Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rep. McCune Davis, House Democrats urge consumer protection agency to tighten loopholes on potential debt trap loans

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – All House Democrats signed a letter from Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix (District 30), urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to strengthen proposed rules for high-cost loans, citing continued predatory lending risks.
McCune Davis addressed the letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray applauding agency efforts to curb predatory lending practices and advising that, despite Arizona laws that cap small loan interest rates, some “lenders continue to seek exemptions and carve outs.”

“In our state, many former payday lenders don’t have a good track record,” McCune Davis said. “We’ve seen them take advantage of weaknesses in the laws. They find and exploit loopholes.”

McCune Davis and her colleagues encouraged the CFPB to propose rules to close regulatory loopholes, like those for title loans under Arizona statutes.  The letter also encourages the CFPB to require lenders to consider a borrower’s ability to repay a loan – taking both income and expenses into consideration for all loan products.

The letter reads: “CFPB rules should prevent loans from becoming debt traps by limiting the duration of indebtedness.”

The CFPB is taking public comment on high-risk loan products through Oct. 7, 2016.

People can send comments to CFPB Director Cordray by going to this link: To see a full copy of the letter House Democrats sent to the CFPB, see below. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Why Are Republicans Pouring More Money into For-Profit, Private Prisons?

Arizona Republican leaders continue to pour money into the for-profit, private prison industry, although Arizonans have stated clearly they want more #SchoolsNotPrisons. Earlier this month, the state increased its reliance on private prisons and began moving inmates into a newly expanded facility in Eloy. This move, which could cost the taxpayers up to about $24 million annually, will fund 1,000 new beds in the private prison—beds the state is promising to keep at least 90 percent full. 

Republican leaders are handing over a total of about $168 million this year to for-profit, private prisons operators, although it is difficult to determine whether these facilities are saving the state money. Republican legislators outlawed cost comparisons in 2012, but prior to that, reports indicated that private prisons weren’t actually saving money. In 2010, the Department of Corrections showed that daily per capita cost of prisoners in private prisons was almost 10 percent higher than those in state prisons.

Arizona has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.  Republicans here are spending more on the Department of Corrections than on universities. House Democrats have been and will continue pushing for more oversight, transparency and accountability within the corrections system. One of our proposals is to have the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission study the current system and make reform recommendations. Additionally, the Joint Select Committee on Corrections should be immediately reinstated so that it can provide Legislative oversight of the DOC and of private prisons. None of this would cost the state a dime.

Prison reform should be a bipartisan issue. We should be investing in our schools, so that our students have the resources they need to prepare for high-quality jobs. And so that qualified teachers stop “fleeing Arizona in droves.” Democrats agree that the priority is #EducationNotIncarceration.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Another Shameful Headline

Another headline that Republicans should be ashamed of – a new report from the U.S. Department of Education shows that Arizona has been spending more on inmates than on students for about 30 years.

In fact, Arizona spent only $3,573 per student in K-12 schools but invested $23,441 for every inmate in 2015. This seems to be more evidence that Republican leadership in Arizona is more focused on incarceration than on education. 

Even after voters approved Prop. 123, ensuring that public schools get some of the money Republicans illegally withheld from them, the money being distributed to schools will not be enough to pull per pupil spending in Arizona up from the bottom of the barrel nationally.  It will still leave schools short $1.2 billion each year. And it will do very little to bridge the enormous gap between student and prisoner funding. The governor has promised over and over again that Prop. 123 was a first step, but he’s failed to offer any information about what his next step is.

Despite the governor’s lack of leadership, AZ Schools Now, a growing coalition of education and community groups, 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.
The governor and Republican leadership at the Capitol must listen to what Arizonans are saying over and over – we want #EducationNotIncarceration. House Democrats will continue to push this as a priority until our students receive the resources needed to ensure they get a quality education. 


Monday, July 11, 2016

It's Past Time to Step Up

This month, Arizona left some 955 poor families—and their 1,660 children—with a little less money to put food on the table. In a striking example of how badly misplaced Gov. Ducey’s and Legislative Republican’s priorities are, the cuts to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program they passed last year became effective on the same day as $138 million in new business tax cuts.

In 2015, when Legislative Republicans proposed reducing TANF benefits from a lifetime limit of 24 months down to 12 months, they argued that the state simply did not have enough money to maintain the program. That argument made little sense at the time, when the cut was expected to save $9 million, and it makes even less sense now that it looks like the cut will actually only save $4 million; especially considering that the very same Republicans who made that argument passed more than $100 million in tax cuts that year, and more since then. In truth, the budget did not force the Republicans’ hands. They simply decided to finance their priorities (wealthy special interests) on the backs of Arizona’s most vulnerable families, which get an average of less than $300 per month in TANF benefits.

As a columnist for the Arizona Republic recently wrote, “What the Legislature actually is telling such families – moms, dads and children – is: ‘We don’t care about you.’” It’s not easy to see how the message could be anything else. Are Legislative Republicans and Gov. Ducey really not willing to spend $4 million, out of the state’s $9 billion budget, to help a few poor families feed their children for another 12 months?

The small amount of money a family in need receives from TANF benefits can sometimes keep them out of crisis and help prevent more children from entering the DCS system—a system that has been overburdened and plagued by mismanagement. Just last week, the agency was held in contempt of court over its failure to provide adequate services.  It’s past time for the Legislature to step up and really help the most vulnerable Arizonans, not cast them aside.


Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Building Toward the Future

Since the very start of 2016, Democrats have been calling for smart investments in projects that will create jobs and strengthen the economy.  Our plan included money to accelerate the construction on Highway 189 for the Mariposa Port of Entry between the U.S. and Mexico.

It is one of the busiest ports in the country and Mexico remains a major trade partner with Arizona.  In 2015, trade between Arizona and Mexico reached nearly $17 billion and it supported around 100,000 Arizona jobs. Investing in projects that will create jobs and strengthen Arizona’s economic competitiveness makes sense and we helped get $25 million for this port expansion in the budget. At the same time we protected the Highway User Revenue Fund from budget sweeps, because this money is used to build and repair roads and bridges. The State Transportation Board recently approved additional funding for Mariposa Port of Entry project and construction, which was scheduled to start in 2021, will now begin in 2019.

The improved conditions at the port will not only support trade between Arizona and Mexico, but it could also help tourism. Last year, people visiting Arizona from Mexico spent nearly $8 billion here. To put that into perspective, the state’s entire budget is about $9.5 billion a year.

During a recent visit to the United States, Mexico’s Minister of Tourism Enrique de la Madrid noted that trade and tourism are important factors in Arizona’s relationship with Mexico. He added that Arizona’s exports to Mexico comprise 40 percent of the state’s global exports. Democrats have long recognized the importance of Arizona’s connection to Mexico and will continue to support projects and investments that support smart, regional, economic development. It’s part of an overall plan that Democrats have been promoting to push your priorities at the state Capitol.  We’ll make sure your voice is heard.