‘Religious Liberty’ vs Patient Rights: Healthcare Providers Should Disclose Religious Restrictions to Care

Should science or religion determine treatment?

Should healthcare providers and institutions be allowed to deny services to patients based upon the provider’s “sincerely held religious beliefs”? I don’t think so. Discrimination is not OK.

This is the fourth year in a row that I have proposed a Patient’s Right to Know bill which requires healthcare providers and institutions to disclose upfront if they have any religious restrictions that would preclude them from providing all legal drugs and services within their scope of practice.

This is the first year that my bill made a splash in the news. Tucson residents may have seen the story about by bill HB2068 in the New Year’s Eve edition of the Arizona Daily Star, but it was also on the State of Reform website, in the Yellow Sheet (inserted below), and on KFYI radio. Providing or not providing services due to one’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” has been a hot topic since the infamous Hobby Lobby case in 2014.

HB2068’s popularity is likely due to the controversial nature of religious liberty legislation and to recent, high-profile court cases that harken back to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was proposed by Senator Ted Kennedy and then Congressman Chuck Schumer and signed into law by President Bill Clinton and in 1993. Although RFRA was declared unconstitutional21 states including Arizona have state RFRA laws, and the US Congress has passed 25 “conscience” bills related to healthcare.

When I was interviewed by one of the reporters he asked, “This is just about choice, right?” When I initially proposed this bill in 2017, it was about reproductive choice for me, but in 2019, when he asked me that question, I said, “No.” There are obviously other people who are being discriminated against for purportedly religious reasons.

Continue reading ‘Religious Liberty’ vs Patient Rights: Healthcare Providers Should Disclose Religious Restrictions to Care

Big Banks, Big Insurance, Big Pharma & Big Housing: Corporate America Is Burying Us in Fees

Thanks for the poverty

Working for a living is hard. You have to get out of bed early, get dressed… maybe even put wear a silly uniform that you were required to purchase… drop the kids off at school, drive around to find parking or sit on a bench waiting for the bus, rush to work to be on time, and repeat in reverse after work a few hours later. If you are forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, the complexity and aggravation of daily life grow exponentially … one grueling day after another.

Decades ago, Wall Street bankers learned that making money off of other people by charging fees for absolutely everything their accountants can think of… and then charging late fees upon those fees… is an fast route to Easy Street. Banks and other lending institutions are masters at making money from fees (as opposed to real work).

The Fee Game is now pervasive across Corporate America. As a result, We the People are getting fleeced at every turn. People complain about high taxes from the government, while Corporate America is slipping billions of dollars out of our pockets in service fees, administrative fees, application fees, late fees, nonpayment fees, stop payment fees, online payment fees, nonrefundable deposits, usurious interest rates,  junk health insurance, unaffordable health insurance premiums, co-pays, coinsurance, and the list goes on. It’s no wonder people are strapped for cash. We’re being nickel and dimed into bankruptcy by Corporate America, while Congress and state Legislatures bend over backwards to be “business friendly.” For more about The Fee Game and how lucrative it is… read on…

Continue reading Big Banks, Big Insurance, Big Pharma & Big Housing: Corporate America Is Burying Us in Fees

Community Support for Striking ASARCO/Grupo Mexico Workers Grows (video)

Asarco strike

More than 1700 members from eight labor unions are on strike against ASARCO and Grupo Mexico. These workers haven’t had a raise in 10 years. Under ASARCO/Grupo Mexico’s best and final offer some workers still wouldn’t get a raise, while others will be shortchanged due to rising health insurance costs.

The Pima Area Labor Federation (PALF) is hosting Resource Fairs and Town Halls for union brothers and sisters who are on strike on October 22 at the IBEW Hall, on October 24 at Pima Community College North, and on October 25 at Good Shepard United Church of Christ (Sahaurita). Striking workers can get information, food for their families, and other assistance.

Resource Fair… will be open from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. on October 22 and 24 but close at 4 p.m. on October 25.

Informational Meetings… will be from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. on October 22 and October 24. The event closes at 4 p.m. on Friday October 25.

Public Support for Strikers… People who want to support the strikers and their families can donate food, gift cards to union grocery stores (like Safeway or Fry’s), or cash through PALF. Nonparishable food donations can be dropped off the IBEW Hall, 570 N. Tucson Blvd.

Donations… You can donate checks or cash to help the strikers and their families by mailing or delivering your donation to the PALF Office at 877 S. Alvernon Way, Tucson 85711. Make checks payable to PALF Community Services.

Continue reading Community Support for Striking ASARCO/Grupo Mexico Workers Grows (video)

October Is Hopping with Multiple Events

Bike Canvassing

As usual around here, when the temperatures cool down, our calendars fill up.

I have been shuttling between Tucson and Phoenix for Legislative meetings, as well participating in community events down here in Tucson. I was proud to stand with striking nurses who want to protect patients by lowering patient to nurse ratios. I was inspired by the youth and other Tucsonans who showed up for the Youth Climate Strike in downtown Tucson. And I was thankful to my Postcard Party volunteers for mailing and labeling 2020 campaign materials.

