#AZ House Passes Texting while Driving Ban (video)

Today was a red letter day for the state of Arizona. The Arizona House debated — at length— three competing bills on distracted driving and texting while driving.

The Democrats backed the clean texting while driving bill proposed by Rep. Noel Campbell. He worked with Rep. Cesar Chavez (who had had a texting bill that died in committee) to bring this bipartisan bill forward. Many family members, who lost loved ones to texting while driving, were in the gallery for this historic day.

The Democrats voted “no” on two of the three bills. The Mesnard bill was way too broad and included lots of different activities that could be construed as distracted driving. The Democrats were concerned that this would impinge upon peoples’ civil rights and lead to racial profiling. (Because of our principled stance, the Republicans dubbed us the “Perfection Caucus.” Aren’t they the Perfection Caucus since ~90% or more of the bills that make it through the process are their bills, even three are 48% of the House?)

The Brophy McGee bill was amended with language to make texting while driving a secondary offense, and the Democrats voted “no” because of that amendment. All of the cities that have texting while driving bans categorize texting as a primary offense. So, the amendment to make it a secondary offense would have been preemption.

Bother the Mesnard and Campbell bills passed and were sent to the governor.

This will save lives.

#AZHouse Democrats Force Vote on #ERA

ERA vote in Arizona House

For the third year in a row, Arizona House Democrats forced a debate and a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). On April 16, I made an “emergency motion” to skip over First, Second and Third Readings of HCR2030 and bring the ERA up for an immediate vote. Predictably, the Republicans offered as substitute motion which led to two hours of rousing debate on women’s equality.

The Back Story

Earlier in the session– when the Democrats still believed that at least a few Republicans may have a tiny independent streak– Senator Victoria Steele and I both garnered signatures from a handful of Republicans and all of the Democrats for ratification of the ERA. Steele had the votes to pass it in the Senate, but  Judiciary Chair Eddie Farnsworth refused to hear the ERA in committee, and President Karen Fann stopped a real floor vote.

Arizona Senate debated, but since there was no floor vote– only a division call– the Republicans weren’t held accountable for their stance against equal rights for women. None of the Republicans who had signed Steele’s bill stood up for the ERA or spoke in favor of it.

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley calling for a vote on HCR2030, ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Pre-Game Action

Fast forward to yesterday. The House didn’t hear the ERA on the same day as the Senate because the plan was to propose the ERA in the House on a different day… unannounced. A stealthy surprise for the House Leadership. The Republicans don’t like it when the Dems surprise them with parliamentary procedures and force votes on bills they thought they had killed with parliamentary procedures. Their intransigence is the catalyst for our shenanigans.

Several weeks ago, I met with Speaker Rusty Bowers about the ERA and asked him to assign HCR2030 to a committee that would hear it. Every year, the Democrats and ERA supporters ask for a real committee hearing, a real floor debate in Committee of the Whole, and a Third Read vote on the ERA. Every year, the Republicans use “horse and buggy procedures” to stall any meaningful progress.

At the time of our meeting, the ERA had not even gone through the First Read– the very first step in the legislative process. He told me in no uncertain terms that he had “no intention” of doing anything to move the ERA forward. Initially, he declined to tell me why and said he wanted to “explain his position in a larger forum.” I pushed for a reason, and he talked about his wife and daughter and how it would negatively impact them. He also talked about more lawsuits as a result of passage of the ERA. I told him that the ERA focuses on government-based discrimination. If the ERA is passed and if the state of Arizona has discriminatory laws on the book, then, yes, the state could be sued, but the real issues are equal pay for equal work, equal protection under the Constitution, and structural sexism in our country.

Continue reading #AZHouse Democrats Force Vote on #ERA

Republicans Kill Bill Lengthening Time to Report Child Sex Abuse (video)

It is shocking how party loyalty can get in the way of doing what’s right for the people of Arizona.

