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ARIZONA LEGISLATURE NEWS

The 54th Arizona Legislature opened January 14th and the Legislators are hard at work dropping bills frantically.   As the term unfolds check here for current news:

LINKS:

Senate Members

Committees

Jose Borrajero, AZ Daily Independent  June 9, 2019

Contrary to the claims by the governor and many legislators, we did have a substantial Arizona income tax increase for the 2018 tax year.

Since there is disagreement, in order to determine whether we had a tax increase or not, it is best to apply good old-fashioned Clintonesque logic by stating that it depends on the definition of the phrase “tax increase.”

If we adhere to the text and the spirit of our state constitution as amended by Proposition 108 (1992), then we did not have a tax increase for 2018. This would have required that a bill be introduced, run through committees, obtain 2/3 majority votes in both chambers, and be signed by the governor. None of that happened. Therefore, no tax increase.

On the other hand, if we apply common sense and logic, we come up with a different picture. Here is how it goes:

IF the 2018 income was equal to the 2017 income

AND the 2018 tax amount was greater than the 2017 tax amount

THEN there was a tax increase in 2018

This is exactly what happened. Because of ingenious semantic playing, the governor did not increase our taxes in the same manner that Clinton did not have sex with that woman. Those of us who pay attention to that sort of thing are keenly aware that we did indeed have a tax increase that wiped out most of the relief we obtained via Trump’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017. Without getting into the details, which have been adequately explained elsewhere, the Trump tax cuts created a higher income figure to determine the AZ income tax liability, resulting in a state tax increase and a windfall higher tax revenue for the state, unless corrections were made. These corrections were fought tooth and nail by our governor.

An examination of the chain of events associated with this debacle clearly indicates that this windfall tax hike was not accidental, but both premeditated and orchestrated. As early as January 2018 we knew that this tax increase was going to happen unless we took positive steps to avert it. Yet, the whole 2018 legislative session went by and the issue was conveniently ignored. Finally, in January, 2019, Mesnard (LD17) introduced senate bill SB1143, which would have fixed the problem by making the necessary corrections retroactive to January 1, 2018. That bill cleared both chambers along party lines, except for Republican Brophy-McGee (LD28) who voted against it. Then the governor was quick to veto it, using very interesting language in his veto letter. He wrote that HB1143 was the wrong policy and that bills that have fiscal impact should be considered as part of the budget discussions. First off, how is it bad policy for a Republican governor to allow tax payers to keep more of what they earn? Second, we routinely consider bills with fiscal impact throughout the legislative session, and finally, why was this not considered during the 2018 budget discussions?

Going forward, we are being told that we have established a revenue neutral conformity plan for taxable year 2019 and beyond, but we are already hearing from some CPA’s that this plan is not as revenue neutral as we are led to believe. Time will tell, but what is very clear is that we will never recover the Trump tax cuts for taxable year 2018 that we lost to the AZ Department of Revenue.

 

REFERENCES – LINKS

Mesnard bill SB1143: SB1143 – conformity; internal revenue code; rates

Governor’s veto letter: https://www.azleg.gov/govlettr/54leg/1r/sb1143.pdf

Governor’s budget plan: https://azgovernor.gov/FY20Budget

Ducey Vetoes Legislators’ Last Minute Pay Raise

AZ Daily Independent June 7, 2019

Editors Note:  The Legislature closed at 1 am on the morning of May 28th 30 minutes after they passed 

SB 1558, a bill that was presented at the very last minute of the session without the public having a clue it was being considered. The last increase for per diem was over 12 year ago.  Prices of  food and lodging have increased in the  Phoenix valley.  While the Legislators should have an increase to their per diem expenses this was not the way to do it.  The Governor was correct to veto this bill. The Legislators will have a chance next legislative session.

On June 7, Governor Doug Ducey finally vetoed SB1558, which would have tripled t he per diem compensation for Arizona legislators. Arizona’s legislators passed the bill on May 27 during the waning hours of the 2019 legislative session.

As noted by Republican leader, former Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, SB1558 would have increased the legislators’ “per diem compensation from $30/day to $92.50/day for those within Maricopa County; from $60/day to $185/day for those outside Maricopa (Capital Times – May 27, 2019). If applied to what we know about this session the per diem would increase from $4.3K to $11.8K for Maricopa legislators and from $7.5K to $23.6 for those outside.”

Related article: Open Letter to Governor Ducey: Legislators’ Pay Raise

Legislators avoided the requirement that voters approve salary increases by increasing the “per diem,” which is defined as a daily expense allowance.

Ducey’s veto letter:

Today I vetoed SB 1558.

I respect the legislators’ role as a separate and co-equal branch of government. I also value the work and time commitment that our state lawmakers dedicate to appropriately represent the people who elected them – that includes legislators on both sides of the aisle.

Arizona is the sixth largest state in terms of land area. So for rural legislators and those representing areas outside Maricopa County, there’s a strong case to be made for ensuring we are appropriately recognizing what is required for them to be here at the state Capitol in Phoenix during session. Any change in the per diem rate should be prospective, and applied to the next Legislature, which will be sworn in on January 11, 2021, following the 2020 election.

I am open to working with legislators on such a change next session.

Douglas A. Ducey
Governor
State of Arizona

Arizona Governor Signs Boost to Minimum Auto Insurance

Associated Press June 7, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation to nearly double the minimum coverage for auto insurance policies.

Ducey signed the legislation on Friday after vetoing a similar bill last year over concerns it would boost premiums. Arizona has some of the lowest insurance requirements in the nation.

The new law requires car and truck owners to have at least $25,000 of liability insurance for a single person’s injury or death and $50,000 for multiple, up from $15,000 and $30,000 respectively. They’d also need $15,000 in coverage for property damage instead of $10,000.

The changes would kick in July 1, 2020.

Supporters say insurance requirements need to keep pace with rising costs for medical care and auto repairs. Critics worry about raising insurance premiums for those who can’t afford them.

From our Friends at Arizona Civil Defense League: Legislative Wrap Up From Their Perspective

Sine Die

At 12:58 AM on May 28, 2019, the Arizona Legislature officially adjourned (Sine Die) their 2019 Regular Session.  Any bills that did not make it through the Legislature are dead this year.  The general effective date of bills signed by the Governor is August 27, 2019 (90 days after the end of the session).  The status and summary of bills that AzCDL monitored this session can be found on our Bill Tracking page.

We thank AzCDL members and activists that sent over sixty-three thousand emails to legislators and the Governor using AzCDL's Legislative Action Center this session.  You made a difference.

This year was the toughest session we've encountered.  With your help and activism, we were successful in defeating 20 bills, predominately filed by Democrats, that targeted your rights.  Unfortunately, this session Republicans showed very little interest in supporting your rights.  Of the half dozen or so bills filed that would restore and protect your right to keep and bear arms, the only bill that made it to the Governor's desk was SB 1291 which overturned the decades old ban on the possession of nunchakus.

We expect even bigger challenges next year. Those that want to disarm you are emboldened.  Understanding that they have less chance of success at the national level, they are redoubling their efforts at the state level.  Arizona, the state Guns and Ammo has rated as the best state for gun owners for the last 6 years (thanks to your efforts!), is their number one target.  We must stay alert and be ready for the next wave of attacks.

What a surprise!! Politicians NOT following thru with their campaign promises.  Term Limits in 2020-- third time is a charm --ED

Majority Leader Rick Gray, GOP Senate Leadership Kills Arizona Term Limits Push

C. Kramer, Arizona Daily Independent  May 28, 2019

In spite of widespread support for Congressional Term Limits, GOP leadership in the State Senate killed a term limits bill for the second consecutive year. Last year Senate President Steve Yarbrough refused to bring the bill up for a vote in spite of it having majority support and in spite of promising to allow the vote. Yarbrough had even indicated that he would vote for the bill and had supported previous measures that included term limits.

This year the same game was played by Senate President Karen Fann, who signed a pledge to the voters of her district to help pass term limits, yet blocked the bill from coming to the floor in spite of having support from a majority of members. Two Senators indicated that the problem wasn’t Fann personally but rather was Republican Majority Leader Rick Gray who was opposed to term limits and wanted the bill killed. They indicated that Fann was “taking a bullet” for Gray. The other two Republicans who had declared their opposition were David Farnsworth and Eddie Farnsworth. Notably, three Democrat State Senators had also signed pledges to support the bill, giving the bill a 

two-vote cushion for passage, although Democratic Senator Andrea Dalessandro had indicated that she would break her pledge if the bill came up for a vote.

Polling has shown that more than 80% of voters support term limits for members of Congress but Congress will never take steps to limits its own terms. That means that the limits must originate with “we the people”, which is precisely what US Term Limits has been working to do in various states. Arizona was seen as a likely state to join the cause given the broad support for the measure and the state’s history of support for Article V efforts, but having Republican leadership step in to protect the Washington DC status quo for two straight years is an obvious setback to the effort. At this point it is unclear if another effort will be made in 2020, but voters in Fann’s and Gray’s district should take note.

Office of the Governor PRESS RELEASE May 28, 2019

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey today joined survivors of child sexual abuse, victim advocates and Arizona State Senators Paul Boyer and Heather Carter for a ceremonial signing of H.B. 2466. The bill, which passed unanimously in the Arizona State Legislature, strengthens protections for victims of child sexual abuse by extending the amount of time victims have to pursue civil action against perpetrators. 

“We cannot overstate the pain and trauma suffered by victims of child sexual abuse,” said Governor Ducey. “We know victims need time to process and understand what happened. They deserve the time to come forward. With this bill, Arizona is taking a stand to hold abusers accountable and provide justice to victims of child sexual abuse. This reform did not come easily, but progress on the really important issues rarely ever does. I want to thank Senator Boyer for his dedication to the children of Arizona.”

H.B. 2466 extends the amount of time victims have to take civil action against perpetrators of child abuse from two years to 12 years, allowing victims to pursue justice up to the age of 30. The bill also allows victims who did not have the opportunity to take civil action for their abuse due to the previous two-year limit to bring a claim against their perpetrator until December 31, 2020. In addition, the bill allows civil action to be taken against an organization that knew or had notice of the sexual conduct. The bill’s provisions allow victims of child sexual abuse to seek justice and receive relief from a perpetrator.

Before signing the bill, Governor Ducey announced the establishment of the Justice for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse Task Force. The task force will be dedicated to providing recommendations to the state for further reforms to ensure victims are entitled to safety, healing, justice and restitution. Members of the task force will consist of representatives from the law enforcement community, the Arizona House of Representatives, the Arizona Senate and advocates of victims of child sexual abuse.

HB2486

Rep Dalessandro seems more concerned about maintaining her power than the benefit of her constituents--ED

Senate Kills Effort to Study Realigning Santa Cruz, Cochise Counties

Howard Fisher, Capitol Media Services  May 22, 2019

PHOENIX — It looks like residents of Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin are going to remain in Santa Cruz County, at least for the foreseeable future.

On a 16-13 vote, the Senate on Tuesday killed a plan that would have created a committee to study realigning the boundary between Santa Cruz and Cochise counties.

The vote is a setback for Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Sierra Vista, who has pushed HB 2486 following what she said were complaints from area residents that their taxes are too high and the level of service they are getting is too low.

Griffin managed to shepherd the legislation through the House on the premise that it didn’t actually do anything. Instead, she said, it would simply look at the issues between those residents and the county government based in Nogales, as well as explore what it would take to move the county line.

But on Tuesday, Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, who represents the area in question, told colleagues the whole premise is a bad idea —especially for those residents who would remain in what was left of Santa Cruz County.

“The fixed costs of the county will remain the same,” she said.

And she put a political spin on that to get the attention of the Republicans who control the Senate.

“The remaining ranchers in the rest of the county, who are mostly Republicans, will be paying more property tax,” Dalessandro argued. Ditto, she said, of the produce industry that is centered in Nogales and Rio Rico.

“To vote for the study committee is anti-Republican ranchers and anti-produce industry,” Dalessandro said.

Griffin, in promoting the measure in the House, said her focus was more on those in the eastern section of Santa Cruz County, the part that would be split off.

“They seem to think that they have more in common with the adjoining county,” Griffin said of the residents who are complaining.

Griffin said area residents are unhappy over several issues, including that the justice of the peace court, formerly located in Sonoita, was moved to Nogales in what county officials said was a money-saving move. Griffin said roads and rising taxes are also issues.

“And not being able to communicate,” she said.

Griffin said support among area residents for a divorce from Santa Cruz County is strong, saying she attended a standing-room-only meeting where everyone apparently agreed with the idea that the area should be split off from Santa Cruz County.

Dalessandro brushed that aside, calling those who support the split “some misinformed people down there who I represent.”

BY HOWARD FISCHER Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX — With unexpected cash and a change in laws on Internet taxes, Republicans plan to cut individual income taxes this coming year by about $325 million. And that controversial $32-a-vehicle registration fee instituted late last year to pay for the highway patrol will go away — by 2024. But if you’re a big user of online retail, be prepared to pay more in sales taxes.

The nearly $11.9 billion budget unveiled Monday includes some new dollars for targeted programs, ranging from $35 million in onetime dollars for the state’s three universities to $14.2 million for rural community colleges to use as they want. There is some cash for Maricopa and Pima community colleges in the plan agreed to by Gov. Doug Ducey and GOP leaders. But these are earmarked for specific programs: health education in Maricopa and aviation training at Pima. Other plans include:


- Restoring state funds for the Kids Care program that provides subsidized health insurance to the children of the working poor;

- Targeted pay raises for corrections officers, child safety workers, highway patrol and employees at the Arizona State Hospital;

- $10 million for programs to deal with the homeless;

- Giving schools $15 million to hire either counselors or school safety officers — police — at their choice;

- Providing the $20 million sought by Pinal County farmers to help drill new wells;

- Restoring some — but not all — of the dollars cut from schools in the “district additional assistance’’ account that is earmarked to pay for things like books, computers and school buses. And the package will also include depositing $542 million into the state’s rainy day fund over the next two years, bringing the balance to $1 billion.

What’s enabling the tax cuts and the new spending is the state is getting money that it did not anticipate. It starts with the changes in federal income tax law that will result in higher taxes for some Arizonans who itemize on their state returns. For next year the figure will be about $217 million.

Republican lawmakers also want to take advantage of a ruling last year by the U.S. Supreme Court that allows states to impose their sales taxes on online purchases made by their residents. That is expected to bring in another $85 million. And the package also counts on using some of the current windfall to pay off about $190 million in debt, a move that will eliminate the need to pay $24 million a year in debt service. Rather than spend that additional cash on programs — the plan preferred by Democrats — the deal gives most of that back to taxpayers. The big change is that the state standard deduction, now $5,312 for individuals, will more than double to $12,000, double that for married couples filing jointly. 

That will help not just those who already take the standard deduction — people with few expenses to itemize — but also eliminate the need for some people who were itemizing to go through that exercise. But that’s not all. The deal also allows those who take the standard deduction to also get an additional partial deduction for charitable donations.

There also will be a new tax credit of $100 per child. And there’s another income tax break for those earning more than $26,500 a year. Right now the first $26,500 of income is taxed at 2.59 percent. That goes up to 2.88 percent for the amounts between $26,501 and $53,000, with higher percentages for amounts above that, all the way up to 4.54 percent — for amounts exceeding $158,996. The new law would eliminate the 2.88 percent tax bracket, taking that 2.59 percent rate for all earnings up to $53,000. For someone earning at least $53,000 the break would be about $114 a year.

All of that has proven too much for Democrats who wasted no time in criticizing the plan. Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, questioned why the plan does not restore all of the funds cut from the district additional assistance account. Even with the new infusion it will remain about $130 million short of what the schools are supposed to get. He said schools are having trouble hiring and retaining staff, even with built-in pay raises for teachers. (REMINDER: the School Boards  set the salaries for teachers not State Legislators.  Schools should be under local control not by the State.  Issues of teacher pay need to be taken up with the School Board members at their semi monthly meetings.--ED)

“We’re doing a lot of positive things on K-12 education,’’ said Daniel Scarpinato, the governor’s chief of staff. Aside from the dollars for teacher pay there is new cash for career and technical education as well as some additional dollars for building repairs and construction.

But Scarpinato said it’s not that simple. He said just because the state has more money right now doesn’t mean it should spend it.

“We do need to prepare for the future,’’ he said, citing what happened a decade ago when the bottom dropped out of the economy and the state found itself $3 billion in the hole. That resulted in $1 billion in cuts, $1 billion in temporary taxes and $1 billion in borrowing.

“If we just go on a spending spree and don’t think about how do we prepare for the inevitable, we’re just going to make promises we can’t fulfill,’’ Scarpinato said.

But Sen. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, said the state would be able to do both if Ducey and the Republicans were not in such a rich to give away revenues. She said, for example, there’s no reason for the state not to keep the windfall from the changes in federal tax laws.

“Dollars that used to go to Washington are now paid to Arizona,’’ Alston said. “These revenues should be used for Arizona priorities like education, the homeless crisis, infrastructure, health care and support for the elderly and disabled,’’ and not to permanently reduce the state’s tax base. (The money belongs to the tax payers. When there is a surplus then the money should be returned to the taxpayers--ED)

She was also critical of the state using the $85 million it anticipates in taxes from online sales to finance the income tax cuts, calling those sales tax dollars “tax revenue that is already owed to the state but is not being paid due to lack of enforcement.’’

Democrats also were critical for the plan not doing more for higher education, especially the university system which has seen state support for tuition for residents drop from about 75 percent more than a decade ago to less than half that now.

Scarpinato acknowledged that the $35 million in unrestricted funds, to be divided up among the three universities based on enrollment, is just a one-time infusion. But he said there is other cash going to the schools, like an additional $15 million to help them train new public school teachers.
 

Jose Borrajero The Daily Independent  May 19, 2019

This session has already gone much longer than is warranted, but no end in sight, although it now appears that it is likely we will see adjournment next week. Still the reason for the long session is the difference of opinion regarding the state budget. It seems that the governor and Democrats are dead set on capturing the Trump tax cuts for the benefit of the state treasury instead of the intended beneficiaries, namely the tax payers. For a more detailed discussion and a call to action regarding this, go to http://bit.ly/2VKCHQB

Elsewhere, action on important or controversial pending bills has come to a near standstill. Most action this week involved primarily housekeeping type bills. Here are two examples.

SB1154 – GOWAN: Moves the primary election from the 10th Tuesday before a general election to the 1st Tuesday in August, beginning in 2020. This should not be a controversial bill, and it was not in the senate, where the last vote was a near unanimous 24-2-4. For some strange reason, the vote in the house was a near partisan 39-21-0. It has been transmitted to the governor for his signature.

SB1349 – LIVINGSTON:  Expands the definitions of qualified higher education expenses and qualified withdrawal to conform to the federal Internal Revenue Code (IRC). In other words, this bill conforms AZ’s 529 program to the Federal Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017. Prior to 2017 this program allowed tax payers to open tax deferred savings accounts for the purpose of providing funds to pay for higher education expenses. In December, 2017 the feds expanded the definition of qualified withdrawal from the plan to include primary and secondary education. This bill reflects that change in definition. SB1349 has been transmitted to the governor. For a related ADI article on this, go to http://bit.ly/2HDbplj

Links to bills mentioned in this report:

SB1154 – primary date; first August Tuesday

SB1349 – family college savings program

On Thursday, the Arizona State Senate approved SB 1349, dubbed the Family College Savings Plan bill, in a vote along party lines. The bill, sponsored by Senator David Livingston, now goes to the Governor for his signature.

Arizona’s 529 plan allows parents and grandparents to save for educational expenses, in a tax deferred manner. Currently, the State only allows these funds to be used for higher education expenses. SB 1349 opens these funds to elementary and secondary education expenses.

Federal law now permits tax-free rollovers from 529 plans to Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts, to fund expenses for disabled individuals. With SB 1349, Arizona would conform to this as well.

Senate Fact Sheet:

Provisions

1. Expands the definition of qualified withdrawal to include account withdrawals for tuition less than $10,000 to enroll in or attend an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school of the designated account beneficiary.

2. Expands the definition of qualified higher education expenses to include:

a) purchase of a computer, peripheral equipment, computer software, internet access and related services to be primarily used by the beneficiary when the beneficiary is enrolled at an eligible education institution and if the expenses meet the definition in section 529 of the IRC; and

b) tuition to enroll in or attend an elementary or secondary public, private or religious school.

3. Allows, through December 31, 2025, up to $15,000 of an account to roll over to an Achieving a Better Life Experience Act Account on direction of an account owner.

4. Modifies, from College Savings Plan to Family College Savings Program, the article heading for statutes relating to the Program.

Kelsey Mo/Cronkite News Service  Arizona Mirror May 14, 2019

A cacophony of voices speaking in Spanish, interspersed with laughter, fills a classroom at Rhodes Junior High School. Some students speak halting English, but on occasion they attempt to translate for students who don’t speak any.

As the students try to type short paragraphs describing a time when they experienced conflicting emotions, several use Google to translate phrases or entire sentences. The students later upload those paragraphs to their blogs.

Amethyst Hinton Sainz, the teacher, stands near her desk helping two students retrieve their login credentials.

“Buscar a, buscan, buscen … como se dice?” she asked, conjugating the verb “to look” in Spanish.

“Buscen,” some of her students replied.

“Buscen a edublogs in your Gmail,” she told them.

Arizona has had a difficult history with providing adequate education for English Learners, which led to a lawsuit against the state in 1992. A law passed in 2006 required every school district to provide a four-hour model of Structured English Immersion for students who are classified as English Learners. Critics say the program segregates students who do not speak English as their native language from students who do.

The reclassification rate of students who became proficient in English last year was about 15%, according to the Arizona Department of Education. In fact, students who have tested to become “Reclassified Fluent English Proficient” have not exceeded 31% since 2011, according to the department.

In February, however, Gov. Doug Ducey signed Senate Bill 1014, which reduces the number of required hours EL students must be taught and gives school districts flexibility to craft their own research-based models. Advocates say this will help students and improve scores on AZELLA, a test used to measure proficiency in English.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE  HERE

HB 2570

Ducey signs bill to study murders of Native women

 

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy  Arizona Mirror May 14, 2019

Gov. Doug Ducey has signed into law a bill that will create a study committee to examine cases of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls.

House Bill 2570, introduced by Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler, creates a committee to study murders of indigenous women and girls, often referred to as MMIWG cases. Under the bill, the committee will submit a detailed report later this year to the governor and state legislators.

Ducey said on Twitter that he was proud to sign the bill stating that the “crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls must be addressed.”

ermaine thanked the governor for his support of the measure.

The committee will consist of chairpersons of the House of Representatives and the Senate’s Indigenous Peoples Caucuses, the attorney general or a designee, the director of the Department of Public Safety or a designee, a sheriff and county attorney from each county, one tribal representative, one victims’ advocate, one tribal chief of police, one peace officer from a reservation, a social worker and others who work with Native American communities.

An Arizona Mirror analysis of the sparse publicly available data on MMIWG cases found that more than 25 percent of murders involving idigenous women in Arizona go unsolved.

Additionally, the Murder Accountability Project found that one in three murders of Native Americans in Arizona go unreported to the FBI.

There are major issues with data that makes it difficult to track MMIWG cases, something the study committee will seek to address.

As researchers with the Urban Indian Health Institute pointed out in a study last year, many agencies that report crime data to the FBI are not doing so properly. The Santa Fe Police Department told UIHI researchers last year that it could not separate Native women within its own data sets.

Additionally, race is generally not determined by the medical examiner’s office and is determined by whoever is issuing the death certificate.

It’s unclear what are the exact limitations of the data for Arizona.

All current data is based on FBI crime data, which is voluntarily submitted by departments and has been found to have flaws. As a result, it is unclear what the real number of unsolved MMIWG cases is in Arizona.

The Ak-Chin Tribal Police reported only a single homicide in the FBI records, and it remains unsolved. The Tohono O’odham Police reported 33 murders from 2006 to 2016, but solved only 2 of them, the data show. The Fort Apache Police Agency reported 91 homicides from 2006 to 2016 and solved only one.

End of the 2019 session is going to be a fight for how public funds are going to be spent. This is not going to be pretty.--ED

Ducey, GOP Lawmakers Far Apart on How They Want to Spend Billions of Tax Dollars, Budget Documents Show

Maria Polletta, Rachel Leingang and Lily Altavena, Arizona Republic  May 2, 2019

There's bad news for anyone hoping rumors of a long legislative session were unfounded.

Draft documents obtained by The Arizona Republic appear to show Republican lawmakers have a long way to go before reaching agreement on a budget deal with Gov. Doug Ducey. 

The Senate GOP documents, shared with The Republic on Wednesday, offer the first glimpse of legislators' potential sticking points as negotiations with Ducey's office progress.

They indicate a wide gap between the Republican governor's spending priorities and what senators seem willing to spend — or save.

Ducey wants to put nearly three times as much cash in the state's rainy-day fund, for instance. He'd also devote more money toward new K-12 schools, state universities and health care for low-income children, among other items.

The Senate draft does not appear to address whether lawmakers are on the same page as the governor regarding the next phase of his teacher-raise plan.

In recent years, budget negotiations have happened in private, typically between senators and representatives from the majority party and the Governor's Office.

The public doesn’t get to weigh in on a legislative budget proposal until the chambers announce a public plan, which usually doesn't happen until it’s clear the governor and lawmakers can agree.

That means documents like the Senate draft, which may be outdated or incomplete by the time they circulate among politicos, still provide the best window into discussions happening behind closed doors. 

These are seven key areas where the Senate's preliminary proposal differs from the governor's executive budget. Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, declined to comment on the disparities, while a spokesman for the governor said Ducey preferred not to "negotiate the budget through the media.”

1. The rainy-day fund

Ducey wants: $542 million. 

Senate GOP proposal says: $175 million. 

The state's rainy-day fund is designed to cushion the financial blow to the state in the event of an economic downturn.

Ducey in January vowed to increase the fund by $542 million, bringing the total to about $1 billion. That amount more closely aligns with how much economists believe Arizona should be saving.

Both Republicans and Democrats have told The Republic they support pocketing part of the state's projected surplus to protect its financial future, but they differ on specifics. The draft Senate budget shows a proposed $175 million contribution to the rainy-day fund. 

After making that deposit and funding spending priorities, the state would have $490 million left over under Senate Republicans' plan. That's more than eight times the amount the state would end up with under Ducey's budget: $59 million.

It's not clear what lawmakers would do with nearly half a billion dollars in leftover cash, but it gives them plenty of money with which to negotiate.

2. School buildings

Ducey wants: $98.8 million additional to build new schools, $62.8 million for building-renewal grants.

Senate GOP proposal says: $0 for new school construction, $46 million for building-renewal grants.

Ducey's budget plan would give more funding to the School Facilities Board, which grants money to districts for new schools and major building repairs.

Building-renewal requests to the board from districts have nearly tripled, according to the Governor's Office.

3. More employees for charter-school accountability

Ducey wants: $800,000.

Senate GOP proposal says: $400,000.

The Senate proposal cuts in half the governor’s request for funds to hire 10 more people to the State Board for Charter Schools. 

Ducey believes the board would be able to increase financial and academic oversight of charter schools with additional employees.  

4. Results-based K-12 funding

Ducey wants: $60 million.

Senate GOP proposal says: $0.

The Senate proposal nixes Ducey’s plan to expand the state’s results-based funding program, which rewards schools for AzMERIT test scores. 

The program aims to recognize, reward and replicate excelling schools, according to the Governor's Office.

Much of the money goes to teachers, and the rest goes toward expanding successful schools and programs.

5. KidsCare

Ducey wants: $1.6 million.

Senate GOP proposal says: $0. 

KidsCare provides health-care coverage for children from lower-income families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to get help under the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."

It is largely federally funded.

The $1.6 million proposed by Ducey would cover the state's share of the cost to keep the program running, preventing a KidsCare freeze

6. Teachers Academy

Ducey wants: $21 million.

Senate GOP proposal says: $5 million.

Ducey wants to expand the teachers academies started at Arizona's three state universities in 2017.

The academies were designed to address the teacher shortage by giving future teachers a free college education if they agreed to teach in Arizona. But they never received new funding from the state.  

Ducey’s budget called the expansion a “cornerstone” of his education-policy agenda this year. Lawmakers, however, don’t appear willing to pay for the governor's full plan.

7. Public universities

Ducey wants: $35 million.

Senate GOP proposal says: $0.

Ducey asked for $35 million in one-time funding for state universities, but the Senate proposal leaves those spots blank. 

Two state representatives also have publicly opposed funding for universities in recent days.

Republican Rep. Anthony Kern retweeted a photo that showed Dawn Penich-Thacker, a spokeswoman for Save Our Schools, wearing a shirt that says “Not My President” and flipping the bird. Penich-Thacker is on the faculty at Arizona State University.

“Hmmmm. Maybe a little less state taxpayer funding @ASU is an answer,” Kern posted on Twitter.

Republican Rep. Mark Finchem commented on the same photo on Twitter, saying, “And this is what state taxpayer dollars is paying for. Great reason to go to (Grand Canyon University) instead.”

While other higher-education priorities of Ducey's aren’t fully funded in the Senate proposal, either, the draft incorporates new ideas, such as one-time funding for rural community colleges and a health-sciences center at the University of Arizona.

No further details about those initiatives were included. 

On a friendlier note …

One area where the two budget proposals align is an expansion of Interstate 17.

Ducey proposed $130 million over the next three years to widen the freeway between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point, which would require $40 million in the 2020 budget and $45 million for each of the next two years after that.

That area of I-17 is a notorious hangup for travelers, resulting in frequent backups, especially on weekends. The initial $40 million would add northbound and southbound lanes between the community of Anthem and Black Canyon City.

The Senate proposal includes the same amounts.

Jose Borrajero, ADI News Services May 10, 2019

Our legislature’s 100 day session is in its 124th day with no end in sight. Rumor has it that the current adjournment target date is May 25th, but it would not be wise to bet on it.

The culprit seems to be the lack of agreement on the budget, particularly what to do about all the extra money available resulting from a booming U. S. economy. It seems that everyone wants a larger piece of the pie to fund their favorite project. No one in a position of power is remotely considering issuing taxpayer refunds. The governor has been adamantly opposed to conforming AZ tax code to the U. S. code in a manner that it does not result in a tax increase for AZ taxpayers.

In the meantime, many important bills are not receiving the attention they deserve. This struggle has been documented by the AZ Central and may be viewed by going to http://bit.ly/2DXnW1F.

Among the bills we are tracking, those dealing with two subjects, petition signature gatherers and teachers as psychologists, saw action this week.

SB1451 – LEACH: Adds some restrictions to initiative and referendum signature gatherers who are paid and/or are out of state. This bill does not affect volunteer signatures gatherers who are AZ residents. It passed in the House along party lines and was sent back to the Senate for a final vote.

HCR2005 – KAVANAUGH: Would require the minimum number of signatures to be collected from each legislative district, not just overall state. Currently it does not matter where the signatures come from as long as the minimum is met. This means that potentially a measure can get on the ballot with signatures only from Maricopa and Pima counties, thereby leaving rural AZ without a voice in the matter. However, high density AZ need not worry about losing their monopolistic power. This bill, aiming at correcting that inequality, is going nowhere. It is still in the House, its chamber of origin, and it did not clear the House COW. It was retained on the calendar, but that means very little at this late hour in the session.

SC1468 – BOWIE: Requires that all district and charter school personnel that deal with 6th-12th grade students undergo suicide prevention training. It includes teachers, principals, and counselors. Some folks are yearning for the day when schools go back to teaching subjects useful for obtaining gainful employment and leave the social work to others. Reaching that day has taken a major setback, as this is a significant step toward advancing the nanny state by forcing school personnel to act as psychologists. SC1468 was signed into law by Ducey, with a great deal of fanfare.

Links to bills mentioned in this report:

SB1451 – statewide ballot measures; circulators; procedures

HCR2005 – initiative; referendum; signatures; legislative districts

SB1468 – schools; suicide prevention training

Office of the Governor, News Release May 7 2019

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey yesterday signed legislation eliminating a loophole that prevented Arizonans from obtaining their medical records. The issue came to light after the Arizona Republic reported on the story of Caitlin Secrist, a 21-year-old college student from Florence. Caitlin was prevented last year from receiving a life-saving medical procedure because she could not recover copies of her medical records from a hospital in Florence, Arizona that had gone bankrupt.

When Governor Ducey heard about Caitlin’s story, he directed his staff to intervene. Due to the efforts of Governor Ducey and a Maricopa County Superior Court, Caitlin was able to receive her medical records.

Yesterday, Governor Ducey, joined by Caitlin and her parents, signed S.B. 1169, ensuring that Arizonans do not find themselves in her same predicament. 

“An Arizona college student forced to delay life-saving surgery because a hospital would not turn over her medical records is optimistic no one else will have to go through a similar ordeal. Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday signed a new law inspired by Caitlin Secrist's story in The Arizona Republic.”

