraception and allows employers to get involved in an employee’s confidential medical concerns. Meyer, who is a medical doctor, said the bill goes too far and intrudes on the doctor/patient relationship.
HB 2625 failed a Senate vote last month. Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix (District 7), asked for the bill to be reconsidered and voted on again. HB 2625 passed Thursday 17-13.
Also on Thursday, Gov. Brewer signed HB 2036, a bill that will criminalize doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks on mothers whose babies have lethal anomalies found by ultrasound.
“This is an unfortunate day for women and the medical professionals who provide care for them in this state,” Meyer said.
He added that by signing HB 2036, the governor has set a dangerous precedent.
“She set in statute a standard of care that isn’t the same standard recommended by the American College of Ob/Gyns,” Meyer said, adding that many of his colleagues in the medical profession called the governor’s office to oppose HB 2036.
“I hope that Gov. Brewer will not ignore the concerns of the medical community again and instead vetoes HB 2625” Meyer said. “This is an extremist bill that favors an extremist agenda over the confidentiality and safety of women in Arizona.”
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), has been an opponent of this bill and said that passing legislation will jeopardize Arizona’s fragile economic recovery. The bill failed a Senate vote on Tuesday but Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City (District 3), switched his vote and asked for the bill to be reconsidered.
McCune Davis said that this bill will weaken consumer protection laws and is being supported by out-of-state special interest groups.
“The Senate failed the people of Arizona by giving into lobbyists and approving this bill. I urge Gov. Brewer to veto it when it arrives at her desk,” she said. “It benefits out-of-state debt buyers, companies that purchase and attempt to collect debt after it has gone into default. The lobbyists responsible for this legislation represent an unidentified credit card company and an organization that includes out-of-state debt collectors who do not represent the best interest of Arizona families.”
The Senate vote today was 17-13.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Heinz sponsored HB 2226, a bill to give algae farms the same lower property tax rates provided to other farming businesses. This would make algaculture, or algae farming, more economically feasible and would promote an industry that has unique potential in Arizona.
“This emerging industry has broad possibilities in our state,” Heinz said. “Arizona has abundant sun, flat farmlands and a climate that is ideal for algae farming. These are circumstances we should not squander.”
Algae have many uses including pollution reduction and the production of biodiesel and jet fuel. Research into algae as a potential fuel source began during the oil embargo in the 1970s and attracted new interest several years ago when gas prices began to spike.
“We have a chance to get ahead of the game with this energy source,” Heinz said. “HB 2226 and HB 2225 will help in that effort.”
Heinz also sponsored HB 2225, which adds algaculture, the growth and harvest of algae, to the definition of agricultural state trust lands. This will allow the Arizona State Land Department to issue agricultural leases for algaculture operations. Last week the governor also signed this bill into law.
“By including algaculture in the definition of agriculture, we provide additional opportunities for algae farmers to support innovation,” Heinz said.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved HB 2225 and HB 2226 on bipartisan votes.
“This is an example of how legislators can set aside partisan bickering to focus on what’s important to Arizonans, creating jobs and improving the economy,” Heinz said.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), has been an opponent of this bill and said that stopping this legislation will protect the Arizona economy.
“This is bad legislation that would have weakened consumer protection laws when other states are strengthening these laws,” McCune Davis said. “It benefits out-of-state debt buyers, companies that purchase and attempt to collect debt after it has gone into default. The Senate did the right thing by voting it down. Although, I expect that lobbyists representing the debt buyers will try to revive the bill before the end of session.”
HB 2664 failed a Senate vote by 12-18.
Thursday, April 05, 2012
The governor signed HB 2225, which adds algaculture, the growth and harvest of algae, to the definition of agricultural state trust lands. This will allow the Arizona State Land Department to issue agricultural leases for algaculture operations.
“This is good news for Arizona,” Heinz said. “By including algaculture in the definition of agriculture, we provide additional opportunities for algae farmers to support innovation in this emerging industry, which has the potential to create both jobs and new energy resources.”
Algae have many uses including pollution reduction and the production of biodiesel and jet fuel.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved HB 2225 on a bipartisan vote.
Heinz also sponsored a second bill, HB 2226, that would give algae farms the same lower property tax rates provided to other farm entities. This would make algaculture more economically feasible. This bill currently is on the governor’s desk.
