Thursday, August 30, 2012

Campbell steps up call for AG investigation into for-profit, private prison operators

Campbell steps up call for AG investigation into for-profit, private prison operators

 
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), is renewing his call for Attorney General Tom Horne to investigate for-profit, private prison operators for possible legal and contract violations. Campbell warned that if the attorney general fails to fulfill his duty to enforce the state’s procurement code, he is abdicating his official responsibilities.

In July, Campbell sent a letter to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office calling for an investigation and the immediate suspension of a solicitation for new private prison beds. Today Campbell repeated his call for the investigation, adding that there could be financial and legal repercussions if the attorney general fails to act. The state is poised to sign a contract with a for-profit prison operator by Sept. 1.

“The Attorney General’s Office has the power and an obligation to intervene before that contract is signed and nothing is being done,” Campbell said. “We should not be rewarding out-of-state, for-profit prison companies with contracts if they are violating the law and wasting taxpayer money.”

In his letter, Campbell cited possible violations of:

• State law and individual contract provisions requiring proposed private prisons to demonstrate cost savings to the state
• State law requiring private prisons to provide the same or better quality than state prisons
• Contract provisions requiring private prisons to maintain safety standards and to rehabilitate prisoners
• State uniform contract provisions requiring private prisons to provide adequate staffing levels

Arizona law requires the attorney general to enforce the provisions of the state procurement code. As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, he has a duty to investigate and determine whether the alleged violations have occurred, Campbell said.

“The Republicans in the Legislature raided $50 million from the Attorney General’s Mortgage Settlement Fund. That money was supposed to be used to help Arizona families trying to recover from the foreclosure crisis. Instead, they’re using the money to pay for contracts like this one," Campbell said. “Arizona is about to make a 20-year investment in for-profit, private prisons when there is evidence to suggest the state will lose millions. It just shows that the Republicans have their priorities all wrong.”

Department of Corrections reports consistently show that the state is losing money on private prisons, and security audits indicate there are serious safety flaws in all of Arizona’s for-profit prisons.

Currently, there is enough money set aside in the 2013 budget for 1,000 new private prison beds, but the state has the option to add another 1,000 beds, for a total of 2,000 beds in the next few years. The American Friends Service Committee issued a report indicating that if Arizona adds the 2,000 private prison beds, the state could lose more than $10 million a year.

“It is clear that our state Department of Corrections has failed to hold these corporations fully accountable, and the Republican leadership in the Legislature has turned a blind eye to problems in for-profit prisons,” Caroline Isaacs, AFSC program director, said. “The taxpayers of Arizona depend on the attorney general to enforce the law fairly and to do the due diligence on these contracts.”

For more information on the AFSC findings go to http://afsc.org/resource/arizona-prison-report.


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Monday, August 27, 2012

League of Arizona Cities and Towns recognizes nine House Democrats as ‘Legislative Heroes’

League of Arizona Cities and Towns recognizes nine House Democrats as ‘Legislative Heroes’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The League of Arizona Cities and Towns recognized nine Arizona House Democrats as legislative heroes for their work to support cities and towns during the most recent legislative session.

“City leaders are grateful when legislators vote to uphold the principles of local decision-making by locally elected officials. These ‘legislative heroes’ have demonstrated their support for local control through their voting records, and have earned our appreciation,” Executive Director Ken Strobeck said.

This session’s House Democratic League of Arizona Cities and Towns Legislative Heroes are:

• Chad Campbell, D- Phoenix (District 14)
• Tom Chabin, D- Flagstaff (District 20)
• Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28)
• Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16)
• Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15)
• Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14)
• Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 11)
• Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24)
• Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13)

“We see Arizona cities and towns as partners in governing Arizona, and for that reason, it is a genuine honor to be recognized by the League,” Chabin said. “So much happens during the course of a legislative session, sometimes you wonder if anybody notices your record, which is an indication of your priorities. When you receive an award like this, it is a humbling reminder of why public service is so worthwhile.”

The League will present the legislators with these awards on Aug. 30 at their annual conference, a four-day meeting with more than 900 mayors, council members and officials from across the state. For more information about the League of Arizona Cities and Towns visit www. azleague.org.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

House democratic staff recognized for service to community

House democratic staff recognized for service to community

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Members of the House democratic staff often burn the midnight oil in the basement of the Arizona House of Representatives. They are dedicated advisors, analysts and attorneys who are committed to helping the House Democratic Caucus serve the people of Arizona. They also are active members of their own communities and their service has earned them recognition.

