Thursday, February 26, 2015

UPDATE: House passes delayed birth certificate bill

UPDATE: House passes delayed birth certificate bill

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today, the Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), which would codify recent action by the Arizona Department of Health Services to make it easier for Native Americans to obtain a delayed birth certificate in the state.

“Native Americans in Arizona, many of whom have struggled for years to obtain the recognition provided by a birth certificate, would benefit greatly from this bill. I am pleased that my colleagues in the House have made correcting this hardship a priority, and I hope my colleagues in the Senate will do the same,” Hale said.

This bill would make permanent the Arizona Department of Health Services policy that streamlined the process for Native Americans to receive delayed birth certificates. Previously, getting a delayed birth certificate required producing multiple forms of verification that a person was born at a specific time and place.  Many Native Americans are born at home and do not get a birth certificate issued at the time of birth, and securing the necessary documentation is often difficult. A birth certificate is important documentation for receiving social security and other benefits.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. The full text of HB 2157 can be found here.
***************************************************************************************
Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012).  He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pictures of House Dems At Protest Against Gov.'s Education Funding Cuts


Arizona Democrats Talk to Teachers and Parents about Education Cuts

 Join the converstation on Facebook and Twitter           Hashtags: #AZSchools #AZBackwards










UPDATE: House Rules Committee approves delayed birth certificate bill

UPDATE: House Rules Committee approves delayed birth certificate bill

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today, the House Rules Committee approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), which would codify recent action by the Arizona Department of Health Services to make it easier for Native Americans to obtain a delayed birth certificate in the state. This brings the bill closer to a full vote in the House.  

“This is a very important issue to many communities in Arizona, particularly Native American communities. I am pleased that my colleagues have made correcting this hardship a priority, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to pass this legislation,” Hale said.

This bill would make permanent the Arizona Department of Health Services policy that streamlined the process for Native Americans to receive delayed birth certificates. Previously, getting a delayed birth certificate required producing seven separate forms of verification that a person was born at a specific time and place.  Many Native Americans are born at home and do not get a birth certificate issued at the time of birth, and securing the necessary documentation is often difficult. A birth certificate is important documentation for getting social security and other benefits.

Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler testified in support of the bill earlier this month. She highlighted the difficulties people face trying to collect the documentation currently needed.

“Native Americans from all reaches of our state have to make several trips to Phoenix and produce various documents to verify that they were born at a specific time and place. It is not uncommon that many of them speak no English. Some are among the most traditional Native Americans and should be considered living treasures. In case after case, it was apparent that all the requirements were both overwhelming and incomprehensible,” she said.

Hale expressed his gratitude to the committee members who supported the bill.

“This is an important issue to Native Americans in communities across the state,” Hale said. “I appreciate the time and the attention the members of the Rules Committee gave this matter.”

The bill now goes to the entire House for consideration. The full text of HB 2157 can be found here.


********************************************************************************
Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012).  He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.

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Native American Caucus reviews taxation and gaming in first meeting

Native American Caucus reviews taxation and gaming in first meeting
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Members of the Native American Caucus recently met for the first time this year and discussed taxation and gaming in Arizona. The meeting was well attended.
“It is refreshing to see an increase in the number of legislators who attended the first meeting of the Native American Caucus.  The caucus continues to serve as a forum to educate legislators concerning Indian Nations, what is happening to Indian people in Indian Nations, and how the state can help,” Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), said.

Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9), agreed.

“The Native American Caucus is essential to informing our colleagues in the Legislature about current issues and historical concerns important to the 22 Native American Tribes and Nations in Arizona.  The sales tax and gaming subjects were very educational to many legislators in attendance,” she said.

Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson (District 3), added that Native Americans contribute significantly to the state.

“The first Native American Caucus meeting of the session was a total success. One of the caucus’ most important roles is to engage our colleagues here at the Capitol on the issues facing the indigenous peoples of Arizona and educate them on the contributions these indigenous people make to the state. We have many new members this session, and it is important for them to know how state laws affect each and every Tribe or Nation,” Gonzales said.

At the meeting, Valerie Spicer, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association, told the caucus that tribal gaming has created more than 15,000 jobs and has an economic impact of more than a billion dollars since 2002.

Elaine Smith, a senior economist for the Arizona Department of Revenue, also presented at the meeting. She shared information on the collection and distribution of sales tax in the state. In 2014, Indian Nations collected about $45.6 million in sales tax revenues. This money goes to the state’s general fund but Indian Nations only received about $2.6 million of general fund support from the state for Dine College and Navajo Technical College.

