Thursday, May 31, 2012

House Democrats promote program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure

House Democrats promote program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure

The Making Home Affordable program provides resources to people trying to keep homes


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Recently, Arizona House Democrats joined U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan on a call to discuss the Making Home Affordable program.

“Middle-class families in Arizona deserve our focus,” Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “This program will help some people keep their homes when they would have to foreclose otherwise.”

The Making Home Affordable program is part of a broad strategy to help homeowners in Arizona and across the country avoid foreclosure. White House officials put the program in place to address one of the items on the “To Do List” created for the U.S. Congress. More information on the “To Do List” is available at www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/05/10/congresss-do-list.

“Arizona House Democrats are working diligently to find resources for Arizonans struggling to keep their homes,” McCune Davis said. “That’s why we tried to stop Tea Party Republicans from sweeping $50 million from the Arizona Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund, which was supposed to be used to provide services to families hit hardest by the mortgage crisis. That effort was blocked, but we’ll continue to find ways to help. The Making Home Affordable program offers support, resources and hope for people trying to avoid foreclosure.”

There is a variety of assistance available to homeowners including:

• Lowering monthly mortgage payments

• Principal reduction alternatives

• Foreclosure alternatives

• Affordable refinance options

• Resources for unemployed homeowners and homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth

Through the program, HUD-approved housing counselors will advise homeowners as they gather documentation, complete paperwork and work with mortgage companies. This will help people avoid scams.

“These are real experts providing real advice for real problems,” McCune Davis said. “It is hard to know where to start when trying to save a home from foreclosure. It becomes even more difficult when there are so many companies and people out there willing to exploit the situation. Having reliable help from trained professionals is invaluable.”

 
More information about the Making Home Affordable program is available at www.makinghomeaffordable.gov or by calling 888.995.HOPE (4673).



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Friday, May 25, 2012

House Democrats congratulate National Small Business Week award winners

House Democrats congratulate National Small Business Week award winners
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – May 26 is the final day of National Small Business Week, and House Democrats recognize the achievements of all Arizona small businesses and congratulate Arizona’s award winners.

Vickie Wessel, president of Phoenix-based Spirit Electronics, won Small Business Subcontractor of the Year. Zeferino Banda, president of Banda Group Intl. in Chandler, earned the Small Business Person of the Year award.


“We know that small business is a driving force for the Arizona economy,” Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), said. “I’ve been a small business owner since 1991 and I understand the level of dedication needed to run a company. I applaud the success of the National Small Business Week award winners.”

This year, House Democrats introduced a number of bills designed to help small businesses.

Creating a lower tax burden for small businesses that hire Arizona workers

• HB 2705 – small business employment; tax rate (Campbell)

• HB 2700 – property tax valuation; residential; business (Chabin)

• HB 2716 – sales tax; reduced reporting requirements (Farley)

Making it easier for small businesses to get health care plans

• HB 2045 – health care group; sole proprietors (Farley)

Creating local preference for in-state bidders on state and local contracts

• HB 2392 – state contracts; preference; Arizona business (Saldate)

• HB 2680 – procurement; Arizona bidder; preference (Campbell)

Ensuring state and local government contractors use American companies instead of foreign ones

• HB 2510 – government procurement; American products (Campbell)

• HB 2638 – state contracts; foreign headquarters (Gallego)

Tea Party lawmakers blocked each of these bills, never even considering them.

“It is a shame that Tea Party lawmakers prioritize their rigid ideology over what is most important to Arizonans – creating jobs and improving the economy,” Farley said. “Not only did they fail to create legislation that would significantly help small business in Arizona, they stymied any attempts to do so by House Democrats. Despite this, House Democrats remain committed to finding ways to support local, small businesses.”

For more information on National Small Business Week visit http://www.nationalsmallbusinessweek.com/.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Heinz asks Dex One Corporation to keep local jobs local

Heinz asks Dex One Corporation to keep local jobs local
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson (District 29) sent a letter to the corporate officers of Dex One Corporation asking them to keep local jobs local.

“Creating and keeping skilled, quality jobs in Tucson and Arizona has always been a top priority for me,” Heinz said. “The people of Tucson are hard working and committed. I would encourage any company considering outsourcing Arizona jobs to reconsider,” Heinz said.

Heinz sent the letter after meeting with six Dex One Corporation employees on Wednesday who shared their concerns about losing their positions as sales representatives. The letter sent to Dex One Corporation Chief Executive Officer Alfred Mockett and Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing Richard J. “Rick” Hanna asked them to work with Arizonans to keep jobs local.

 
“The potential of losing approximately 400 Arizona jobs to outsourcing concerns me a great deal. I am writing to encourage you to keep local jobs local. I would like to ask you to work with Arizonans to support the local economy and protect jobs,” he wrote.

See a copy of the letter below.

Dear Sirs,

 
Recently, it has come to my attention that some Dex One Corporation employees are striking against the company because of reports of potential job outsourcing.

