I really don’t like to depress you, but the bad news keeps coming from the Capitol. Read on to hear the latest attacks on elections, women, refugees, LGBTQ+ people, foster kids, single parents, public education, sick kids, and the working poor. Don’t worry, on the positive side I’ll also tell you what you can do about it, in addition to electing a new majority in November.
Much more after the Farley Report pledge break…
If you appreciate these reports and my representation as your Senator, please help out my campaign in these two ways:
—> 1) Help me gather a few signatures on my nominating petition! I need to gather several hundred signatures from registered Democrats and independents in my district by the end of May in order to get back on the ballot and serve you for another term. If you are willing to gather a few, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and mailing address, and I will pop in the mail to you a petition with room for 10 people to sign. You can feel free to fill the sheet with your friends and neighbors, or just sign one line and send it back to me if you can’t round up some more. Thank you!!!
—> 2) If you live anywhere in the U.S., please contribute what you can to my re-election campaign. Although I did not vote for these higher limits, you can now contribute up to $5,000 for the 2016 cycle. I am just as honored by $50 or even $5 donations. Whatever seems right for you is right for me. The more you give now, the less I have to ask of you later. Thank you for the support. CLICK HERE TO CONTRIBUTE.
—> Gov. Ducey signed SB1516 last Thursday, the bill to unleash anonymous political money in AZ. In another epic work of political spin, he said: "I've signed #SB1516 to simplify campaign finance law and provide more opportunity for participation & free speech in the political process." For the money of anonymous billionaires and large corporations, that is. #RememberInNovember
—> He also signed SB1324, which would force doctors to use outmoded and possibly dangerous instructions when administering medication abortions — instructions that were superseded by last week’s new labeling guidelines from the FDA. Ducey’s action will force doctors to break state law in order to protect the well-being of their patients. The War On Women continues. #RememberInNovember
—> Speaker and Congressional Candidate David Gowan has been pushing a lot of bad bills, and a couple of them seize an ugly political moment of fear and hatred to attack refugees. One of them, HB2691, demands that the Auditor General conduct a special audit of the state’s refugee resettlement process under the Federal Resettlement Program.
Speaker Gowan doesn’t want to know about the two-year-long process of background checks and in-depth multiple evaluations that mean a small fraction of applicants receive refugee status. He doesn’t want to know the gut-wrenching stories of terror, deprivation, fear, and grief that the refugee families have experienced while running away from terrorists toward sanctuary in America.
Candidate Gowan wants answers to questions that are already freely available to the public: The number of refugees that have been settled in Arizona in the last 36 months (total: 11,747), the amount of state money spent on the program in the last 36 months (total: $0 — all costs are bourn by the federal government), and the total amount of federal money received by the program in the last 36 months (total: $39,009,437 ($1107 per refugee per year) — all of which is spent helping these new Americans write their chapter in the unfolding American story while boosting the Arizona economy).
Considering we already have all his answers, I asked for a fiscal note from JLBC on how much it would cost taxpayers to carry out this “audit” charade. The answer: $54,000. I wish I could bid on that audit contract.
—> With nearly 19,000 children currently in the "care" of the state, there is no place for language in state law discriminating against same-sex couples or single parents in adopting or fostering. Sen. Nancy Barto refused this session to hear SB1171, my bill to eliminate that discriminatory language, in her Health committee. So I attempted to amend my bill to a related bill in COW yesterday.
The legislative majority is so afraid to even talk about this issue, they fought to successfully rule my amendment “non-germane” and cut off any debate after I moved it.
They have now chosen to kill three of their own germane bills in order to stop my bill from even being debated. They know it is publicly indefensible to argue that a child would be better off in a group home than a loving family — gay, straight, or single.
But I will keep trying. Bigotry in Arizona must not stand, especially when kids' lives are at stake.
Here is excellent coverage from AP and AZFamily (Channel 3 Phoenix) on yesterday’s events.
Interestingly, the 3TV reporter asked Gov. Ducey’s spokesperson what the Governor thought, and he said that his position has not changed since last April, when he issued a statement saying, “all loving families should be able to serve as foster parents and adopt. All children deserve a loving home, and under my watch, I’m committed to making sure government encourages that.” Looks like the Governor agrees with me. Watch closely as we debate the budget — budget bills are by definition germane to everything, so if they won’t let me right this wrong before then, I’ll amend the wording to those bills. I hope I will continue to have the Governor’s support.
—> Speaking of budget, the drama builds. Late last week and early this week, two separate spreadsheets were leaked — one dated 3/24 from the Senate, and another dated 3/30 from the House. These draft budgets are mostly notable for what they lack. Here is some analysis from the Children’s Action Alliance:
> Both the Senate and House draft budgets largely mirror the Governor’s January budget proposal with no new investments in public school teachers or classroom textbooks or technology, no restoration of cuts to university education, no new funding for workforce development, and no shifts in strategy to strengthen families and avoid future costs.
> Both budgets include additional, unnamed permanent tax cuts of $30 million each year that will make it harder to restore missing funding to public schools.
> Both budgets reduce state funding per student in public schools (adjusted for inflation) — in opposition to the clarion calls from parents, community leaders and business CEOs around the state.
> The major new investment in both budgets is $28 million to expand the Governor’s Border Strike Task Force -- despite the statements from county sheriffs that it would be far more effective to properly fund basic operations of the Department of Public Safety and reverse the funding cuts to counties.
> For the Department of Child Safety, the proposals prioritize prevention and in-home services to reduce the growth in foster care; but these budgets cut $18 million out of the Governor’s proposal which may leave funding short of meeting basic needs.
> The budgets include a rainy day fund balance of $470 million plus a cash balance that doubles to more than $800 million by fiscal year 2019. Both draft budgets leave this $1.3 billion of funding unallocated, sitting in an account rather than funding education, building opportunity or strengthening Arizona’s economy.
The word last week was that we may do the budget next Friday, and we have been asked to keep that day clear on our calendars. When I shared this with some House Republicans, they laughed. They said the leaked spreadsheets are not reflective of what their rank-and-file members want, and that their speaker has no power or desire to put a budget together. They told me that there are nowhere near the votes needed to get a budget done anytime soon.
So we may indeed do a budget next Friday, but it will only be a Senate budget and that would be D.O.A at the House. This standoff could last for quite some time if the folks on both sides of the Republican caucus continue to be unwilling to compromise. Meanwhile we would stay in session, burning more taxpayer dollars for no good reason.
Once a deal is done, things happen quickly, and most action happens quite literally in the middle of the night. This year, I’d like to invite you to stand with us as we fight what will undoubtedly be a bad budget for Arizona. If you can stay up all night, please come watch us in the gallery as we fight for the future of our state. When we stand for a division on the floor, having you stand with us would be a powerful statement of what our constituents really believe.
I will give you notice on my Facebook page when I find out approximately when this will happen, so please keep checking in.
—> Another item not included in the House or Senate budget draft is the restoration of an estimated 31,000 uninsured Arizona children to KidsCare health care coverage.
This is particularly tragic and hard to defend because we can help these kids at no cost from state funds.
In fact, we are the only state in the country that does not cover our children through this program.
Since October 2015, this 100% federal funding has been available. We used to take part in this phenomenally successful program before the legislative majority instituted a “temporary” enrollment freeze five years ago — 63,000 kids were helped. It covers the children of the working poor — families earning between 138% and 200% of the federal poverty level. Families pay affordable monthly premiums.
Now we have the third highest percentage of uninsured children in the U.S.
Interestingly, KidsCare also provides benefits other than health. The Harvard Business School discovered that families in the program in other states saw a 23% higher rate of self-employment and 31% higher rate of ownership of incorporated businesses. And the Arizona economy will be strengthened by another $76 million in federal funds coming into our state each year, money that will be spent in our local communities by doctors, nurses, lab workers, and other healthcare workers.
This federal pool of funds will last through at least September 2019. If it is not renewed and Arizona taxpayers would have to pick up the costs, we can decide as a state to withdraw at that time. There are no strings attached to taking the money and covering kids NOW.
So why haven’t we done this yet? More than 3/4 of the House voted for it. But Senate President and Congressional Candidate Andy Biggs says, “I don’t support KidsCare.” So he will not bring it to a vote, and it will not be included in his budget.
Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts wrote a piece this week telling the story of Paul, a five year old boy who was born with a skull that closed before his brain was fully formed — causing huge ongoing medical problems. His parents cannot find affordable insurance options, even while working two jobs. They can’t afford his procedures, but KidsCare would give Paul the treatment he needs.
If you agree that kids like Paul should have decent affordable health coverage at no cost to the State of Arizona, please contact Senator Biggs’ office and ask politely that he support lifting the enrollment freeze for KidsCare NOW. He can be reached at email@example.com or (602) 926-4371.
—> Finally tonight, some historical perspective. I keep hearing arguments from the NRA lobby that we need more "good guys with guns" in public spaces to protect us, and that we are upholding the honorable tradition of our pioneer ancestors.
So I decided to look up Arizona territorial laws to see what our pioneer ancestors thought about gun laws. After all, they were in real danger from frontier raids. Here's what I found in the 1901 Arizona Territorial Statutes:
Section 382 outlaws any concealed carry of any weapon anywhere, including guns. Section 383 even says that a police officer refuses to arrest someone who is concealing a weapon, that police officer is guilty of a crime.
Section 387 bans open or concealed carry in any public gathering anywhere, with a minimum fine of $1,429 and a maximum fine of $14,286 (in 2015 dollars), plus forfeiture of the weapon to the county.
It's clear that back in the Wild West our ancestors understood the responsibility that comes with gun ownership and the importance of limiting the possession of guns in public places. The modern obsession with gun rights trumping human rights is an ideological construct created by the national gun lobby.
—> One more thing — If you are still trying to figure out how to vote in the upcoming election for Proposition 123, I will be on panels for three different forums in the upcoming weeks to talk about the issues of education funding in Arizona. Each forum is open to the public, so you are invited to attend:
Saturday, April 9, 3:00 p.m.
Democratic Club of the Santa Rita Area
Safeway Continental Plaza
Room 248, 2nd Floor
230 W. Continental Rd.
Green Valley, AZ 85614
Sponsored by: DCSRA
Sunday, April 17, 12:30 p.m.
St. Pius X Church
Tanque Verde Room
1800 N. Camino Pio Decimo
Tucson, AZ 85715
Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization (PCICEO) and the Education Committee of St. Pius X Catholic Church
Sunday, April 24, 3:00 p.m.
Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Church
3601 W. Cromwell Dr.
Tucson, AZ 85741
Sponsored by: Pima County Interfaith Council and Unitarian Universalist Church
Thanks for your continuing faith in me as your Senator.
Senator, District 9, Tucson
If you like my representation and want to keep me in office, CONTRIBUTE TODAY!