“Today’s discussion of the revenues generated on Indian Nations hopefully opened the eyes of the legislators that Indian people do pay state taxes yet very, very little of the revenue is returned to Indian Nations.  I am hopeful that eventually the legislators will correct this inequity, an inequity that perpetuates colonialism concerning Indian people,” Hale said.

Rep. Jennifer D. Benally, D-Tuba City (District 7), said she hopes legislators continue to attend the caucus’ meetings.

“This was a productive meeting. I hope we keep this dialogue up and that people continue to ask questions about what is going on in Native American Nations in Arizona,” Benally said.



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Updates on House Democratic bills






Monday, February 23, 2015

Republican legislation perfect for late-night television jokes

Republican Legislation perfect for late-night television jokes



The Arizona House Republicans have been very busy pushing an agenda that is perfect for late-night television jokes.
So far, they’ve spent a lot of time working on legislation that does not reflect the priorities of Arizonans. Here is a quick list of some of their most ridiculous bills that have taken focus away from funding schools and creating jobs:
  • HB 2173 makes gold and silver legal tender
  • HB 2179 would prohibit service animals in restaurants
  • HB 2358 creates tax breaks for crop dusters
  • HB 2215 regulates chiropractic care for pets
  • HB 2014 puts Arizona on daylight saving time
  • SB 1460 amended to make silencers, sawed-off shotguns and nunchucks legal. 
Right now, school superintendents are rallying parents to call legislators because the governor’s proposed budget would slash classroom spending – which means there will be less money for teachers and textbooks. And some schools have already laid off teachers.  Arizona’s economic recovery has lagged behind other states while Republicans continue to cut education funding.
Is that a coincidence?
We don’t think so. Any real economic recovery plan will invest in education. It’s the only way Arizona kids will have the tools needed for higher education and for the 21st century jobs.
That is a point that seems to be lost on Republicans. It’s clear - they’re just not ready for prime time.

Click here to learn how to make sure your voice is heard at the Capitol. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Statement from Wheeler on Brnovich’s appeal of driver’s licenses for ‘dreamers’ ruling

Statement from Wheeler on Brnovich’s appeal of driver’s licenses for ‘dreamers’ ruling

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Assistant House Democratic Leader Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson (District 10), released this statement after Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed an appeal of the court order allowing “dreamers” in Arizona to get driver’s licenses.

“The attorney general’s appeal is a waste of state time and resources. This matter has already been decided, and this appeal should not be a priority. It’s disappointing that when the state has so many other legal issues to deal with, including the court order requiring K-12 inflation funding, that he is focusing on this. It is political grandstanding. Shame on the governor and the attorney general for standing in the doorway of young people trying to get to school and work.”




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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hale bill would appropriate $7.5 million to build Navajo Nation Supreme Court Complex

Hale bill would appropriate $7.5 million to build Navajo Nation Supreme Court Complex

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – A bill introduced by Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), that would appropriate $7.5 million to help fund the construction of a Supreme Court Complex for the Navajo Nation was recently discussed in the House Rural and Economic Development Committee.

 “A nation’s highest court should be housed in a complex that inspires confidence and instills trust in the judicial system,” Hale said. “It also must be functional. The planned Supreme Court Complex accomplishes both these goals.”

Navajo Nation Chief Justice Herb Yazzie, who testified before the committee, said that HB 2158 provides a unique opportunity for the state and the Navajo Nation to collaborate.

“The Navajo people are looking for cooperation between their nation and Arizona,” Yazzie said. “This project would strengthen that relationship and demonstrate the state’s respect for the Navajo Nation and its judicial system. It would be an act of good faith for Arizona and would serve as a symbol of justice.”

Yazzie added the new complex would be mutually beneficial because the Navajo Nation Supreme Court has seen a growing number of cases involving non-Indian businesses operating on the reservation. The total cost of the construction project is expected to be approximately $19 million. Contributions from both the Navajo Nation and the federal government would cover the remaining cost.

In committee, Hale added that the state has a responsibility to fund this project because the Navajo Nation does not receive an adequate portion of the sales tax revenue it contributes to the general fund.

“Until the state changes the tax formulas so that Indian Nations receive a fair share of the revenue they collect, requests like this will continue to occur,” Hale said. “This is an ongoing issue and I have been calling on state leaders to correct it for years.”

Hale also thanked the committee chairman and members for allowing the discussion.

“This is important to my community and I appreciate the time and attention the committee has given this matter,” Hale said.

The full text of the bill is available here.
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Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012).  He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.




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House Democrats In Action



House Democrats on Governor's Proposed Cuts to Per Pupil Spending

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Benally speaks out against bill that would make it harder to protest some liquor license applications, transfers

 Benally speaks out against bill that would make it harder to protest some liquor license applications, transfers

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Jennifer Benally, D-Tuba City (District 7), recently spoke out against a bill that would make it harder to protest some liquor license applications and transfers.

The Arizona House of Representatives recently passed HB 2359, which would increase the number of people needed to trigger a public hearing to review liquor license applications or transfer of existing licenses. Currently, it takes only one person living within a mile of the business to protest. If HB 2359 becomes law, it will take five percent of all the people living within that one-mile radius.

“This bill weakens the voices of those who might be opposed to an establishment transferring a liquor license,” Benally said. “Requiring five percent of a population to actively protest a liquor license places a serious burden on that community, especially in dense urban communities and areas that are struggling economically. This bill makes it harder for community members to voice their concerns.”

Benally added that this issue is especially important to Native American communities.

“Many of the liquor stores that would be affected by this legislation are more than a mile away from Native American Nations. But there are people in these communities who have concerns about liquor license transfers,” she said. “Our communities are affected by these decisions; the ripple effect extends beyond that one-mile radius. There should be a way for them to participate and ensure their voices are heard.”

HB 2359 passed the Arizona House by a vote of 33 to 25 and now awaits action in the Senate.

The full text of the bill can be found here.



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Monday, February 16, 2015

Stop the Student Funding Shell Game

Stop the Student Funding Shell Game
If the governor gets his way, Arizona schools will be forced to face budget cuts…again. He is playing a shell game with education funding. And it’s a game that teachers and students will lose.  

The governor’s proposed budget would swipe another $13.5 million from K-12 education in 2016; this follows years of Republican education budget reductions. Based on the governor’s plan, every district school would lose $12.30 per student next year. That adds up quickly.

Here is what that per pupil spending cut means for school districts across the state:
  • Tucson Unified School District could lose $613,778.41
  • Yuma Union High School District could lose $132,039.81
  • Yuma Elementary could lose $111,062.56
  • Phoenix Union High School District could lose $326,162.44
School districts rely on this money to pay for things like teachers’ salaries and school supplies. At a time when districts are laying off faculty, investing in schools must be a priority.

Any real economic recovery plan includes funding for education. Arizona students must be prepared for higher education and 21st century jobs.  The governor’s budget undercuts the state’s ability to achieve long-term economic stability.


Make your voice heard; tell the Republican-controlled Legislature that you want a budget that prioritizes education and a strong economy. For more information on how to get involved, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and click here .




Friday, February 13, 2015

Hale Continues to Call For the Federal Government to Formally Recognize the Sovereign Status of Indian Nations

Hale continues to call for the federal government to formally recognize the sovereign status of Indian Nations

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), gave an impassioned speech at the Arizona House of Representatives on Thursday, calling for the federal government to recognize the sovereign status of Indian Nations. He opposed HCR 2003, a bill calling for a constitutional convention, because it did not include a provision requiring recognition of Indian Nation sovereignty.

“This is a matter of correcting an inequity that has existed for centuries. Indian people are not covered by the U.S. Constitution, but they are subject to the authority of Congress. Ultimately, this is why Native Americans were pushed onto reservations. It was also used to take land from them without compensation, which is a right guaranteed by the constitution except for Indian people,” Hale said. “We were the first ones here. This was our land. The sovereignty of Indian Nations is inherent. The government should formally recognize that.”

The measure passed 32 to 26, and now goes to the Senate for consideration.



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Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012).  He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.


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Thursday, February 12, 2015

House Government and Higher Education Committee approves delayed birth certificate bill

House Government and Higher Education Committee approves delayed birth certificate bill

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today, the House Government and Higher Education Committee approved HB2157 unanimously. Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), introduced the bill, which would codify recent action by the Arizona Department of Health Services to make it easier for Native Americans to obtain a delayed birth certificate in the state.


“This is a very important issue to many communities in Arizona, particularly Native American communities. I am pleased that my colleagues have made correcting this hardship a priority, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to pass this legislation,” Hale said.

Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9), similarly stressed the value of birth certificates and the positive impact this bill would have on Native Americans in the state.

A birth certificate is vital for Native Americans to be able to exercise their rights as citizens,” Steele saidI look forward to working with my colleagues in approving the delayed birth certificate bill.”

This bill would make permanent the Arizona Department of Health Services policy that streamlined the process for Native Americans to receive delayed birth certificates. Previously, getting a delayed birth certificate required producing seven separate forms of verification that a person was born at a specific time and place.  Many Native Americans are born at home and do not get a birth certificate issued at the time of birth, and securing the necessary documentation is often difficult. A birth certificate is important documentation for getting social security and other benefits.

