Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hale working to add American Indian representation to State Transportation Board

Hale working to add American Indian representation to State Transportation Board

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), is working to add a representative from an Indian Nation to the State Transportation Board.

“We need to have a representative for our Native American constituents. There are more than 1,200 miles of highway that traverse Indian Nations,” said Hale. “Yet, all too often we are underrepresented, and changing legislation like this allows Native Americans to have a voice. Historically, the State Transportation Board has neglected the transportation needs of the Indian Nations in Arizona.”


Recently, Hale introduced HB 2523. This bill would require that the board include a representative from an Indian Nation. The board is responsible for planning for the transportation needs of the state. The population of the 22 federally recognized Indian Nations in Arizona exceeded 250,000 in 2000. These Indian Nations have unique transportation needs that are not currently being met. HB 2523 would help correct that.

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Hale sponsors legislation to get money back into Native American communities

Hale sponsors legislation to get money back into Native American communities

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), is working to get Transaction Privilege Tax money back into the Native American lands where it was collected.

“American Indian communities should have access to the TPT money collected on Native American lands,” Hale said.


Hale explained that currently, TPT money, or sales tax, is collected from businesses not owned by enrolled members operating on Native American lands. The tax money is distributed to the state, counties and municipalities incorporated under state law. Indian nations are not included in this distribution formula. The bill would correct this problem in the distribution formula.

Hale introduced HB 2522. This bill would put 50 percent of TPT money collected from businesses on Native American lands directly back into the communities where it was collected. The bill would allow the use of the Indian nations’ share of TPT money as collateral for bonds to finance telecommunications, infrastructure development, community projects and roads.

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“The TPT funds collected from non-Indian owned businesses operating on Native American lands will help support the growth of our communities,” Hale said. “When that money starts coming directly to Native American communities, people in those communities will be empowered to prioritize the projects and the development that are necessary.”

House unanimously voted to send request to Congress for more support for veterans on Indian lands

House unanimously voted to send request to Congress for more support for veterans on Indian lands



STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – On Feb. 5, the House unanimously voted to adopt House Concurrent Memorial 2004, which sends a request to Congress to allow veterans to receive construction reimbursements for veterans nursing care homes built on American Indian lands.



A House Concurrent Memorial is a formal request to The U.S. Congress. HCM 2004 asks Congress to enact legislation that would allow construction reimbursement and per diem payments for veterans nursing care homes built on American Indian lands. Current law provides for a 65 percent construction reimbursement and per diem to veterans nursing care homes built on land owned by states, territories or land the U.S. possesses.



“Currently, veterans nursing care homes that are not on reservations are eligible for both construction reimbursement and per diem,” Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), said. “We have many veterans in our American Indian communities but no veterans nursing care homes. Extending this law would do a lot of good for the service men and women who need care and wish to stay connected to their communities. ”



Hale added that this change to federal law would encourage the construction of veterans nursing care homes and make it possible to provide more services to veterans living on Indian lands.



“It is encouraging that this effort received so much support from my colleagues in the House of Representatives,” Hale said. “I hope that Congress will consider this issue just as seriously.”

Quezada’s statement on the Voting Rights Act case in the U.S. Supreme Court

Quezada’s statement on the Voting Rights Act case in the U.S. Supreme Court
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that calls into question a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that could affect Arizona election law. Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix (District 29), released the following statement regarding this case.

“When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, it included Section 5, a provision that requires certain places with a history of discrimination against minorities' voting rights to get approval from the Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington D.C. before making any changes to their election law. Arizona is one of the nine states covered by this provision, and it is important because it protects the ability of minority voters to have their voices heard at the polling place.


“The court has upheld this law many times. It got overwhelming congressional support when it was reauthorized in 2006. It has been used to prevent states from taking action that could negatively affect the rights of minority voters. The provision ensures that minority voting interests are analyzed and evaluated before any election change can take effect. Without its requirements, those interests may not be considered, and discrimination could creep back into our laws.


“We’ve seen a number of bills in this Legislature that could harm minority voters. Section 5 requires that such issues be considered. The Department of Justice’s ability to review these laws is an important protection, and it is one that should remain in place. It helps to ensure that our democracy is fair and representative.”



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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Peshlakai urges governor to use emergency funds to repair collapsed highway in Northern Arizona

Peshlakai urges governor to use emergency funds to repair collapsed highway in Northern Arizona

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Responding to requests from many Arizonans in her district, Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, D- Cameron (District 7), today urged the governor to use emergency funds to repair and reopen a portion of Arizona Highway 89 that collapsed last week.

In a letter, Peshlakai asked Gov. Jan Brewer to declare an official state of emergency and release money available within the Governor’s Emergency Fund to stabilize, repair and reopen the damaged portion of Highway 89 as quickly as possible. Additionally, she asked that officials consider using emergency money to pave Indian Route 20 and the unpaved portion of Indian Route 21. Both routes reconnect the region to the rest of the state via Highway 89 and Highway 160.

“We should be working with the Navajo Nation and other communities to make this bypass route a safe alternative until the repairs to Highway 89 are complete,” Peshlakai said.

The Arizona Department of Transportation recently sent a request for federal emergency funds but Peshlakai believes state emergency funds will be available faster.


“Many of the Arizonans living around the area of the collapsed highway are concerned about the safety of the remaining portions of the highway and the economic impact the closure will have,” Peshlakai said. “It is the primary corridor for the delivery of many goods. It is used to transport everything from groceries to gasoline to the area. Also, tourism around Lake Powell and the Colorado River, a major source of economic activity, will be negatively affected. We must complete repairs as fast as possible.”

She also asked the governor to utilize the regulatory powers of state agencies to ensure unscrupulous individuals do not use this as an opportunity to take advantage of the residents in the communities who are now unable to use this main corridor of commerce. Peshlakai added that Arizonans living in the areas affected by the collapse of the highway do not have access to a nearby hospital, and are facing difficulties getting students to schools.


“Highway 89 must be reopened quickly,” Peshlakai said. “It is a matter of public safety and economic viability for this area.”



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Monday, February 25, 2013

House Democrats to Brewer: ‘We’re ready to work together to simplify the TPT process’

House Democrats to Brewer: ‘We’re ready to work together to simplify the TPT process’


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats today sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer expressing general support for her efforts to simplify and reform the Transaction Privilege Tax. The letter also highlights concerns that her current plan could result in local governments losing revenue and could alter the TPT collection process to the point that the law becomes ineffective and the system more complicated.

“House Democrats believe that TPT reform is necessary to enable employers to spend more time creating jobs and improving Arizona’s economy, instead of navigating difficult and multi-jurisdictional tax systems,” Assistant House Minority Leader Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 27), said. “The governor’s bill is a good starting point. We’re ready to work together to simplify the TPT process.”

Gallego added that TPT reform is needed to better position the state to take advantage of policy changes being considered at the federal level that would allow Arizona to apply the TPT to Internet transactions. 

“This could create $700 million in revenue for the state, which we can invest in creating jobs and funding education,” Gallego said. “Also, it levels the playing field for the local businesses that are already charging TPT and competing with Internet businesses that are not.” 

The governor’s plan to reform the TPT is contained in HB 2657. This bill would make several changes to the structure and administration of the TPT and affiliated taxes to establish uniform, state-level administration of tax-related activities and would grant counties permission to impose a use tax. 

“Although we agree that we need a simplified TPT system, there are some portions of this bill that are problematic,” Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix (District 19), said. “We’ve let the governor know about these concerns. Specifically, the legislation could jeopardize revenue for local governments. It also could place an unreasonable burden on the Arizona Department of Revenue to collect the TPT. This could result in a significant cost to the state or an inability to implement the legislation effectively. In turn, this could cause the TPT collection and auditing process to become more arduous for businesses and local governments.”

The letter to the governor includes suggested changes to the legislation that would result in a bill that the House Democratic Caucus would support. The changes are as follows:

1)      Ensure that local governments will not lose existing TPT revenues. This could be accomplished by removing the prime contracting sales tax changes from the bill or potentially establishing a new formula for revenue sharing that holds the cities harmless from revenue loss. HB 2657 could pass and accomplish its stated goals without the inclusion of the prime contracting sales tax provisions.
2)      Allow cities the discretion to continue using their collection portal or contract with ADOR for collections activities. As long as this process looks the same to the businesses paying the taxes and no additional fees are assessed on the taxpayer, giving the cities this choice continues to meet the goals of the reform effort while preventing ADOR from being overburdened with this additional responsibility.
3)      Allow the cities to have the flexibility to meet audit requirements with their own city auditors. Each city and town is unique, and local government auditors will be better equipped to address, and more sensitive to, the specific concerns of small businesses in their own areas. In addition, there are concerns that, due to recent budget cuts, ADOR lacks the capacity to take on additional auditing responsibilities at this time.

