Several times during the tax cut debates on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Ben Toma and other Republicans repeated the mantra that Arizona has a “budget surplus”. The only reason that we have funds that have not been allocated is because we have had decades of budget cuts and chronic underfunding of important programs like public education(!), the Housing Trust Fund, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and so forth. It’s not that there is no need in our state, and, so therefore, we have extra cash. We don’t have extra money.
Also, several times during the committee meeting, I reminded everybody that Arizona is worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We are not only shortchanging our school children by underfunding education, we are shortchanging small children before they ever get to school. It is highly ironic that Arizona is the country’s #1 “pro-life” state and also #50 in ACEs, due to our stingy policies and poor treatment of￼￼ our children.
In my study of gaps and inequities in maternal and child health in Arizona, I took a comprehensive approach and looked through the lens of the social determinants of health. Two contributing factors to Adverse Childhood Experiences are housing insecurity and food insecurity.
Arizona is dead last — #50– for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ￼Arizona is not only shortchanging school children, our stingy policies hurt little children before they ever enter the classroom. ACEs include food insecurity; domestic violence; DCS removal; addiction, incarceration, or death of a parent; or housing insecurity at any level– homelessness, eviction, foster care, etc.
Rep. John Filmore’s bill HB2013 would force teachers to hold back children if they are not performing at grade level– thus eliminating “social promotion” for students who are technically not at grade level. Rep. