Monday, August 31, 2015

Hale urges Arizona congressional delegation to keep North Rim of Grand Canyon open longer

Hale urges Arizona congressional delegation to keep North Rim of Grand Canyon open longer

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), recently wrote to the Arizona congressional delegation urging the members to extend the visitors seasons for the North Rim of The Grand Canyon National Park by two weeks.

“Extending access to this part of the national park will provide an economic boost to both the state and region,” Hale said. “It would be a benefit to Arizona’s economic and employment situation.”

In the letter, Hale requested that the congressional delegation and the National Park Service work together to make the policy change a priority.  He wrote that the services and businesses associated with the North Rim of the Grand Canyon create a “sustained seasonal economy” and “provide needed employment in Northern Arizona.”

“There are hundreds of jobs that are dependent on the seasonal flow of visitors to this area,” Hale said. “Businesses and employees would benefit greatly if the season were extended until October.”

Hale added that he believes that keeping this portion of the Grand Canyon open for an extra two weeks would have only a negligible impact on the National Park Service budget.

“The benefits to the region will likely outweigh the cost associated with changing the length of the visitors season,” Hale said.


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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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Not far enough

Not far enough

The governor’s announcement that the state will end its contract with Management and Training Corporation to operate the private prison in Kingman, where riots left 16 people injured, does not go far enough to address the public safety and efficiency concerns related to these for-profit facilities.

A report from the American Friends Service Committee identified “chronic understaffing at Kingman… and poor management” as well as “cost cutting” measures as contributing factors to the most recent riot. The Department of Corrections was in charge of investigating itself in this incident, and the governor directed the department to evaluate all private prison operators.  The DOC investigation of the riot highlighted MTC’s “culture of disorganization, disengagement, and disregard” of DOC policies.  


It appears that DOC officials have been aware of staffing problems in both the for-profit and state-run prisons for some time. A recent report in The Arizona Republic showed that in the last fiscal year, Arizona had to pay almost $40 million in overtime wages because the 10 state-run prisons have hundreds of job vacancies.

This information raises questions around DOC’s ability to investigate itself and draws criticism of the level of transparency and accountability within the department. To help restore public confidence, there should be an immediate, independent investigation of Arizona’s correction system.
For years, Republicans have repealed statutory oversight of private prisons, while increasing the number of these for-profit facilities. Until oversight is restored, an independent investigation is completed and Arizonans are satisfied that their tax dollars are being used efficiently to protect public safety, all contracts for future private prisons should be canceled. This includes the current contract for up to 2,000 new private prison beds.  

Let’s #AskDuceyWhy private prisons will continue to get state support, regardless of ongoing concerns about accountability, safety and responsible use of taxpayer money.







Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Meyer calls for immediate, independent investigation of all private prisons in Arizona

Meyer calls for immediate, independent investigation of all private prisons in Arizona

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), released this statement after Gov. Doug Ducey announced plans to terminate the contract with Management Training Corporation for the operation of the Kingman for-profit, private prison that was badly damaged in a recent riot. This riot also left several people injured.

“Arizona needs an immediate and independent investigation of all for-profit, private prisons in the state. The governor’s decision to terminate one contract with an operator does not go far enough to assuage the public safety concerns associated with these facilities.

“Additionally, the Legislature should reinstate the statutory oversight of private prisons that Republicans repealed several years ago. Arizonans should know whether private prisons are an appropriate use of taxpayer money. Until this happens, the state should suspend all efforts to seek bids to build new private prisons. It is time for more accountability and more transparency in this industry, which appears deeply troubled.”




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Friese: Republicans should accept judge’s Medicaid expansion ruling, forgo further legal challenges

Friese: Republicans should accept judge’s Medicaid expansion ruling, forgo further legal challenges


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson (District 9), released this statement after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge decided today that the assessment that hospitals pay to fund the expansion of Medicaid is constitutional:

“Today’s decision means that well over 250,000 Arizonans will continue to have access to quality, affordable health care. As a physician, I’ve seen what can happen to people who put off receiving prompt medical attention because they are concerned about its cost. The medical issues they are dealing with often get worse.