“If we can find a way to address these issues, then House Democrats will support the governor’s bill,” House Minority Whip Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson (District 10), said. “We’ve been very direct about that. We support TPT simplification and look forward to working with the governor and the bill’s supporters to address these concerns so that Arizona businesses can enjoy a TPT system that is easier to work with and is more equitable.”

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dalessandro working to keep Cherrybell Mail Processing Center open

Dalessandro working to keep Cherrybell Mail Processing Center open

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Sahuarita (District 2), wants the Arizona Legislature to urge Congress to keep the Cherrybell Mail Processing Center in Tucson open.

“If the Cherrybell Mail Processing Center closes, nearly 300 Arizonans could lose their jobs,” Dalessandro said. “The first step to job growth is to keep the jobs we already have.”

Dalessandro sponsored House Concurrent Memorial 2007, which urges Congress to take action against the closing of the Cherrybell Mail Processing Center. A house concurrent memorial can be used by the State Legislature to make an official statement on an issue outside its jurisdiction.

“This processing center is the 15 largest in the nation; closing it could delay postal service,” Dalessandro said. “Currently the distribution center serves more than 1.8 million people and more than 23,000 businesses in Southern Arizona. This could unfairly affect the people in these communities, especially those in the rural areas.”

HCM 2007 cleared the first legislative hurdle earlier this week when the House Government Committee overwhelmingly passed it. A copy of HCM 2007 is available at http://www.azleg.gov/DocumentsForBill.asp?Bill_Number=HCM2007&Session_Id=110


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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Freshmen Democratic Lawmakers Show Leadership on Economic Issues

Freshmen Democratic Lawmakers Show Leadership on Economic Issues
Trio of Job Creation Bills to be Heard in House this Week

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIXThree freshmen Democratic members of the House will see their bills to create jobs heard in House committees this week.

“Our freshmen Democratic legislators are providing much-needed leadership on job creation,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 24). “These Democratic lawmakers have offered up common sense legislation, and they are working across the aisle with their freshmen Republican colleagues to get those bills passed.”

The three job-creating bills scheduled to be heard this week in House committees are:

·        HB 2584 – renewable energy and conservation districts was introduced by Rep. Andrew Sherwood, D-Tempe (District 26), and is on Monday’s Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee agenda.
·        HB 2621 – fund; state parks; roads; fee, offered by Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla, D-San Luis (District 4), is scheduled to be heard at Tuesday’s Agriculture and Water Committee hearing.
·        HB 2484 – veterans; hiring preference; tax credits is a measure sponsored by Rep. Mark Cardenas, D-Phoenix (District 19). It is set to appear on a revised agenda, to be issued today, for Wednesday’s Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee.

“House Bill 2584 will make it easier for businesses to add solar panels and other energy and water efficiency technology to property by providing financing for the upfront cost of these modifications,” Sherwood said of his legislation. “It will immediately create jobs in the renewable energy industry by creating more demand for these products and installation work.”

“State Parks are key tourism destinations and my bill helps make sure the Parks will have the stable funding they need each year to renovate and expand,” Escamilla said of HB 2621. “State Parks are integral to economic development and provide over 3,300 jobs, many of which are in Arizona’s rural communities.”

“We have thousands of veterans looking for work and my bill creates a strong incentive for employers to offer them jobs,” said Cardenas of his bill, HB 2484. “Veterans bring proven technical and leadership skills to the workplace at a time when companies need to be running as effectively and efficiently as possible. This bill could help up to 3,600 vets find work.”

“As legislative candidates, many of us promised the voters we would make it a top priority to create jobs and get Arizona’s economy back on track,” Campbell said. “We have an amazing group of freshmen Democratic lawmakers who believe promises made should be promises kept and they are proving their commitment with this important legislation.”

