Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gallego proposed House Rules change to increase transparency, eliminate conflict of interest for elected officials blocked

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Tea Party legislators blocked a House Rule change, proposed by Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16) that would curb conflict of interest and increase transparency in the Arizona House of Representatives.

The proposal was blocked by a procedural tactic. It was referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it will likely languish until the end of the session.

“We should have voted on this today and it should have been an easy decision” Gallego said. “This rules change was an efficient way for the House to hold itself to a higher standard. We should embrace every opportunity to increase transparency and accountability in the government. ”

The proposed change would tighten the definition of personal financial interest for legislators. The current version of the House Rule 35, which pertains to personal financial interest, is vague. This allows members to vote on bills even if they have a direct financial interest. The rule change requires a member with minimal financial interest in something that is the topic of legislation to declare that interest and refrain from voting on it.

Gallego introduced a bill this session that would have made it more difficult for legislators to introduce self-serving legislation. HB 2797 would add to the definition of “remote interests,” which are exceptions to conflicts of interest, that an elected official may not introduce a bill affecting property they own worth $1,000 or more. Additionally, current statute states that the proposed legislation must affect at least 10 people in order to show that it is not self-interest. HB 2797 would have changed that requirement to a group 50 people. This legislation also was blocked. Gallego’s proposed rule change this week will also include the 50 person requirement.

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Farley joins noted astronomers in support of the veto of a bill to allow electronic billboards in Arizona

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s first veto of the legislative session was HB 2757, a bill that would have threatened the state’s astronomy industry by allowing light-polluting electronic billboards throughout the state. There are efforts to revive the legislation before the end of this session. Today House Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28) along with several noted astronomers discussed the impact that similar legislation could have on an industry that creates thousands of jobs in the state.

“The HB 2757 veto protects a long-standing industry that is unique to Arizona and has created thousands of jobs and generated more than $1.2 billion in economic investment,” Farley said. “I will continue to work with the astronomy community to protect the dark skies that exist here, making it possible for world-renowned astronomy facilities to conduct groundbreaking research.”

Astronomers throughout the state were concerned with both the effect on their high precision observations, and the message to the national and international astronomical community, that would have resulted from passage of HB 2757.

“We thank the governor for her veto. Lowell has been working very hard to bring the $130 million Cherenkov Telescope Array project to Northern Arizona,” Dr. Jeff Hall, Director of Lowell Observatory, the first observatory built in Arizona, said. “Now I can continue to assure the selection committee that Arizona’s commitment to our world-class skies remains strong.”

Kitt Peak Deputy Director Dr. Lori Allen said she is committed to ensuring any future legislation will protect the astronomy industry.
"I'm grateful for the governor's support of our efforts to find a win-win solution regarding the negative impact of electronic billboards on the astronomy community,” Allen said. “I also look forward to working with the Governor's staff and the Arizona Commerce Commission to further the development of astrophysical research in the state of Arizona, and ensure scientific progress while sustaining and growing jobs in the state."

The veto puts the electronic billboards already erected in limbo for the time being. It also gives stakeholders the time needed to craft legislation better suited to the needs of the business community, while ensuring that cutting-edge astronomy in Arizona can and will be continued.

“We at the Smithsonian are very pleased Gov. Brewer came to the conclusion that a veto was the appropriate action,” Gene Gardner from the VERITA Observatory said. “We look forward to continuing to perform astronomy research in Arizona in the future.”

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Gallego proposes House Rules change to increase transparency, eliminate conflict of interest for elected officials

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16), will propose a House Rules change aimed at curbing conflict of interest and increasing transparency in the Arizona House of Representatives, this week.

“The people of Arizona demand and deserve a more transparent government,” Gallego said. “This rule change will prevent representatives from voting on bills if they have a financial interest in it. Arizonans should know that legislators are supporting bills that are in the best interest of the state, not in the best interest of their own pocketbooks. ”

The proposed change would tighten the definition of personal financial interest for legislators. The current version of the House Rule 35, which pertains to personal financial interest, is vague. This allows members to vote on bills even if they have a direct financial interest. The rule change requires a member with minimal financial interest in something that is the topic of legislation to declare that interest and refrain from voting on it.

“Transparency is something that we must continue to improve. This rule change promotes better, more accountable government,” Gallego said. “It is necessary because the Tea Party-controlled legislature has stymied too many attempts to make government more transparent.”