BY HOWARD FISCHER Capitol Media Services May 9, 2019
PHOENIX — Republican lawmakers voted Wednesday to put some new hurdles in the path of groups that seek to propose their own laws and constitutional amendments. At a bare minimum, SB 1451 approved on a party-line vote by the Republican-controlled House, imposes new requirements on those who actually go out and gather the signatures. That includes registering with the Secretary of State’s Office and prohibiting petitions from being circulated by people who have been convicted of certain crimes.

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, D-Tucson, pointed out that the Republicans who want that change in the initiative process are not applying those same rules to those who circulate their own nominating petitions. And Rep. Jennifer Jermaine, D-Chandler, , accused Republican lawmakers of trying to undermine the petition process and make it more difficult, particularly for grass-roots organizations, because they’re unhappy with the fact that voters gathered petitions and overturned their 2017 proposal to expand who is eligible for vouchers of taxpayer dollars to attend private and parochial schools.

“Save Our Schools Arizona did not have big money backers,’’ she said. “These were moms, dads, grandparents and everyday Arizonans who stood up to this legislative body and said ‘no.’’’ But the potentially greater change would give the attorney general the unilateral power to alter the 50-word description of the measure that appears on each and every ballot and the only remedy for someone who disagrees would be to sue.

That, however, may not be a true recourse: The approved ballot description generally becomes publicly available only days before ballots are set to be printed. And that may not be enough time to pursuae a legal challenge. “This is a blatant power grab,’’ argued Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson. He said current law gives the attorney general the power only to approve or reject the language crafted by the secretary of state. That, said Friese, requires a back-and-forth between the two elected officials to come up with something on which both can agree.

The change would cement into law what happened last year when a key aide to Attorney General Mark Brnovich altered the description of Proposition 127, an initiative which would have required that half of all power generated in Arizona by 2030 come from renewable sources. Beau Roysden added language which said that the renewable energy mandate would occur “irrespective of cost to consumers.’’ That was precisely the argument Arizona Public Service was using in its multi million-dollar campaign to quash the initiative.

In fact, within days of the change, a picture of the ballot with that new language highlighted showed up on APS-financed TV ads. Eric Spencer, who was state elections director at the time under Republican Secretary of State Michele Reagan, called the new verbiage “eyebrow raising’’ and suggested it comes with “legal and political risks.’’

Spencer did not challenge the new wording. Spencer, now an attorney in private practice, told Capitol Media Services on Wednesday that Brnovich probably has the power to make changes, especially on strictly legal matters. But he questioned how far that goes when making “policy changes’’ in descriptions.

“Any disagreement between the two offices should be worked out through negotiation, assuming there is still time before the ballot and publicity pamphlet printing deadline,’’ Spencer said. That’s precisely what Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, said should occur — and will not occur with the change in the law.

She said that 50-word description on the ballot is often the only language that some voters ever see. What makes the change in SB 1451 so critical is that the last election resulted in Democrat Katie Hobbs being elected as secretary of state with Republican Brnovich returned to office. Putting this language into statute ensures that, at least for the next four years, it would be the Republican who gets the last word.

Ballot descriptions aside, Democrats said SB 1451 is just another attempt by Republicans to make it more difficult to put measures on the ballot. Prior changes approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature include a ban on paying petition circulators 
on a per-signature basis — another provision that lawmakers have not applied to their own petitions — and requiring that petitions be in “strict compliance’’ with all election laws.

That latter change overturned court rulings which said that petitions need be only in “substantial compliance,’’ a standard that allows measures to go to the ballot despite technical errors. These changes, supported by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, followed a series of voter-approved measures opposed by the business community, ranging from a ban on leghold traps on state lands and allowing the medical use of marijuana to creating a state minimum wage higher than what is required by federal law.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the new changes are appropriate. He said that the initiative process — the ability of citizens to propose their own laws — has been “perverted’’ because it has become a tool of out-of-state millionaires. That specifically includes California billionaire Tom Steyer who funded Proposition 127. And Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff said SB 1451 will “make it more difficult for wealthy people to come in and turn Arizona into their sandbox.’’

But Rep. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, said the supporters of this change are not the groups who have mounted their own initiative drives when the Legislature has failed to act but the corporations and special interests that unsuccessfully fought those voter-approved changes. 

Despite the objections of the Democrat Senators, the purpose for this bill is to clarify issues with the initiative process that have been perverted by petition gatherers and Judges who have circumvented existing laws. In order to clarify the process,  these changes are necessary to assure that the process is lawful, understandable, and maintains the integrity of the initiative process.--ED

Governors Offices News Release  May 8, 2019

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey today signed SB 1468, also known as the Mitch Warnock Act, expanding suicide awareness and prevention training in public schools to support Arizona’s adolecents and teens.

To help prevent further deaths by suicide, the Mitch Warnock Act requires all school employees who work with students in grades six through 12 to receive training on suicide prevention at least once every three years. Training would include information on suicide prevention and how to identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior in adolescents and teens. The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) will also be required to make suicide awareness and prevention training available and post the information on their website.

The bill was named for Mitch Warnock, a student from Corona Del Sol High School who died by suicide at age 18. Mitch’s parents, Timothy Warnock and Lorie Adair are educators and championed the bipartisan bill as it progressed through the legislative process, along with the JEM Foundation, a non-profit, co-founded by Denise and Ben Denslow who also lost a child to suicide.

Being able to identify risk factors and events leading up to suicide is critical to help save lives. According to a report from the Arizona Department of Health Services, 50 Arizona adolescents and teens died by suicide in 2017.

“Suicide has become a significant public health issue in the United States,” said Governor Ducey. “We’ve already lost too many young people to suicide and I’m glad that Arizona is taking action by training the first responders in our schools – our guidance counselors, teachers and administrators – on how to identify the warning signs that lead to suicide.”

"As teachers, we appreciate that our public schools are the hub of our community and that all of us have a role to play in helping our children," said Timothy Warnock and Lorie Adair. "We believe this bipartisan initiative will save countless lives from an often impulsive act of desperation. We are grateful to the state of Arizona."

"We thank Governor Ducey for rejecting the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide, and for acknowledging the enormity of this crisis in the State of Arizona, particularly among our youth," said Ben and Denise Denslow, founders of The JEM Foundation. "SB 1468 recognizes the importance of early intervention and the important role teachers have in the lives of our students by ensuring they can identify a potential crisis and refer students to the appropriate help."

“I want to thank Governor Ducey for signing SB 1468 into law. This is an important first step to address teen suicides in Arizona, and I will continue to work with him and my legislative colleagues to further address this critical issue,” said Senator Sean Bowie.

BY HOWARD FISCHER Capitol Media Services  May 8, 2019
PHOENIX — State senators refused to make it easier for some people to escape requirements to register as sex offenders amid concerns that they have so far been prevented from voting on legislation to give victims of child sex abuse more time to sue their assailants.

On paper, HB 2613 deals only with those who were younger than 21 at the time they were arrested for offering to have sex with a teen age 15, 16 or 17 who actually turned out to be a police officer. It says if there were no other offenses, they can ask a judge to remove the requirement to register as a sex offender when they turn 35. But the proposal by House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, drew angry reaction from some lawmakers who questioned why they were being urged to help sex offenders — even those in these limited situations — while actual children who don’t realize they’ve been victimized are barred by Arizona law from bringing civil actions once they turn 20.

“Everything in my life is meant to help people not have to deal with that kind of trauma,’’ said Sen. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson. “That’s the whole reason I’m in this Legislature,’’ she continued. “And if we can’t pass Mr. Boyer’s bill to expand the statute of limitations, then what the heck are we doing here.’’ And Steele made the issue personal, saying she had been raped repeatedly as a child by her grandfather.

“I didn’t know it wasn’t my fault,’’ she told colleagues. “It wasn’t until I was in my 40s I realized I was not his only victim.’’ Steele said that’s why she supports legislation sponsored by Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, to give victims seven years from the time they are aware they have been victimized to file suit.

For those for whom the time to sue already has passed, his measure would now give them two more years. But Boyer could not get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on his measure, SB 1255. That’s because Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who chairs the panel, said he would allow it to be heard only if Boyer agreed to limit the scope of the bill so that child victims of sex abuse would have only until age 25 to sue. That kept the bill from getting to the full Senate where there appear to be sufficient votes for the plan. Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray, R-Sun City, urged colleagues not to quash the Bowers bill to create an escape from sex offender registration for some adults simply because they’re unhappy about being unable to vote on Boyer’s bill.

He said there are legitimate reasons to support HB 2613. “I don’t know about any of you,’’ Gray told colleagues. “When I was 20 I was a whole lot different than when I was 35.’’ And Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said it makes sense to allow someone to at least ask a judge to be removed from the requirement for lifetime registration as a sex offender.

“There should be some situations where people, after they’ve paid their price, be relieved of that,’’ she said. Boyer, however, chided colleagues for trying to help those who who were convicted of trying to have sex with an undercover police officer. “Meanwhile, we’re doing nothing to help child victims of sexual assault,’’ he said.

Boyer said the current statute of limitations in Arizona on cases of child sex abuse — two years from becoming an adult — is the lowest in the entire country. By contrast, he said, in Utah the clock to sue starts running four years from the time someone knew or should have known they had been a victim. And the law in that state allows lawsuits until the victim turns 53. And Boyer pointed out that the statute of limitations to file lawsuit over contract disputes in Arizona is six years. “That means in Arizona we prioritize contracts over child victims of sexual assault,’’ he said.

Farnsworth argued he’s not defending those who prey on children. But he said allowing lawsuits to be filed almost perpetually means that people who are accused of events decades later can’t defend themselves because the evidence and the witnesses have disappeared. “That’s why we have statutes of limitations, to defend innocent people, not guilty people,’’ Farnsworth said. Boyer acknowledged the lack of evidence. “Victims don’t think to keep the evidence because they’re children,’’ he said. They don’t know to save their clothing. And they don’t tell people, especially if the assailant is a relative, because they don’t think they’re going to be believed.’’

Steele said that the lack of hard evidence by one victim shouldn’t stop someone from filing suit. “I will tell you, there’s probably a lot more than one victim,’’ she said. “And this sheds a light on serial predators.’’

The bottom line, Steele said, is it’s wrong for lawmakers to push ahead with legal relief for those convicted of certain sex crimes while not addressing real victims. In the end, those arguments held sway as the Senate voted 18-11 to kill the Bowers bill. 

SB1255

Seems like there is always ONE grandstanding legislator that wants to play the hero. With the narrow margin of 17-13 Senators and it takes 16 "yeas" to pass a bill, it only takes one to screw up the rest of the session--ED  

Sen. Boyer Gives Senate Ultimatum on Sex Abuse Bill

Ben Giles and Julia Shumway  Arizona Capitol Times May 1, 2019

Sen. Paul Boyer said he’ll refuse to vote for a budget unless lawmakers agree to expand opportunities for victims of child rape and sex abuse to sue their abusers.

The Phoenix Republican told the Arizona Capitol Times that victims should have seven years after their age of discovery – that is, the age at which they can reasonably be expected to realize they were raped or abused earlier in life – to file civil complaints against their assailants and anybody who knew but did not report the abuse.

It’s not everything Boyer had hoped for, but it’s at least an improvement on Arizona law that provides only a two-year statute of limitations that starts when a victim turns 18, he said. And if Boyer doesn’t get his way, he’ll make life difficult for Republicans trying to pass a budget, a vote that could occur within days or weeks.

It takes 16 votes to pass bills in the Senate, and with 17 GOP senators, Republicans can’t afford to lose more than one vote and still pass a budget without an assist from Democratic senators, who rarely vote for GOP-led budgets.

Boyer said the matter is important enough to warrant his protest.

“In my mind, if we can’t protect kids then I don’t know what we’re doing here,” he said. “I think what I’m asking for is very reasonable.”

So far Boyer has been stymied at every turn in his effort to change the current law.

“What we’re doing now as a state policy is we’re saying no matter how much evidence you have… It doesn’t matter. If you’re 21 or older, your time’s up,” he said. “I’m just allowing victims the opportunity just to make their case before a judge. All I’m asking for is seven years from when the victim should’ve known they were harmed.”

Arizona has no statute of limitations on criminal charges for violent sexual assault or sexual abuse of a child 15 or younger. Victims have testified that civil lawsuits against their abusers aren’t just a source of justice for individual victims but a way to identify abusers who have not faced criminal charges.

Boyer introduced a bill earlier this year that would have given victims until age 25 or seven years after they first tell a psychologist or medical doctor about the abuse — whichever came later — to sue their abusers and anyone who protected them. But the measure was never given a hearing in the Senate, where Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Mesa, blocked the bill from advancing through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Boyer tried a different tactic in the House, where he amended a bill sponsored by Sen. Heather Carter with language that expanded the statute of limitations by 12 years after a victim reaches age 18. Rep. Regina Cobb allowed the bill to be heard in the House Appropriations Committee, but did not hold a vote on the bill.

Some nearby states have laws similar to Boyer’s latest proposal. In Nevada, civil claims may be filed with 10 years of discovery of an injury caused by sexual abuse.

It’d be up to a judge to look at the evidence and determine what year the age of discovery is and whether a civil claim can be made, Boyer said, a process that at least gives victims their day in court.

“We can’t just bar the courtroom door and so no matter how much evidence you have, you can’t come forward,” he said.

Jose Borrajero, Az Daily Independent  May 5, 2019

Another week has gone by and we are now way past the 100th day adjournment target date. It seems that with the current and projected surpluses, it is more difficult to reach agreement on a budget. Everyone is trying to get as large a piece of the budget pie as they can. Their behavior is not unlike that of a pack of hyenas fighting over the carcass of a lion kill. Meanwhile, with a few exceptions, important bills are not being given the attention they deserve. Two of those exceptions include the areas of health insurance and children’s rights.

 

SB1085 – BROPHY-MCGEE. This bill makes it easier for self-employed individuals and small businesses to buy health insurance by joining associations, thereby obtaining better premium rates. This bill was made possible by a 2018 ruling of the US Department of Labor, regarding changes to ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974). It is a minor, partial rollback of Obamacare, but very important for people who qualify. It passed the House 3rd Reading 38-21-1 and was transmitted to the governor.

HB2378 – BARTO. It modifies some of the adoption rules to make it easier for older children (over 16) to be adopted. It has been signed by the governor.

HB2122 – BARTO. Makes changes to the child welfare statutes. Outlines provisions on do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders as it pertains to minors and outlines the roles of the different parties. It is intended to avoid some tragic mistakes that have been made in the past. It too has been signed by the governor.

Links to bills mentioned in this report:

SB1085 – association health plans; definitions; requirements

HB2122 – do-not-resuscitate orders; minors; parental consent

HB2378 – adoption; child welfare; dependency

Well past the 100 day deadline goal the legislature continues for one more week

AZ Legislature Week In Review –

Week Ending April 26th

Jose Borrajero,  ADI News Network, April 28, 2019

 

The big legislative news this week was Chairman Kelli Ward’s high profile, public support for a 7.14% sales tax increase. The legislation that would have placed this scheme on the ballot, SCR1001 appeared to be dead until Ward came up with her support. We will not dwell much on this because there have been a lot of discussion of the issue on social media and the press, including an excellent ADI article that may be accessed by clicking on WARD-ADI. We will only address the issue of what this means for the GOP politically. It will be very hard for rank and file Republicans to promote their party when their party chairman is so diametrically opposed to one of the bedrock pillars of the party. We should remember that at the state level, Republicans are only one seat away from losing control of the House. The situation is not much better in the Senate, where Republicans are two seats away from losing control. They cannot afford a snafu like this.

 

Elsewhere, at the capitol, there was some substantive action on pending bills, including three that we have been monitoring.

HB2318 – CAMPBELL: This bill prohibits the use of cell phones and other devices while driving, one of two such bills making its way through the legislature. It was signed by the governor, so it is now the law of the land. But it would be wise to withhold jubilation and celebration, because this law is not likely to be diligently enforced. Still, it is feel good legislation and we can all rejoice on its enactment.

SB1141 – MESNARD: This is the other distracted driver bill that was pending until this week, when the governor vetoed it. The reason given for the veto is that of the two bills dealing with the same subject, HB2318 was more specific and focused better on the problem.

