The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the health and welfare budget bill on a 6-3 party line vote.
Democrats expressed concern about the hasty budget. Sen. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma, said she was worried about continuing the freeze on KidsCare, as did Sen. Anna Tovar, D-Tolleson. Tovar remarked that the bill was a lot to digest in less than 24 hours and that she was worried about it classifying transplants that aren't really experimental as experimental. Tovar also disapproved of senators glomming on their own personal bills when this bill is likely to pass on its own.
Simultaneously, Gov. Jan Brewer held her biggest Medicaid expansion rally to date with people from both sides in attendance. Senators were mum on Medicaid during the health bill hearing.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, who has been leading the charge on the effort to simplify Arizona’s sales tax, said she’s done negotiating with cities and contractors on the bill.
Lesko said she thinks they’ve hit on a plan that will work and expects things to move quickly.
House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Prescott Valley, said the effort to simplify the tax is like an up-and-down roller coaster, but it’s still cooking.
“We’re simplifying. Very complexing,” Tobin said. “That thing has been in every back door meeting I can possibly think of and everybody’s having a piece of it so I’m waiting for final draft. There’s too many good things in it that I don’t want to lose—yet we still have to make sure we’re not hurting people."
Ken Strobeck, the executive director of the Arizona League of Cities and Towns, said things are still in negotiations and that while he felt they had come to a "close if not final" agreement as far as details on auditing, construction still posed a big challenge.
The cities have been in constant talks with Lesko and others working on the simplification plan. Lesko said the cities told her they happy with the current plan, but said she’s heard that they were happy before and then heard they changed their mind.
“I have found that [the cities] move the goal post,” Lesko said. "They agree on something and then they change their mind. It’s going to be whatever the Governor and the Legislature believes is best. We are not going to wait until the cites agree with everything they want. We don’t want to hurt the cities, but we need to move forward.”
The current plan is to mostly leave construction alone, Lesko said. The exception will be any contractor who “repairs, replaces or maintains,” such as people in the plumbing or air conditioning business, she said. They will only pay construction tax on materials.
Cities of less than 5,000 people would be held harmless from the loss of construction tax on these contractors through adjustments with the shared revenue fund, Lesko said.
As far as auditing, which has also been contentious, Lesko said cities would be able to audit businesses that are within their jurisdiction on behalf of the city and the state. The city auditors would be trained and certified to the Department of Revenue. Only the Department of Revenue auditors would audit businesses with multiple locations. This prevents business owners who have multiple locations from being excessively audited.
"It's a matter of the cities trying to protect their own city auditors. The cities really pushed for that so we said OK," Lesko said.
It’s possible the bill could get roped into negotiations about the budget and Medicaid expansion because Republican leadership knows it is a key bill that the governor wants to see pass, Lesko said.
Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, is taking the budget into his own hands.
The Senate released a budget made up of 10 bills addressing the budget Tuesday. Along with the budget, the Senate also released SB1493, an elections omnibus that is packed with the controversial election bills that would limit who can pick up early ballots and make the Permanent Early Voting List a use-it-or-lose-it situation.
This was an uncoordinated effort, said House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Prescott Valley, who added that he didn't know what was in Biggs' budget.
"We don't usually move budgets by ourselves," Tobin said. "It's good to be the Senate President."
The bills will go through the Senate Appropriations Committee Wednesday.
The release of this budget marks "the beginning of the end," Gov. Jan Brewer said.
Medicaid expansion is notably absent from the Senate budget.
It's likely a Medicaid amendment will crop up on the Senate floor.
Brewer, who wouldn't comment on whether she'd veto a budget that didn't include Medicaid, said her staff is still analyzing the budget but it looks similar to what she asked for except for Medicaid.
"I am just grateful that we have things on the table," Brewer said.
Tobin sent out his own proposal for Medicaid to House majority members today. His plan would send the question of whether or not to expand Medicaid to the voters. Asked whether this is a sincere attempt at expanding Medicaid or a fake attempt, Tobin said: "I don't fake anything."
Brewer said she doesn't support sending Medicaid to the ballot. She said she thinks Medicaid is complex and she'd prefer to avoid a difficult campaign for it during the hot summer.
Here's a collection of the highlights from hearing on UN Agenda 21 at the Arizona Legislature last week. It's a sad display of lunacy and fear of change.
If you haven't yet heard about Agenda 21: Those who are worried about believe that a two-decade-old UN treaty in support of sustainable development is part of a sinister plan to force everyone into small apartments in cities. Among the tools at the enemy's disposal: universities, bike lanes, downtown revitalization, light rail, and water-conservation projects.
A former Tucson lawmaker just hired to coordinate a female veterans’ conference isn’t sure women belong on the front lines, at least partly because combat is no place to be dealing with menstrual cycle issues.
Terri Proud, a one-term state representative, was recently hired as an administrative assistant with the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services at a salary of roughly $40,000, said Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services spokesman Dave Hampton. The conference is one of several responsibilities she’ll be undertaking, he said.
When asked about women on the front lines, Proud said that is a tough issue she didn’t want to talk about.
She said her position is drawn partly from her family’s military background and partly from biology.
“It would have been hard for me if my mother had been in that position,” Proud said, referring to her mother's time as an emergency-room nurse in the Army. “I understand that women want to be on the front lines, and they want to do their service and women are very strong. We’ve really come far through the years. We’re extremely strong.”
Beyond that, she said, “Women have certain things during the month I’m not sure they should be out there dealing with. I don’t know how to address that topic in a very diplomatic manner.”
When asked what topics she hoped to address at this spring’s fifth annual women veterans conference, said she wants to look at the challenges female veterans face with homelessness.
Proud’s comments surprised many.
"It's amazing that a women would make that type of a statement," said Tara Jones, founder and president of the National Women Veterans Association of America. "She's a woman for Christ sake, does she not have one? Does that prevent her from being able to her job?"
Jones is familiar with the type of conference Proud would be coordinating, she used to work for Veterans Affairs and run similar conferences for women.
Jones said hearing a remark like this is disheartening and can delay changes that female veterans need to see happen, such as the expansion of gynecological care. Not all VA centers offer health care for women, meaning that someone could wait several months before getting life-saving care for disease such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer, she said. Veterans Services needs people who are savvy about those kinds of issues and the conversations that can hinder them, she said.
Jones said that comment makes her think Veterans Services needs to catch up to the women its serving. She noted that women who serve must contend with challenges that are much more complex and physically demanding than a monthly cycle and they’ve been doing that for hundreds of years.
"It seems as though she is about to get acclimated to an area that she has no knowledge of," Jones said.
Proud garnered national attention for her controversial takes on issues during her time at the Legislature. She had an email exchange where she wrote that women who want abortions should have to watch one first and was in the public eye for sponsoring a bill that put a high school elective course about the Bible on the books.
Proud noted that she knows the military environment well because she comes from a military family. She said she has a history of raising awareness about women in the military. During her time in the Legislature, she passed a bill creating a specialty license plate honoring female veterans.
Awareness is her big goal with the conference, Proud said.
“I think (the conference) is going to create a lot more awareness in the state about the women and their role,” Proud said. “It is definitely going to give a lot of exposure and support to the women vets in Arizona.”
Jones said she hopes the conference will give Proud a chance to become more aware about issues facing female veterans. She said it would be great if Proud could share her view at the conference and start a dialogue. She added that she hoped that conversation wouldn’t star a riot — something she said is a very real possibility. While Jones said she is aware of the importance of being political correct, that’s not typical of the female veterans’ movement. Proud can expect other female veterans to unabashedly counter her opinion, Jones said.
Hampton declined to comment on Proud’s remarks.
—Bethany Barnes is the Don Bolles Fellow for Arizona-Sonora News Service
But Tucson Rep. Ethan Orr said he would continue to work to restoring the Heritage Fund, despite the House Appropriations Committee’s recent decision to not hear House Bill 2594.
Orr, as the bill’s primary sponsor, had wanted to restore the Heritage Fund dollars that were eliminated in 2010 as part of a budget-balancing package. His bill would have directed $10 million in lottery funds to the Heritage Fund, as well as $9 million in lottery funds to local transportation. (More on the bill can be found here.)
Although the bill failed to get past the Appropriations Committee, Orr said he planned to bring the bill back next year. Orr added that he has had a close working relationship with Arizona State Parks Executive Director Bryan Martyn, who also has an “excellent 20-year vision” for the maintenance and preservation of Arizona’s state parks.
Orr said that the state parks are important on a number of levels, specifically in terms of state economics and preserving the history of Arizona.