Gallego introduced a bill this session that would have made it more difficult for legislators to introduce self-serving legislation. HB 2797 would add to the definition of “remote interests,” which are exceptions to conflicts of interest, that an elected official may not introduce a bill affecting property they own worth $1,000 or more. Additionally, current statute states that the proposed legislation must affect at least 10 people in order to show that it is not self-interest. HB 2797 would have changed that requirement to a group 50 people. This legislation was blocked. Gallego’s proposed rule change this week will also include the 50 person requirement.

Gallego also was referring to the amendments to HB 2603 and HB 2642, which were designed to increase transparency. The amendment to HB 2603 would have changed financial reporting requirements for legislators by expanding the definition of what a “gift” is to a legislator, by increasing the fines and criminal violations made by those who do not file disclosure reports and allow registration and public access via the Secretary of State’s website.

The amendment to HB 2642, a lobbying expenditure bill, which would have required legislators to make more specific disclosures on “scholarships” for conferences they receive and would require them to make financial disclosure reports available through the Secretary of State website. Additionally, the amendment would strengthen lobbyist registration requirements.

Both amendments were blocked.


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Heinz applauds OptumRx, UnitedHealth Group for creating jobs in Tucson

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson (District 29), welcomed plans Thursday for a new facility from OptumRx, a unit of UnitedHealth Group, which is expected to bring 400 jobs to his Tucson district.

“I am so pleased to welcome OptumRx and UnitedHealth Group to District 29,” he said. “The jobs and opportunities this Fortune 500 company will bring to Tucson will be a boon to the economy.”

The new pharmacy-benefits customer-service center is scheduled to open in 2013. The center will handle several aspects of the company’s business including customer service, mail-order prescriptions, rebates and claims administration.

"We are strengthening the infrastructure of OptumRx in advance of a major expansion early next year, and we especially appreciate the help and support that comes from the outstanding workers and leaders of Arizona in that effort," said Larry C. Renfro, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group and CEO of Optum, in a news release.

The company will occupy a space that is being renovated at the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park. The company will likely receive a $200,000 grant from the Arizona Competes Fund, also called the “deal closing fund” through the Arizona Commerce Authority.

“At the legislature, we should be focused on recruiting more companies like UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx to Arizona,” Heinz said. “That is what Arizonans expect and it is what they deserve."

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Native American Caucus to host Indigenous Peoples Forum at state capitol

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 2), will join the Native American Caucus in hosting the 2012 Indigenous Peoples Forum at the state capitol on Friday, March 23.

The purpose of the forum is to discuss the preliminary study on the Doctrine of Discovery. The event will include an overview of the topics that will be discussed at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in May.

The Doctrine of Discovery empowers an invading nation to take possession of the lands belonging to native people. It has impacted native people since the 1800s.

“This is an important opportunity to discuss the issues facing indigenous people and the sources of these issues which includes the Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine of Discovery is the basis of laws that determine how indigenous peoples in the Americas were treated and continue to be treated,” Hale said. “Indigenous people are under constant pressure to submit to increasingly restrictive federal laws which could threaten the sovereignty of these nations. This is a much needed conversation that will lead to much needed action.”

The forum will feature a variety of speakers representing various Native American communities to cover topics including the Doctrine of Discovery, the impact on indigenous people and what advocates can do to protect Indigenous rights.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Arizona Democrats defend women against attacks on right to privacy, health care

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona House and Senate Democrats joined together in opposition to legislation designed to limit access to contraception and health care, invade privacy rights and jeopardize women’s employment.

Legislators spoke about 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.

“Women should not be forced to disclose private medical information to anyone and they certainly should not have to fear losing their jobs if their employers do not approve of their medical decisions,” Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), said. “This legislation is 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.”

Other bills Democratic legislators oppose include:

HB 2800 – This bill which keeps Planned Parenthood from providing some health care and family planning services, including cancer screenings, via AHCCCS and Title X.

HB 2036 – If this becomes law, it would criminalize doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks with little exception for medical emergencies.

"Last week Governor Brewer said this bill was a Democratic ploy, but she's wrong. This is not a Democratic issue, this is not a Republican issue, this is a women’s issue and as a woman, the governor should know the difference," said Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson (District 29). "What a woman does with her body should be determined by herself, her family and her physician, not by Rush Limbaugh Republicans in the Legislature."