SB1001 – UGENTI-RITA: This bill is aimed at repealing the highway safety fee (tax) enacted last year. It had cleared the full senate by a decisive bi-partisan 24-6 vote. Only one Republican voted NO, the reliable sweetheart from LD28, Kate Brophy-McGee. This week it passed the House Rules Committee 4-3, along party lines. It is expected that it will pass the whole house, but nothing is sure with this gang at the capitol. And then there is always the possibility of a veto, hanging over this bill’s tax-reducing head like a sword of Damocles.

Links to the bills mentioned in this report:

SB1001 – highway safety fee; repeal; VLT

SB1141 – distracted driving

HB2318 – texting while driving; prohibition; enforcement

SCR1001 – education; TPT; use tax

Loretta Hunnicutt, ADI News Services April 24, 2019

Phoenix – Governor Doug Ducey has signed SB 1247, which was introduced by Arizona State Senator Kate Brophy McGee to address problems at Southwest Key facilities. The bill, supported by Southwest Key, merely requires employees to pass background checks, central registry checks, and have a valid fingerprint card.

Brophy Magee claimed at the time she introduced the bill that it would “ensure that the facilities in which they are housed are safe and that the employees of those facilities are safe for the children as well.” However, the bill provides minimal protections for vulnerable children.

In 2015, Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe called for an investigation into the Southwest Key facilities under contract by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and licensed by the State of Arizona. Thorpe’s request was ignored despite the fact that local Arizona law enforcement agencies had received reports of sexual abuse and run-aways.

Thorpe was concerned that the shelters operated in secrecy as a result of federal government policies that demanded silence from service providers and potential whistleblowers.

Thorpe begun looking into disturbing reports from constituents about ORR’s placement process and the treatment of the UACs in the shelters while awaiting placement.

Those reports included claims by whistleblowers that the minors were living in unhealthy environments until being handed over to questionable sponsors, according to an ADI report. Whistleblowers reported lice-infested facilities and minors being turned over to coyotes, the term used to describe human smugglers in the Southwest.

Social workers told the ADI that it was unknown how many Southwest Key clients were abused in the shelters or handed over to predators, but they believed child exploitation occurred at the hands of fellow employees or sponsors, who received the children after leaving the shelters, on a weekly basis.

In 2016, Thorpe introduced HB2682, which required a refugee facility to be licensed by the state and inspected monthly. That effort failed, leaving thousands of vulnerable children with virtually no protections.

Brophy McGee can usually be counted on to run bills that have little value other than to make legislators sound and feel good. Such is the case with SB 1247.

SB 1090

One more leak plugged that will prevent the Democrats from stealing the 2020 election and put a stop to Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes.--ED 

Arizona Law Restricting Emergency Voting Centers Goes into the Books

KTAR.Com April19, 2019

PHOENIX – Arizona lawmakers who wanted to tighten control over the use of emergency voting centers before Election Day got their wish Wednesday.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill sponsored by party member Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita that restricted the use of those centers. The law also required voters prove they had an emergency that will keep them from the polls on Election Day. (This is already the law, but SB1090 takes the ambiguity out of the original law that allowed Fontees to skirt the intent. It is now clearly spelled out--ED)

SB 1090 also left the decision of where the emergency centers would be located up to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. (The vote centers were opened only in heavy Democrat areas, and ONLY the Sinema campaign was given the information that these centers would be opened.--ED)

The measure should ease GOP frustration with Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, who opened five emergency voting centers ahead of the 2018 election and didn’t regulate the reasons for voters’ emergencies.

Arizona allowed anyone to vote up to 5 p.m. on the Friday before an election. After that, they must have an “unforeseen circumstance.”

Bob Christie, Associated Press  April 18, 2019

PHOENIX — The small list of states that allow either texting while driving or hand-held cellphone use is shrinking after the Arizona House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a cellphone use ban and sent it to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey for his expected signature.

Arizona, Missouri and Montana had been the only three states that hadn't banned texting while driving. Arizona will join 16 others that ban all use of a hand-held cellphones while driving.

The 44-16 vote on the toughest of three proposals debated by House lawmakers Thursday comes after years of inaction by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The Senate earlier approved it on a 20-9 vote. Ducey has pledged to sign the measure, which takes effect in January 2021.

More than two dozen cities enacted local bans that will remain in effect until then.

The House rejected a weaker ban on cellphone use, but approved legislation that strengthens the state's overarching distracted driving law on a 31-29 party line vote.

Bills to restrict phone use while driving have been introduced for a decade but haven't advanced amid concerns by Republicans about creating a "nanny state" that over-regulates behavior.

Supporters of the ban pointed to the death of a police officer in January after a distracted driver lost control and struck him on a Phoenix-area freeway. Relatives of Salt River tribal police officer Clayton Townsend and others who have died in distracted driving crashes gave emotional testimony, carrying photos of their loved ones around the Capitol.

The officer's death gave the proposal inertia that hadn't appeared despite tearful testimony in recent years by relatives of people killed in accidents caused by cellphone use, said Republican Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, who carried the measure with Rep. Noel Campbell.

The hand-held phone use ban bars drivers holding it unless the vehicle is stopped. Calls to 911 would be allowed. Police could issue warnings until 2021, when they could begin writing tickets carrying fines of $75 to $149 for a first offense and up to $250 for a second.

The second enacted proposal doesn't explicitly ban texting, but rather outlaws any behavior that isn't related to driving if it causes an "immediate hazard" or prevents the driver from controlling their vehicles.

Democrats opposed the distracted driving measure, saying it could lead to racial profiling by allowing officers to stop a driver on a pretext. But Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, a retired police officer, said a rogue officer can always find a reason to stop a driver.

Kavanagh said he supported both measures, because some distractions aren't caused by cellphones and officers need the enforcement option.

"Cellphones so consume your consciousness that you don't even realize how long it has your attentions," he said. "So a cellphone bill will take care of that problem. But we need this bill too."

Several lawmakers talked of deaths or serious injuries of their family members or friends. An emotional Republican Rep. Ben Toma recalled how his younger sister died years before cellphones became popular when a driver distracted by a newspaper hit her with his car.

"There is no doubt that being on your phone while driving can be a significant distraction," Toma said. "But this is a much broader issue. If this bill does nothing more than save one life we should support it."

HB2032

Townsend Bill Addresses Political Speech and the Classroom

“Our students deserve a non-biased, objective education.”

By Jordan Williams/ Capitol Bureau Arizona Sonora News April 14, 2019

PHOENIX — The Senate Appropriations committee passed House Bill 2032, which would prohibit schools from speech or curricula during school time “with the intent of influencing or changing a student’s political ideology or religious beliefs.”

Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-16) told the committee that even though many teachers in the state do not do that, there were “incidents enough” in which she said this type of legislation was needed.

For example, she noted a specific incident in the Chandler Unified School District where a teacher had on his walls several examples of what she called anti-American sentiment, along with cartoons critical of President Trump around his classroom.

The substitute teacher who brought it to the attention of the administration found that nothing happened to the teacher, she said. She did not name the specific school in the district, the teacher, or specifically what the teacher had in the classroom.

The current contents of HB 2032 was on another bill that Townsend introduced, HB 2015. Originally the bill required charter schools to comply with open meeting laws.

The House Elections committee, which Townsend chairs, passed a strike-everything amendment to the bill, which changed the content of the bill from charter schools to tabulating early voting ballots.

The bill, which the House of Representatives unanimously passed, stated early voting ballots cannot be tabulated until fourteen days before an election day, and outlined a process for candidate representatives to observe the process.

Current state law prohibits spending or using district or charter school resources “for the purposes of influencing the outcomes of elections.”  It also prevents an employee of a school district or charter school from giving students “written materials to influence the outcome of an election or to advocate support for or opposition to pending or proposed legislation.”

In the U.S. Supreme Court case Garcetti vs. Ceballos, the court ruled that public officials’ First Amendment protections First Amendment protections apply to a public official’s speech only in a private context rather than during the exercise of their duties.

The committee heard testimony from one teacher, Catherine Barret, a master’s teacher who supported the new bill because she felt it protected students from teachers’ bias, noting the “Red for Ed” movement, started by teachers last year to advocate for increases in teacher pay and funding for education.

“Politics do not belong in the classroom or educating our students,” Barret said.

The committee passed the strike-everything amendment on a party-line vote 6-3.

Sen. Lisa Otondo (D-04), who voted against the bill, called it an “attack” on public school teachers.

“What happened here last year did not have to do with party,” Otondo said of the Red for Ed movement. “It had to do with the state that did has not taken seriously the need for an increase in teachers’ salary, and holding teachers up to the level of respect they deserve.”

Otondo told the committee that passing this bill without solid proof of these incidents is not necessary, noting that in her time as a teacher at Crane Middle School in Yuma, there already were “very strict rules” about this.

“We were monitored all the time, we had people coming in to grade how we taught, what we taught — and we followed the curriculum that was set forth by the district,” Otondo said.

While Otondo conceded that there are “bad apples” in every profession, she noted that there were disciplinary measures when there was an incident requiring action.

Sen. Heather Carter (R-15) supported the bill but noted many concerns she had about the language of the bill, such as what a “school day” is.

“During the lunch hour which would technically be during the school day, that’s where you can do your club events, and the teacher has to be sponsor of the club,” Carter said. “There are clubs that have a particular belief.”

Townsend said the bill is about making sure students can get an education without any political bias.

“Our students deserve a non-biased, objective education,” Townsend said.

The Senate would now have to consider and pass the bill, and then the House would have to re-vote on it since an amendment was added in the Senate.

AZ State Legislature Week In Review – Week Ending April 12

Jose Borrajero  ADI News Services  April 14,219

This week we are again presented with proof that there is no limit to the sleaziness and corruption demonstrated by our state legislators. Legislative action on two bills, SB1346 and HB2186, make this perfectly clear.

SB1346 – ALLEN, S.: This bill, as amended by SHOPE (LD8), removes from A.R.S 15-716 subsection (C) that prohibited school districts from promoting a homosexual life style. We are told by supporters of SB1346 that this language had to be removed in order to stop a law suit by supporters of the homosexual life style. But this is a bogus argument. If the intent was really to appease the gay community, then the amendment would have read something like this

  1. No district shall include in its course of study, instruction which PROMOTES ANY SPECIFIC SEXUAL LIFESTYLE

  2. Promotes a homosexual life-style.

  3. Portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style.

  4. Suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex

In other words, the legislature could have made this a non-issue. But by simply removing the language about homosexual lifestyle, they have opened the door for schools to promote any kind of deviate sexual life style they desire. It is doubtful that this is what the AZ voters want.

But the worst part of this bill was not what it did, but how it was done. The amendment, vote, and signature by Ducey was done within a few hours. No way that citizens could have expressed pro or con opinions, or offered suggestions, on such a serious matter. This sort of behavior by our elected officials is more damaging than the bill itself.

HB2186 – UDALL: This is the strike all bill that, among other provisions, modifies the lawful presence requirement for receiving state and local benefits. We will not belabor here what is wrong with this bill, but suggest that those who wish to find out more may check out the Call to Action found at http://bit.ly/2X7lOvx.

What we are concerned with here is the sneaky, stealthy, and underhanded way in which proponents of this bill are behaving.

Originally, this was bill SB1217, introduced by CARTER (LD15). When SB1217 failed to move in the house, it was attached to HB2186 as a strike everything amendment. Then HB2186 failed in the senate rules committee, and that should have been the end. Apparently one of the members who voted NO has requested a reconsideration hearing. But that fact was never disclosed on the AZLEG website. In fact, the only place in which a new hearing is mentioned is on the senate rules committee agenda. If it had not been for watchdog organizations like the AZRRT, we would not have known about the hearing Monday, 4/15. Stealthy and underhanded behavior at its best.

Among the bills we are watching, two other bills saw action this week:

SB1090 – UGENTI-RITA: This is the bill that limits the use of emergency voting to situations in which there is a real emergency. It cleared the senate final vote almost along party lines 16-13-1. The only Republican voting NO was CARTER (LD15). This bill is now on the governor’s desk awaiting action. For information on how to express one’s opinion on this bill, go to      http://bit.ly/2UhuoWI

HB2693 – PETERSEN: This is a common sense safety bill. It deals with firearms that are secured within a vehicle when entering school parking lots. Current law requires that those firearms be unloaded. HB2693 would have removed that requirement. Current law creates an unsafe situation for two reasons. Loading and unloading firearms in the confined spaces of a vehicle poses a risk of an accidental discharge, no matter how skillful the handler may be. This risk is increased by the need to do the handling out of the view of passers by. Imagine the commotion that would ensue if someone reports a person with a gun in the vicinity of a school. HB2693 failed the senate third reading 15-14-1 because two Republicans, CARTER (LD15) and BROPHY-MCGEE (LD28) joined Democrats with their NO votes.

Here are the links to the bills mentioned in this report:

SB1346 – (NOW: school; assessments; instruction; reporting)

HB2186 – school meals; unpaid fees

SB1090 – emergency voting procedures; board action

HB2693 – misconduct involving weapons; school grounds

Nick Sibilla,  Institute for Justice, April 10, 2019

Thanks to a major reform signed earlier today by Gov. Doug Ducey, Arizona became the first state in the nation to universally recognize out-of-state licenses. Under the new law (HB 2569), Arizona will generally issue a license to new residents who were licensed for at least one year in another state, so long as their credentials haven’t been revoked, they’re not the subject of any pending investigation, and they don’t have a disqualifying criminal record.

Occupational licensing laws—which differ from state to state—create substantial barriers to worker mobility. Licenses often are not recognized across state lines, and even when they are, there are significant costs—in time and money—to get them recognized.

To try to address the problem, several states have enacted reciprocity agreements and interstate compacts. But their impact is limited. Not all states participate, meaning workers from some states are locked out of Arizona and vice-versa. Moreover, states can insist on overly burdensome requirements for reciprocity or compacts, making it harder for states like Arizona to reform their own laws.

License recognition, without the need for reciprocity or compact agreements, is a better solution. Many states, including Arizona for nearly the last decade, already recognize out-of-state licenses for military spouses. Now all licensed workers who move to Arizona will be free to work when they arrive and will no longer have to waste their time and money trying to obtain another permission slip from the government. HB 2569 is particularly welcome in Arizona, which ranked as the fourth-fastest growing state last year, and has over 470,000 licensed workers, or almost one-fifth of the state’s entire workforce.

“Workers don’t lose their job skills just by moving across state lines, but licensing laws often treat them as if they do,” said Paul Avelar, managing attorney of the Institute for Justice Arizona Office. “HB 2569 is a common-sense reform that will help expand economic opportunity by making it easier for people to move to Arizona to further their careers.”

But the new law is by no means a silver bullet for the many problems with occupational licensing. First, HB 2569 does not apply to workers who moved from states where their job didn’t require a license, but Arizona does.

That means it wouldn’t have helped entrepreneurs like Essence Farmer, who worked as a natural hair braider in Maryland before moving back home to her native Arizona in 2003. Maryland did not require a license to braid hair, but at the time, only licensed cosmetologists could braid hair in Arizona, a credential that takes 1,600 hours of training. Essence, represented by the Institute for Justice, had to sue to protect her right to earn an honest living in Arizona, which prompted the Legislature to change the law.

Second, the new law does nothing to address Arizona’s existing thicket of licensing red tape, which ranks as the fourth most broadly and onerously licensed state in the nation. According to a 2017 report by the Institute for Justice, the average license for lower- and middle-income occupations in Arizona requires paying $612 in fees, finishing 765 days of training and experience, and passing two exams. A separate IJ study found that the restrictions imposed by occupational licensing cost Arizona’s economy over 29,000 jobs and more than $2.8 billion in “misallocated resources.”

Horse massage therapist Celeste Kelly encountered a particularly absurd restriction: Arizona’s ban on massaging animals without a veterinarian license. Massaging humans doesn’t require a medical degree, yet Celeste could only massage horses legally if she completed almost four years in veterinarian school. Celeste too was able to secure her right to earn an honest living after partnering with the Institute for Justice and suing the state and forcing a change.

“License recognition is a reform that other states should also adopt,” said Avelar. “But it is only a first step. Arizona continues to unnecessarily license too many occupations. IJ will continue to work with the Governor and Legislature on reforms and will continue to litigate to protect economic liberty when the government fails to do so.”

HB 2569

The Legislature could create a study commission to look at changing the border between Santa Cruz and Cochise counties

Legislature Eyes Changes to Southern Arizona County Lines

 

Christopher Conover, Arizona Public Media  April 9, 2019

The Arizona Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill creating a 13-member commission to look at moving the Sonoita area out of Santa Cruz County and into Cochise.

The bill comes at the request of residents who say they are not getting the services they need, or pay for through taxes, from Santa Cruz. They also say they are more aligned with neighboring Cochise County's agriculture.