“The people who were able to qualify for Medicaid after the program’s expansion will not face an interruption in their care. This could help avoid costly and complicated medical procedures in the future.

“The Republicans in the Legislature who filed this lawsuit should accept this as a final decision and should forgo wasting state money on frivolous appeals.”


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Hale: Neighboring states should work together to transport students who must cross state borders to go to school

Hale: Neighboring states should work together to transport students who must cross state borders to go to school

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), recently discussed school district transportation challenges facing Native American students who must travel across state borders to attend Arizona schools with the New Mexico State Indian Affairs Committee.  Hale released this statement related to this discussion:

“Arizona continues to experience a cross-border flow of students from New Mexico and Utah. This is in part due to the fact that some of the out-of-state students reside closer to Arizona schools. Arizona allows some out-of-state school districts to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to ensure students have access to education opportunities and to avoid financial hardships. The school districts can transport or contract for transportation for these students. However, route miles run to transport non-resident students are not funded by the state. Transportation costs in addition to other costs of education should be part of the IGA.

“Neighboring states must work together to develop a sustainable funding mechanism for the costs of education, including the transportation of our students who are crossing state lines to get an education. Other states have laws that address students crossing state borders into other school districts. However, except for Arizona, the states do not address the education costs (tuition, transportation, etc.) related to its students who cross the state lines to attend school in the neighboring state.

“Arizona school districts have already developed and presented IGAs to New Mexico. The Window Rock School District proposed an IGA with the Gallup-McKinley County School District. At this point, New Mexico has not acted on this proposal. This is likely because, under New Mexico’s laws, this type of IGA must be approved by the state’s secretary of education and director of finance administration. This process stalled while waiting for this approval.

“I recommend that New Mexico immediately adopt a law authorizing local school districts to enter into IGAs related to the education of students attending schools in neighboring states. Without these changes, the students could be adversely affected. Often times this issue affects Navajo students who live within the Navajo Nation, which straddles the Arizona and New Mexico border. School is back in session. Finding a solution to this issue must be an immediate priority.”

Hale added that recently the New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee requested a letter be sent to the New Mexico governor and secretary of education calling for a meeting to develop a suitable IGA. The IAC also requested a letter go to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration secretary asking why the department did not approve an earlier IGA addressing these issues.

Hale said there have been reports from community members that some students must travel two hours by bus to go to their assigned schools and that there are already more than 600 students crossing state borders to attend school.


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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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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

National Caucus of Native American State Legislators adopts Hale resolution urging Congress to help with the construction of veteran homes on tribal lands

National Caucus of Native American State Legislators adopts Hale resolution urging Congress to help with the construction of veteran homes on tribal lands


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Earlier this month the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators adopted a resolution sponsored by Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), urging Congress to allow construction reimbursement for veteran homes built in Native American Nations.

Hale is the Vice President of the National Caucus. He sponsored a similar concurrent resolution in the Arizona State Legislature. He intends to sponsor another concurrent resolution when the Legislature convenes in January 2016.

The resolution asks Congress to enact legislation that would allow construction reimbursement and per diem payments for veterans nursing care homes built on Native American Nation lands. Current law provides for a 65 percent construction reimbursement and per diem payments to veterans nursing care homes built on land owned by states, territories or land the U.S. possesses. Veteran homes built on Native American Nation lands are not eligible for the reimbursement and per diem payments.

Hale said that a change in the federal law would encourage the construction of veterans nursing care homes and make it possible to provide more services to veterans living on Native American Nation lands.

“While there are many veterans living in Native American Nations, there are no veterans nursing care homes.  This type of facility is eligible for both construction reimbursement and per diem if it is not on Native American Nation lands. Extending this law to include facilities that would serve the Native American veterans who wish to stay connected to their communities would do a lot of good,” Hale said.

The resolution was sent to the president and vice president of the United States, to members of Congress and to other federal and state government officials.