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Monday, March 19, 2012

House Democrats: ‘Let’s focus on jobs and education instead of extremist agenda’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona House Democrats are urging Republican legislators to focus on bills that would create jobs and improve education, instead of wasting time on ideologically driven legislation designed to “send a message” to the federal government.

“This year, we’ve seen too many bills that serve only to push an extremist Tea Party agenda,” said House Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley. “These bills range from ordering the federal government to cede its lands in Arizona to spending state dollars on an untrained, armed militia that will be able to detain people at will. What we’re not seeing from this Tea Party agenda is a focus on creating jobs and improving schools.”

Several bills this session aim to invite lawsuits from the federal government, including:

SB 1083 – This legislation would allot state money to fund a volunteer state paramilitary force. This militia would not have sworn officers, nor would it require that members receive proper training. Members would be armed and have the powers throughout the state to pursue, arrest, and potentially shoot people they suspect to be involved in illegal cross-border activity.

SB 1332 – This bill would demand that the federal government turn over ownership of all federal lands in Arizona to the state by 2015 or else face levies and taxation by the state.

SB 1182 – If this became law it would make it a criminal act for any public officer to comply with the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. It forces law enforcement to choose between violating a federal law or a state law.

HB 2719 – This bill attempts to undermine the Gun Free School Zone Act by allowing people to bring guns immediately outside schools, making it easier to intimidate school children and teachers.

“Legislation that picks a fight in the name of ideological extremism is not a solution to Arizona’s problems,” Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson (District 28) said. “On the contrary, these bills just open the doors to federal lawsuits that will cost the state money and will put Arizona back in the national spotlight for the wrong reasons.”

House Democrats said that this type of legislation is divisive and extremist and encourage their colleagues to focus instead on Arizona’s real needs - bills that will create jobs and improve public education.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hobbs amendment to protect domestic violence victims passes committee

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – An amendment introduced by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), that would help domestic violence victims in child custody cases, passed in the Health and Human Services committee Wednesday.

Hobbs proposed an amendment to SB 1127, which creates new criteria for judges to consider when deciding child custody cases. That criteria includes whether a false “allegation of domestic violence or child abuse … has been made … to harass the other parent.” Critics of the bill argue that it could prevent victims of domestic violence from reporting the crime out of fear of it being used against them in court.

“This bill unfairly targets victims of domestic violence and may prevent them from reporting it to family court judges,” Hobbs said. “Any chilling effect that results in domestic violence going unreported is bad for children.”

Hobbs’ amendment to the bill would ensure that victims are not accused of making a false allegation when they report domestic violence.

“This amendment will assure that women and children who are victims of domestic violence have an equal say in courts when courts consider the custody of a child,” Hobbs said. “It gives the extra legal protection that they need to protect their physical and mental well-being.”

Hobbs’ amendment will be added onto the bill before it goes to the floor for a full House vote.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tea Party lawmakers block Quezada’s amendment to protect state employees, keep hundreds of millions of federal dollars in state coffers

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix (District 13), offered an amendment to HB 2571. The bill, which is part of the governor’s personnel reform legislation, would remove merit system due process rights for state employees and could jeopardize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

Quezada’s amendment would have clarified that state employees who are paid with federal dollars would not be affected by the bill. The amendment addresses provisions of HB 2571 that would put the state out of compliance with the Intergovernmental Personnel Act of 1970. This act requires states receiving money from the federal government for certain agencies and programs to have a merit system in place in order for employees to be paid using federal money.


A "merit system" provides government employees protection from politically-motivated personnel decisions by requiring due process rights. Merit systems are commonly used all over the country by federal, state and local governments and were put in place to prevent political patronage.


If Arizona is out of compliance with these federal regulations, it could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.


“This amendment would have helped to protect state employees and would have kept hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding coming into Arizona,” Quezada said. “Without the amendment, the implications of this legislation are devastating."


After lengthy debate in the Committee of the Whole, the amendment failed. Tea Party legislators passed the bill by a vote of 39-19. All House Democrats voting on the bill voted no. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.


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Senate committee unanimously passes Hobbs bill to make CPS more efficient

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today the Senate Public Safety and Health Services Committee unanimously passed a bill Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), introduced that will help make Child Protective Services more efficient.

HB 2794 would eliminate the need for the Department of Economic Security to establish “review teams” to determine whether a child should be removed from a home because of abuse or neglect. It passed the Senate committee with a 4-0 vote.