The proposal to create the study commission already passed the House but still needs a final vote in the Senate and gubernatorial approval.

Jose Borrajero  ADI News Services  April 7, 2019

This week, our state experienced two events that solidly establishes Arizona as a state well on its way to becoming a RSINO (Red State In Name Only).

First, we saw the appointment of Steve Pierce to the State House in District 1, to fill the seat vacated by the embattled David Stringer. Among people who pay attentions to voting records, two facts are very clear. Stringer, for all his faults, real or imagined, had a very decent conservative voting record. We at the AZRRT like to remind people that we do not elect a pope; we elect a member to what is a very sleezy club, namely our state legislature. Therefore, it pays to weigh voting records more heavily than we do when choosing the object of our support or opposition. From a conservative point of view, Pierce’s performance in the Senate was dismal, especially during his time as Senate President, and especially when compared to Stringer’s record.

Second, our senators approved House Bill HB2109, which doubles the amount of excise transportation tax that may be imposed by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). One major problem is that that RTA is managed by the Pima Association of Governments (PAG), not known as a fiscally responsible group. It is hard to understand why a Republican representative, Shope (LD8) would introduce such a bill. Just as difficult to understand is the vote of eight Republican senators in favor of this bill, which caused the bill to pass handily 21-8-1. They were Borrelli (LD5), Brophy-McGee (LD28), Carter (LD15), Gray (LD21), Livingston (LD22), Pace (LD25), Pratt (LD8), and Fann (LD1).

But the news was not all bad. Some good bills made progress, although their enactment into law is far from being a done deal:

HB2032 – TOWNSEND. This bill has the distinction of having had not one, but two strike-all amendments. Some observers have expressed surprise, since they did not know that this was possible. In its current form, it prohibits the political and religious indoctrination of public school students by public school personnel. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee 6-3-0.

HB2026 – KAVANAUGH. This bill prohibits the use of public funds to advance political agendas. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee with bipartisan support, 8-1-0, which is surprising because it had a very bumpy ride in the House.

SB1001 – UGENTI-RITA. Since the citizen-enacted requirement that tax increases must be done via a 2/3 majority vote of both chambers, our legislators have been busy at finding ways to get around that pesky requirement. To that end, it has become fashionable to relabel taxes as fees and enable unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats to impose these “fees”, against which the citizens have no recourse. SB1001 is aimed at reversing one such scheme, namely the highway safety fee enacted in 2018. It cleared the House Appropriations Committee 6-5-0. All Democrats voted against repeal of the scheme. All Republicans voted for this bill, except UDALL (LD25), who is obviously in favor of the scheme.

Links to the bills mentioned in this report.

HB2109 – county transportation excise tax.

HB2032 – (NOW: early ballots; tabulation period)

HB2026 – public resources; influencing elections; penalties

SB1001 – highway safety fee; repeal; VLT

Ben Norman, Chamber Business News April 5, 2019

At the time of the state’s founding, the writers of the state constitution wanted to give power to the people. To carry this out, the founders developed the ballot initiative process, which would allow citizens to create their own legislative proposals that would appear in the next election if they meet all requirements.

For decades, the process performed almost perfectly; initiatives were primarily in-state interests, and they passed all requirements without entering any gray areas. However, over time, states and governments go through natural changes, so the process has faced hurdles for which the founders didn’t account.

In fact, even at the time of the state’s founding, initiative processes were a relatively new concept.

“Having an initiative process didn’t become more of a concept until the late 19th Century,” says Arizona Free Enterprise Club President Scot Mussi. “States were coming into statehood and there wasn’t this uniform model. After this was adopted and people started realizing the pros and cons of this initiative process, states started making changes to the initiative process.”

The 24 states that support ballot initiatives have varying levels of difficulty for their signature-collection and court approval processes. For example, some states require petition signatures to be gathered from across the state, and states differ on the number of signatures that must be collected. Such requirements can help combat out-of-state interest groups from running their own ballot initiatives and intruding in other states’ legal processes.

Arizona has its own unique signature gathering and petition circulation requirements.

“These are all possibilities that are helping to limit the massive out-of-state groups that helicopter into Arizona come election-time,” explains Arizona Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Director Mara Mellstrom. “It’s really to combat wealthy, out-of-state interests that seek to win by the ballot. They’ll overwhelm the Secretary of State’s Office and submit signatures when there’s not physically enough time to check their validity. This is a process that can be taken advantage of, and the people that can take advantage of it can do so because they have a lot of money to do it.”

Senate bill 1451 furthers the fight against election fraud, especially surrounding petition circulators. More specifically, it tightens the criteria to apply and be approved to be a paid circulator, ensuring that no circulators have committed election fraud in the past or have been convicted of fraud, forgery or identity theft.

State. Sen. Vince Leach (R-Saddlebrooke), the bill sponsor, pointed out in the Senate Judiciary Committee that Title 7, Section 12 of the Constitution states, “There shall be enacted registration and other laws to secure the purity of elections and guard against abuses of the elected franchise.” S.B. 1451 does just that by ensuring the strictness and legitimacy of petition practices.

“I cannot tell you how many people in the witness box had not had their full rights restored and had not done restitution and yet were turning in ballots – turning in sheets of candidate signatures,” Leach said, referring to legal challenges to signature validity during last year’s election. “Boxes of signatures were disallowed by the judge because of this situation.”

The business community supports the reforms contained in Sen. Leach’s bill.

“We believe that it should be a secure process, and petition signers should have some level of confidence in the individuals to whom they are sending their personal information,” Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice President Garrick Taylor said. “We think it strikes the right balance between the gravity of this process and the needed reforms that the initiative process deserves.”

Office of the Governor, PRESS RELEASE  April 2, 2019

Under current Arizona law, mom and pop ice cream shops face regulations meant for larger dairy manufacturers, putting local, from-scratch business models in jeopardy. House Bill 2178, introduced by Representative Jeff Weninger, streamlines licensing for these businesses while ensuring proper health and safety oversight.

 

Since 2015, Arizona has set out to shrink red tape that gets in the way of job creation. To date, over 1,000 onerous and duplicative rules and regulations have been eliminated. Arizona has added to this effort by placing a moratorium on all new regulatory rulemaking by state agencies. In the Governor’s 2019 State of the State Address, he called for the legislature to cut down on the number of statues, “so that the laws make sense and are relevant to the Arizona of today.”

SB 1054

Ducey Signs Bill Designed to Fix Discrepancies with Early Ballots

SB 1054

Ben Giles  Arizona Capitol Times April 2, 2019

Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation to give Arizona voters a chance to fix problems with the early ballots in the days after an election.

At issue are the signatures on early ballot envelopes, which election officials use as verification by matching the signature with ones they have on file. If the signature is flagged, some counties have allowed voters to provide an explanation or proof that the ballot is theirs to ensure their vote counts.

Some, but not all counties have allowed this “ballot curing” process to continue after election day, a practice that drew scrutiny from the Arizona Republican Party during the 2018 general election.

Following a lawsuit, an agreement was reached that required all 15 county recorders to allow ballots to be cured for a certain number of days after the election in November.

SB1054, sponsored by Scottsdale Republican Michelle Ugenti-Rita, establishes that practice in state law.

County recorders will have to give voters up to five business days after election day to cure ballots cast in elections with a federal race on the ballot. And they’ll have to proactively contact the voter to let them know there’s a discrepancy and allow the voter to correct the signature.

In all other elections, voters will be given a three-day cure period.

SB1054 also gives county recorders the authority to start counting mail-in ballots an extra week before election day. Before, election officials had to wait to start counting early ballots until seven days prior to election day. Now they’ll have two weeks to tally early ballots before the election concludes.

Guest Contributor: Carlos Ruiz, AZ Chamber Business News March 28, 2019

Arizona voters passed an initiative to increase the minimum wage which currently stands at $11 an hour and is on its way to $12 in 2019.  During a trip to a renovated fast food restaurant for coffee, I found a dramatically reduced counter with no employee but a very large touch screen to take my order. While modernization and technological advancements are certainly a welcomed part of the 21st century, their implementation in small businesses is no doubt spurred by the ever-increasing impact that mandates on employers are having on job creation. Although the restaurant claims the renovations are meant to improve customer experience and to assist employees, not replace them, it’s easy to see that the future belongs to electronic machines that won’t encourage government mandates that make doing business costlier and more difficult.

 The beauty of electronics is that large touchscreen tablets don’t require $11 an hour to show up to work and are more than capable of taking coffee or burger orders. What supporters of increasing the minimum wage rate have failed to acknowledge is that forcing an increase in labor costs on employers is only eliminating jobs, not helping hard-working Americans. Unfortunately for those seeking entry-level positions, like many teenagers, the recent national push to increase the minimum wage to $15 is causing more problems than it is solving. The issue lies in the fact that political activism has superseded the reality of what a minimum wage actually is.

Minimum wage positions were never intended to allow a breadwinner to feed an entire family. Nor was it created to be a wage so high that it would sustain a prosperous lifestyle. When supporters of $15 an hour minimum wage point out that current rates do not allow workers enough money to live on, they are correct. That’s because that was never the purpose of a minimum wage.

Minimum wage jobs are important and as the rate becomes outrageously unsustainable for small business owners, they are becoming extinct. And that’s because no teenager is worth $15 an hour to an employer. They have no skills, no qualifications, and no previous experience. Working entry-level jobs is vital to workforce development. They teach young people how to show up on time, speak to the public, dress appropriately and learn new skills with on the job training. The unemployment rate amongst teenagers in high minimum wage areas is sky high which means our future workforce is woefully unprepared.

The problem with mandates including the one to increase the minimum wage rate is that they work from the premise that employees are disenfranchised by their overbearing employers and they require saving. That could not be further from the truth. I know firsthand just how valuable employees are to their businesses. As a matter of fact, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been a prime example of how when employers have more money freed up they will, without being mandated to do so, raise hourly rates, provide bonuses and increase available hours for their employees.

The answer to improving the job climate is to continue to reduce regulations and free up more of the revenue that job creators are capable of producing. Failure to create policies that encourage future job growth and economic success will only result in a drastic increase in robot production. Make no mistake about it, I don’t support mandates to increase the minimum wage at any level and I stood strong in opposition to Proposition 206. But unfortunately, continued minimum wage increases are now inevitable in Arizona. The only hope to sustain entry-level jobs in our state is for our policymakers to at least have the good sense to carve out a lower rate for teenagers before their job opportunities dry up completely.

 Carlos Ruiz is the owner of HT Metals and a member of the Job Creators Network

HB 2523

AZ AG: Bill to Cut Student Wages Likely Unconstitutional

By Laura Gómez Arizona Mirror April 4, 2019

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office says a Republican-backed proposal that would allow employers to pay working students well below Arizona’s minimum wage is unconstitutional.

In an email to Greg Jernigan, the general counsel for Senate Republicans, Deputy Solicitor General Rusty Crandell wrote that House Bill 2523 would change a voter-protected minimum wage statute from 2006 and needs at least a three-fourths majority vote in each legislative chamber to pass constitutional muster.  

The email was provided to Arizona Mirror through a public records request.

The statement from the AG’s Office is in line with what two nonpartisan staff attorneys in the House and Senate have told lawmakers about HB2523.

“The (Voter Protection Act) prevents the Legislature from amending voter-approved initiatives (either explicitly or implicitly) unless the Legislature’s amendment furthers the purpose of the initiative and is approved by three-fourths of both chambers,” Crandell wrote. “The general conclusion in the Arizona Legislative Council Memorandum dated March 13, 2019 is legally sound: H.B. 2523 is subject to the VPA.”

HB2523, sponsored by Rep. Travis Gratham, R-Gilbert, allows full-time students under 22 who work less than 20 hours per week or for intermittent periods (like summer jobs) to be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Lawmakers are considering expanding HB2523 so it applies to all those working part-time who are under 22, not just those enrolled full-time at a high school, college or university.

The bill passed the House, was approved in the Senate Commerce Committee. However, it has stalled in the Senate Rules Committee, which has yet to clear it for floor debate and a vote by the full Senate.

A House Rules lawyer told lawmakers earlier this year that a super-majority vote was required for HB2523 to be constitutional. And the top attorney for Legislative Council, the legislature’s division of non-partisan attorneys, wrote in a memo to Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, that HB2523 is subject to Prop. 105.

In that memo, Ken Behringer wrote Grantham’s proposal indirectly changes two voter-approved laws: Proposition 202 from 2006 and Proposition 206 from 2016.

Prop. 202 set a minimum wage for Arizona above the federal rate and defined an employee as “any person who is or was employed by an employer.” It makes exceptions for people hired by a parent or sibling, and babysitters who work on a casual basis at their employer’s home.  

Prop. 206 said that “employers shall pay employees no less than the minimum wage,” which is currently $11 per hour and will rise to $12 per hour in January.  

Grantham’s bill would create a new category of employees – full-time students who are under 22 years old and working part-time – which Behringer said goes against Prop. 202. And it makes those employees subject to a minimum wage below Arizona’s, which is against Prop. 206.  

Voter-approved laws are protected from legislative changes, which can only happen if lawmakers have a proposal that both furthers the initiative’s intent and wins a three-fourths majority in each chamber. This is known as a Proposition 105 requirement, a reference to a 1998 constitutional amendment preventing legislative interference with voter-approved measures.

To pass, House Bill 2523 would need a supermajority vote in each chamber, which is highly unlikely due to Democratic lawmakers wide rebuke of the bill.

At a hearing last week, Grantham dismissed staff lawyers’ assessments.

“Lawyers have opinions on every side of the spectrum on every issue,” Grantham said. “I don’t necessarily care what this specific attorney thinks. I value his opinion, but I have a different opinion. There’s other lawyers than have different opinions than he does.”

John Riches, an attorney with the Goldwater Institute, which drafted the legislation, has said Grantham’s proposal doesn’t violate the minimum wage statute because it doesn’t directly change that provision.

However, the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that lawmakers cannot indirectly undermine voter-approved measures in the same way they can’t directly change such measures.

 

Here is Crandell’s full message:

“Mr. Jernigan,

It is the opinion of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office that H.B. 2523, as currently proposed, would likely violate the Voter Protection Act (“VPA”) without the concurrence of three-quarters of the Legislature.  In 2006, Arizona’s voters passed Prop. 202, which raised the minimum wage above the federal minimum wage level. H.B. 2523 would allow employers to pay the (lower) federal minimum wage, for persons under twenty-two years of age who are employed on a casual basis and enrolled full-time as a student.  But the VPA prevents the Legislature from amending voter-approved initiatives (either explicitly or implicitly) unless the Legislature’s amendment furthers the purpose of the initiative and is approved by three-fourths of both chambers. Ariz. Const. art. IV, § 1(6)(C). The general conclusion in the Arizona Legislative Council Memorandum dated March 13, 2019 is legally sound:  H.B. 2523 is subject to the VPA.

Regards,
Rusty D. Crandell
Deputy Solicitor General
Office of the Arizona Attorney General”

HB 2569

Jobs for All

Governors Office PRESS RELEASE April 3, 2019

Big news! Arizona is on its way to setting another FIRST in the nation - while making it easier for people to get to work in our state.

Today, the Arizona Legislature passed HB 2569 with bipartisan support. This commonsense legislation removes unnecessary red tape for people who move here, allowing them to get to work faster and without having to jump through bureaucratic hurdles.

Arizona already is known as the place to be for new opportunity. That’s why our state is third in the nation for new jobs and fourth in the nation for new residents - but we’re only getting started.

With game-changing legislation like HB 2569, Arizona is letting the country know we are a state that works and one that’s open for business!

Arizona knows how to come together and do the things that matter. My thanks to Representative Warren Petersen in District 12 for sponsoring this important legislation and to members of both parties in the House and Senate for supporting it.

I’m looking forward to signing it and building on Arizona’s already booming economic momentum!

Sincerely,

Doug Ducey

Governor

Quindrea Yazzi, Cronkite News  April 4, 2019

PHOENIX – More than a year has passed since state legislative leaders promised a code of conduct for its members, but the House Ethics Committee still has not produced a code or a policy on sexual harassment.

Democratic lawmakers held a press conference Wednesday to urge Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, to fulfill the promise made to Arizonans. Just hours later, the House approved a motion by voice vote to move forward with development of a code of conduct.

“We are now on day 79 of this legislative session. We have no policy and no committee,” Rep. Charlene Fernandez, Democratic caucus leader, said at the press conference. “We are in violation of our own rules, and I certainly don’t think any member of the public is going to argue that we don’t need this.”

Two committee members were appointed by Democratic leadership, but Republicans have not appointed their own members, she said. Legislators are working to add more members to the committee to implement diversity and to increase workflow, Fernandez said.

“Phoenix has a code of conduct, Mesa has a code of conduct. If these Arizona cities can hold their elected officials accountable, certainly so can we,” Fernandez said.

What’s the holdup?

Related story:

Despite last year’s promise, Legislature still has no code of conduct

In 2018, after several behavior scandals involving politicians surfaced, the House adopted a rule requiring the development of a code of conduct and a sexual harassment policy for elected officials.

“Scandal must no longer plague our Legislature,” Fernandez said.

The first allegation and removal of an Arizona lawmaker in nearly 27 years involved Rep. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, who was accused of harassing women with crude comments and gestures. He was was expelled.

After than, state Sen. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, was caught exchanging flirtatious text messages and photos with a junior-level Senate staffer. He had resigned from the Senate in 2018 to run for Congress but was defeated in the special election to replace U.S. Rep. Trent Franks.

Last week, Rep. David Stringer, R-Prescott, resigned after several documents uncovered his alleged involvement in sex crimes in the 1980s.

What now?

“We as representatives answer to our voters, they are our laws,” said Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Phoenix.

Thorough training on the respect of colleagues, especially women in a workplace can solve a lot of problems regarding crude and offensive language and behavior, Epstein said.

Other Democratic representatives agreed. Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, said there’s an opportunity to show the voters of Arizona that elected officials take the issue seriously.

“We’ve seen the resignation of Stringer this past Thursday, and that is partly because he was not fulfilling what voters in this district sent him to do here,” Bolding said.

Bolding said Stringer’s background in sex crimes and behavior towards his voters are examples why the House needs a code of conduct.

“We have to make sure as a House we stand up and hold ourselves accountable,” Bolding said. “As members, we have ethics to hold ourselves accountable and that is what the code of conduct committee can do.”

About 20 days remain in the current session.

Cronkite News reporter Austen Bundy contributed to this article.

Final Weeks of the Legislature. BUDGET up next, usually behind closed doors. Late nights for the House and Senate to stay within their "100 Days" goal. 

AZ State Legislature Week In Review –

Week Ending March 31

Jose Borrajero, ADI News Services  March 31, 2019

The best that can be said about this week is that we are one week closer to this legislature’s adjournment, and consequently we have one less week in which politicians can do legislative mischief. There are no more committee hearings, except a few at Appropriations. So, it is pretty much a mop up operation, except for the budget.

 

THE BUDGET: Traditionally the budget process is where the highest level of mischief occurs. That is because this process happens with some level of secrecy and in such a manner that citizen input is totally impossible. The average citizen, even those well informed, seldom know what is going on until after it happens, when it is too late to do anything about it. This year we have a governor hell bent on increasing taxes in stealthy and sneaky ways in order to avoid the constitutionally mandated requirement of a 2/3 majority in the legislature for any tax increases. Conservative activists are asking people that they contact the governor and request that the budget comes out neutral in terms of taxation. In other words, do not tax the citizens any more than they are being taxed already.

 

(Remember that Ducey said there would be no increase in taxes while he was Governor-=one of the reasons he was elected--then he allowed ADOT to increase fees at their discretion. WE, and the legislature, were told it would only be about $12-$18 then turned out to be $32. When bureaucrats can determine their own income they will go to the top. SB1001 reverses this tax provided the Gov signs it. CALL TO ACTION--CALL THE GOVERNORS OFFICE REQUEST THE SB1001 BE SIGNED AND THE TAX BE REMOVED -- ED

Contacting the governor via e-mail may be done by going  HERE

Those who prefer phoning may do so by using these numbers 

Phoenix: 602-542-4331 

Tucson: 520-628-6580

HB2186 – UDALL: Originally this bill dealt with parents who did not pay their share of school meals for their children. UDALL (LD25) graciously made this bill available to CARTER (LD15) to execute a strike-all amendment with the text of CARTER’s SB1217. Bill SB1217 is the bill that provides that illegal aliens do not have to show proof of lawful presence in order to obtain goodies via institutions engaged in postsecondary education. Those goodies include, but are not limited to, discounted tuition rates. CARTER found a willing accomplice in UDALL and a favorable committee in the senate’s Health and Human Services. The outcome was a 5-3 vote in favor as a result of CARTER and BROPHY-MCGEE joining the three Democrats in the panel voting in favor. Now HB2186 goes to the House where there is an excellent chance it will pass. All it takes is for two Republicans to join the 29 Democrats with a YES vote.

This bill is an excellent candidate for requesting a veto from the governor.

SCR1008 – MESNARD: If passed, it will give voters the opportunity to approve a constitutional amendment to create the office of lieutenant governor, to be elected on the same ticket as the governor. It is one more step closer to reality after clearing the House Government Committee 6-5.

SB1001 – UGENTI-RITA: One of only two good things that came out of the legislature this week was the advancement of this bill, 4-0, in the House Transportation Committee. SB1001 repeals the 2018 highway safety fee (tax).

SB1188 – UGENTI-RITA: This is the other good bill that advanced this week. It cleans up the permanent early voting list. Cleaning up this list is a good start in controlling voter fraud. It cleared the House Elections Committee 6-4.

SB2109 – SHOPE: More mischief. Another tax increase bill. It doubles the allowable transportation excise tax. It passed the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee 5-3. This was made possible because two Republicans, PRATT (LD8) and BORRELLI (LD5) joined the Democrats in voting YES. Tax increases are not just for Democrats any more.

Senators Tyler Pace, Michelle Ugenti-Rita

PHOENIX – Arizona lawmakers could allow employers to slash the minimum wage for young part-time workers to as low as $7.25 an hour, a measure that drew a contentious crowd of supporters and opponents to a Senate committee hearing Thursday.

The Commerce Committee approved House Bill 2523, sending the measure to the full Senate and extending a boisterous debate.

Some business owners support the bill, which would pay students who work part time and are younger than 22 the federal standard rather than the state minimum wage of $11 an hour. Supporters said it makes economic sense to pay young people less than more experienced employees, and it allows businesses to hire more people.

“It gives them (employers) more flexibility to find those certain individuals between those ages that are working part time and plug them in,” said Joe Galli, senior public policy advisor for the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce.

College student Elizabeth Thorley was among those at the Thursday hearing who disagreed, saying the bill would allow employers to discriminate against young people.

She said her job helps pay her tuition at Arizona State University, car note, medical expenses and other bills. And, as someone with a chronic illness, she said she was concerned that a lower minimum wage also would harm people with disabilities.

“I beg of you, please don’t throw young and vulnerable Arizonans’ lives into fear and chaos,” Thorley said, directing her next remarks to the hearing room’s audience. “And if you stand with me, if you stand with young workers, and if you stand against the creation of the separate wage class, please stand.”

Many did, in silence.

Bill opponents also said a decrease in the minimum wage would mainly hurt students who must pay bills with little financial help or who are primary breadwinners.

Sen. Sean Bowie, D-Phoenix, said it’s illegal in Arizona for an employer to discriminate against a worker based on age.

Rep. Travis Grantham, who sponsored the bill, said companies will not pay a high hourly wage to someone with no experience.

“I don’t see it as discriminatory when we’re opening up a job opportunity for someone who’s been priced out of a job market,” the Gilbert Republican said.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25, but many states and cities pay a higher hourly wage. In January, Arizona was among 22 states that increased the minimum wage.

That bump took Arizona’s minimum wage to $11, part of a gradual hike that voters approved in 2016. The minimum wage is expected to reach $12 an hour by 2020.

(The unintended consequences of the minimum wage increase is in the disabled community where clients are paid based on the percentage of their abilities compared to a capable person.  With the increase from the federal minimum to the State minimum many clients have been sidelined because the increase has made some companies that employ the handicapped unable to compete and thus have closed.  Businesses that have hired the handicapped at the reduced wages are also releasing these employees because the increased wages have become prohibitive for the positions. Whether the handicapped will be considered covered in this change is unknown but hopefully they will and they can get back to work and once again become employed.--ED)

DACA students have been provided K-12 FREE education on the Arizona taxpayer. By law they have been educated to the extent that is required. They should have to pay the full ride if they want a higher education.--ED

Senate Committee Passes ‘Dreamer’ Tuition Rate

Ben Giles Arizona Capital Times, March 28, 2019

A measure to create a new tuition rate for Arizona high school graduates, including DACA recipients, was revived in a Senate committee Thursday afternoon after failing to receive a hearing in the House of Representatives.

That revival came over the objections of some Republican senators, who say Sen. Heather Carter’s proposal violates Proposition 300, a 2006 voter-approved law that prevents those “without lawful immigration status” from paying in-state tuition rates at Arizona community colleges and state universities.

Carter, a Cave Creek Republican, has defended her bill as a more broad attempt to offer a reasonable tuition rate for anyone who graduates from an Arizona high school, regardless of their immigration status or their residency – those who move out of state after graduating high school in Arizona would also stand to benefit if they choose to return to the state to seek a higher degree.

That new rate would cost more than in-state tuition, but less than high out-of-state tuition rates that apply to all other students, (that are LEGAL citizens and real immigrants--ED)

Critics have cited the bill’s impact on immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, as well as undocumented high school graduates, as reason to oppose it. It’s part of the reason why House Speaker Rusty Bowers blocked the measure from receiving a vote in his chamber.

“I just can’t trounce Prop. 300,” Bowers, R-Prescott, told Capitol Media Services.

That sentiment was echoed in testimony before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where Carter struck her proposal for a new tuition rate on HB2186.

Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray, a Sun City Republican, said approving Carter’s bill would amount to “disenfranchising” voters who overwhelming approved Prop. 300.

“This is an integrity issue for me,” said Gray, R-Sun City, before voting no. “I have to come down to, what did the voters say?”

Carter bristled at accusations in public testimony that she broke the rules by reviving her bill, which followed standard House and Senate protocol that allow bills to be wiped clean and amended with entirely new language.

And the proposal doesn’t conflict with Prop. 300 because it’s creating an entirely new tuition rate that – by nature of being brand new – could not have been contemplated when voters approved the ballot measure more than a decade ago, she said.

HB2186 “is legal, appropriate, does not violate the will of the voters, does not violate Prop. 105 because nothing in Prop. 300 said anything about a tuition rate that had not been created,” Carter said. (Convoluted explanation that violates the intent of Prop 300--ED)

Unlike Arizona’s in-state tuition rates, the new rate that Carter wants to create wouldn’t subsidize the cost of education. It’d be up to the Arizona Board of Regents to set the rate, but Carter said it would “have to be set no lower than the actual cost to the institution educating the student.”

The bill advanced with bipartisan support on a 5-3 vote, and will likely clear a vote in the Senate once more, where the idea was previously approved 18-12. The chamber’s 13 Democrats unanimously support the measure, as do Republicans like Sen. Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix, who said Thursday that Arizona may as well provide a path to educate Arizonans who’ve gone through the state’s K-12 system.

“If we are going to continue to grow our economy, we need skilled workers,” Brophy McGee said. “It is fundamentally as simple as that. And who better to fill those jobs than people we have invested in already.”

Dustin Gardner, Arizona Republic March 27, 2019

Embattled state Rep. David Stringer resigned from the Arizona Legislature on Wednesday afternoon, a stunning move that came as he refused to cooperate with an ethics investigation over his past sex-crime charges.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers announced he accepted Stringer's resignation in a press statement just before 5 p.m.

"I'm grateful that the House will not be forced to take action against one of our members, and we can begin to put this matter behind us," Bowers said.

The House Ethics Committee was investigating Stringer, a Prescott Republican, over revelations he was charged with sex crimes, including child pornography, in 1983.

The lawmaker also faced scrutiny over racist comments he made about immigrants and black people last year. Those comments led to widespread calls for his resignation at the time.

Stringer refused to resign for months, but reversed course around 4 p.m. Wednesday — an hour before a deadline the Ethics Committee had set for him to release records.

Earlier in the day, Stringer's attorney, Carmen Chenal, had said he wouldn't comply and asked a Maricopa County judge to block the committee's subpoena and any effort to expel Stringer.

He refused to give the Ethics Committee documents, including a letter about his 1983 charges, or grant an interview to investigators.

Stringer apparently changed his mind minutes before the court was set to hear his challenge. 

He sent Bowers a one-line resignation letter: "This is to confirm my resignation as State Representative for Legislative District 1, effective 4 p.m. this date, March 27, 2019."

Chenal declined to give additional comment Wednesday evening.

House Democrats, who attempted to expel Stringer in January, immediately welcomed the news.

Minority Co-Whip Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, said Stringer's actions were unbecoming of a legislator, particularly his comments about race. 

"The evidence that he was trying to withhold from the Ethics Committee must be damning since he chose to quit rather than comply with a subpoena," Bolding said in a statement. "We hope that his replacement will serve with far more honor and integrity."

But the news was greeted somberly by some Republicans at the Capitol.

Rep. Noel Campbell, Stringer's Republican seatmate from Prescott and friend, said he was saddened when the lawmaker called him around 4 p.m. and said "he’d had enough of it."

"No human being can stand that kind of pressure and ostracization," Campbell told The Arizona Republic.

"You reach a point where you make a decision, ‘Is it worth it?’ And I’m sure he reached the decision where it wasn’t worth it to him to continue."

Republican, Democrat had filed complaints

The ethics investigation into Stringer started in late January, when Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa filed an ethics complaint amid revelations that Stringer was charged with sex crimes when he lived in Maryland 35 years ago.

Many details of Stringer's 1983 case are unknown given the matter was reportedly expunged, meaning records of the case were erased.

The Arizona Daily Independent, a conservative blog, reported in January that the 1983 case started when police officers showed up at Stringer's Maryland home over "false" accusations that he had pornography and had patronized prostitutes.

The facts of the case cannot be independently confirmed given police and court records were expunged.

Stringer has said he was never convicted of a crime: "There is no guilty plea, no conviction," Stringer told Prescott eNews, a news outlet in which he is an investor, in January. "I have no record, I have done nothing wrong."

Although he said he was never convicted of a crime, court records obtained by the Phoenix New Times show a Maryland court entered a judgment of guilt on some combination of charges.

Stringer also said "any kind of porn allegations were completely dismissed," but the disposition of that charge or charges is unclear from available court records.

He said he took a plea of "probation before judgment," a Maryland sentence that allows someone to have a charge cleared after completing probation. He was sentenced to 5 years of probation.

Court records also list another part of Stringer's apparent sentence: "Defendant is to seek admission to Dr. Berlin's Program at Hopkins."  A man named Dr. Frederick Berlin is currently the director of the Sexual Behavior Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

It's unclear if any additional information about those charges will be released as a result of the Ethics Committee investigation, which is now closed.

Bowers said the Ethics Committee will not release a formal investigation report, though it plans to release public records that attorneys obtained during their two-month inquiry.

There are no other pending investigations into Stringer's past actions.

While Towsend's complaint focused on Stringer's sex charges, Bolding filed a second complaint that also emphasized Stringer's past racist comments.

Calls for Stringer's resignation started last June, when he was filmed telling a room of Republican activists that immigration poses an “existential threat” to America, adding “there aren’t enough white kids to go around” in Arizona public schools.

He continued to make waves throughout the year with controversial comments and writings about race. Gov. Doug Ducey and numerous other leaders demanded he resign.

Rep. César Chávez, co-chairman of the Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus, said Wednesday that Stringer's resignation will allow the Capitol community to heal after his divisive comments.

“This cleans the Legislature," Chávez said. "It gives us a clean slate to continue working together in a bipartisan manner."

The process to fill Stringer's seat begins immediately.

Arizona law requires that the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors pick a replacement given Stringer was elected there. Whoever they pick must belong to the same political party.

Former state Senate President Steve Pierce, of Prescott, is expected to be a leading contender.

ADI News Services March 25, 2019

Both sides agreed that Arizona’s charter school system needed reform, but according to Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers gamesmanship killed SB 1394, a bill that embodied many of those reforms.

Bowers did not to assign SB 1394 to the Education Committee for a hearing due to a lack of votes, which he said was a result partisanship.

“I’m a decades-long supporter of charter schools and believe they are imperative to giving families a choice in how to educate their children. Unfortunately, my statement today was taken out of context and used to feed a media narrative that suggests that SB 1394 doesn’t go far enough,” said Bowers in a press release on Monday.

“SB 1394 would add additional accountability and transparency to charter schools and clarify charter school statues. The bill incorporated numerous changes from Democrats, who would rather see the charter school model fail than be improved. Members of both
parties now feel the bill either goes too far or not far enough. Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t have the votes to pass in the House because partisan gamesmanship is more important to some than improved accountability.”