Today, the House Appropriations Committee debated lengthening Arizona’s statute of limitations to report child sexual abuse from a two years (after you turn 18) to twelve years. It also allows for a one or two year window after the bill passes in which any past victims (whose time to complain had run out) can come forward and file a complaint related to past child abuse. The Appropriations Chair sponsored the strike everything to SB1101 but didn’t want to bring it up for a vote— only discussion— but the agenda didn’t say “discussion only.”

Senator Paul Boyer, who sponsored the original bill to lengthen the time to report, spoke in favor on a vote in the bill. He said that Arizona is an “outlier” in child sexual assault and has the most restrictive reporting statutes in the US.

Senator Eddie Farsworth, who stopped Boyer’s original bill as chair of Senate Judiciary, spoke strongly against the bill and complained about lack of decorum and respect for the process. (Ahem… we hear and vote on half-baked strike everything bills ALL THE TIME.)

After lengthy debate with the Dems standing up for victims and Republicans standing with Farnsworth and Cobb, Rep. Diego Espinoza made a motion to overrule the chair and bring a vote on SB1101. Unfortunately, since the 11-person committee has only four Democrats, the motion failed, and all seven Republicans votes to back Cobb and Farnsworth and to throw victims under the bus.

Direct Care Contracts: Cheap Non-Insurance Plans Could Put Patients at Risk (video)

Banner University Medical Center

In the Health and Human Services Committee, we have heard a few different insurance plans that would be cheaper and less comprehensive alternatives to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

With SB1107, healthcare moves into the gig economy. SB1107 covers direct primary care agreements, a non-insurance alternative to the ACA.  In Arizona, people are already allowed to make one-on-one contracts with a healthcare provider for certain services for a designated mount of money per month.

This bill clarifies existing law and says that these contracts are not insurance and, therefore, not regulated by the Arizona Department of insurance. It also says that you can have contracts with doctors, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, dentists, and physical therapists.

If you take this to it’s illogical extreme, you could have multiple contracts with different providers for different menus of services. Unless you are really good at contract law, you could end up having several contracts, paying monthly bills to each of these providers and still not getting the care that you need. Since these plans are not insurance, you would not be able to take your complaints to a bureaucrat at an insurance company or at the Department of Insurance.

Direct current primary care agreements are supposed to fill a niche in the healthcare market. The ACA is too expensive, particularly for sole proprietors. These are business people who are their business. Professional people, consultants, artists and musicians could all be sole proprietors.

Continue reading Direct Care Contracts: Cheap Non-Insurance Plans Could Put Patients at Risk (video)

Protect Patients: It’s time for Cannabis Testing in AZ (video)

marijuana

Thirty-four states have some form of legal marijuana. Arizona is the only state that has no quality control testing for contaminants (like pesticides) or for make-up (how much THC, CBDs, etc.)

Cannabis testing died at the end of the session in 2018 during a flurry of negotiations regarding several marijuana reform bills. It is back in 2019 as SB1494, which passed the House Health and Human Services Committee last week. This is a clean cannabis testing bill with no other issues attached.

Arizona has 200,000 medical marijuana patients who purchased 61 tons of marijuana and related marijuana products, like edibles and concentrates, in 2018. Ours is the third largest program in the country… and the only one with no quality control testing.

In committee, the governmental liaison for the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Shannon Whitaker said that they don’t know how to do quality control testing for marijuana and want more specifics on what to do. I asked if anyone at ADHS had looked at the testing standards and programs from the other 33 states, and she said, “No”. Looking at how other health departments are testing samples of marijuana could be very helpful in setting up the Arizona program. Just sayin’.

Before I voted “yes” on SB 1494, I talked with the lobbyists on both sides of the issue, medical marijuana patient and NORML representative Mikel Weisser, and former ADHS Director and current Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association Will Humble.  Humble, who wrote the current medical marijuana rules, said that testing is in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). He had planned to write testing rules back in 2011, but he was pressed for time with a 120 day window to write all of the rules. He added that he “was getting beat up from all sides” during the process. (I confessed that I was blogging about the card costs, which are the highest in the country.) Humble supports SB1494 but adds that ADHS has the authority to write rules on testing, even without SB1494.