For information about and a copy of the legislative language of each bill, go to the following links:

HB 2584 – renewable energy and conservation districts:

HB 2621 – fund; state parks; roads; fee:

HB 2484 – veterans; hiring preference; tax credits:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Miranda statement on committee hearing of bill to allow deferred action recipients to get drivers’ licenses

Miranda statement on committee hearing of bill to allow deferred action recipients to get drivers’ licenses

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX Rep. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix (District 27), released the following statement today after the Transportation Committee heard testimony on HB 2032. This bill clarifies that deferred action recipients are able to use federally issued work permits to show that their presence is authorized when applying for drivers’ licenses. Currently, Arizona is one of a few states that prohibits deferred action recipients from getting drivers’ licenses.

Today HB 2032 was heard by the House Committee on Transportation. The testimony of various stakeholders and individuals affected by the current policy clearly justifies passage of this legislation. The testimony highlighted the economic benefits to Arizona that this bill will have. HB 2032 will help deferred action recipients get drivers’ licenses but it is also legislation that supports jobs. It will have an immediate economic benefit for those students who have been granted deferred action because it gives them the ability to drive to and from work.

“This session our State Legislature is focused on developing strategies that will attract new businesses to Arizona from all over the world. This legislation will send a message that Arizona is prepared to move beyond the type of immigration policies that created a negative image for the state. This bill will help Arizona’s reputation in the international business community. Mexico remains a major trading partner with the United States, and Arizona must compete with other border states for that business. Passage of HB 2032 will be a signal to other states and Mexico that Arizona is ready to embrace common-sense immigration reform and that Arizona is better able to create a more positive business atmosphere.”

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Monday, February 11, 2013

House Democrats release budget today


House Democrats release budget today
Funding priorities include education, CPS, school safety, health care, job creation
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona House Democrats released a responsible budget proposal today that is aligned with the priorities of Arizonans.
“Our budget invests in education, mental health care, school safety, Child Protective Services and job creation,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 24), said. “This budget helps to ensure the long-term economic security of our state by closing tax loopholes and putting money back into schools while protecting the ‘rainy-day fund.’ It is a common-sense budget that should appeal to Republicans.”
The House Democratic Budget includes:
  • $82 million for schools to cover the cost of inflation 
  • $61.5 million for the cost of implementing the Common Core education reform initiative
  • $57.2 million for school mental health and safety programs 
  • $23 million for programs for the seriously mentally ill 
  • $79.6 million for CPS staff and services including placement of children in foster care and family reunification programs
  • $15 million over the next two years for deferred maintenance projects in state parks, which will create jobs and promote tourism 
  • $2 million for ongoing, future maintenance needs in state parks
  • $276 million in savings over three years by expanding Medicaid, paid for with a provider assessment fee
“Democrats were able to pay for these items by closing tax loopholes and eliminating programs that drain resources from public schools,” Rep. Andrew Sherwood, D-Tempe (District 26), said. “This budget reflects the priorities of middle-class Arizona families and provides for a Medicaid expansion that will increase health care access, create thousands of jobs in the health care industry and save the state money.”
Rep. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson (District 10), said she is pleased the Legislature already passed a bipartisan bill to increase CPS funding and to hire more staff but believes the agency still needs more resources.
  
“We know that the money and staff we got for CPS earlier this session will not solve the crisis the agency is facing,” Mach said. “This is why House Democrats have included nearly $80 million for CPS and related services. Protecting Arizona kids is a priority that is reflected in this budget.”
  
Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix (District 24), added that reaching a bipartisan compromise on the budget this year should be possible.
“There is a lot of common ground between this budget and the governor’s proposal,” Alston said. “We hope that our Republican legislative colleagues will work with us to advance these shared priorities.”

The complete budget proposal is available below. 





  
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Friday, February 08, 2013

Steele statement on Mental Health First Aid bill

Steele statement on Mental Health First Aid bill

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX - Today Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9), released the following statement regarding the Mental Health First Aid bill. Steele cosponsored HB 2570 and introduced it on Thursday. The legislation would provide $500,000 to the Department of Health Services for the Mental Health First Aid program that helps the public identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance abuse disorders. 

“This legislation will expand a program that gives people the skills needed to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. This is an existing program in Arizona that we know is effective. We need to expand it so that more people receive this training.