“This bill helps CPS be more efficient by cutting out a duplicative step of the process to determine if a child needs to be removed from a person’s custody,” Hobbs said.

Since 1998, juvenile courts have held preliminary protective hearings in cases involving the removal of children from abusive situations. This hearing eliminates the need for the review team. CPS caseloads are already 50 percent over the recommended limit and this step causes more delays in providing services and keeping children safe.

“Review teams make it harder for children to be taken out of abusive and neglectful environments,” Hobbs said. “Eliminating review teams will improve the process for getting children out of unhealthy environments and into safe homes.”

The bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

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MEDIA ALERT: Reportedly unregistered lobbyist pressures Senate committee to reconsider bill that hurts Arizona families and economy

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), filed a complaint with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office after an apparently unregistered lobbyist pressured a Senate committee to support a bill that could empower out-of-state debt collectors to force Arizona citizens to repay debts they have already paid.

On Tuesday, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted down HB 2664. Shortly after the vote, the committee reconsidered and passed the bill with a vote of 4-2. McCune Davis, who opposes this bill because it weakens state consumer protection laws, believes that committee members may have been influenced by the comments of an unregistered lobbyist.

Arizona law states that any person actively lobbying at the legislature must register with the Secretary of State to promote transparency. The committee was lobbied by a man, who claimed to represent the Arizona Creditor Bar Association, but is not included on the state’s list of registered lobbyists.

“This is bad form on the part of an apparently unregistered lobbyist that supported bad legislation,” McCune Davis said. “This bill, which will hurt Arizona families and will benefit out-of-state debt buyers, is now one step closer to becoming law. It is shameful.”

The bill will go to the full Senate for consideration. To check the status of the bill go to http://www.azleg.gov/Bills.asp or for more information call (602) 926-5848.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

House Democratic Budget 2012

The House Democrats released a 2012 budget Monday, March 12. The plan focuses on creating jobs, providing health services and funding education.

Click here to see the budget.

Monday, March 12, 2012

House Democratic budget focused on job creation, education and health services

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats today released a budget focused on creating jobs and improving education.

By contrast, the legislative and governor’s budgets do not do enough to help middle class families, Arizona’s economic engine.

“House Democrats understand that we need to prioritize the budget in a way that will fund programs that put people back to work and will improve schools so our kids can compete for jobs in the future,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14). “The executive and legislative budgets both fail to do that. The legislative budget neglects to hold companies that are benefiting from corporate bailouts accountable. The governor’s budget steals from Peter to pay Paul and leaves the state in a $540 million deficit in fiscal year 2015, the year after her term ends.”

The legislative budget hoards $450 million in Rainy Day fund, instead of spending it the way voters intended it to be spent—on education, health services and public safety. Even with the money stockpiled in this budget there would still be a $225 million shortfall by fiscal year 2015.

“The budget created by the majority party ignores the directive of the people of Arizona,” said House Minority Whip and Appropriations Committee Member Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13). “Voters told us to use the money raised through the one cent sales tax to pay for education and public safety. The money is supposed to be working for the people, not sitting idle in a Rainy Day fund.”

The governor’s budget will create a $540 million shortfall by 2015, according to projections from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee. The governor increases spending and finances it through fund sweeps. This unsustainable practice contributes to the astounding deficit in 2015.

“The governor is planning to leave office before she has to deal with the impact of her bad budget decisions,” said Appropriations Committee Member Lela Alston, D-Phoenix (District 15). “Her budget is irresponsible.”

By contrast, the Democrat budget is aligned with the priorities of the people of Arizona. It includes spending:
o $145 million for education over three years
o $135 million for health in ongoing spending starting in fiscal year 2013
o $22 million for state parks and tourism over three years

The Democrat budget ends with a $220 million shortfall which is less than the legislative budget that is estimated at $225 million in 2015 and far less than the governor’s budget which is $540 million.

“We spent a considerable amount of time working on a balanced budget," Campbell said. "There was no feasible way to do that because Tea Party lawmakers continue to insist on corporate bailouts and refuse to close tax loopholes."

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Tea Party lawmakers block Ableser consumer protection bill

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Tea Party lawmakers vehemently protested against a consumer protection amendment Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe (District 17), introduced on Thursday.