ADHS is sitting on $60 million in card fees that can be spent only on the medical marijuana program. It’s time to protect patients. It’s time for Arizona to spend some of those AMMA funds to write the rules and set up testing.

SB1494 was debated at length in the House Health and Human Services Committee last Friday and passed unanimously. Since almost everything we do is on video, you can watch the debate on the AZLeg website. Click on Archived Meetings and scroll down to House Health and Human Services on March 29, 2018. You have time to voice your opinion on Request to Speak.

Look for amendments and a rousing debate on this in the coming weeks.

Multiple Bills Look at Housing, Homelessness (video)

Homelessness, transitional housing, low-income housing and affordable housing are obviously big problems in the state of Arizona. Currently, the Arizona House is considering a mixed bag of bills that tackle different parts of the housing problem.

Today’s video focuses on SB1471 which provides a creative funding mechanism to put up to $10 million per year in the Housing Trust Fund for homeless youth and families. There are no federal HUD funds for this population.

SB1471 sets up a process for the state of Arizona to collect capital gains taxes on sales of Arizona property owned by out of state individuals. Apparently, compliance with capital gains taxes owed by out-of-state investors is less than 30%. This bill is projected to make around $8 million of year and could go higher. If more than $10 million is collected, the excess goes into the general fund.

We heard SB1471 in Ways and Means this week, and several other housing bills related to the seriously mentally ill (SB1336), AHCCCS members, youth (SB1539), widows and the elderly (SB1383), and other vulnerable populations (SB1098) passed out of the House Health and Human Services Committee unanimously. (I am on both of these committees.)

Why is there so much need? Because the Republicans have repeatedly swept the Housing Trust Fund since the dark reign of the Tea Party began in 2011.

All of the housing bills passed out of the Senate and out of the House committees. Will they make it into law? I hope so. (There is one caveat to this hopeful housing post. A housing tax credit bill, which passed out of House Ways and Means but died, has been revived in the Senate as a striker.  Affordable housing tax credit bills sound good but cost the state tens of millions of dollars over time. Direct help to people is easier and more cost effective.)

Are we done? No.

Instead of a scatter shot approach of random bills to tackle housing and homelessness, what we need is a comprehensive approach, with adequate funding to make a difference.

Leach’s SB1451 Attacks Citizens Initiative Process (video)

Arizona Flag

We have heard most of the bad House bills, and now we are hearing the bad Senate bills. SB1451 is another one of Senator Vince Leach’s attack’s on the Citizens Initiative process.

Every year he has at least one bill designed to make the Citizens Initiative process more difficult, more time-consuming and more costly. SB1451 is likely unconstitutional and will spark lawsuits. The bill is over burdensome on the Citizens Initiative process. The details of how petitions are to be grouped and how circulators are to be tracked are overly complex and will likely result in many valid petitions being invalidated. It also lengthens the time for perennial Citizens Initiative challengers (like the Chamber of Commerce) to mount challenges. Please voice your opinion on SB1451 on Request to Speak.

With HB2724, #AZ Republicans Attack Clean Elections… again! (video)

Pamela Powers Hannley

HB2724 is another Republican attack on the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Due to misleading ballot language, voters were tricked into voting Yes on Prop 306 in November 2018. (I have old videos with 306 details.)

Prop 306 prohibits Clean Elections candidates from buying any services from a political party (like access to the VAN voter database or basic support services like organizing volunteers). Voters were led to believe that Clean Elections candidates were donating to the Democratic Party, but that is already illegal. (Candidates who run traditional do donate some of their campaign funds to their parties.)

Prop 306 also weakened the campaign finance watchdog function of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) by placing it under the Governor’s Regulatory Review Commission (GRRC). GRRC’s members are appointed by the governor, and most of them are lobbyists!

