Monday, June 27, 2016

Hale applauds Supreme Court decision to uphold tribal court jurisdiction but warns of continued attacks on sovereignty

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX Last week, on a 4-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court failed to overturn a lower court decision in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, effectively upholding the Court of Appeals’ decision that Indian nation courts have civil jurisdiction over non-tribal members within their borders.

Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), applauded the decision but cautioned that the jurisdiction of Native American nation courts is still under attack on many fronts.

"There are cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that would undermine the sovereignty of Indian nation courts and the sovereignty of Indian nations in general," Hale said. "In this decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Indian nations are sovereign, but each of the pending cases represents a threat to the sovereignty and stability of every Indian nation. They whittle away at Indian nation court jurisdiction and the sovereignty Indian nations had before non-Indians first set foot on the Americas. Maintaining that jurisdiction over criminal and civil matters involving non-tribal members and non-Native Americans is essential to protecting the rights of victims on Indian lands.”

Hale explained that in this case, a tribal member, a minor, was sexually abused by a non-Indian employee of Dollar General. The abuse occurred on the Indian reservation, and the Indian nation court ruled in favor of the minor.

This is a clear example of the importance of Native American courts, according to Hale.

"The victim has the right to recourse in his or her own home area. And Indian nations, like all sovereign entities, have the authority to enforce their laws and maintain order within their borders. They have the power to protect everyone’s rights within their borders, and provide courts where legal action can be taken against anyone who violates the rights of others.

"These attacks on Indian nation court jurisdiction will force Indian nations to more heavily regulate the influx of non-members onto their lands," Hale said. "That could create long lines at the borders and complicate efforts to provide services and promote tourism and economic development on Native American lands.

"I was appalled that Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich submitted an amicus brief against upholding the jurisdiction of Indian nation courts on this issue," Hale said of an action the Brnovich took last year intervening in the case, not on the side of the Indian nation and the victim, but on the side of those wishing to strip the Indian nation court of its inherent jurisdiction. Hale sent Brnovich a letter in September 2015 urging him to withdraw the amicus brief he filed in the case. The full letter is below.

"As Arizona’s attorney general, Brnovich represents all of the people who live in this state - including Native Americans. He should support victims and Indian nation court sovereignty," Hale said.

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. He served four terms in the Arizona state Senate.


This Fourth of July

As the Fourth of July approaches, now is a great time to reflect on the qualities that make our state and country great. Education is certainly one of them. And in fact, education is enshrined as a core, foundational principle in Arizona’s constitution.

The framers of our state constitution knew that education would make Arizona strong, and so they required that, from kindergarten to college, it would always be available. Yet Arizona’s public schools have struggled with underfunding for decades. This year, voters narrowly passed Prop. 123 as the best available option for supporting our school districts. But they did so because Gov. Ducey promised that it was only the first step in restoring public education funding and that other steps would soon follow.

More than a month after that election, though, Gov. Ducey has made no indication he plans to follow through. House Democrats, on the other hand, are working tirelessly with the AZ Schools Now Coalition to enact meaningful next steps. We know that Arizonans overwhelmingly prioritize public education funding, and that is why Democrats have always been the champions of this issue. Arizona’s constitution demands that the legislature appropriately fund public education. Arizonans demand that the legislature appropriately fund public education.

And sadly, public K-12 schools are not the only ones left out in the cold by Legislative Republicans. Our constitution also says that higher education should be “as nearly free as possible.” But tuition costs at Arizona’s universities have been rising for years and have been above the national average for public universities for the last several years. This year, House Democrats proposed a simple measure to give Arizona’s public universities an extra $50 million to help lower tuition. Legislative Republicans rejected that plan in favor of funding for Koch Brother propaganda programs and chose not to ease the economic burden our university students face. Their priorities do not respect our constitution’s demand for low-cost higher education; they undermine it.

Gov. Ducey and Legislative Republicans have failed Arizona’s schools at every level. This Fourth of July, while we celebrate our freedom, our independence, and even our greatness, let’s remember how we got here. It’s time to really put education first.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Public Schools Not Private Prisons

This year, Arizonans have shown beyond any doubt that they prioritize education and that they want state leaders to do the same. But a Department of Corrections proposal approved by a legislative committee last week suggests that Republicans’ priorities are still all wrong.

Arizona now plans to purchase the private prison in Kingman from GEO Group, the company that took the facility over after inmate riots last summer. Arizona plans to pay $137.4 million, refinance the debt at a much lower interest rate, and then continue to contract with GEO Group to operate the prison. According to the DOC, paying off the prison will cost taxpayers $77.5 million less if Arizona holds the debt than if GEO Group continues to. That is a big win for Arizona taxpayers, who are burdened by a bloated prison system.