“We expect a lot from the staff and they never cease to impress us,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14). “Each year, despite working long hours at the Capitol, they find the time to lend their considerable expertise to other organizations. They help us build a better Arizona and I want to congratulate and thank them.”
House democratic staff achieved the following accomplishments:

• Cynthia Arag√≥n, community and constituent liaison and policy advisor on the Environment Committee, completed the FBI Citizens’ Academy. The goal of the academy is to foster a greater understanding of the FBI's role in the community through open discussion and to support the FBI's efforts to deliver information about their role, tools, tactics, jurisdiction, and vision for the future in national law enforcement, homeland defense, and counter-terrorism on all levels.

• Elvy Barton, senior policy advisor on the Agriculture and Water Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, received the Forty Hispanic Leaders Under 40 Award. This award honors 40 Hispanic individuals who demonstrate their passion for the community though service and leadership.

• Eric Figueroa, senior policy advisor on the Appropriations, Education and Higher Education Committee and the Innovation and Reform Committee, is a featured artist at The Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors main office at 101 N. First Ave. This organization allows an aspiring, amateur artist to display his or her work each month. Figueroa’s photography, which highlights downtown Phoenix, is being featured through the month of August.

• Liz Navran, staff attorney and policy advisor on the Health and Human Services Committee and the Banking and Insurance Committee, was selected for the Valley Leadership Institute. This is an organization that provides growth and learning opportunities for emerging and existing leaders to benefit local communities.

House Democratic Chief of Staff Keely Varvel Hartsell, who earned recognition by being nominated as the best staffer for the Arizona Capitol Times Best of 2012 Awards, also congratulated the staffers.

“This group of professionals is focused on helping our elected officials create jobs and improve education in our state. Their teamwork and dedication is unmatched and they are each committed to serving their communities independent from the work they do here,” said Varvel Hartsell. “I am proud of their accomplishments and I am proud to be a part of this team.”



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Monday, August 20, 2012

In case you missed it: ‘Dreamers’ deserve a chance to remain in the U.S.

In case you missed it: ‘Dreamers’ deserve a chance to remain in the U.S.


A guest opinion by Rep. Ruben Gallego published in the Arizona Capitol Times. To read the piece click here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

House Democrats decry Gov. Brewer’s executive order on deferred action as political grandstanding

House Democrats decry Gov. Brewer’s executive order on deferred action as political grandstanding

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Members of the Arizona House Democratic Caucus criticized Gov. Jan Brewer’s recent executive order that attempts to prevent people granted temporary relief from deportation from receiving driver’s licenses and other public benefits.

“The governor is using her elected position to grandstand at the expense of finding real solutions to the issues our state is facing,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), said. “This executive order just highlights her commitment to an extremist agenda.”

Brewer issued the executive order Wednesday, the same day that some young people brought to the United States as children could begin to apply for deferred deportation action. The move has drawn criticism for being mean-spirited.

“This is the type of political theater we sadly have come to expect from the governor,” House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13), said. “This executive order undoubtedly will be challenged in court. The state will be forced to use taxpayer dollars to defend the governor’s poor choices. She should be focused on creating jobs and improving education, not squandering the state’s time and money to promote her extremist agenda.”

Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Avondale (District 13), said the executive order was unnecessary and out of line.

“The young people who are eligible for deferred action are those who were brought here as children and who are contributing to our communities. They are people trying to earn a college degree or people who have served our country in the military,” Quezada said. “The governor’s actions amount to political bullying of students and veterans.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 16), said the executive order is little more than a publicity stunt.

“There will be much debate on what, if anything, her executive order actually does. Aside from that, the semantics and the timing are suspect,” Gallego said. “Once again, Gov. Brewer is grandstanding to get media attention. She wants the political spotlight so badly she is willing to take extreme measures that do nothing to address the real issues facing our communities.”


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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Statement from Rep. Catherine Miranda regarding deferred action for childhood arrivals application process




STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix (District 16), released the following statement regarding the deferred action for childhood arrivals process.



"This week begins the application process for DREAM Act students on deferred action. Up to 800,000 young talented and educated men and women will have an opportunity to apply for work permits. The injection of these well-trained, well-educated workers into our national economy potentially can drive this country toward a new level of prosperity.