 
I have had the privilege of representing the people in this community in the Arizona State Legislature and I know that Tucson residents are hard working. Much of my work at the legislature focuses on creating and keeping quality jobs here in Tucson and across the state.

Recently, I spoke with six Dex One Corporation employees who shared their concerns about keeping their positions as sales representatives. The potential of losing approximately 400 Arizona jobs to outsourcing concerns me a great deal. I am writing to encourage you to keep local jobs local. I would like to ask you to work with Arizonans to support the local economy and protect jobs.

Thank you for your time.


Sincerely,


Rep. Matt Heinz, MD
D-Tucson (District 29)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rep. Albert Hale recently awarded honorary law degree and gives Phoenix School of Law commencement address

Rep. Albert Hale recently awarded honorary law degree and gives Phoenix School of Law commencement address

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Phoenix School of Law presented Rep. Albert A. Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 2), with an honorary law degree at the school’s 2012 commencement ceremony. Hale provided the commencement address to more than 800 attendees in the Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday afternoon.

Hale shared his own story of striving to become a lawyer. He told graduating students and their guests that he aspired to be an attorney from a very young age.

“While riding a horse with my cousin I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him a lawyer. When he asked why, I told him so I could find out how it is possible for a group of people to come across the big water, take all the land, the water, the resources and never be held accountable,” Hale said during the commencement address.

He explained that the Navajo people and other Native People were not included in the rights and protections supposedly afforded by United States Constitution to all citizens. He continued that their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were not acknowledged when their land, resources and livelihood were taken.

Hale praised the students for their accomplishment and remarked that they and their families and relatives made many sacrifices. He encouraged each graduate to take the time to research the origin of a law, to understand its meaning and be able to provide a true interpretation.

He further remarked that, as an attorney, he searched for answers to his question. Hale found that old European practices of claiming a land, regardless of current inhabitants, was the practice used when encountering Native peoples and their lands.

“Just by claiming the land in the name of a king, queen or pope gave that group ownership and extinguished the rights of people already living there. This is the Doctrine of Discovery, which later became the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny,” he said.

Included among the new graduates was the first Navajo woman to graduate from the Phoenix School of Law, Kanani S. Anderson.


“It is good to see a young Navajo woman in the graduating class of 2012. We are very proud of you. Continue your work and serve your people. You are a role model to our youth, and you have shown them it can be done,” he said.


Hale received his honorary degree in recognition of his many years of public service. He already has a juris doctorate degree from the University of New Mexico, School of Law which he earned upon graduation in 1977.




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Campbell to Bennett: ‘Resign as Romney campaign co-chair or as secretary of state’

Campbell to Bennett: ‘Resign as Romney campaign co-chair or as secretary of state’

House minority leader calls for an end to Bennett’s hypocrisy and abuse of power


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (D-14), called for Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett either to resign as the co-chair of Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign or resign as secretary of state.

“It is absolutely inappropriate for the state’s highest ranking election officer to publicly support one presidential candidate when he tried to keep the other off the ballot,” Campbell said.

Campbell sent Bennett a letter asking him to resign.


“Failure to step aside from the political campaign will keep a dark cloud over Arizona’s elections this fall. If you fail to resign from Mr. Romney’s campaign, then I respectfully call on you to resign your position as secretary of state,” Campbell wrote in the letter.


Campbell also asked Bennett to work with him to make the secretary of state position non-partisan.


“(I)f you were to resign as secretary of state I extend an offer to you to join me in working to change the position to a non-partisan office charged solely with administering elections and protecting the integrity of the process. It would be a great step forward for Arizona,” Campbell wrote.

Bennett, who is openly campaigning for Romney, admitted that he considered keeping President Barack Obama’s name off the Arizona ballot because of pressure from the Tea Party “birther” movement. Bennett said constituent requests prompted him to ask Hawaiian officials to verify the information in Obama’s birth certificate. Hawaiian officials responded to his request and verified the validity of the birth certificate.


Only two years ago, when he was running for office, Bennett said that he did not think it was proper for the state’s head election officer to publicly back any candidate or ballot measure because the person in that position would have to conduct the election.

“This actually goes beyond political pandering to a discredited fringe group,” Campbell said. “Ken Bennett is abusing the power of his office to give a political advantage to his preferred presidential candidate. He’s completely contradicting his initial stance. It’s both hypocritical and wrong. If this is the type of leadership Mr. Bennett is offering, he is underestimating the people of Arizona.”

See a copy of the letter below.


Dear Mr. Bennett,


As the chief elections officer in this state, you are specifically tasked with administering elections throughout Arizona. When you were a candidate for secretary of state in 2010, you publicly stated that you would not endorse any candidate or ballot measure because doing so would cast a pall over the validity of the election and raise questions in the voters’ minds about the integrity of the election results. Your pledge was a commitment to the voters of this state. I was disappointed to learn that you have gone back on your word by taking the position of co-chair in Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Your assumption of a prominent and active role in Mr. Romney’s campaign was made even more troubling when you announced last week that you were bowing to pressure from the Tea Party extremists who operate under the delusion that President Obama was not born in this country. By demanding that the State of Hawaii provide additional verification of the president’s birth certificate and asserting that the president’s name may not appear on the Arizona ballot without such additional information from Hawaii, you are jeopardizing the integrity of the election process. By actively supporting Mr. Romney’s campaign while at the same time taking steps to keep his opponent off the ballot, you are abusing the power of your office and undermining the trust of the voters.