The amendment to HB 2557 would have strengthened consumer protection for cell phone users and help raise money for schools. It would take 15 percent of overage fees that cell phone companies charge their customers for going over the minutes on their plan, and would have placed that money with the school district trust fund for use in schools.

After an antagonistic debate, Tea Party lawmakers defeated the amendment by a voice vote.

“We should not be engaging in this partisan bickering,” Ableser said. “This amendment would strengthen consumer protection laws and would have put money into Arizona schools. Instead, Tea Party legislators have chosen a rigid ideology over the needs of Arizonans.”

Ableser said the amendment was meant to prompt a discussion about the lack of competition and some of the exorbitant fees charged by phone companies.

“But rather than discuss the subject of consumer protection, they chose to argue with the same partisan bickering that they’ve used over the last three years,” Ableser said. “We should be working to protect middle-class families, not yelling across party lines."

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Local leaders support Buy American legislation and making local economies stronger

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), and Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, (District 16), joined Kimber Lanning, executive director of the nonprofit Local First Arizona and Joseph Seelye, the AZ legislative and political action team coordinator for Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO today to emphasize the importance of Buy American policies.

“Buy American legislation is an important part of our economic recovery, both at the state and national level,” Campbell said. “We should be making the government work for us by giving local companies first crack at contracts here to create jobs here – not in China or India.”

Lanning, whose nonprofit represents a coalition of locally-owned businesses, applauded the efforts of Representatives Campbell and Gallego to promote Buy American legislation.

"Legislation like this will work wonders for building a healthier Arizona economy- and a healthier American economy as well. Spending our money with companies who are invested in the US is a great way to grow jobs and improve the quality of life for all. I commend Rep. Campbell and Rep. Gallego for their leadership in this critically important area," Lanning said.

Gallego added that Buy American policies are fiscally responsible and include common sense waivers.

“Buy American legislation has no added cost to taxpayers and protects against high project costs,” Gallego said. “That’s why Rep. Campbell and I have introduced bills that would initiate Buy American policies in our state.”

During this session Campbell and Gallego introduced several bills that would have supported local economies including:

HB 2510 (Campbell) - Agencies of the state, or counties, cities, and towns in this state, if feasible, will purchase goods and services that are manufactured in the United States.

HB 2638 (Gallego) - Prohibits a state governmental unit from contracting with vendors, bidders, or contractors whose business headquarters are located outside of the United States.

HB 2733 (Gallego) - Requires the Director of the Department of Economic Security to compile a list of call centers that have relocated out of Arizona to a foreign country. Call centers that do so will no longer be eligible for state grants and loans. The bill also requires call centers that work on state business to be located or relocate to Arizona, and remain in the state.

Seelye added that Buy American legislation is good for working families, which are the economic engine of Arizona and the country.

“I support Buy American legislation because working families need good paying jobs and our tax dollars need to stay here in the United State of America working to support our infrastructure,” Seelye said.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Gallego selected “State Representative of the Year” by AZ Pipe Trades Local 469

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The Arizona Pipe Trades Local 469 named Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16), 2011 State Representative of the Year.

In a letter to Gallego, the Arizona Pipe Trades Local 469 indicated they chose him for the award because of his stance on “the issues that matter most to Pipe Trades members… creating jobs, protecting the right of workers to organize, and supporting the working families who are struggling in these tough economic times.”

Gallego will receive the award at the Arizona Pipe Trades 469 annual Pin Ceremony on Saturday, March 10.

“I am honored by the Local 469’s decision to award me with State Representative of the Year,” Gallego said. “I am happy to stand with Arizonans who are working to create jobs and help families. I will continue to strive for the values and principles exhibited by the Local 469.”

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Tea Party legislators pass bill that will hurt Arizonans and the economy

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Tea Party lawmakers in the House of Representatives approved HB 2664 on Tuesday. This bill could empower out-of-state debt collectors to force Arizona citizens to repay debts they have already paid or that have been dismissed or forgiven.

Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), said that this legislation targets families who are struggling financially.

“This is bad legislation that will weaken 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.”

HB 2664 passed the House Tuesday by a vote of 33-26, and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“This is an industry rife with abuse and this legislation will make it worse,” McCune Davis said. “I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will understand the damage this bill will do for the economy and for families.”

To check the status of the bill go to http://www.azleg.gov/Bills.asp or for more information call
(602) 926-5848.

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Hobbs bill to make Child Protective Services more efficient passes House vote

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill sponsored by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), that will help make Child Protective Services more efficient, passed a full House vote today.