Let’s put the formerly independent campaign finance watchdog commission under a group of Republican political appointees. What could go wrong?

Continue reading With HB2724, #AZ Republicans Attack Clean Elections… again! (video)

#AZHouse Republicans Censor Dems to Block Speech on #ERA, Women’s Rights (video)

Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Arizona was in the news and in the streets this week. ERA supporters launched an ambitious 38 Mile March for the ERA through the streets of Phoenix– starting at the Capitol on Monday, March 11 and ending there on Wednesday.

After the speeches, supporters filled the gallery of the Arizona Senate, and a contingent of 30 or so supporters went to the Arizona House. In the Senate, there was a motion to suspend the rules and vote on the ERA. In the House, Democrats attempted to introduce the ERA supporters in the gallery and were shut down when the Republicans decided to police the content on our speech– in addition to strictly limiting our time to one minute.

The news stories covered the Senate action because that was the official vote. They didn’t cover the censorship fiasco in the Arizona House.

I gave one of the first ERA introductions and was allowed speak. Later introductions were cut off by the Republicans.

Patriarchy and suppression of speech were on full display. You can watch the whole scene here on the official video. Points of Personal Privilege start at around 2 minutes. Note the lengthy introductions that are allowed for people who are representing other groups– not the ERA.

Rep. Athena Salman starts the ERA introductions at about 10:28 minute mark. She and I both got through our introductions without interruption. Things heat up when Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez (at the 13:16 minute mark) tries to introduce an ERA marcher from Rep. Warren Petersen’s district and is gaveled down and scolded by Speaker Pro Tempore T.J. Shope. At 15:43, Shope shuts down Rep. Raquel Teran and tells the gallery to be quiet. At 17:08, Rep. Randy Friese is not shut down. At 18:14 Rep. Mitzi Epstein is shut down and protests Shope’s censorship of her speech.  At 20:25, Rep. Isela Blanc is allowed to introduce her student shadow, but when she starts the ERA introduction, she doesn’t get more than a few words into her introduction before Shope stops her. At 21:17, Salman reads the rule book and calls out the Republicans for censoring our speech. The gallery and the Democrats burst into applause and get the gavel. The rules limit the amount of time we can speak to one minute but not the content.

The scene devolved after Shope ruled Salman out of order. Friese protested the ruling of the chair and called for a roll call vote (23:05). This resulted in multiple speeches about the ERA and freedom of speech– and multiple women being called out of order for speaking truth to power. I watched the whole fiasco on video, and it is shocking how many women were disrespected– House members and women in the gallery.

Continue reading #AZHouse Republicans Censor Dems to Block Speech on #ERA, Women’s Rights (video)

Legislators Should Stand with #RedForEd: No New Tax Giveaways (video)

The Arizona House Ways and Means Committee is like an extended game of tax giveaway wack-a-mole. I have lost count how many tax giveaway bills Republicans have passed since January.

This week, we heard SB1027, which dramatically increases a tax credit that currently benefits only poor children with chronic diseases or physical disabilities.

Tax credits take money out of the general fund. SB1027 would dramatically expand this tax credit from helping poor children with certain medical conditions to helping *anyone* of any age and any income who has a chronic illness or physical disability.

This bill is overly broad, and it has an unknown cost and no sunset date. Most of the committee testimony focused on one physical therapy center and gym in Tucson that serves clients with Parkinson’s disease, but there are many chronic diseases, most notably diabetes. More than 600,000 Arizonans have diabetes, and another 1.8 million have prediabetes.

The public health problem of helping people lead healthier lives with chronic disease goes far beyond what would be fiscally responsible to fund through tax credits. Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurance cover some services. If more is needed, the Health and Human Services Committee should look at it– instead of going to Ways and Means for a tax credit.

Continue reading Legislators Should Stand with #RedForEd: No New Tax Giveaways (video)