There are more events coming up in October.

October 6: LD9 Gathering: Meet Legislators & Friends in LD9

The Legislative District 9 precinct committee people have organized a gathering at the Woods Memorial Library on Sunday afternoon, October 6, from 2-4 p.m. at the Woods Memorial Library (3455 N. 1st Ave.) Senator Victoria Steele and I will be there to give an update and talk with constituents. If you haven’t signed my petition for re-election or given me $5 for Clean Elections, you can do so at at The Gathering. Facebook event here.

October 8: Honest Arizona Health Care Town Hall

I am honored to participate in Honest Arizona’s Health Care Town Hall on Tuesday, October 8 with Congressman Ron Barber and others. The event is at The Core at La Encantada (2905 E. Skyline Dr., Suite 277).

Republicans on the state and federal levels have been attacking the Affordable Care Act and promoting junk insurance plans. Rep. Kelli Butler and I debated valiantly against multiple types of junk insurance during Health and Human Services Committee meetings and on the floor of the House.

Health insurance coverage should be more inclusive and more affordable. Facebook link for tickets here.

Continue reading October Is Hopping with Multiple Events

Maternal & Child Health… a Dialogue with Rep. Powers Hannley (video)

What is the state of maternal and child health in the state of Arizona? Well, it certainly could be better.

Arizona ranks in the 40s (out of 50 states) in many areas related to the health of Moms and their babies.

Too many Moms and babies are dying preventable deaths after childbirth. Too many babies are born prematurely, with low birth weight or with birth defects. Not surprisingly, access to first trimester prenatal care has decreased, while beginning prenatal care late or not having prenatal care has increased.

Although the Arizona Department of Health Services recently received a CDC grant to study maternal mortality, there is more work to be done to improve the lives of Moms and babies.

Arizona should be doing more to prevent premature and low brithweight babies, increase access to prenatal and post-partum care for women, and increase post secondary educational opportunities (particularly for young girls).

I will talk about the State of Maternal and Child Health in Arizona and lead a discussion about challenges and solutions at the Salt of the Earth Labor College on Saturday, September 21, 2019, beginning at 2 p.m. (Facebook event here. Blog for Arizona event here.) The College is located at 1902 E. Irene Vista, Tucson.

Continue reading Maternal & Child Health… a Dialogue with Rep. Powers Hannley (video)

Maternal & Child Health: a Public Health Model for Social Justice (video)

NICU

A few weeks ago, I gave the guest reflection at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson on maternal and child health in Arizona. Below is the text of my talk or you can listen to the podcast here. I have been talking with people for months about this topic, and many of you have expressed an interest in working on solutions to improve maternal and child health. My plan is to hold stakeholder meetings on the state of Maternal and Child Health in Arizona, with the goal of crafting bills for the 2020 session. Stay tuned on the PowersForThePeople.net blog and on my Facebook page. I will be giving another talk on this topic at the Salt of the Earth Labor College on September 21, 2019.

Prevention: A Public Health Model for Social Justice (reflection text)

As the Public Health Parable in the Message for All Ages previewed, today, we are going to talk about prevention not only a public health strategy but also a social justice strategy.

Like the industrious carpenter in the video, we are going to assess the current problems, walk upstream to examine the root causes, and brainstorm long-term solutions to tackle those root causes.

Rather than focus solely on putting out fires today—as our government often does—the Public Health Parable teaches us to not only put out the current fire but also to devote significant effort to preventing those fires in the future.

My original idea for today was to discuss three unfolding public health crises: migration, housing security, and maternal and child health, but when I started to pull everything together, I realized we would be here all day if we tackled upstream solutions for those three, highly complex issues.

These three seem like disparate topics– migration, housing security, and maternal and child health—but they have commonalities.

Can you name some?  

[Pause for audience to shout out ideas.]

Poverty is a big factor in all of these, right?

But many of the “isms” are also involved: racism, sexism, classism, capitalism. And let’s not forget capitalism’s destructive cousins: war, austerity and bad policy.

How we tackle the unfolding crises of migration, housing security, and maternal and child health could have wide-ranging, positive OR negative repercussions on children, families, communities, future generations, and the climate.

Now we’re talking interconnectedness of all life, right?

Today, I want to focus on the area that has received the least amount of attention: maternal and child health. We hear a lot in the news about migration and housing, but there is a statewide and nationwide crisis in maternal and child health that is being ignored.

Continue reading Maternal & Child Health: a Public Health Model for Social Justice (video)

Run Like a Girl: Reflections on Gym Class, Title IX, & the US Women’s Soccer World Cup Victory (video)

Soccer 1970s

The recent World Cup victory by the US women’s national soccer team collided in my brain today with my upcoming 50th high school reunion to conjure up a mixed bag of memories from gym class and women’s sports before Title IX made sex discrimination in educational programs illegal.