Jose Barrajero  ADI News Services, March 25, 2019

We are beginning to wind down this legislative session in terms of committee hearings. Then we will be turning our attention toward the all-important budget. From our perspective, the most important budget item will be the fate of the AZ income tax structure, because Ducey is dead set on denying Arizonans the well deserved tax break created by Trump. It will be interesting to see what develops. In the meantime, this week was not totally without some excitement.

SB1054 – UGENTI-RITA. This bill streamlines, simplifies, and speeds up the process of “curing” or fixing ballots that have errors in them. While most election bills this session are incomprehensively controversial, this one is refreshingly non-controversial. It has previously cleared the senate unanimously and this week it passed in the house also without opposition. Some minor changes were made in the house, which means it has to go back to the senate for final approval. But that approval should be easily forthcoming.

SB1090 – UGENTI-RITA. Requires that the use of emergency voting be limited to emergencies. This bill substantially reduces the likelihood of fraud. This week it passed out of the House Elections Committee along party lines. Previously, the full senate approved this bill also along party lines, except that the Democrats were joined by Republican Heather Carter of LD15.

SB1451 – LEACH. An attempt to reduce some of the unethical practices used by some signature gatherers. It continues to advance painfully against stiff opposition from Democrats. It is hard to understand why Democrats would be opposed to integrity in signature gathering.

HB2616 – TOWNSEND. A person shall not pay or receive money or any other thing of value for registering a person to vote.  This section does not apply to an employee of a political party. Another controversial bill advancing along party lines. This one may run into legal challenges down the road. However, the intention is sound. It removes the monetary incentive from the voter registration process.

SB1072 – UGENTI-RITA. Common sense. Every significant transaction in our society requires the presentation of ID for proper identification. Voting should not be the exception. Again, another bill fiercely opposed by Democrats. Fortunately, it was signed by Ducey after clearing both chambers along party lines.

HB2131 – THORPE. Creates a website for citizens to view the personal info collected about them. The biggest opposition to this transparency bill is coming from the policeman’s union, but it has been advancing along party lines, but with support from a few Democrats.

SCR1008 – MESNARD. If approved by voters, will have the second in command be on the same ticket as the governor. It cleared the senate with modest bipartisan support, but was held in the House Government Committee. Hopefully the house will follow the senate’s lead and allow the citizens to vote on this issue.

HB2569 – PETERSEN. Common sense reciprocity in occupational licensing. Saves a lot of time and money. Cleared house with bi[partisan support and is moving nicely through the senate. An excellent article regarding this bay be read by going to

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING

Links to the bills mentioned in this article:

SB1054 – early ballots; deficiencies; cure period

SB1090 – emergency voting procedures; board action

SB1451 – statewide ballot measures; circulators; procedures

HB2616 – registration of voters; payment; prohibition

SB1072 – early voting centers; identification required

HB2131 – state agencies; citizen portal; access

SCR1008 – lieutenant governor; joint ticket

HB2569 – occupational licensing; reciprocity

SB 1072

KTAR TV March 22, 2019

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation requiring identification to cast a ballot at an early voting center.

The measure signed Friday requires voters to provide the same forms of ID they’d have to show to vote on Election Day.

Republicans passed the bill in party-line votes of the House and Senate saying people voting early shouldn’t be able to get around the identification requirement.

Democrats say voter ID laws suppress the votes of people who move a lot, who don’t always update the address on their driver’s license.

Arizona requires voters to show a driver’s license, tribal enrollment card or other government identification with a photo and address. Voters can also show two utility bills with an address but no photo.

Az State Legislature Week In Review – Week Ending March 8

March 10, 2019 Jose Borrajero  ADI News Services

Taxes and election reform again dominated the attention of legislators at the capitol this week. At first glance, it seems odd that there is such a voracious appetite for tax increases among legislators. However, this becomes crystal clear when one considers that an increasing number of AZ voters consists of immigrants, both legal and illegal, from socialist countries, and citizens transplanted from socialist states like California. They tend to elect tax and spend legislators, who naturally favor tax and spend policies.

The other items that shared our legislative attention this week were firearms policy and the quest for a lieutenant governor position.

HB2320 – CAMPBELL: This bill would reduce the highway safety fee to $18. It failed 27-32 when several Republicans voted against. It is not clear whether the Republicans that voted NO did it because they are happy with this fee (tax) or because they favor total repeal, as SB1001 would do. But SB1001 is having troubles of its own.

SB1001 – UGENTI-RITA: This bill, repealing the 2018 highway safety “fee” passed handily with bipartisan support in the Senate 24-6. The only Republican voting against was Brophy-McGee. However, when SB1001 went to the House it was held in the Transportation Committee and apparently faces an uncertain future.

SB1188 – UGENTI-RITA: The first of two bills dealing with election reform this week is SB1188. The purpose here is to remove voters from the early voting list if they do not vote. This makes perfectly good sense and the full Senate vote of 16-14 seems to indicate that. But not everyone likes the idea of cleaning up voter rolls. All Democrats voted NO. They were aided and abetted by Republican CARTER (LD15), who joined the Democrats with her NO vote.

HB2039 – TOWNSEND: It is unfortunate that in order to vote in the election of federal officials, voters do not have to prove citizenship, or even show that they are here lawfully. This bill would enable us to know just how widespread this practice is.

HB2693 – PETERSEN: This is a common sense modification to current law which state that individuals who carry firearms for self protection in their vehicles must unload the firearms before entering the school parking lot, even if the weapons are perfectly secured within the vehicles and are no threat or danger to anyone. Beyond inconvenience, this practice leads to unnecessary handling of firearms which creates a potentially unsafe condition.  Most accidental discharges occur while loading or unloading firearms. This condition is aggravated when the handling has to be done within the confines of a vehicle, while trying to hide from passers by who could raise hell about the operation. HB2693 removes the need for such unnecessary handling. It passed the full House 31—27-2, along party lines.

SCR1008 – MESNARD: Passing this bill will enable the voters to decide whether they want to establish the office of Lieutenant Governor, to be elected on the same ticket as the governor. It passed the full Senate in a bi-partisan manner, 23-7. Efforts at doing this have been rejected by the voters twice in the past. But this time it should be approved because companion bill SB1234 addresses most, if not all, the concerns that voters may have.

SB1234 – MESNARD: This bill should put at ease any concerns that voters may have regarding the creation of the office of lieutenant governor. Most, if not all, the opposition to this project is the result of people not reading the bills and having a knee jerk reaction. The facts are that there is no creation of an additional office, with additional staff, and additional cost to taxpayers. The truth is that the lieutenant governor would be replacing the Director of the AZ Department of Administration. This Director is currently an appointed position which would be replaced with the elected Lieutenant Governor, resulting in no additional bureaucracy or increased cost to tax payers. Another misconception is that this is being done by Republicans in retaliation for having lost the Secretary of State position to Democrats. But the fact is that many Democrats also voted in favor of SCR1008 because it makes a lot of sense, and the provisions therein will not take effect until long after the term of the current SOS is expired.

Readers who want to read the bills mentioned may do so by clicking on these links:

HB2320 – highway safety fee; reduction

SB1001 – highway safety fee; repeal; VLT

SB1188 – permanent early voting list

HB2039 – federal form voter registrations; reporting

HB2693 – misconduct involving weapons; school grounds

SCR1008 – lieutenant governor; joint ticket

SB1234 – lieutenant governor; duties; ballot

Senators Advance Ballot Question to Adopt Arizona Lieutenant Governor

By: Ben Giles March 4, 2019

Arizona senators approved a bill to give the state’s voters a chance to shake up the line of succession for the governor’s office.

The ballot referral, which advanced on a bipartisan 23-7 vote, calls for gubernatorial candidates to choose a lieutenant governor to serve as their backup. If approved by the House of Representatives, the question would appear on 2020 ballot, allowing voters a final say on the proposed amendment to the Arizona Constitution.

Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler secured the support of most Republicans and some colleagues across the aisle even though a Democrat, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, is the first in line to succeed if Gov. Doug Ducey, for any reason, leaves office in the next four years.

The amendment ensures the next-in-line to the governor is from the same political party as the governor that voters elected.

Mesnard’s proposed constitutional amendment wouldn’t take effect until 2027, ensuring that Hobbs will remain first in line for the governor’s office for at least her first term as secretary of state, and if re-elected in 2022, for her second term, too.

This means starting with the 2026 election, candidates for governor must pick a running mate no later than 60 days before the election starting.

Mesnard abandoned a companion bill that would have spelled out the duties of a lieutenant governor in state law. His proposal called for the second-in-command to also serve as the director of the Department of Administration, a role currently appointed by elected governors.

While supportive in concept of a lieutenant governor, not everyone backs Mesnard’s vision for the office.

“That seemed to be the hangup, for whatever reason,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be a partisan issue, and agreed to pull it.”

If voters approve the constitutional amendment in 2020, there’d still be plenty of time to sort out the role of the lieutenant governor before the 2026 election.

The amendment mimics the presidential election, in which the candidate advanced by each political party chooses a running mate to appear on the ballot. Mesnard said he hopes the proposal is simple enough to garner support from Arizona voters, who twice have rejected different ballot measures to create a lieutenant governor – first in 1994 by a 2-1 margin, then again in 2010 by roughly 59 percent of voters.

“If this fails, I think we are done with the lieutenant governor in this state for a long time,” Mesnard said. “This is as basic as it gets, and as easy to understand as it gets.”

HB2486

Bill to Study Moving Sonoita into Cochise County Advances in Arizona House

 

Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services 3-8-2019

PHOENIX — State lawmakers took the first steps Thursday to what eventually could lead to putting portions of eastern Santa Cruz County into Cochise County.

Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, said residents of the Sonoita area believe their taxes are too high and their services, like access to justice of the peace court, have been cut. They also have complained county officials do not promote the developing wine industry in the area.

“This is strictly a study committee to address the issues that they feel that they’re not treated fairly and not getting the attention that they would like,” Griffin said.

But she made it clear that one purpose of this committee being created by House Bill 2486, given preliminary approval by the House, is to explore what it would take to move the line that divides the two counties, making the eastern section of Santa Cruz the new western part of Cochise.

“They seem to think that they have more in common with the adjoining county,” Griffin said of the residents who are complaining.

Griffin said residents of the Sonoita area are unhappy because the justice of the peace court, formerly located in the community, was moved to Nogales in what county officials said was a money-saving move. Griffin said roads and increasing taxes also are issues.

Griffin said a meeting she attended was standing room only, with everyone there apparently agreeing with the idea that the area should be split off from Santa Cruz County.

All that left Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, unimpressed.

“Folks could certainly address their issues related to the JP court, the roads, the taxes by speaking to their local elected officials and addressing the concerns that they have,” she said.

Blanc said the ultimate power of the residents is to vote for who they want on the county Board of Supervisors.

She said her own inquiries lead her to believe that the real issue is the residents are unhappy with their taxes.

“Are we going to ask for study committees every time a resident (there was nearly 100 people at the meeting. Rep Isela Blanc is down playing the numbers to re-direct the conversation-ED)of a certain county is dissatisfied with their responsibilities as community members, having to pay taxes?” Blanc asked.

“I don’t think it’s an appropriate response addressing people’s concerns when those people can go straight to their elected officials in those counties, in those communities to ask for information,” Blanc continued.

But Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said the residents are doing exactly what they’re entitled to do. He pointed out that counties, under the Arizona Constitution, are administrative arms of the state.

“When we have a collection of constituents who don’t believe they’ve been treated fairly, who else are they to turn to?” Finchem asked.

While Griffin said the committee will address the issues of the residents, that’s not the way HB 2486 sets it up.

It requires several members of the public who would be appointed by legislative leaders to be “knowledgeable about county boundaries.” And the panel is charged with researching and reporting on “the fiscal and related impacts of a change in the county boundary line,” with a report due by June 30, 2020.

Those issues are complex, including how to deal with existing debts and obligations of each county. Ultimately, a county line can be moved only with an act of the Legislature.

If the Sonoita residents think their taxes will drop if they suddenly become Cochise County residents, they may be in for a rude surprise.

The Arizona Tax Research Association reports the current primary property tax in Santa Cruz County is $4.85 per $100 of assessed valuation, with a secondary rate of 88 cents. For Cochise County the primary rate is $5.55, with a 50-cent-per-$100 valuation for secondary taxes.

The measure now needs a roll-call vote before going to the Senate.

House Floor Debate on Decorum - why should this be necessary??

AZ House Democrats Shut Down Floor Debate In Protest

 

February 25, 2019  ADI News Services

On Monday, Arizona State House Democrats scrambled when a camera was turned on them as they commandeered the Speaker of the House’s conference room. Leaders of the Democratic Caucus poured out of the room, as Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-16) entered while on Facebook Live.

Minority Leader Rep. Charlene Fernandez (D-4), Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Dr Randy Friese (D-9), Rep. Raquel Teran (D-30), Rep. Kelli Butler (D-28), and others holed up in the backroom in protest. According to a Facebook post by Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley (D-9), the Democrats were angry because “Republicans left the floor during voting.”

The move by the Democrats was seen as retaliatory by Republicans in response to Rep. John Allen’s decision to force an embarrassing vote on Teran’s infanticide bill. Democrats had hoped to kill the bill after it became clear that public was opposed to killing a child born alive. Democrats have also been stewing since the Republicans voted at the beginning of this year’s session to limit floor debate.

The resentment has sparked the insistence on following the rules as evidenced by Powers-Hannley’s post:

According to the rules, members have to stay on the floor during voting. This was enforced during the 53rd Legislature. Today, Speaker Bowers and other GOP members wandered in and out of the house and into the Speaker’s Office and the Member’s Lounge.

Rep. Salman called them out for breaking the rules. Rep. Shope said it was OK to break the rules because it is “custom and practice” that the Speaker’s office is part of the House Floor (even when the door is closed and even though the rules are clear). Dems voted to overturn Shope’s waiver of the rules. Now the Republicans are voting to change the rules to suit themselves. Bending the rules is a mockery.

Historically there is no such limitation on the movement of the Speaker because he is captain of the entire ship; not just the floor activity. Because the Speaker is responsible for the entire building (staff, service, security, etc), they may have to deal with important business at any time. As a result, the Speaker’s office (and his alone) connects directly to the House floor.

Bowers’ backroom was offered to Rep. Noel Campbell (R-1) to host a stakeholder’s meeting. Stakeholders meetings are held to build consensus between diverse interests in order to pass legislation. In the past, there was no objection to the practice of allowing members to pass back and forth between the Speaker’s room and the House floor in order to ensure that members have the opportunity to vote on bills.

During the protest, Republican lawmakers questioned the growing lack of decorum. From impugning colleagues’ motives to prolonging debate by asking the same questions repeatedly, the Democrats have increasingly attacked the Republicans.

RULE 18 DECORUM AND DEBATE

A. When a member desires to speak in debate or deliver any matter to the House, or make a motion, he shall rise and address himself to the Chair, and on being recognized may address the House. He shall confine himself to the question and avoid personalities. No member shall impeach or impugn motives of any other member’s argument or vote.

RULE 19 IMPERMISSIBLE DEBATE

A. No member shall be permitted to indulge in personalities, use language personally offensive, arraign motives of members, charge deliberate misrepresentation or use language tending to hold a member of the House or Senate up to contempt.

The situation has grown so hostile, that Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-16) is considering calling for Rep. Isela Blanc (D-26), who routinely impugns the character of Republicans during floor debate, to be sanctioned.

SB1367 Repeal (2017)

This bill was defeated in Judiciary committee by 0 to 8 with 2 voting present.... It was defeated because 600 people showed up at the Capitol to oppose the bill and several thousand calls were made to stop the bill. Your vote, call, visit matters to the electeds. This is proof!

THIRTEEN DEMOCRATS SPONSOR BILL THAT KILLS BABIES WHO SURVIVE ABORTIONS

 

February 19, 2019 C. Kramer ADI News Services

PHOENIX — A Democratic Arizona State legislator is reportedly unhappy because the infanticide bill she formerly sponsored is set to be heard in the Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

Apparently Raquel Teran, D-Phoenix,  the primary sponsor of the bill, has changed her mind and no longer wants to support a bill that allows babies to be killed after they are born alive. (Teran is a former Planned Parenthood employee. it is unlikely that she didn't know the full scope of the bill since she was employed by the company that performed abortions--ED)

Jennifer Jermaine, also a Phoenix Democrat, also formerly supported the bill, which would lift existing protection for babies who survive abortions.