Accordingly, I ask that you immediately resign from the position of co-chair of Mr. Romney’s campaign. It is in the best interest of Arizona to do so. Failure to step aside from the political campaign will keep a dark cloud over Arizona’s elections this fall.


If you fail to resign from Mr. Romney’s campaign, then I respectfully call on you to resign your position as secretary of state. Your resignation will allow you to campaign for Mr. Romney and any other political campaigns while protecting the electoral process in this state and maintaining the voters’ confidence in the system. Additionally, if you were to resign as secretary of state, I extend an offer to you to join me in working to change the position to a non-partisan office charged solely with administering elections and protecting the integrity of the process. It would be a great step forward for Arizona.


Sincerely,


Chad Campbell

House Minority Leader


Friday, May 18, 2012

Bennett bows to pressure from Tea Party ‘birther’ movement

Secretary of State announces he is considering keeping Obama off the Arizona ballot

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett bows to pressure from the Tea Party “birther” movement and warns that he may keep President Barack Obama off Arizona’s ballot.

“This is just blatant political pandering,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “He is jeopardizing the integrity of our election system to appease a fringe movement.”

Bennett, who established an exploratory committee for the 2014 Arizona gubernatorial race, is joining the ranks of Tea Party “birthers.” In a recent radio interview, he admitted that he is considering keeping Obama off the Arizona ballot.

Bennett said that he has asked Hawaiian officials to verify the information in Obama’s birth certificate after being pressured by members of the “birther” movement. If he does not get the response from Hawaiian officials he wants, he said it is possible Obama will not be included on the Arizona ballot. The White House released a copy of the birth certificate last year and it remains on the White House website.

“The ‘birther’ movement has been resoundingly discredited time and time again. We’ve seen the president’s birth certificate. There is no controversy. This is all part of an extremist Tea Party agenda that distracts from what we should all be focused on, creating jobs and improving education,” Campbell said. “If this is how Mr. Bennett defines leadership, he is going to be in for a rude awakening in his future political pursuits. The people of Arizona want leaders who are focused on the real issues facing everyday Arizonans, not crackpot conspiracy theories. Arizonans deserve better.”

To hear the radio interview go to http://www.kfyi.com/pages/broomhead.html?article=10135322.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Farley’s bill providing tax breaks for long-term health care costs becomes law

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley's, D-Tucson (District 28), bill to provide tax breaks for middle-class families paying for long-term health care is now law. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill Monday and it will go into effect the beginning of August.

“As soon as this summer, middle-class families who will be caring for people who need long-term health care will get some financial relief,” Farley said. “Arizonans will be able to better manage long-term medical care expenses for themselves and the seniors they love without growing the size or scope of government.”

The new law allows taxpayers to create tax-deductible savings accounts to pay for non-hospital expenses, such as nursing home care, home health care and assisted or alternative family living. It also allows taxpayers to take deductions for long-term health care insurance premiums, even if they do not itemize their deductions.

“Across the country, families face the financial hardships associated with paying for long-term health care,” Farley said. “There is no national plan for dealing with these astounding costs. This law is the first of desperately needed reforms and I intend to continue to propose legislation both in Arizona and on a federal level that will benefit middle-class families making decisions about long-term care.”

Farley added that he understands firsthand the financial challenges of providing long-term medical care for a loved one.

“This is a deeply personal issue for me. My mother passed away last year and spent the last three years of her life in long-term care,” Farley said. “This is an issue that is or soon will be vitally important to many Arizonans. I am grateful for the support of my colleagues.”

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Brewer signs bill that risks women’s access to health care, invades privacy


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX - Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that limits women’s access to contraception and health care, invades privacy rights and jeopardizes their employment.

Last week, HB 2625 became law. It requires women seeking reimbursement for birth control from their health insurance provider to prove that they are not using the medication as contraception if they work for a religiously affiliated employer that has opted out of providing insurance coverage for contraception. Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), and Arizona House Democrats previously urged the governor to veto the bill.

“This law politicizes women’s health,” Hobbs said. “Not only does it violate privacy rights, but it also limits family planning and health care choices for women across the state. Laws like this are based on rigid Tea Party ideologies and are too extreme.”

Hobbs and all Arizona House Democrats voted against HB 2625.

“This law is intrusive and undermines women’s health,” Hobbs said. “The governor should be focused on creating jobs, not putting working women’s employment at risk because of personal, family planning decisions.”

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

UPDATE: Governor signs her “personnel reform” promoting political patronage and cronyism

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that will bring back political patronage and cronyism to the state.

Brewer signed HB 2571, which all House Democrats opposed because it gives the governor the power to hire and fire people based on her political whims. This legislation requires many state agency directors to “serve at the pleasure of the governor.”

“The governor is more interested in granting political favors than making sure state agencies are run by qualified people,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said.

The new law will remove the protection that the current merit system provides for nearly 6,000 state employees. The system prevents employers from hiring people based on political allegiance or favoritism. It also prevents employers from firing state employees without cause. The new law repeals workers’ rights to appeal firing and disciplinary decisions. It also will force state employees currently protected by the merit system to choose between giving up their rights and receiving pay raises.

“For the governor to call this ‘personnel reform’ is misleading,” Campbell said. “It doesn’t reform anything. In fact, it opens the doors for political power grabs.”

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UPDATE: Governor signs bill benefiting out-of-state debt collectors

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Yesterday Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that benefits out-of-state debt collectors. Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), is a vocal opponent of this law and warned of the economic harm HB 2664 will cause Arizonans.

“I am so disappointed that the governor signed this bill,” McCune Davis said. “Most states are tightening regulations on debt collectors. We should not be making it easier for this industry, which is rife with abuse, to victimize people.”

The new law empowers out-of-state debt collectors to force Arizona citizens to defend themselves against debts that were already paid, dismissed or forgiven. McCune Davis said the new law will jeopardize Arizona’s fragile economic recovery and hurt Arizona families.

“In Arizona, the number one complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission is debt collection fraud, and identity theft complaints are the highest among those,” McCune Davis said. “The governor just made it easier for identity thieves to put our financial security in jeopardy.”

The law will go into effect on Aug. 2, 2012.

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UPDATE: Governor signs Hobbs’ bill making CPS more efficient, helping children

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – On Wednesday, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), introduced to improve Child Protective Services’ efficiency and assist children in removal cases. The new law becomes effective on Aug. 2, 2012.

Hobbs proposed HB 2794 to eliminate the need for the Department of Economic Security to establish “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 eliminates the need for review teams. CPS caseloads are already 50 percent over the recommended limit and the review team process causes more delays in providing services and keeping children safe.

“I am thrilled we were able to put aside partisan bickering to make CPS more efficient,” Hobbs said. “This will help ensure that Arizona children are safer and better protected.”

Eliminating review teams was one of several recommendations outlined in the Arizona Child Safety Task Force report that was released in December 2011. The new law also has other provisions based on the report’s recommendations including:

• Defining domestic violence as a crime against children if a child is present during an altercation.

• Ensuring there are no court orders in other states prohibiting a parent/guardian from seeing a child before the parent/guardian is allowed to see the child in Arizona.

• Requiring DES and each county attorney to submit a separate annual report regarding joint CPS investigations.

• Requiring that joint investigation CPS reports be independently prepared and submitted without collusion between agencies.

• Requiring a peace officer to determine if a minor is present when responding to a domestic violence call.

• Requiring a peace officer to conduct a child welfare check to determine if the child is safe or if the child might be a victim of domestic violence or child abuse when responding to a domestic violence call.

“Eliminating review teams and the other provisions of this law will improve the process for getting children out of unhealthy situations and into safe homes,” Hobbs said.

For more information on the task force report go to https://www.azdes.gov/main.aspx?menu=10&id=7197.

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In case you missed it: Republicans’ ‘bait-and-switch’ budget lacks vision

AZ Capitol Times
By Guest Opinion
Published: May 4, 2012 at 9:31 am

Arizona Legislative Republicans did the state a disservice by pushing through a bait-and-switch budget that lacks vision, leaves kids of working families without health care coverage and fails to create jobs.

Tea Party legislators appear satisfied with hanging their hats on the rainy day fund in their budget. That’s the bait. The reality is their budget will leave such a large deficit in fiscal year 2015 that it drains the rainy day fund dry. Even then, the state will be left with about $150 million of debt. That’s the switch.

The rest of the budget is laced with irresponsible choices and misplaced priorities. Republicans struck a deal with Gov. Jan Brewer that generations of Arizonans will have to finance. Their priorities are wrong.

House Democrats have been calling for the restoration of KidsCare since the governor froze the program in January 2010. A $7 million investment would provide medical coverage for thousands of children from working families. The Republicans did not see fit to support this program, but they want to allow the state to join lawsuits against the voter-approved Independent Redistricting Commission. Some Republicans are upset with the IRC because they don’t like their chances of winning in the new districts the IRC created. They want to spend tax dollars to sue, which could cost millions. That money would be better spent on health care for Arizona’s children.

Tea Party lawmakers swiped $50 million from the Arizona Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund. This is a multi-state settlement with the federal government against the five largest residential mortgage loan servicers who engaged in fraudulent loan and foreclosure practices. The money is supposed to help families hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. The Republicans decided it is more important to use this money to build additional private prisons.

Tea Party legislators will have a lot to answer for during the upcoming elections. The budget that is waiting on the governor’s desk does nothing to create jobs, it leaves the state in debt by fiscal year 2015, it ignores children of working families who need health care coverage and it steals from homeowners who were already victimized by fraudulent loan practices.

Every House Democrat voted against this budget and its misplaced priorities. It was the only responsible thing to do. Especially considering it kills jobs. The state loses jobs in tourism because Republicans don’t fund the State Parks Department and limit future funding for the Office of Tourism. Both are major job creators in Arizona. It also kills jobs in the health care industry by failing to support rate increases for all health care providers. This budget jeopardizes jobs and people’s health across the state.

Democrats proposed a budget to create jobs, provide health services and support quality education. It was responsible and realistic. Maybe next year, the Republicans will be willing to have serious discussions with our caucus. We’d be more than happy to help them create a budget that works for the people of Arizona, instead of against them.

– Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), is minority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives.

AZ Capitol Times

Friday, May 04, 2012

Tea Party lawmakers miss opportunities to create jobs and build a stronger future

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The legislative session ended yesterday and today House Democrats recap the opportunities Tea Party lawmakers missed during the past session.

“House Democrats started this year with a plan. We introduced legislation that would support local businesses, create jobs and improve government accountability,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “Unfortunately, these efforts were stymied by Tea Party lawmakers who were more interested in promoting their extremist agenda.”

Democratic policy priorities included:
  • Immediately creating jobs
  • Adopting ethics reform and creating more transparency in government
  • Creating a lower tax burden for small businesses who hire Arizona workers
  • Creating local preference for in-state bidders on state and local contracts
  • Ensuring that state and local government contractors use American companies instead of foreign ones
  • Preventing private prison expansion because they have serious safety issues and cost Arizona taxpayers more money
  • Eliminating tax loopholes
Tea Party lawmakers stopped many bills that would have supported these policy priorities from moving through the legislature. The following bills were blocked by Tea Party legislators:

Investing in infrastructure to create jobs immediately
  • HB 2298 – improvement districts; renewable energy (Campbell)
  • HB 2085 – energy conservation; public buildings (Ableser)
  • HB 2243 – commerce authority; solar grants (Gallego)
  • HB 2699 – department of administration; solar panels (Chabin)
 Adopting ethics reform and creating more transparency in government
  • HB 2665 – The ALEC Accountability Act; financial disclosure; model legislation; lobbying (Farley)
  • HB 2704 – Fiesta Bowl Scandal Reform; disclosures; lobbyist; gifts; public officers (Campbell)
Creating a lower tax burden for small businesses that hire Arizona workers
  • HB 2705 – small business employment; tax rate (Campbell)
Creating local preference for in-state bidders on state and local contracts
  • HB 2392 – state contracts; preference; Arizona business (Saldate)
  • HB 2680 – procurement; Arizona bidder; preference (Campbell)
Ensuring that state and local government contractors use American companies instead of foreign ones
  • HB 2510 – government procurement; American products (Campbell)
  • HB 2638 – state contracts; foreign headquarters (Gallego)
Preventing private prison expansion
  • HB 2202 – private prisons; prisoner; facility; limits (Campbell)
  • HB 2203 – private prisons contractors; public records (Campbell)  
  • HB 2204 – private prisons; regulation (Campbell)
Eliminating tax loopholes by requiring an automatic sunset
  • HB 2645 – sales tax exemptions; repeal; dates (Farley)
  • HB 2685 – income tax credits; repeal dates (Farley)
Instead of setting aside partisan bickering and working together for the people of Arizona, Tea Party lawmakers focused on legislation that expanded private prisons, awarded tax credits to the wealthy while they refused to fund KidsCare, keeping thousands of Arizona children from having health care coverage.

Republicans passed a budget that kills jobs. The state will lose jobs in tourism because Republicans failed to fund the State Parks Department and they have limited future funding for the Office of Tourism. Both are major job creators in Arizona. They also killed jobs in the health care industry by failing to support rate increases for all health care providers. This budget jeopardizes jobs and people’s health across the state.

“Tea Party legislators showed us that their priorities are all wrong. They will have a lot to answer for to the voters,” Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), said. “House Democrats will be back next session to make sure the priorities of Arizonans are represented.”

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Tea Party lawmakers pass tax credit bill that siphons millions from state’s general fund

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats fervently opposed a bill that will give tax credits to the wealthy while vital programs go unfunded.

HB 2815 does little more than siphon money out of the state’s general fund. Over the next six years, Tea Party legislators are taking almost $440 million from the state. More than $310 million of that comes from tax breaks for the rich.

“It’s irresponsible for Tea Party lawmakers to hand out tax cuts to the rich while working families can’t get health care coverage for their children. Republicans refused to invest $7 million dollars in KidsCare so thousands of Arizona children will go without health care coverage. It doesn’t make sense," House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said.

Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), said instead of handing out tax cuts to the wealthy, Republicans should be focused on what matters most to Arizonans – creating jobs and improving education.

“Passing yet another round of tax credits while Arizona is still struggling to create jobs proves the Tea Party legislature’s priorities are misplaced,” Farley said. “We should be creating jobs and funding education, not creating more loopholes that don’t help Arizona middle-class families.”

HB 2815 passed the House by a vote of 39-16 and now goes to the governor.

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Tea Party legislators promoting patronage by passing governor’s “personnel reform”

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Tea Party legislators in the House bought into Gov. Jan Brewer’s plan to bring back political patronage and cronyism to the state.

All House Democrats opposed HB 2571, a bill the governor passed off as personnel reform, because it gives her the power to hire and fire people based on her political whims. This legislation requires many state agency directors to “serve at the pleasure of the governor.”

“To call HB 2571 ‘personnel reform’ is misleading,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “It doesn’t reform anything. In fact, it opens the doors for political power grabs.”

The new law will remove the protection that the merit system provides for nearly 6,000 state employees. The system prevents employers from hiring people based on political allegiance or favoritism. The merit system also prevents employers from firing state employees without cause. The new law repeals workers’ rights to appeal firing and disciplinary decisions. It will also force state employees currently protected by the merit system to choose between giving up their rights or receiving pay raises.

"We already saw with this year's budget deal that the governor has no problem retaliating against those who disagree with her," Campbell said. "This just empowers her and any governor in the future to use the same type of tactics on hard working state employees across Arizona."

Such examples include:
  • The governor punished Board of Executive Clemency Executive Director Duane Belcher for the tardiness of three of her appointees to a meeting. She fired him abruptly after 20 years of service.
  • The legislature’s impeachment and removal of Independent Redistricting Committee Chairwoman Colleen Mathis at the governor’s urging. The Supreme Court ruled that the governor had no right to interfere with the committee.
  • The appointment of Bryan Martyn as the executive director of Arizona State Parks over 10 other candidates despite having no experience running such a large department. The attorney general is now investigating him for potential campaign finance violations while running for Pinal County Board of Supervisors.
“The governor is more interested in granting political favors than making sure state agencies are run by qualified people,” Campbell said. “Their priorities are so far out of line with what is important to the people of Arizona.”

The bill passed 38-18 and now goes to the governor.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Heinz bipartisan bill on cervical and breast cancer treatment included in budget

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Legislation originally sponsored by Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson (District 29), that would expand breast and cervical cancer treatment was included in the budget passed by the legislature yesterday.

“This is reassuring news for Arizona women,” Heinz, a Tucson physician, said. “Bobbie Thayer is an amazingly strong woman. Her efforts and courage led to this reform.”

The law, originally HB 2472 also called “Bobbie’s Law,” was created after Peoria resident Bobbie Thayer got a mammogram to check for breast cancer. She went to a provider that was not listed with the Well Woman HealthCheck Program administered by the Department of Health Services. She then discovered that bureaucratic red tape would prevent her from qualifying for the treatment of the inflammatory breast cancer she had developed.

“I’ve been a doctor for nearly a decade and it is tragic that anyone should have to go without lifesaving treatment because they are afraid they won’t be able to pay the bill,” Heinz said. “No woman should be denied breast cancer treatment because of her income level.”

Previously, if a woman was not screened by a WWHP provider she couldn’t receive treatment through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. Uninsured women were denied lifesaving medical attention simply because they walked into the wrong clinic. The new law will broaden WWHP access and lift age restrictions.

“Bobbie Thayer was brave enough to share her story and fight for change,” Heinz said. “Her advocacy efforts helped to put $2 million into Arizona’s budget for breast and cervical cancer treatment. Bobbie’s work will help save hundreds of women like her.”

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Tea Party legislators want taxpayers to foot $260k bill for the Russell Pearce recall

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Tea Party legislators today revived a plan to stick taxpayers with the more than $260,000 bill for ousted Sen. Russell Pearce’s recall election.

The former Senate president and self-proclaimed “Tea Party President” lost a recall election in Nov. 2011. He now stands to receive a windfall from Arizona taxpayers to reimburse him for the campaign. Sen. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert (District 22), led the charge to create a way for Pearce to petition for the funds by offering an amendment to SB 1449 in a conference committee today. It passed committee, despite vehement protests from Democratic members. Both the House and Senate likely will vote on the measure tomorrow.

“This is dirty dealing. We didn’t get a copy of this amendment until moments before the conference committee met,” Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Maryvale (District 13), said. “There was no public input. In fact, when people in the gallery stood to ask questions, they were tossed out. There are no words to adequately describe how egregious this political maneuvering is - nauseating might come close.”

Biggs said the amendment seeks to set up a “framework” for Pearce and other recalled candidates to petition for reimbursement. There is nothing in the language of the amendment that would require Pearce to use the money to pay back campaign donors.

“This is crazy,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “Pearce didn’t even pay for the recall election campaign himself. We’ve looked through his campaign expense reports, most of his donations were from individuals and from political action committees. So taxpayers are just supposed to write him a check?”

The amendment is retroactive to the date of the Pearce recall election, a strong indication that, despite assurances to the contrary, the amendment was designed to give Pearce a payout.

“The Tea Party is so out of touch with what is really important to the people of Arizona,” Campbell said. “If they think they are going to have an easy time passing a bill to line Russell Pearce’s pockets while thousands of Arizona children are still without heath care because Republicans refused to fund KidsCare, they are mistaken. They are going to have a lot to explain to the voters.”

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House passes Hobbs bill that makes CPS more efficient and helps children

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The House of Representatives sent a bill by Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), that will help make Child Protective Services more efficient and help children in removal review cases to the governor yesterday.

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 a House vote by 58-2.

“This bill helps CPS become 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 review teams. 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 situations and into safe homes.”

Removing the review teams was one of several recommendations outlined in the Arizona Child Safety Task Force report that was released in December 2011. The bill also had other provisions based on the report’s recommendations including:

· Defining domestic violence as a crime against children if a child is present during an altercation.

· Ensuring there are no court orders in other states prohibiting a parent/guardian from seeing a child before the parent/guardian is allowed to see the child in Arizona.

· Requiring DES and each county attorney to submit a separate annual report regarding joint CPS investigations.

· Requiring the joint investigation CPS reports to be independently prepared and submitted without collusion between agencies.

· Requiring a peace officer to determine if a minor is present when responding to a domestic violence call.

· Requiring a peace officer to conduct a child welfare check to determine if the child is safe or if the child might be a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.

For more information on the task force report go to https://www.azdes.gov/main.aspx?menu=10&id=7197.

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Tea Party legislators attempting to use taxpayer money to overturn voter-approved IRC maps

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Democrats today vehemently opposed an effort led by Republican House members to use taxpayer dollars to join a lawsuit against the Independent Redistricting Commission.

The voter-approved IRC recently created new congressional and legislative district maps for the upcoming elections. Many House Republicans are attempting to supersede the will of the voters and the IRC because they don’t like the boundaries proposed by the independent volunteer commission.

"Here's a newsflash for all the politicians who are mad about how the maps turned out: the courts and voters don't care if you think you can win with these maps. The voters plainly said they want politicians out of the process,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “We all just need to butt out.”

A motion by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert (District 22), made on the House floor this morning allowed the House of Representatives to join or intervene in any federal or state lawsuit. It also allowed the Speaker of the House to retain and pay for outside counsel. The motion passed with strong Democratic opposition.

Democrats argued that the money that will likely go to the extensive legal fees incurred by the House involving itself in these lawsuits should be spent on other priorities. After the redistricting process in 2000, lawsuit costs topped $10 million.

"Yesterday, during the budget debate, Republicans wouldn't allocate $7 million for KidsCare so that working parents can get health insurance for their children. Now they want to spend taxpayer money on a lawsuit they will probably lose," Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16), said. "These maps are going to be upheld. The politicians need to just accept that and focus on the work and priorities of the people."

Campbell said that neither Democrats nor Republicans are completely supportive of the political opportunities afforded each party in the final maps.

“That’s the point of this process,” Campbell said. “It’s independent. Democrats get that and we aren’t whining about it.”

Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Avondale (District 13), agreed.

“Politicians weren’t supposed to be involved in this process,” he said. “I suggest that the Republicans take a moment to consider that this is the will of the voters.”

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Tea Party legislators pass shortsighted, bait-and-switch budget today

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Tea Party lawmakers passed a bait-and-switch budget that finances tax loopholes by hoarding money and sweeping funds from vital programs. It is now on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk.

“This budget is a wasted opportunity,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “The Republicans’ priorities are all wrong. They swept $50 million from the Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund that should be used to help families trying to recover from the mortgage crisis. Instead, they are funding more private prisons.”

Campbell also said the budget lacks vision for the long-term, economic stability of the state.

“The budget won’t create jobs, it promises savings it can’t deliver and leaves essential programs without resources,” Campbell said. “It’s a bait-and-switch.”

Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), said the Republican bait-and-switch budget hoards money instead of investing it in job creation and education. It promises savings but creates a nearly $150 million shortfall in fiscal year 2015.

“The Republicans should be investing the $450 million they are hoarding,” Farley said. “They should be supporting the policies proposed to create jobs in tourism, in Arizona State Parks and in the health industry.”

Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24), agreed that Republicans did not invest enough in job creation in their budget. She also said the Republican budget doesn’t adequately support the health care service industry, a major job creator in the state.

“I have real concerns about hospitals around the state, especially those in rural Arizona,” Pancrazi said. “By failing to support rate increases for all health care providers, this budget jeopardizes jobs and people’s health across the state. I can't support a budget that might shut down health care facilities.”

The Republican budget that passed does not restore funding for KidsCare, leaving thousands of Arizona children without health care coverage.

“It would have only taken $7 million to fully restore the KidsCare program and the Republicans decided to approve $60 million in tax loopholes instead,” House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), said. “If the governor signs this budget, Arizona will remain the only state in the country that does not fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This budget is shortsighted and lacks long-term vision.”

The budget passed without bipartisan support.

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House unanimously gives final passage to bill to make long-term health care more affordable

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), sponsored a bill that would make long-term health care more affordable for middle-class families, which received final passage in the Arizona House of Representatives with bipartisan support today.