“At a time when we import doctors, engineers and computer experts from India and China, we need to consider the option of growing our own well-trained, well-educated workforce and we must fully utilize the expertise of DREAM Act students. It's nationally recognized that the United States has an aging population that presents a unique economic challenge in the history of our country. Immigrant labor both documented and undocumented can compliment the labor needs of this country.



“Let's begin our new economic revival and embrace the potential contribution that DREAM Act students can make to our nation."


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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Limited enrollment for KidsCare II now open

Limited enrollment for KidsCare II now open
Quezada: ‘Parents need program information so they can act now’

 
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Enrollment in KidsCare II, Arizona’s temporary Children’s Health Insurance Program, is open for a limited time. Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Avondale (District 13), is working to keep Arizona parents informed about the options that currently are available.

“Enrollment for KidsCare II is only going to be open for a short time. There are a limited number of spots available for this children’s health care program. The enrollment guidelines have changed and parents need program information so they can act now,” Quezada said. “Arizona remains the only state in the country that has not fully restored funding to KidsCare. KidsCare II is a short-term solution but until Republicans can agree to fully fund KidsCare, an investment of about $7 million, thousands of Arizona children will remain without health care coverage. We must set aside partisan bickering to find a long-term solution to this issue.”

About 25,000 children will be able to enroll in KidsCare II, and those slots are being filled on a first come, first serve basis. To be eligible for KidsCare II, a child must:

• Be an Arizona resident

• Be 18 years old or younger

• Be a citizen of the United States or a qualified immigrant

• Have a Social Security number or apply for one

• Be under the income limit

• Not be currently covered by other health insurance

• Not be qualified for coverage through a state agency employee

• Not be eligible to receive AHCCCS (Medicaid) coverage

• Be a member of a household that is willing to pay a premium

For more information about the program, including income limits, or to apply go to http://www.azahcccs.gov/applicants/KidsCareII.aspx or call 1-800-235-9678.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Campbell calls for attorney general investigation into for-profit, private prison operators

Campbell calls for attorney general investigation into for-profit, private prison operators
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 14), is urging Attorney General Tom Horne to investigate for-profit, private prison operators for possible legal and contract violations.

 
“We have evidence that for-profit, private prisons are not saving the state money,” Campbell said. “If that is the case, then there is no reason the Republicans should be funding private prison expansion. It shows a lack of judgment, especially when they are financing the expansions by doing things like raiding $50 million from the mortgage settlement fund, which was supposed to help people save their homes from foreclosure. It is unacceptable.”

Last month, Campbell sent a letter to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office calling for an investigation and the immediate suspension of the Arizona Department of Corrections’ solicitation for up to 2,000 new private prison beds. Campbell is renewing his call for the investigation, as the state is poised to sign a contract with a for-profit, private prison operator by Sept. 1.

“I’ve not received a response from the Attorney General’s Office and the clock is ticking,” Campbell said. “We should not be rewarding for-profit prison companies with state contracts if they are violating the law and wasting money. ”


In the letter, Campbell cites alleged violations of:

• State law and individual contract provisions requiring proposed private prisons to demonstrate cost savings to the state
• State law requiring private prisons to provide the same or better quality than state prisons
• Contract provisions requiring private prisons to maintain safety standards and rehabilitate prisoners
• State uniform contract provisions requiring private prisons to provide adequate staffing levels

“The governor and the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature pushed so hard to get new contracts for private prisons even though they have a poor safety record, there is no evidence of cost savings and there is no indication that Arizona actually needs more prison beds. It begs the question, why?” Campbell said.

The 2013 budget, passed by the Republicans, repealed a state law requiring a comparison of state and private prisons every two years to ensure that private prisons were providing the same quality of services as state prisons, at a lower cost. Department of Corrections Per Capita Cost Reports compiled over five years consistently show that the state is losing money on private prisons, and security audits show serious safety flaws in all of Arizona’s for-profit prisons, including malfunctioning cameras and alarm systems.

Currently, there is enough money set aside in the 2013 budget for 1,000 new private prison beds, but the state has the option to add another 1,000 beds, for a total of 2,000 new beds in the next few years. The American Friends Service Committee issued a report indicating that if Arizona were to add the 2,000 private prison beds, the state could be losing more than $10 million a year.