“This is an example of how legislators can set aside partisan bickering to focus on what’s important to Arizonans, creating jobs and improving the economy,” Heinz said.
Miranda, with other members of the International Relations, Trade, and Immigration Task Force, will develop priority policy recommendations in these areas for the NHCSL. The NHCSL is an association of Hispanic legislators founded in 1989 and focused on developing and implementing policies and procedures to improve the quality of life of Hispanics across the country.
“It’s a good opportunity to recommend policies that will have positive effects on the growing Hispanic community in this country,” Miranda said.
Representing the task force, Miranda’s aim is to work with advocates of immigration reform in critical communities throughout the United States.
“Our goal is advancing immigration reform at the federal level,” Miranda said.
Monday, April 02, 2012
Arizona House Minority Leader Chad Campbell demanding the immediate resignation of Rep. Daniel Patterson following release of ethics complaint investi
“I have been calling on Rep. Patterson to resign since this all began,” Campbell said. “The behavior highlighted in the investigative report is both reprehensible and intolerable. If he does not resign now, we need to vote to remove him immediately.”
The investigative report, ordered by the House Ethics Committee following a complaint filed against Patterson, outlines an “extraordinary and very predictable pattern of disorderly, indecorous, and deceptive behavior.”
The report also indicates that the potential that Patterson could “injure others, particularly staff, puts the House and the State in the crosshairs for civil liability for subsequent injury.” The investigators recommended that Patterson be expelled from the Arizona House of Representatives.
“We must take immediate and decisive action,” Campbell said. “Removing him from this body is the only appropriate recourse.”
House Democrats are working to implement some of the report’s recommendations and fighting to ensure Child Protective Services receives funding. CPS is facing a drastic budget shortfall because of the expiration of the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families fund.
Although much of Gov. Jan Brewer’s rhetoric has focused on improving CPS, little actually has been done by the Republicans in the legislature to support the overwhelmed child-welfare system. The Department of Economic Security allocated a large portion of TANF money to keep CPS operational. The proposed Republican budget fails to make up for that funding.
Unless the state budget replaces that loss, DES will have to cut CPS services, leaving children at risk. CPS is overburdened already. There are a record number of children in foster care at a time when there is a foster parenting shortage, on top of astronomical caseload growth and a high turnover rate among CPS workers. Several high-profile child abuse cases, including the deaths of four children involved in with CPS, prompted Brewer to create the task force.
House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson, (District 13), said House Democrats demonstrate their commitment to improving the child-welfare system by allocating $45.2 million to replace the loss of TANF funding.
“Since we will not be receiving federal TANF money, we have to provide additional support for DES,” Tovar said. “If we do not make up for this funding, DES will be forced to cut CPS programs. This could have tragic consequences.”
Tovar added that the House Democratic Budget proposal provides DES with enough money to keep current agency funding levels stable.
“The House Democratic Budget would ensure continued CPS services,” Tovar said. “It’s also the most realistic budget. It focuses on job creation, improving education while keeping vital programs, like CPS. House Democrats are tired of partisan bickering and would like work together with Republicans to get things done.”
House Democrats also are attempting to affect the reforms outlined in the task force report. A bill sponsored by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), that will help make Child Protective Services more efficient, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Rules Committee today.
HB 2794 would eliminate the need for the Department of Economic Security to establish “removal review teams” to determine whether a child should be taken from a home because of abuse or neglect. Since 1998, juvenile courts have held preliminary protective hearings in cases involving the removal of children from abusive situations. This hearing negates the need for the removal review team.
“My bill increases CPS efficiency by cutting out a duplicative step in the process to determine if a child needs to be removed from a person’s custody,” Hobbs said. “This reduces some of the red tape involved in protecting children.”
Hobbs, who is also a social worker, sponsored the legislation after reading the task force report. Eliminating removal review teams was one of the report recommendations.
“By eliminating these teams, CPS will be better able to get children out of unhealthy environments and into welcoming and safe homes.” Hobbs said. “House Democrats are committed to helping CPS provide services.”
If DES does not receive state funding, the consequences would have a ripple effect for other agencies providing services to at risk children and families, according to Darlene Newsom, chief executive officer of UMOM New Day Centers, the state's largest homeless shelter for families.
"At UMOM we serve the most vulnerable families in our community. It is critical that DES and CPS continue to receiving funding. Cutting these services would have a domino effect that will devastate the very families UMOM is trying to help succeed," said Newsom.