“Strictly from an economical standpoint, they’re key drivers for our rural communities,” he said. “And they’re part of our heritage; they’re part of celebrating what’s beautiful in Arizona.”
Learn more about the Heritage Fund sweep and the challenges that state parks face here.
A bill that aimed to give Tucson a sense of closure after the January 2011 shooting died last week and there have been no shortage of reminders for Tucson about community violence in the days following.
A heap of records came out of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department on Wednesday; former mayoral candidate Shaun McClusky is garnering national attention for attempt to curb community violence by handing out shotguns in high-crime neighborhoods; and on March 22 the University of Arizona had its own shooting scare.
HB 2570, by Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) and Rep. Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) aimed to increase community awareness of mental health issues by taking $250,000 from the general fund to expand the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Mental Health First Aid program.
The bill passed out of the House (54-4) smoothly, but it didn’t get on the agenda for the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in time because the committee's chair, Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, didn't like the bill's cost. Orr said he met Barto, R-Phoenix, and chatted about her concerns. Orr said he was willing to amend the bill so that it was only a symbolic call to support for more mental health awareness in hopes of hammering out more funding for the program in coming budget talks.
The only trick was that there wasn’t enough time to get that amendment in, Orr said, so he offered to make changes by the time the bill got to the Senate Appropriations Committee. After talking with Barto, Orr and Steele got consent from everyone on the committee to add the bill to the agenda late. Because of the bill's tardiness to the agenda all committee members had to approve in order to hear the bill.
Everyone was on board until it came time to actually hear the bill.
In committee, Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, asked if the bill had been amended and since it hadn’t she asked if she could pull her consent. Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, followed suit, effectively killing the bill.
Orr called Yee’s decision to withdraw “a surprising breach of protocol.” He said he thinks it is possible that she withdrew her consent because of personal reasons over one of her bills that they didn’t see eye to eye on. He said he wished that she had spoken to him before it came time to hear the bill.
Yee said it wasn’t personal and that it was just because there wasn’t an amendment and she thought there was going to be one. She said she pulled her consent because she was honoring Barto’s decision to not hear the bill while it had a fiscal impact.
Oddly though, Barto said she wanted to hear the bill and move it on to Appropriations. During the committee, Barto tried to appease Yee by suggesting they do a verbal amendment and pointed out that the whole reason the bill is assigned to Appropriations is because it involves money and that the fiscal impact could be cut out in that committee.
Barto’s take on Yee’s explanation that she was standing by her?
“I guess she doesn’t want to give you any other information about it,” Barto said.
“You know there is nothing you can do when members object and you need to have their cooperation to have a bill heard. I’m not going to impune my members.”
While the bill may be done, Orr and Steele are still seeking out ways to bring the idea back and insist the effort is far from finished.
The setback hit Orr much harder than he expected.
Orr was visibly shaken the day after the bill was sacked. He was emotional when Tucson Weekly first spoke to him about what happened, noting that he needed to take time to compose himself, stating that it was “Gabby’s bill.”
Orr said he could almost barely function after the bill was bumped because of how personal his attachment to it had become.
“Many people from Southern Arizona, myself included, saw this as a way to help people get closure for what happened and to do our small part to make sure it never happens again,” Orr said.
Orr said he doesn’t think Yee understood the emotional meaning the bill had for those in Southern Arizona.
“We all suffer from PTSD a little bit,” Orr said. “These were our friends. I didn’t start out emotionally attached to this bill, I thought it was good policy, bipartisan and I love it, but it became to me my way of honoring my friends that were dead.”
Kavanagh is now backing off on the idea of criminal penalties for men who enter the ladies' room and women who enter the men's room, according to political reporter Dennis Welch:
Facing mounting public criticism, Rep. John Kavanagh said he no longer wants to make it a crime for transgendered people to use the bathroom of the opposite sex.
Now, the Republican says he pushing a law that protects businesses from criminal prosecution and lawsuits if they deny transgendered people from entering the restroom in which they identify with.
This marks a big change from last week when Kavanagh introduced a bill that would have made it a Class 1 misdemeanor for a transgendered person to enter a public restroom that's designated for the opposite sex.
"I have scrapped that idea; I was criticized because it involved criminalization and more laws and you know what, it's right," Kavanagh said Sunday on 3TV's weekly talk show
Bill Doelle, president and CEO of Archaeology Southwest, and preservation archaeologist and digital media specialist Doug Gann,… More