“It is imperative that the attorney general take action now to avoid further waste of taxpayer dollars,” Caroline Isaacs, AFSC program director, said. “After reviewing the reports, it should be clear that we can’t just hand over millions of dollars to for-profit prisons and not hold them accountable.”

For more information on the AFSC findings go to http://afsc.org/resource/arizona-prison-report.


 

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Republican budget cuts + back to school = crowded classrooms, delayed repairs, less money for schools and students

Republican budget cuts + back to school =
crowded classrooms, delayed repairs, less money for schools and students

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Children all over Arizona are going back to school, and they will experience firsthand the effects of the billions of dollars that Republicans have cut from education.

During the past four years, Tea Party Republicans have slashed about $2 billion from schools across the state. The consequences of such funding cuts are devastating to schools, students and teachers.

Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix (District 15), is a former teacher and currently serves on the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board, and she is concerned about the challenges schools are facing because of the Republican budget cuts.


“Teachers are facing overcrowded classrooms with fewer resources available to them and to the students,” Alston said. “Funding education should be at the top of the list of priorities but the Republicans in the Legislature would rather push their extremist agenda than focus on what is most important.”


Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma (District 24), also is a former educator and thinks the budget cuts will affect the state for generations to come.


“Public education is the future of our country and the state. What we invest in our kid’s education now is what we reap in the future. We need an educated work force. If we invest in our children’s public education today, it will produce that educated work force,” Pancrazi said. “How do the Republicans expect our kids to compete in the world economy, if we aren’t making sure they get the best education possible?”


Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 11), serves on the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board and is a member of the House Education Committee. He opposed the Republican plan to underfund schools.


“Districts are being shorted $249 million because Republicans undercut the building renewal fund. The law requires that schools get this money because they rely on it to repair damaged roofs, keep buildings safe and maintain infrastructure,” Meyer said. “Now, because of the Republicans, school districts will continue to delay much needed repairs and maintenance. Since 2009, we’ve seen the roofs on several schools collapse. How much longer can that go on? By ignoring the law and failing to adequately fund education, the Republicans have made choices that will cost our state more in the long run, while potentially jeopardizing student safety.”


House Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28), said his two children are going back to school. He was taken aback by the lack of resources available.

“Tea Party Republicans decided to withhold an $88 million inflation adjustment from schools, although the law requires that schools get that support. Additionally, the majority didn’t fulfill state funding mandates of $239 million for facilities, equipment and supplies,” Farley said. “In some cases, schools can’t even afford paper and books. Republicans in the Legislature tried to balance the budget on the backs of our school children. For the sake of our kids and our economy, this cannot continue. Arizona Democrats are working to put a stop to runaway education cuts.”



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GOP leader selling politics at its worst

GOP leader selling politics at its worst
My Turn

State House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, continues to try to sell his version of what House Democrats supported during the state's budget vote this year. He is selling politics at its worst.

This year, we developed a budget proposal that would have created jobs, improved education and restored funding to KidsCare.

Additionally, it would have put a stop to budget sweeps -- including the $50 million sweep of the mortgage-settlement fund. This money was supposed to help families devastated by the foreclosure crisis keep their homes. Instead, "tea party" Republicans raided that money for the general fund so they could use it to pay for things like a private, for-profit prison expansion.

Tobin's claims about Democratic opposition to funding of numerous programs are laughable. Our budget proposal provided more funding to schools, programs for the seriously mentally ill, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, tourism, job-training programs, the Department of Public Safety and other important programs. It left money in the bank so we could be prepared for uncertain economic times.

We voted against his budget because it didn't do enough to turn Arizona around.

If Tobin also wants to claim credit for the Arizona Commerce Authority, he can do so. This agency is signing million-dollar contracts with employees and handing out taxpayer dollars to special interests with no oversight. It's a runaway train that needs to be stopped, not applauded.

Tobin baits and switches by mentioning the ethics issues of two House Democrats. He fails to mention that one member immediately resigned. When the other didn't, I was the first to call for his resignation and the entire Democratic Caucus, led by Rep. Katie Hobbs, initiated the ethics investigation of our own member.

That's a far cry from the stonewalling and cover-up we saw from Republican leadership when former Sen. Scott Bundgaard, a Republican, got into ethical and legal trouble.