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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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Meyer to Republican Leaders: Stop playing political games with Arizona’s schoolchildren

Meyer to Republican Leaders: Stop playing political games with Arizona’s schoolchildren

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), released this statement regarding the failed K-12 inflation funding settlement negotiations and the recent Republican education funding proposal:

“If the Republican leaders in Arizona were serious about getting money into classrooms now, they would use the $325 million projected surplus. Instead they are using smoke and mirrors to play political games with the future of Arizona kids.

“The lawsuit needs to be settled immediately, and Republican leaders need to stop grandstanding. They also need to find real solutions to the public education funding challenges they created with years of massive budget cuts. Their current proposals are insufficient. ”




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Monday, August 24, 2015

Downward trends…

Downward trends…

New numbers from the State Department of Administration show that the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July was 6.1 percent, an increase from June. Nationally, the unemployment rate remained steady at 5.3 percent.  Three sectors posted losses including nearly 13,000 jobs lost in local education.

Further complicating the economic landscape for the state is news that Mexico’s Treasury Department has lowered its economic growth forecast for 2015. Last year, the state exported $8.6 billion to Mexico – which represents 41 percent of Arizona’s total international exports. On top of that, visitors from Mexico spend upwards of $7 million daily in Arizona. The economic relationship between Mexico and Arizona is important.

These numbers follow a report from The Phoenix Business Journal that businesses are avoiding the state because of “Arizona’s reputation on education.” According to the article, two companies considering relocations to Phoenix passed because “’they were afraid they would not find good schools for their own children.’” These businesses brought about 3,000 high-paying jobs to other cities.

The governor likes to say that Arizona is open for business, but our economic recovery has been characterized as uneven and many of the state’s largest stocks have stalled out this year. All of this news shows signs of a downward trend.

A true economic recovery plan should include funding for education. And the governor and other Republican leaders should be putting resources into classrooms now – new projections show that Arizona will end the year with a $325 million surplus and about $460 million in the state’s rainy-day fund. With the state’s economic future at stake, we have to #AskDuceyWhy he’s not investing in education now.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

League of Arizona Cities and Towns honors 14 House Democrats at Annual Conference

League of Arizona Cities and Towns honors 14 House Democrats at Annual Conference

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The League of Arizona Cities and Towns recognized 14 Arizona House Democrats for their commitment to and support of cities and towns during the 2015 legislative session.

“Arizona is better served when the state, cities and towns work together. It is through collaboration that our communities stay safe and strong. These awards remind us that we accomplish more as partners,” House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28), said. “My colleagues and I look forward to our continued cooperation with the League and are grateful for this recognition.”

Three House Democrats were recognized as Champions of Cities and Towns:
·         Rep. Mark A. Cardenas, D-Phoenix (District 19)
·         House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley (District 28)
·         House Democratic Whip, Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix (District 27)

Additionally, the following legislators received the Friends of Cities and Towns Award:
·         Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix (District 24)
·         Rep. Diego  Espinoza, D-Tolleson (District 19)
·         Rep. Charlene R. Fernandez, D-Yuma (District 4)
·         Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson (District 9)
·         Rep. Jonathan R. Larkin, D-Glendale (District 30)
·         Rep. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson (District 10)
·         Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 30)
·         Rep. Lisa A. Otondo, D-Yuma, (District 4)
·         Rep. Andrew C. Sherwood, D-Tempe (District 26)
·         Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson (District 9)
·         House Assistant Democratic Leader Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson (District 10)

“City and town officials appreciate the support from these outstanding legislators and their recognition that local decisions should be made at the local level,” League of Arizona Cities and Towns Executive Director Ken Strobeck said. “We are successful when we are all working together for the benefit of our citizens and Arizona.”

The league honored the awardees on Aug. 20 during the 2015 Annual Conference. The conference, held in Tucson this year, is a four-day meeting Aug. 18 – Aug. 21 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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Monday, August 17, 2015

It’s back to school – but still no new money for classrooms

It’s back to school – but still no new money for classrooms

It is back to school time and the state has a $266 million surplus and a $460 million rainy-day fund, but as an Arizona Republic columnist put it, “it’s pouring on the heads of Arizona’s schoolchildren.”  Here’s what that looks like.