But the Kingman plan, proposed by a Republican administration and approved by a majority-Republican oversight committee, also poses a serious question: are private prisons actually more expensive than public prisons?

Until Republican legislators in 2012 outlawed cost comparisons, data consistently demonstrate that, yes, private prisons are more expensive than public prisons. In 2010, the Department of Corrections reported that the daily per capita cost of prisoners in private prisons was almost 10 percent higher than for those in state prisons. It seems like Republican legislators did not like the truth, so they made up their own. And the chief justification for spending millions of dollars every year on private prisons has continued to be that they save Arizona money.

Despite appearing to acknowledge that public prisons are more cost-effective, however, the Kingman plan is still bad for Arizona tax payers; and for Arizona’s corrections officers. Because Gov. Ducey intends to use more than $2 million of the yearly savings—that is, taxpayer money—to subsidize the salaries of GEO Group’s prison guards.

That bears repeating: Gov. Ducey wants to use public, taxpayer dollars to increase the salaries of private prison guards—guards employed by a multi-billion dollar company that made nearly $140 million in profits last year. Public corrections officers, meanwhile, have gone without pay raises for nine years. Democrats tried to remove the salary subsidies from the Kingman plan, but Republican legislators were insistent on funneling $2 million of public money to GEO Group.

The Kingman plan shows the wrong priorities for Arizona. Maybe that has something to do with the $55,000 that GEO Group gave to Gov. Ducey’s 2014 campaign. Maybe it doesn’t. But either way, taxpayer money should not go to line the pockets of large, out-of-state companies.

And Republican leaders in Arizona should get back to championing the causes Arizonans prioritize. Arizonans have demanded education, not incarceration. House Democrats have listened, and share your priorities.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Arizona to recognize Juneteenth as state holiday

 STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona will soon recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. This year Rep. Reginald Bolding introduced legislation that proclaims June 19 of each year as Juneteenth. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

“Juneteenth Day is a day for Arizona to remember and celebrate this country’s history and all we have overcome,” Bolding said.

Bolding’s bill, HB 2226, was signed into law in March and will go into effect in August 2016, but this summer several organizations will recognize the passage of the bill. Bolding will also speak at the official Arizona State Juneteenth Celebration in Phoenix this weekend.

When: June 18, 2016
4 – 9 p.m.
Where: Eastlake Park and Community Center
1549 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix 85034

For more information about the Valley of the Sun Juneteenth Celebration go to:


Monday, June 13, 2016

DCS: The Crisis Continues

The news coming out of Arizona’s Department of Child Safety remains alarming. The state’s foster care system is being pushed to capacity. There are more children in the system than ever before and the number of staff available to help them continues to decline.

Recent reports show that there are still 19,000 kids in foster care, and nearly 3,000 of those children have to live in shelters, group homes or other forms of congregate care because there aren’t enough foster homes.

We are still seeing too many gruesome headlines of kids falling victim to tragedies. And we are still seeing too many kids entering the system – recent reports are again showing that more children are coming into the foster system than are exiting.

House Democrats have long called for more accountability and better leadership from the governor and DCS Director Greg McKay. We have to stop these crises before they occur by investing in preventative services, providing training and support for family-member caregivers and curbing high rates of staff turnover at DCS. Democrats will keep working for this as long as the #CrisisContinues because Arizona kids deserve better.

Friday, June 03, 2016

It’s time for next steps now!

There is a very long list of groups working together to pressure the governor and lawmakers to take the next steps in funding Arizona’s public schools. The AZ Schools Now coalition includes the following organizations:
And chances are this list is going to keep growing because ensuring our schools have the resources needed to prepare Arizona kids for the future is not about politics.  Parents, teachers, students, families and communities are coming together to hold lawmakers and the governor accountable for the state of our schools.  AZ Schools Now is calling for a long-term, sustainable revenue plan for education that will focus on three key areas:
  • Restoring funding for classroom supplies, updated technology and textbooks. This would require restoring district additional assistance.
  • Sustaining a workforce of quality, certified and caring teachers in the classroom by investing in competitive salaries and professional development.
  • Restoring capital funding to give our students schools and classrooms that are safe, clean and functional places to learn.

House Democrats have worked tirelessly toward these goals for years. With continued pressure from parents and community leaders, we can make meaningful progress in strengthening Arizona’s public schools. And we stand with coalition leaders calling on the governor and Republican legislators to make an “ironclad” commitment to take the next steps in restoring public school funding.