While Arizonans want leaders focused on creating jobs and cleaning up government, the tea-party Republicans instead killed bills aimed at ethics reform and debated protection from United Nations invasion forces, taxpayer handouts to the wealthy, a militia for the governor and denying women access to medical care.

That's the truth. Nothing Tobin says changes that.

Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, is the House minority leader.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/opinions/articles/2012/08/06/20120806campbell0807-gop-leader-selling-politics-its-worst.html#ixzz22yjfdNwK

Thursday, August 02, 2012

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

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

 STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today marks a major step back for women’s rights in Arizona as women across the state face dramatic changes and limits to their health care. This sad milestone in the Tea Party’s war against women comes as HB 2625 becomes law and others are set to follow.

HB 2625 allows businesses that qualify as religious employers to deny insurance coverage of women’s birth control if they disapprove of the way women are using the medication. Additionally, it removes from statute protections that would prevent a woman from being fired for using birth control as contraception.

“This law threatens a woman’s ability to make medical decisions and jeopardizes her ability to keep her job,” Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix (District 15), said. “The extremists behind this law decided that it is their job to politicize women’s health. They argue that this is about the religious freedom of the employers, but that is misleading and manipulative. In reality, this is about privacy and access to health care.”

Under this law, any Arizona business can claim that it operates based on religious principals by filing a form with the Arizona Corporation Commission. This would qualify the business to deny insurance coverage for birth control medication.

“The backers of this bill claim it is tailored to only apply to groups like St. Vincent De Paul. The truth is, any business can qualify by simply changing its articles of incorporation,” said Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson (District 29). “Under this law companies like Blackwater, Enron or even a strip club could take away contraception coverage for their employees. Being a woman in Arizona should not be a pre-existing condition and should not be a fire-able offense.”

Another example of the extremist agenda that Republicans are pursuing at the Capitol is HB 2800. This bill’s goal is to financially cripple vital women’s health care services provided by Planned Parenthood.

“Planned Parenthood is a critical health care provider for thousands of Arizona women, giving them affordable access to life-saving services like mammograms and cervical cancer screenings,” said Sen. Lopez. “Tea Party legislators are set on limiting women’s access to health care and seek to insert themselves in decisions that should be made between Arizona women and their doctors.”

Designed to deny public funds going to medical facilities that provide family planning services, HB 2800 is currently being contested in court.

“Fortunately, a U.S. District Court has temporarily stopped the state from implementing this dangerous law,” Rep. Hobbs said. “Tea Party lawmakers’ support for this law makes no sense because HB 2800 clearly will limit health care choices in the state. Arizonans deserve leadership that is focused on moving the state forward, instead of pulling the state back.”

These laws raised concerns in the medical community. Dr. Marilyn Laughead is a local doctor of obstetrics and gynecology and has been in practice for more than 30 years. She is concerned with the potential ramifications of the legislation that limits women’s access to health care.

"No one benefits from laws that politicize women's health. Legislation like this is too far reaching. It interferes with the important relationship between medical doctors and their patients,” Laughead said. “Across the state it limits women's personal choices and vital health care options. This trend is ill-considered and dangerous. It verges on the Legislature practicing medicine."


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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

House Democrats release statements on Luke Air Force Base’s F-35 fighter jet mission

House Democrats release statements on Luke Air Force Base’s F-35 fighter jet mission

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats released the following statements after Glendale officials announced that the Department of Defense chose Luke Air Force Base as the new training center for F-35 fighter jets.

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

“This is an important accomplishment for Arizona and Luke Air Force Base. It has been a source of pride for our state for decades. Earning the F-35 mission is the result of years of collaboration. It is an honor that will ensure the base’s position as a leader in our nation’s security.”



House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson (District 13)

“Luke Air Force Base has once again proven to be a world-class operation. It beat out at least three other bases to secure the F-35 mission and with good reason. The facility has a legacy of training our nation’s best fighter pilots. Luke Air Force Base is a testament to Arizona’s dedication to keeping the country secure. As a life-long West Valley resident, I know first hand the impact that this base has on our local communities and I commend all those who contributed to this exciting accomplishment.”



Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 14)

“Not only has Luke Air Force Base once again brought Arizona prestige and recognition, it has brought additional economic security to the region. With the F-35 program comes thousands of jobs related to the new jets and base renovations. The program is expected to generate $17 million each year in local, state and federal revenues. We should be proud of the collaboration within the community that resulted in this success.”






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