“This is one less step of red tape so that we can protect the children of Arizona,” Hobbs said.



HB 2794 would eliminate the need for the Department of Economic Security to establish “review teams” to determine whether a child should be removed from a home because of abuse or neglect.



“This bill helps CPS be more efficient by cutting out a duplicative step of the process to determine if a child needs to be removed from a person’s custody,” Hobbs said.

Since 1998, juvenile courts have held preliminary protective hearings in cases involving the removal of children from abusive situations. This hearing eliminates the need for the review team. CPS caseloads are already 50 percent over the recommended limit and this step causes more delays in providing services and keeping children safe.



“Removal review teams, which are unnecessary because of the process juvenile courts have in place, make it harder for children to be protected from abusive and neglectful environments,” Hobbs said. “By eliminating these teams, CPS will be better able to get children out of unhealthy environments and into welcoming and safe homes.”

The bill passed by a vote of 48-9, and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

House unanimously passes bill to make long-term care more affordable

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The House today unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), that would make long-term health care more affordable for middle-class families.

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 House, we can help relieve some of the financial burden that middle-class families are struggling with,” Farley said. “This will help families better manage medical expenses for themselves and the seniors they love.”

HB 2713 passed the House 57-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Tea Party legislators prioritize extremist agenda over children’s safety

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Tea Party legislators are prioritizing an extremist agenda over children’s safety.

Hours after two people were killed in a Florida high school shooting and only days after a gunman killed three students at an Ohio school, extremists in the House of Representatives approved HB 2719 which will ease gun restrictions near school campuses.

“This bill will make it easier to bully and intimidate school children,” said House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13). “The idea of gang members being allowed to brandish weapons outside of play grounds to intimidate or recruit children is shameful. This legislation endangers our children and puts our educators at risk too.”

Several Republican members, recognizing the potential hazards this legislation poses to children, voted no. However, Tea Party members garnered enough support to pass the bill by a narrow margin of 31 to 28.

Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 11), is a member of the Scottsdale School District Governing Board. He said this bill is a big step in the wrong direction.

“This will undo the protections put in place by the Gun Free School Zones Act. If Tea Party legislators are willing to allow gang members to have weapons outside of schools, how long before they are allowed to bring them into schools?” Meyer said. “The potential ramifications of this bill are horrifying. We should be protecting the students and educators in this state, HB 2719 does the opposite.”

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14) agreed.

"Once again Tea Party legislators are putting their extremist agenda above what is best for Arizona and they are putting children in harm’s way,” Campbell said. “Arizona citizens need to know about what is happening here and they should hold Tea Party lawmakers accountable for bad legislation that jeopardizes the safety of school kids.”

Monday, March 05, 2012

McCune Davis: HB 2664 will hurt Arizonans and the economy, benefits out-of-state debt collectors

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), says that HB 2664 is bad for the economy and could empower out-of-state debt collectors to force Arizona citizens to repay debts they may have already paid or that have been dismissed or forgiven.

“This is bad legislation that will weaken consumer protection laws and targets families that are struggling financially,” McCune Davis said. “It benefits out-of-state debt buyers, companies that purchase and attempt to collect debt after it has gone into default.”

HB 2664 gives debt collectors the power to accuse almost anyone of owing a debt without having to show a contract. If this bill passes a debt buyer would be able to sue a person with little evidence. The lawsuit could proceed if the company had something as simple as a spreadsheet showing a name and an alleged amount due or a generic credit card agreement – even if the debt was already been paid or dismissed.

Peoria resident Hayden Scheider, who is speaking out against HB 2664, said that he was a victim of mistaken identity and was sued for a debt he did not owe.

“I was sued by a debt buyer for a debt that was not mine. I won because the debt buyer didn’t have a proper basis for the lawsuit,” he said. “HB 2664 will allow a debt buyer to continue with a lawsuit even without a proper basis. HB 2664 will help out-of-state debt buyers and hurt Arizona families.”

"Middle-class families, Arizona’s economic engine, deserve to have the legislature focus on good ideas to put people back to work, not ideas that benefit special interest groups from other states," McCune Davis said. "Most states are strengthening consumer protection laws in this industry, but this legislation would weaken them in Arizona.

“This is an industry that is rife with abuse and this bill will only worsen the problem,” McCune Davis said.

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