In a Facebook message posted 9:26 p.m. Tuesday,  Jermaine claims that Teran has informed her fellow Democrats that “her bill goes beyond a repeal of Senate Bill 1367, which was an error and does not reflect her intent.”

“I do not support the bill in its current form and have removed myself as co-sponsor ,” Jermaine wrote on Facebook.

Jermaine complains in her Facebook post that House Judiciary Chairman John Allen is not allowing Teran to amend the bill she formerly supported.

Teran has been silent about her change of mind about the law.

Senate Bill 1367, signed into law in 2017, mandates that a baby who is born alive as a result of a failed or botched abortion must receive medical treatment to save his or her life.

The new Democratic House Bill 2696 reverses that requirement so that a baby born alive can be left to die, however long that might take.

The new Arizona bill is sponsored by 13 Democratic representatives:  Teran,  Jermaine, Isela Blanc, Reginald Bolding, Andres Cano, Charlene Fernandez, Randy Friese, Rosanna Gabaldón, Daniel Hernandez, Jennifer Longdon, Pam Powers-Hannley, Athena Salman, and Amish Shah.

The Republicans hold a 31 to 29 majority in the House, so even if all the Democrats voted for this bill to take the lives of babies who survive abortions, it most likely will not succeed.

This new Democratic bill is part of a nationwide push to allow abortion providers to perform abortions up until the moment a child is born or even after an abortion fails, to take the life of the baby.

In New York State on Jan. 22, shortly after the Democrats took control of the state legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill allowing late term abortions at any time, to the cheers of the lawmakers. Several other states have followed suit, introducing other bills lifting restrictions on later term abortions in the wake of Democratic victories in the 2018 election.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, during a radio interview about that state’s proposed bill to support late term abortion, advocated for abortion after delivery in some cases. 

Apparently Teran received word that infanticide is not popular with most Americans, including Arizonans.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

SB1217

Arizona Senate Passes In-State Tuition For DACA Students Bill

February 21, 2019 ADI News Services

The Arizona Senate passed SB1217 on Wednesday which creates a tuition rate for students such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who apply for admission to an Arizona university or community college after graduating from an Arizona school but do not qualify as in-state residents.

Sen. Heather Carter’s bill was cosponsored by Senators Brophy McGee, Gonzales, Navarrete, and Peshlakai.

Last week, Congressman Paul Gosar introduced a bill that would prohibit allowing illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition while American students are required to pay out-of-state tuition to attend the same institution.

In April 2018, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling against the Maricopa Community College District (MCCCD) Board over whether DACA recipients could receive in-state tuition in Arizona. The justices affirmed a 2017 appeals court decision saying “existing federal and state law do not allow MCCCD to grant in-state tuition benefits to DACA recipients.”

 

Senate Fact Sheet:

Purpose

Establishes the Arizona high school graduate tuition rate (Arizona tuition rate) for graduating Arizona students who meet outlined requirements.

Background

The Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) is the governing entity for Arizona’s university system which consists of Arizona State University (ASU), Northern Arizona University (NAU) and the University of Arizona (UA). ABOR was created by the Arizona Constitution (Ariz. Const. art. 11 § 5) and statute provides and defines ABOR’s general authority related to the universities. This includes fixing tuition rates and fees and differentiating between residents, nonresidents, undergraduate students, graduate students, students from foreign countries and students earning credit hours in excess of the credit hour threshold (A.R.S. § 15-1626).

A community college is an educational institution that is operated by a community college district governing board (district board) and that provides a program not exceeding two years’ training in the arts, sciences and humanities beyond the 12th grade of the public or private high school course of study or vocational education, including terminal courses of a technical and vocational nature and basic adult education courses (A.R.S. § 15-1401). District boards adopt policies and set standards for the establishment, development, administration, operation and accreditation of community colleges within the district. This includes fixing tuition rates for institutions and residents, nonresidents and students from foreign countries (A.R.S. § 15-1445).

[Related article: Gosar bill would deny illegal aliens in-state tuition benefits]

[Related article: Arizona Supreme Court Rules Against In-State Tuition For DACA Recipients]

SB1247

Brophy McGee Narrows Inspection Requirement on Southwest Key Oversight Bill

 

Laura Gómez   Arizona Mirror February 15, 2019

A Senate bill to expand state oversight of facilities like Southwest Key that house migrant children in Arizona won’t go as far as originally intended, some advocates said. 

With the recent controversies surrounding migrant youth shelter operator Southwest Key in mind, Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, introduced Senate Bill 1247 to expand background checks and allow for regulatory inspections on child health care facilities. The bill, along with an amendment she proposed, passed unanimously Wednesday in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

“The policy that I have intended to set forward here is that every child within the boundaries of the state of Arizona, in the care of the state but also in care of the government, will be in a safe facility, and the individuals working in that facility will be completely vetted and background checked,” Brophy McGee said during the bill’s hearing.

But her amendment softens the state’s oversight reach when compared to the original bill.

Currently, the Arizona Department of Health Services can only inspect nationally accredited health care facilities in response to complaints. That requirement restricts the department’s ability to inspect the 11 sites where Southwest Key houses children in residential behavioral health centers in Arizona.

The bill initially removed that complaint-based requirement for hundreds of residential child behavioral health facilities so that ADHS would have the ability to inspect them for compliance with state law. The amendment brings back the exemption if they meet certain conditions. The agency still has discretion to inspect, though it is not required.

“The way I read the bill as amended, ADHS can use a third party certification in lieu of routine annual inspections, but they don’t have to,” said Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association and former head of ADHS. “In essence, it’s better than where we were, but not as far as we’d like us to have gone.”

Brophy McGee told the Mirror that the amendment doesn’t exempt facilities like Southwest Key under any circumstances.

She referred further inquiries on specific accreditation and licensure points to Shannon Whiteaker, chief legislative liaison for ADHS. Whiteaker couldn’t be reached for comment. ADHS spokeswoman Melissa Blasius-Nuanez said the agency doesn’t comment on pending legislation.

Southwest Key is the country’s largest operator of shelters for migrant youth who arrived in the country alone to seek protection or were separated from their parents. The minors are placed in shelters while pending reunification with their families or release to sponsors in the U.S. Until then, the children are custody of the federal government and operators of shelters like Southwest Key contract directly with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Emily Jenkins, president of the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, explained residential healthcare facilities for children operate under a complaint-driven system, where people like parents and social workers who frequent those places are the eyes and ears of state regulators. But places like Southwest Key don’t have that foot traffic, she said.  

Brophy McGee’s amendment says state health regulators can choose not to inspect behavioral health residential facilities that service children if they have both a federally-recognized accreditation and they haven’t been sanctioned by ADHS for licensure violations within a year.

This change was intended to not add new regulation to facilities that don’t have populations like Southwest Key’s and for whom the complaint-based system works, Jenkins said. But after questions from the Mirror, she acknowledged the amendment may exempt Southwest Key from inspections.

In essence, some advocates say Brophy McGee’s bill took two steps forward and one back.

Jana Granillo, a member of the Uncage and Reunite Families Coalition — a group that has called for more state oversight over Southwest Key’s Arizona operation — said the amendment leaves gaps in the bill.

“It went from being very preventative, all-encompassing to surgically prescriptive to those bad actors who have been caught and substantiated,” she said. “I think about this population, they are special migrant children. How do complaints get raised from people who are alone? Who looks out for them?”

Brophy McGee’s amendment also adds an emergency clause, meaning the bill needs two-thirds of the votes in each chamber to pass, instead of a simple majority, and the new regulations would take effect as soon as the bill is signed into law, as opposed to the 90-day waiting period for most new laws.

The bill and the amendment also expand background check requirements.

Brophy McGee’s bill initially required all facilities licensed in the state that provide services to children but don’t contract with the state to use the Arizona Department of Child Safety central registry. The central registry is a list of substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect and the outcomes of the associated investigations. The amended version of the bill narrows the scope of which sites it covers to only include child residential behavioral health facilities that contract with the federal government and receive federal funds. Background check requirements would begin on Sept. 1.

The proposal also mandates that state-licensed child behavioral health facilities have an accreditation report for each of its sites, instead of only for the organization’s headquarters, Jenkins explained.

 

Various stakeholders support Brophy McGee’s legislation.

Kevin DeMenna, a lobbyist for Southwest Key, told the committee Wednesday that the company favors the bill and the amendment because it allows for more transparency and accountability.

ADHS, the Arizona Public Health Association and the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, which represents facilities providing child behavioral health residential services, also back Brophy McGee’s bill. DCS registered as neutral to this bill.

Granillo spoke at the hearing to support the bill, though she said she hadn’t had time to review the amendment. Granillo also encouraged Brophy McGee, who chairs the committee, to hear Senate Bill 1493, introduced by Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, to create a public oversight committee for all migrant shelter operators.

Brophy McGee said Friday she’s working on adding another amendment to her bill to add notification requirements so the state is aware of when migrant youth come and leave shelters in Arizona.

“My efforts are now turned toward notification that these kids are here, and also follow-up notification that they’ve left, they’ve been permanently located or located with family,” she said.

 

SB 1396

OPINION: Senator Sylvia Allen Serving Special Interests First with Bill 

Sierra Vista Herald  2-6-2019

Need proof that Arizona lawmakers run the Legislature to suit their own agenda and not in the interests of the state’s constituency?

Look no further than Senate Bill 1396, sponsored by Snowflake Republican state Sen. Sylvia Allen who proposes increasing access to Empowerment Scholarship Accounts for families at or below 185 percent of the national poverty level.

Arizona voters crushed a ballot initiative to expand ESAs three months ago, blocking an attempt by the Legislature to gradually increase the percentage of students in kindergarten through 12th grade eligible for private, parochial and public school “scholarships.” Voters defeated Proposition 305 by more than 2-1 in the last election, which should have presented a clear signal to lawmakers that any expansion of school vouchers is not wanted. (Prop 305 was defeated because it limited ESA's to ONLY 30,000 total allowed forever. ALL students should have the option of attending any school they want and not be tied to failed or failing schools. Competition will benefit ALL students --ED)

That outcome hasn’t deterred Sen. Allen or other legislators who are committed to plowing state funding into initiatives that threaten public school finances. SB 1396 would make any household with an annual income of $46,000 or less eligible for a voucher, increasing the number of qualified families by some 218,000. Currently, about 3,000 Arizona families are eligible for ESAs. (Exactly the point of ESA's!!--ED)

Our problem with this effort isn’t the right of parents to choose where their children get an education. That’s at the heart of Sen. Allen’s argument in support of her bill, but it’s not really the issue when it comes to spending state money for ESAs.

Our problem is the lack of accountability for state money that goes to private schools that are being operated as business investments instead of prioritizing student education. Examples of this abuse are well documented and current. We can point to Primavera online charter school, where the student-teacher ratio is 215-to-1, 12 times higher than the national average, and the chief officer has received a salary and bonus pay that tops the million-dollar mark.

Our problem is the clear conflict of interest for lawmakers who are profiting from privately operated charter schools that are supported in part by state funding. Longtime Gilbert Republican state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth earned about $13.9 million from the sale of charter school campuses funded in part by the state. (The process requires a majority of the House and Senate to pass. Who originates a bill is not a reason for consideration by legislative committees or by the electeds--ED)

Our problem is an American Civil Liberties Union report that identified “illegal and exclusionary” enrollment practices at close to 100 Arizona charter schools, forcing documentation and policy changes.( There are several bills specific to Charter Schools that will be going through the process this legislative session that will bring the Charters into compliance with all other public schools--ED)

In rural areas like Cochise County, our problem is diverting desperately the needed state funding away from public schools to fund private and parochial schools, which reduces the overall educational opportunities that can be afforded by a local district. State education funding is based in large part on the number of students and reducing attendance will restrict the amount of money available for academic and extracurricular programs at local public schools. (Education funding is for a student to attend school funding should go with the student--ED)

Arizona voters have already sent a clear message to the Legislature on expansion of the ESA program.

Unfortunately, that’s not enough to stop special-interest lawmakers like Sen. Allen.

This originally appeared in the Sierra Vista Herald.

SB 1217

This bill authored by Heather Carter would allow DACA and illegal immigrant recipients to get a lower rate to attend AZ Community Colleges and Universities. It requires 1 year residency, swear they are going to stay in AZ. If they graduated from an AZ High School they would be eligible for lower tuition for 4 years following graduation. There are other considerations and the College Boards could set up other standards, however, it is in direct violation of voter initiative Prop 300 that forbids any tuition waiver, reductions, grants, scholarships or aid that is State funded.--ED

Undocumented Arizona

Students Would Get Tuition

Break Under GOP-Sponsored

Bill

Jaziel Olmeda, a 'Dreamer" wants to be a nurse. A sophomore at Phoenix College, he will be paying higher tuition because of his DACA status

SB1046

Arizona Bill To Revise Mail-In Ballot Procedures Clears Senate Committee

Tom Maxedon  KJZZ 1/28/2019

Arizona Senate Bill 1046 has been successfully voted out of committee by the Senate.

The bill, which passed on party lines, said those who receive ballots by mail may only return them by mail and not drop them off at polling places.

Its sponsor, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale), said the bill is an effort to speed up vote counting.

“What I want to do is to get back to the original intent of vote by mail. This is an elected convenience. You opt into it. You do not have to vote by mail,” she said.

Nearly a quarter million Arizonans dropped off their mail-in ballots at polling places during the election, many waiting until Election Day.

SB 1143  HB 2522

With a billion dollar surplus, Gov Ducey wants to increase the State coffers by not allowing for the Federal Tax credit to be trickled down to taxpayers. 2 bills HB 2522 and SB 1143 aim to give AZ taxpayers another break.--ED

Legislature to Tackle Income Tax Conformity

By: Ben Giles ,  Capitol Media Service  January 23, 2019

Bucking the wishes of Gov. Doug Ducey, two Republicans lawmakers are pushing plans to ensure that Arizona tax collections don’t increase because of changes to the federal tax code.

Sen. J.D. Mesnard and Rep. Ben Toma each sponsored identical bills in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, with hopes of fast-tracking one of two plans. If they succeed, that would put the onus on Ducey to either a sign a bill designed to give a tax break to Arizonans, or veto it and push through his proposal to conform Arizona’s tax code to the federal changes in a way that would increase state revenue.

Mesnard and Toma’s first plan would conform to the sweeping changes to the federal tax code signed by President Trump in December 2017. It would then reduce tax rates for all income brackets by 0.11 percentage points.

That would reduce state tax collections by $150 million, according to Mesnard, R-Chandler, matching the amount that state budget analysts say would otherwise increase due to conformity.

Estimates of tax conformity vary wildly, with some as high as $230 million. Mesnard said he and Toma, a Peoria Republican, settled on $150 million as their best guess. It’s better to try and do something, rather than do nothing and let Arizona taxpayers take a hit, Mesnard said.

“I’m not trying to overshoot the mark. I’m not trying to get a tax cut out of this. I’m just trying to achieve revenue neutrality,” Mesnard told the Arizona Capitol Times.

The matching bills, SB 1143 and HB 2522, will be heard in emergency Senate and House hearings on Monday morning.

If the legislation fails, Mesnard and Toma have a second option – “partial conformity,” which would mean resetting most of the Arizona tax code to go along with the federal code but also “decoupling” certain aspects. They include a state and local tax deduction, a mortgage interest deduction and four other miscellaneous measures, Mesnard said.

Arizona would maintain the status quo in those six areas, which would mean higher taxes for some Arizonans. Those higher taxes would then be offset by savings for others, theoretically leaving the state with no additional revenue from tax conformity.

Mesnard’s version of that plan, SB1166, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, while Toma’s version has not been introduced as of Wednesday afternoon.

The plans are mutually exclusive. Mesnard said he’d be happy with either proposal getting approved, so long as lawmakers protect taxpayers in some way.

Both plans would only affect filings for the 2018 tax year, leaving legislators to debate a permanent solution for future years. It’s critical for the Legislature to act now, as Arizonans are preparing to file their taxes. The Department of Revenue is scheduled to make tax forms available to residents by Jan. 28, the lawmakers announced in a news release.

“With tax season right around the corner, taxpayers need answers on how to go about filing their taxes,” Toma said in the news release. “We need to act quickly in a way that keeps our tax code simple and avoids taking any more of the money that Arizonans have earned.”

LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 14

David gowan.PNG
Gail Griffin.PNG
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 Click on the picture or the name to go to their Legislative Information Page that details their committee assignments and bills they sponsor or co-sponsor

LINKS:

Senate Members

Committees