Throughout my school years, I was told that I was “not athletic”. When I couldn’t do things– like swim across the pool in swim class– the reason given was that I was “not athletic. You see, my Mom was telling me what she was told when she was a girl.  Mom didn’t know how to ride a bike or swim, and she offered these examples as evidence that she was “not athletic.” In reality, there were access and affordability issues, since Mom was a child of the Great Depression.

Gym Class Cemented My Loathing for Sports

Fast forward from the Great Depression to my childhood in the 1960s, Mom made sure we had bikes and learned to swim, but there were other physical education doors that were open to my brother and not to me. Discriminatory funding practices across physical education and sports offerings created an unlevel playing field for students from kindergarten through the university. Growing up, I was taught not to want activities like sports teams, weightlifting, or a variety of sports instruction in gym class because I was “not athletic.”

Continue reading Run Like a Girl: Reflections on Gym Class, Title IX, & the US Women’s Soccer World Cup Victory (video)

Housing, Homelessness & Gentrification: What Is the Path Forward?

homelessness

Where do the mayoral candidates stand on affordable housing, low-income housing, and homelessness?

I think that’s a great question, and I hope to find the answers at the upcoming Mayor and Ward 1 City Council Candidate Forum on Saturday, June 22.  The event will be held at El Rio Center, from 12 noon – 2:30 p.m. and will moderated by Nancy Montoya from Arizona Public Media. According to the Blog for Arizona Calendar, the three Democrats running for Mayor and the four running for Romero’s Ward 1 seat are expected to participate.

What is the state of housing in Arizona?

Arizona’s Housing Crisis: Has the Legislature Done Its Part?

As rents and evictions increase, housing has become a huge issue across Arizona. Housing– like prison reform and charter school reform– got a lot of lip service in the Arizona Legislature in 2019. During the session, there were many opportunities to tackle the housing crisis in a meaningful way, but those bills died.

On a high note, the Legislature allocated $10 million for the Housing Trust Fund in the FY2020 budget, which begins in a few weeks. The Housing Trust Fund used to be $40 million per year until the Tea Party Reign of Terror swept the funds and left only ~$2.5 million in it. (Of course, back then, tax cuts were far more important than helping people keep roofs over their heads.)

Continue reading Housing, Homelessness & Gentrification: What Is the Path Forward?

UPDATED: Multiple Bills Look at Housing, Homelessness (video)

I published this original blog post and video on March 30, 2019– back when I thought the Arizona Legislature would take some serious steps toward solving the state’s housing crisis.

The original article focused on five housing-related bills that passed the Senate and passed through my committees (SB1471, SB1336, SB1539, SB1383, and SB1098) and on the issue of restoring full funding to the Housing Trust Fund.

Early last Tuesday morning, May 28, 2019, was sine die, the last day of the session. The Housing Trust Fund was not restored to full pre-recession funding ($40 million of designated funds from unclaimed property), but it did get $10 million. The only bill from the above list that made it to the Floor of the House was SB1539, but it was changed dramatically, which resulted in a party line vote.

I really regret the demise of SB1471 (help for homeless youth and families) and SB1383 (property tax assistance for widows and the elderly).  The community groups backing SB1471 came up with a procedure to collect capitol gains tax on sales of Arizona property by out-of-state sellers. The Legislature said “thanks for the collection idea”. That procedure was adopted and put into the budget, but the earmark for homeless youth and families was eliminated. (Grrr…) SB1383 is a Maricopa County only program that helps widows and the elderly pay their property taxes; I think it should be expanded to statewide to help these people age in place. Instead, it was no heard in House Appropriations or Rules.  On a bright note, the affordable housing tax credit bill– which would have costs the state over $90 million in the coming years– died again.

Continue reading UPDATED: Multiple Bills Look at Housing, Homelessness (video)

#AZ Republican Budget Cuts Taxes by $386 Mil & Shortchanges K-12 (video)

One of the prevailing messages from the grassroots in 2018 was: no more tax giveaways until the schools are fully funded. Republicans didn’t get that message. They also didn’t get the Invest In Ed message that we — the people– think the rich could pay more in taxes to help fund education.

The Republican budget cuts income taxes, TPT and fees by $386 million and leaves education and other needs underfunded (or unfunded).

We started the year with a $1 billion surplus to invest in the People’s To-Do List: education, infrastructure, healthcare and safety and security. The Republicans have added bits of money to these areas — just enough to make it look like they’re doing something— but the need is much greater.

Republicans are ignoring multiple crises that are brewing in our state including unnecessary maternal and child death; rock bottom education funding; crumbling roads, bridges and school buildings; lack affordable and low-income housing; the shortage of teachers, doctors and nurses; too many people living in poverty; lack of access to affordable healthcare… need I go on?

Continue reading #AZ Republican Budget Cuts Taxes by $386 Mil & Shortchanges K-12 (video)