Monday, July 30, 2012

UPDATE: Tax break bill for long-term health care costs goes into effect this week

UPDATE: Tax break bill for long-term health care costs goes into effect this week

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 goes into effect on Thursday, Aug. 2.

“Now 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.

 
People can contact their own banks to learn when banks will make these savings accounts available.

“Across the country, families face 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 propose additional 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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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rep. McCune Davis demands copy of mortgage settlement fund sweep memo

Rep. McCune Davis demands copy of mortgage settlement fund sweep memo

‘The Republicans seem to be working really hard to keep the information in the memo a secret’


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14), again asked Republican leadership for a copy of a memo that reportedly states that the raid of the Arizona Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund was unlawful.

Earlier this year, Tea Party Republicans approved a $50 million sweep from a fund created by a joint settlement between 49 states, the federal government and the country’s five largest residential mortgage loan servicers who allegedly engaged in fraudulent loan and foreclosure practices. The money was supposed to be used to help families and communities hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis. It would have paid for foreclosure prevention programs in Arizona.

The memo, which came from the Attorney General’s Office before the budget vote and reportedly cited legal arguments against the fund sweep, was the topic of a court hearing today. McCune Davis requested a copy of the memo before the budget vote. Republican leadership denied McCune Davis’ request, telling her the information was privileged.

“Apparently this memo was sent to a select few members of the legislature. That’s pure manipulation. Every member should have been able to see the memo before the vote,” McCune Davis said. “The money is supposed to be used to help people struggling to recover from the mortgage crisis. Instead, it is going to the general fund where it can be used for things like expanding private prisons. I am sure the families faced with losing their homes would prefer foreclosure prevention programs over more private prison beds.”


A group of Arizona residents affected by the foreclosure crisis is suing to block the Republican sweep of $50 million from the settlement fund. They requested a copy of the memo as part of the legal proceedings. Superior Court of Maricopa County Judge Mark Brain ruled today that the memo was not privileged but he stopped short of ordering the Republicans to release the document.


“In light of the judge’s decision today, I am again requesting a copy of the memo from the Republicans,” McCune Davis said. “If they knew ahead of time that the mortgage settlement fund sweep was illegal and they purposefully kept that information from members of the legislature before they voted on the sweep, then they have violated the public’s trust. The Republicans seem to be working really hard to keep the information in the memo a secret and that is inexcusable.”



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House Democrats to Brewer: 'We need Medicaid coverage for the seriously mentally ill'

House Democrats to Brewer: 'We need Medicaid coverage for the seriously mentally ill'

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – In the wake of the Colorado shootings, House Democrats Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24), and Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Avondale (District 13), joined with health care service providers to urge Gov. Jan Brewer to expand coverage for mental health care in Arizona.


“The tragedy in Colorado has stirred memories of a January morning in Tucson, Arizona when so many people lost their lives and suffered unimaginable injuries,” Quezada said. “There is nothing that tears at the fabric of our society more than the untimely death of innocent people. I have to believe that anyone capable of such inexplicable violence is mentally ill. That is why we must do everything possible to ensure that people with mental illness get the help they need, which includes expanding Medicaid coverage for them.”

Cuts to Medicaid over the last several years have significantly reduced access to behavioral health care for low income, seriously mentally ill Arizonans - one of the most vulnerable populations in our state. Since 2010, the Republican-controlled legislature and governor cut about $50 million from behavioral health services, significantly reducing resources for thousands of Arizonans who do not qualify for Medicaid. They have yet to fully restore funding for services for this population. If the governor agrees to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates that about 325,000 Arizonans would have access to health care coverage and the federal government would foot the bill for most of the costs.

“If Gov. Brewer opts out of expanding Medicaid coverage, the state will have to pay to provide services for thousands of Arizonans who are seriously mentally ill or this population will be left without care,” Pancrazi said. “This vulnerable population deserves help. As we have seen, ignoring the problem can have dire consequences. People put off care for mental illness and for physical ailments, and the problems worsen. Emergency rooms are overwhelmed, and the amount of uncompensated care is pushing the medical community to the brink. We cannot continue on this way.”

Quezada said finding resources for this population should be a priority for the state.

“We must do more to help this vulnerable population,” Quezada said. “We should not have to wait until something tragic happens to have a discussion about providing services and resources for the seriously mentally ill. This is about priorities. If the governor chooses to opt out of expanding services for the seriously mentally ill, then I’m afraid our community will pay the price and she will be left to make excuses.”



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Statement from Rep. Catherine Miranda on the tragedy in Colorado

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix (District 16), released the following statement about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

“Today the man accused of the shooting in Colorado faced a judge for the first time. The justice process has begun and now the healing process must start. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the victims of this tragic shooting. We cannot truly understand what the people in that movie theater experienced during those terrifying moments. We do know that in times of tragedy families, friends, neighbors and communities play an important role in the healing process. In the wake of such a horrifying event, we must take care of each other. We will remember and honor the lives of the victims and support and encourage the wounded. We must not lose faith in one another.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thirteen House Democrats named Legislative Arts Heroes for 2012

Thirteen House Democrats named Legislative Arts Heroes for 2012

Awards highlight support for local arts and culture organizations


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts named thirteen Arizona House Democrats Legislative Arts Heroes for the work they did to support arts and culture in Arizona in 2012.

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), was among the House Democrats who earned the award.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts,” Campbell said. “The arts are a vital part of our communities and I’m proud to work with so many legislators who recognize that and are committed to promoting the arts in Arizona.”

The legislators were chosen “for working on behalf of arts and cultural organizations and arts education programs and administrators across the state,” Catherine “Rusty” Foley, executive director of Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts said. “The support these elected officials have demonstrated for the Arizona Commission on the Arts is making a critical contribution to the survival and sustainability of the arts and culture in Arizona during a very difficult time for us all.”

Specifically, the legislators were instrumental in supporting the Arizona Commission on the Arts through a “sunset review” process, a mandated review that all state agencies must undergo at least once every 10 years. As a result of their efforts, the Arizona Legislature overwhelming passed HB 2265 and reauthorized the Commission on the Arts for 10 years. Gov. Jan Brewer later signed the legislation into law.

The Commission also sustained severe cuts in its funding over the past three years, Foley said. This year, legislators restored a partial sweep of funds from the Arizona Arts Trust, which increased funding for the Arts Commission by about $115,000.

House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), was also recognized for her contributions.

“I’m so thankful for the work Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts does to support creativity in Arizona,” Tovar said. “This award means a lot to me and I look forward to finding more opportunities to support the shared mission of these organizations.”


House Democrats named Legislative Arts Heroes are:

• Lela Alston, D-Phoenix (District 15)

• Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14)

• Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28)

• Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16)

• Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 2)

• Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15)

• Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14)

• Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 11)

• Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix (District 16)

• Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24)

• Macario Saldate, D-Tucson (District 27)

• Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13)

• Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson (District 28)

“Ensuring that the arts continue to get funding in our state is so important,” Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15) said. “Our communities benefit tremendously from the work of Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts and I am proud to support that work at the Capitol.”


For more information about Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts visit www.azcitizensforthearts.org.




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Statement from Rep. Martin Quezada on the Russell Pearce emails released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona

Statement from Rep. Martin Quezada on the Russell Pearce emails released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Rep. Martin Quezada, D- Avondale (District 13), released the following statement regarding the emails from former Senate President Russell Pearce that the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona made public. Some of the emails the ACLU acquired contained racially inflammatory language.

“I am personally offended by the statements Russell Pearce made in these emails. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior and it should not be tolerated. Pearce was clearly using his elected office to push an extremist and divisive agenda, which appears motivated by racism. Arizonans deserve to have elected officials who focus on the right priorities – like improving education and creating jobs. Pearce’s vitriolic rhetoric is obscene and there is no place for it here at the Arizona Capitol.”

 

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Campbell: ‘Elected officials should not be allowed to use their positions to stand in the way of voters’

Campbell: ‘Elected officials should not be allowed to use their positions to stand in the way of voters’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A Superior Court of Maricopa County judge, today, characterized Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s decision to reject the petition signatures of about 290,000 Arizonans “arbitrary and capricious” and ordered that his office continue the process of putting the initiative on the ballot.

After the ruling, Arizona House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), issued the following statement:

“Judge Oberbillig’s ruling to allow this petition to continue the verification process shows faith in the voters of Arizona. Bennett’s decision to reject approximately 290,000 petition signatures because of a clerical error seemed arbitrary, and the judge agreed. If people want to vote on a ballot measure, we should afford them every opportunity to make sure that happens.

“The Tea Party Republicans sent a clear message to voters on this issue. Their actions make it obvious that they don’t trust Arizonans to decide what’s best for their state. Elected officials should not be allowed to use their positions to stand in the way of voters who want action because the Republican leadership in this state has failed to prioritize education and job creation. Today, the court and the voters sent a message back: ‘Tea Party Republicans are wrong.’”

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Friday, July 06, 2012

Democrats oppose Tea Party attempts to manipulate ballot process


Democrats oppose Tea Party attempts to manipulate ballot process
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell: ‘We trust voters to make the right decision’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona House Democrats oppose an effort led by Gov. Jan Brewer and Tea Party lawmakers to interfere with the ballot process.

Brewer is expected to call a special session of the State Legislature to create a ballot initiative to compete against the Open Government/Open Elections Act, a citizen’s initiative that will be on this November’s ballot.

“This is the type of legislative manipulation that we have come to expect from the Tea Party,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “Arizonans want to vote on this and Tea Partiers want to muddy the waters in an attempt to confuse voters. It’s insulting. We trust voters to make the right decision.”

The special session likely will begin early next week.

“Regardless of how individual members feel about the initiative, by interfering with the process Tea Party legislators are overreaching,” House Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), said. “This is a waste of time and state resources. If we are going to have a special session, we should be focused on legislation that would create jobs, improve education or restore funding to KidsCare.”

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