“We have taken a step in the right direction for Arizonans by allowing some financial relief for middle-class families,” Farley said. “This will help families better manage medical long-term care expenses for themselves and the seniors they love, without growing the size or scope of government.”

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.

“This is a deeply personal issue for me. My mother passed away last year and spent the last three years of her life in long-term care,” Farley said during the House vote. “This is an issue that is or soon will be vitally important to many Arizonans and I am grateful for the support of my colleagues."

HB 2713 received a unanimous final pass vote of 60-0 in the House and now goes to the governor.

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Tea Party lawmakers block effort to protect fund that helps families hit hardest by mortgage crisis

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Tea Party lawmakers blocked an effort to stop the $50 million sweep of the Arizona Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund. This money is supposed to be used to help Arizona families struggling to recover from the mortgage crisis.

Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), offered an amendment to protect this money. The fund was created by a joint state-federal settlement with Arizona and 48 other states, the federal government and the country’s five largest residential mortgage loan servicers who engaged in fraudulent loan and foreclosure practices. The money was intended to help homeowners who lost their homes or are in need of loan modifications and those who are current on their mortgages but underwater.

“The Republicans should be ashamed of themselves,” McCune Davis said. “In March, Arizona had the highest foreclosure rate in the country. This fund was created to help people victimized by fraudulent loan practices. We should be helping people keep their homes. Instead, Tea Party lawmakers want to take this money. Why? So they can pay for more prison beds or finance more tax loopholes? It’s inexcusable.”

All House Democrats present for the amendment vote supported it, all Republicans voted no. The amendment failed 19-40.

For more information on the mortgage settlement fund go to www.azag.gov/consumer/foreclosure/settlement.html

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House Democrats stand up for the priorities of Arizonans during budget fight

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today as Tea Party lawmakers push through a bait-and-switch budget at the legislature, House Democrats are standing up for the priorities of Arizonans.

“We aren’t going to let this go silently into the night,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “The Republican Budget demonstrates no long-term vision for the economic stability of the state. Their funding priorities are misplaced. We need to focus on creating jobs. This budget deal with the governor doesn’t create a single job.”

Instead of investing in jobs and education, the Republican Budget hoards money in a rainy day fund, adds $60 million in more tax loopholes, leaves vital programs unfunded and still sticks the state with a deficit in fiscal year 2015.

House Democrats fought to include Arizonans’ priorities in the budget with amendments to:

· Invest $50 million in school districts for textbooks and supplies (Meyer Amendment to HB 2852).

· Invest $5 million in the Arizona Department of Education’s adult education program (Farley Amendment to HB 2852).

· Stop the $50 million sweep of the Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund that was created to help families hit hardest by the mortgage crisis (McCune Davis Amendment to HB 2852).

· Invest $7 million in KidsCare and lift the program’s enrollment cap (Tovar Amendment to HB 2857).

· Fund a provider rate increase for hospitals and health care service providers that will create and retain jobs in this industry, especially in areas of rural Arizona (Pancrazi Amendment to HB 2852).

· Invest $7 million in Arizona State Parks for capital projects, including waste water projects required by Arizona Department of Economic Quality (Chabin Amendment to HB 2853).

· Restore the funding formula for the Arizona Office of Tourism at no cost to the general fund (Hobbs Amendment to HB 2855).

· Allow funding for tribal community colleges at no cost to the general fund (Hale Amendment to HB 2859).

· Reinstate the requirement to review and evaluate private prisons and repeal the provision for new contracts for private prisons (Campbell Amendment to HB 2860).

“Each of these amendments is intended to do at least one of three things: create jobs, improve education or help working families,” House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), said. “Arizonans deserve better than what the Republican Budget has to offer.”

Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), said there are several ways to ensure the state has the money to pay for their proposed amendments.

“It’s really simple,” Farley said. “All the Tea Party lawmakers need to do is stop additional funding for private prisons, stop the $60 million in corporate bailouts, stop swiping money from programs that help families and stop hoarding money. If we invest in education and jobs now, we won't have to build prisons later.”

Tea Party legislators blocked all of these amendments.

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McCune Davis calls on AZ attorney general and Republican leadership to stop withholding information about unlawful fund sweeps

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), called on the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Republican leadership at the legislature to publically release a memo that reportedly states it is unlawful to sweep the settlement fund to help families impacted by the mortgage crisis.

Currently, the Republican budget proposes a sweep of $50 million from the Arizona Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund. The fund was created by a joint state-federal settlement with Arizona and 48 other states, the federal government and the country’s five largest residential mortgage loan servicers who engaged in fraudulent loan and foreclosure practices. The money is supposed to be used to help families impacted by the foreclosure crisis. A budget vote is expected this morning.

“This is a matter of public record,” McCune Davis said. “Apparently this memo was sent to a select few members of the legislature. Every member should see the memo before we are required to vote on it this morning. If Attorney General Tom Horne and Republican leadership know that sweeping the money is unlawful, they have an obligation to tell all of us. To withhold this information before a crucial vote is reprehensible.”

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