Coconino County Supervisor Lena Fowler testified in support of the bill today. She highlighted the difficulties people face trying to collect the documentation currently needed.

“Native Americans from all reaches of our state have to make several trips to Phoenix and produce various documents to verify that they were born at a specific time and place. It is not uncommon that many of them speak no English. Some are among the most traditional Native Americans and should be considered living treasures. In case after case, it was apparent that all the requirements were both overwhelming and incomprehensible,” she said.

Fowler added that the new process will help all 22 Native American tribes in Arizona. Michael T. Allison, the Native American liaison for the Arizona Department of Health Services, added that this process was developed in consultation with all 22 tribes. There were two official tribal consultation meetings in July and September of 2014.

“This new process has broad tribal support,” Allison said. “The department is very supportive of working with Native American tribes in Arizona and promoting policies that would improve the health of the American Indians in our state.”

Hale, Fowler and Allison expressed gratitude to the House Government and Higher Education Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff (District 6), and to all members of the committee.

“We are grateful for the bipartisan support this issue has received,” Hale said. “I am looking forward to further collaboration as this bill moves through the legislative process.”

Rep. Benally, D-Tuba City (District 7), expressed strong support for the bill and reiterated the impact it would have for many Native Americans in Arizona.

“I appreciate the work of Mr. Hale, Ms. Fowler and Mr. Allison in addressing the issues associated with delayed birth certificates.  I know that in some cases, it took individuals years to get a birth certificate. This will alleviate many of the barriers that slow or prevent people from getting this vital documentation.”

The House Rules Committee will also have to approve the bill before it can be voted on by the entire House.

The full text of HB2157 can be found here.

******************************************************************************
Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012).  He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.



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Monday, February 09, 2015

Arizona Democrats Talk About Budget Priorities



It's time to educate, not incarcerate!

You’ve seen the headlines.  At the same time prison inmate numbers are decreasing in other states and crime rates are going down here, the governor wants to spend $100 million on a new private prison. 

And this comes at a time when the Joint Legislative Budget Committee acknowledges that, when adjusted for inflation, we are spending more than $1000 less per student in Arizona this year than we did in 2008.
The contrast in tone of two presentations before the House Appropriations Committee this past week clearly defines what we’re up against.  Dept. of Corrections Director Charles Ryan advocated with conviction for 300 additional prison beds, even though his remarks included the information that there is currently space available at some state prisons -- and we’re hearing now from our county sheriffs that their jails have vacancies, too.


Without apology, Dept. of Education Chief of Staff Michael Bradley described our education system as “poor” but remained steadfast that, although funding helps, “we will do what we can with the resources we have.”  He was unwilling even to stand up for the court-ordered $330 million due our schools this year for inflation. 

That’s just not good enough.

It is possible to shift the priorities of the Legislature to address the reality our students and teachers live with in their classrooms.  Class sizes are too high and teacher salaries are too low.  Good teachers are leaving the profession.

There should be no more talk at the Capitol about new prison beds.  Instead, let’s make sure the message to fund schools and universities is heard from people all across our state.  It’s time to educate, not incarcerateArizona cannot afford to continue to cut public schools and state university funding and expect to support the job growth needed to be economically competitive in the 21st century.   

The governor’s budget does not reflect the right priorities, and House Democrats are ready for a fight -- but to win, we need help spreading the word. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or visit our website, www.azhousedemocrats.com.

Also, make sure your voice is heard. Here are ways you can get involved at the Capitol:




Thursday, February 05, 2015

Members of the Native American Caucus Discuss Recent Congressional Action Against the Apache Nation



Arizona Representatives Albert Hale, Victoria Steele and Sally Ann Gonzales, all members of the Native American Caucus, stand in solidarity with the Apache Nation and all Native peoples. Today, the Apache people held a peace walk to Sacred Oak Flat to protest a land swap included in the Defense Authorization bill recently passed by the U.S. Congress. 

Rep. Steele Named Legislator of the Year By Arizona's Community Health Centers


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

House Democrats Will Keep Meetings Open to the Public

House Democrats voted to keep caucus meetings open to the public. Additionally, we are publishing a list of other meetings that we will continue to keep open because transparency and accountability are Democratic priorities.


House Democrats hold the following open meetings:

Monday:
11-11:30 a.m. – Social Media Strategy Meeting, Room 340
12:30-1:15 p.m. – Ranking Member Meeting, Room 340
3-4 p.m. – Issue Focus Monday Meetings, Room 340


Tuesday:
10 a.m. – Caucus Meeting, House Hearing Room 2

Wednesday:
1-1:30 p.m. – SPOKES, Room 340

Thursday:
11 a.m.-noon (as needed) – Stakeholder Meetings, Room 340
1-1:30 p.m. (as needed) – Floor Strategy Prep Meetings in advance of Committee of the Whole, Democratic Leader’s Office, Room 320

We encourage participation, the more people who are involved, the stronger our democracy is. Here are additional ways the public can participate:
          Follow bills that have been introduced by exploring the Arizona Legislative website
          Watch the action live - click on the streaming live video player and archive
          Comment online from home using the Request to Speak System
          Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Thank you,
Democratic Leader Eric Meyer
District 28

Monday, February 02, 2015

Ducey Prioritizes Prisons Over Education

Priorities (noun)
: the things that someone cares about and thinks are important
: the condition of being more important than something or someone else and therefore coming or being dealt with first

Those in state government say a lot about priorities. “Project ABC is a priority.” “This issue is a top priority.” “Our number one priority for this session is XYZ.”

But the way to truly see the priorities of our state leaders is to look at the budget. This document, with pages and lists of agencies and numbers, shows exactly where the leaders who craft the budget are willing to spend and where they are willing to cut. And next year’s proposed budget reveals a lot about the new governor’s priorities.

Next year, again, more money will be spent on private prisons.

And next year, again, less money will be spent on education.

It’s pretty simple to see which of those continues to be the priority for Republican leaders who control state government. In fact, it couldn't be
much clearer.

In a stark demonstration of this contrast in priorities, this week both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hear presentations from two state agencies – the Department of Education and the Department of Corrections. One has seen funding for its constituents slashed year after year, the other has seen its funding steadily increase.

Let’s take a look at that funding.

Governor Ducey’s proposed budget calls for a $75 million cut to our state universities, a 50% reduction in funding for our largest community colleges and $13.5 million less to our district schools. Prisons, in contrast, see an increase of $52 million, including money to build more private prisons that will cost $100 million over three years.




According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, violent crime in Arizona has dropped by 40 percent since 1995 and property crime has dropped by 53 percent. But between 2000 and 2008 Arizona’s prison growth rate exceeded that of every other western state.


The growth in prison population has come at a substantial cost. The Legislature has appropriated nearly $949 million in State General Fund monies to the Department of Corrections for fiscal year 2011. This represents 11.2 percent of the State General Fund budget and trails only K-12 education and healthcare appropriations.

Those who support giving taxpayer dollars to for-profit private prison corporations will readily claim it saves the state money. That same 2010 report, however, explains the fallacy of this myth:

According to a 2009 department report, the State paid more per inmate in private prisons than for equivalent services in state facilities. After adjusting costs to make the expenditures comparable, the State paid private prisons $55.89 for each medium-custody inmate per day compared to a daily cost of $48.13 per medium-custody inmate in state facilities. The State also paid private prisons slightly more for each minimum-custody prisoner.

Right now, our state has more people incarcerated than it has students at the University of Arizona.

Article 11, Section 6 of the Arizona Constitution states that, “The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible.” But more than a billion dollars in cuts over the past few years has forced the highest in-state tuition increases in the nation on Arizona families.

It is certainly possible to begin reversing those cuts and lower tuition. That is, if higher education were a priority of those who control the budget.

Another demonstration of this state’s misguided priorities is the lawsuit by legislative leaders to avoid funding K-12 education as mandated by the people of Arizona. That’s on top of the almost $4 billion in cumulative cuts to our schools since 2008.

In 2000, the people of Arizona approved a ballot initiative that required the Legislature to adjust base funding for K-12 schools to avoid inflationary decreases. But beginning in 2011, the Legislature ignored the will of the voters and the rule of law by not including inflation funding in the budget.

In September of last year the Arizona Supreme Court agreed with a lower court that ruled the Legislature must pay the funding, yet Republicans are still fighting the ruling and some even say they are willing to throw the state into a constitutional stand-off with the courts.

All of this time and money spent to avoid putting money in our kids’ classrooms. That’s their priority.

Handing even more hard-earned taxpayer dollars to private prisons. That’s their priority.

But that’s not the priority of those who wrote in our state’s constitution that the Legislature, “shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of a general and uniform public school system,” though wrote nothing about providing for the profits of private prisons.


And that’s not the priority of Arizona families who would rather their children have a better chance to succeed through education and hard work than to wind up in prison.