Last month, school administrators reported that they needed to fill at least 1,000 teacher positions across the state. The Washington Post reported teachers are “fleeing Arizona in droves.” And the most recent preliminary AzMERIT test scores are alarming – they show most Arizona students are not “proficient” in math or in reading. The headline from The Arizona Daily Star proclaimed “Early report: Two-thirds fall short on AzMERIT test.” As we increase the expectations for our students, we must also increase the level of support they receive if we expect them to be successful.


“The total number of jobs between both of these companies totaled 3,000. And they were high-paying, too. The average wage at each company was more than double the Phoenix average per capita wage.”

Looks like the Republican leadership’s choices on education funding are already threatening our economy. Without a substantial investment in public schools now, this is what our students could continue to look forward to:
  • Lower test scores – “The more money invested, the higher the test scores,” said ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy Senior Policy Analyst Dan Huntington.
  • Increase in classroom sizes – a former Phoenix Elementary School District governing board member said in a recent interview that the state budget cuts meant schools had to increase their classroom sizes and freeze teacher compensation. 
  • Student safety impacted – some schools could have to scale back facilities maintenance, security guards and shared nurses.
In the face of all of these challenges, and there is also a school inflation funding lawsuit that remains unsettled. Although a judge has ruled that schools are due $330 million from the state, the governor has still not offered a plan that would put more money into classrooms now.   But he is talking about more tax cuts – what special interest groups will benefit from that? What does this mean for the economic future of our state?

Let’s #AskDuceyWhy he won’t commit to getting money back into classrooms now to make sure there is #really #OpportunityforAll.  



Monday, August 10, 2015

How many more times…

How many more times…

Click to make larger.
Another national report has bad news for Arizona kids.  The 2015 Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count project lists Arizona as 46th in overall child well-being rankings.  How many more times will we have to see reports like this before the Republican leadership in Arizona makes education and the well-being of kids a priority here?

The ranking is part of an annual report assessing the well-being of children across the country and in Puerto Rico in five categories. Arizona’s low overall ranking reflects its inability to break out of the bottom ten percent in any of the other categories.

We were 42nd in both economic and in health well-being, 44th in education, and 46th in family and community.

The report also showed that 72 percent of Arizona fourth graders were not proficient at reading in 2013, yet another shocking education statistic that recently hit the headlines. Additionally, 69 percent of eighth graders were not proficient in math in 2013.

Our kids deserve better. Arizona House Democrats want accountability – and they want immediate investment in our schools.

It’s time for answers. Let’s #AskDuceyWhy he supported a budget that slashed education and social safety net programs. We should be investing in the well-being and the education of our kids now. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

Some good news, some bad news…and some more bad news

Some good news, some bad news…and some more bad news

Arizona continues to collect recognition for being at the bottom of the education barrel. A recent U.S. Department of Education report announced that in 2013 Arizona tied with Alaska for the dubious distinction of having the lowest college completion rate in the country. Only 29 percent of students completed a four-year degree within six years.  The report stated the national average is 55 percent.

The report also said Arizona students face the highest student loan default rate in the nation. Arizona is at 18 percent compared to the national average of 11 percent. 

While this information is disheartening, digging into the data a little more does provide some positive information.  The overall college completion rate includes students from public, private and for-profit universities. The report lists each separately, and the good news is that Arizona’s public universities have a 57 percent graduation rate – two points higher than the national average. An Arizona Board of Regents spokesperson recently told a reporter that the current completion rate is nearly 60 percent for 2014-2015.

This encouraging news is tempered by reports that all three of Arizona’s public universities are considering layoffs and the University of Arizona is already laying people off after Republicans passed a budget that slashed $99 million from all public universities. Prior to these most recent budget cuts, Arizona universities were already shouldering some of the deepest budget cuts in the nation, while students faced some of the highest tuition hikes.  

Let’s #AskDuceyWhy he expects our public university students, who are currently completing college at rates above the national average, to continue this positive trend amidst university layoffs and tuition hikes.  #AskDuceyWhy he and other Republican leaders are trying to balance the state budget on the backs of students. And let’s #AskDuceyWhy the Republicans won’t invest in higher education now.