“I’m a licensed professional counselor specializing in substance abuse, domestic violence and relationship issues. Because of my training and my experiences, I can tell you that prevention is the best practice.

“HB 2570 will provide more funding for a program that helps people respond to individuals in crisis. Most people are better prepared to help someone having a heart attack than they are to help a person having a panic attack. That has to change.

“One of the first things we can do is reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. We must make it easier for people to talk about mental health so that they can get the treatment they need. This benefits the community and those in crisis.

“This bill has bipartisan support. I am pleased that we have been able to set aside partisan bickering to focus on this important issue.”

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

HB 2485 provides cover to companies violating health and safety regulations

HB 2485 provides cover to companies violating health and safety regulations
Gallego: ‘This bill threatens the health and safety of all Arizonans’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Wednesday morning the Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee plans to hear a bill that would provide immunity to some companies violating health and safety regulations.

“This bill is basically the Polluter Protection Act, part II,” Assistant House Minority Leader Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix (District 27), said. “HB 2485 would give immunity to almost any business violating health and safety regulations, as long as that business is conducting internal audits, which can be kept secret. This bill threatens the health and safety of all Arizonans.”

HB 2485 would allow internal audits of health and safety laws to be kept secret.  It would also prevent information found in those audits from being used in legal or administrative proceedings. This bill would make laws protecting health and safety unenforceable and would give companies violating the laws immunity as long as the companies are conducting internal audits.

“We expect there to be a lot of opposition to this bill,” Gallego, the ranking member of the PSMRA committee, said. “Bills like this essentially make consumer protection regulations unenforceable. That has not worked out well for the public in the past. Do we really want nuclear power plants conducting secret safety audits? Self-policing too often leads to companies hiding severe health and safety violations and concerns.

"The tobacco companies conducted secret, internal audits that showed cigarettes are dangerous and chose never to tell anyone. That's an extreme example of a company hiding information.  It is not in the best interest of Arizona consumers to shackle the ability of regulators to protect our health and safety."

The committee meets at 9 a.m. on Feb. 6 in House Hearing Room 3.  A summary of the bill is available here.

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Monday, February 04, 2013

House Democrats working to stem violence in Arizona communities

House Democrats working to stem violence in Arizona communities

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – After a week of more violence, in Arizona and across the country, House Democrats are working to find ways to make communities safer and to prevent more tragedies from affecting the state.

“Like many, I am saddened by the shooting in my district on Jan. 30,” Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), said. “My thoughts are with the community, the families and the friends of the people affected by this tragedy.”

Meyer said he realizes that there is little he can say that will comfort those who lost people they care about but he supports efforts to curb future violence.

“Unfortunately, incidents like this are happening with what appears to be increased frequency. The shooting in Phoenix happened the same week as a school shooting in Atlanta and a hostage situation in Alabama,” Meyer said. “There were also two more shootings in Phoenix this past Friday. A recent report shows that there have been nearly 1,300 gun-related deaths in the country since the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December. We can’t afford to put this off. We have to find ways to keep our communities and our kids safe.”

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix (District 24), agreed. After the Newtown, Connecticut shooting Campbell introduced the Safer Schools, Safer Communities Plan. The plan is a series of nine bills designed to provide a comprehensive approach to protecting Arizona schools and communities from gun violence. The plan includes resources and funding for mental health services and for school counselors. All but one of the bills has been assigned to committees in the Legislature, although none have been heard in committee.

“We have to accept that much of this violence is related to untreated mental illness,” Campbell said. “That is a difficult conversation to have but unless we talk about it, we will not be able to develop real solutions to very real problems in our state and our country.”

Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9), is a licensed, professional counselor specializing in substance abuse, domestic violence and relationship issues.  She said she lives less than a mile from the location of the mass shooting in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011.

“That event changed my life and my community,” Steele said. “Prevention is the best way to avoid tragedies like we saw last week in Phoenix and two years ago in Tucson.”

Steele plans to introduce legislation this week that will help people better identify, understand and respond to mental illness.

“We have to help people know how to respond to mental illness. Most people are better prepared to help someone having a heart attack than to help someone with emotional distress. Also, we must remove the stigma that is often associated with mental illness,” Steele said. “If we do that, we will make treatment more accessible to the people who need it as a result, make our communities safer.”


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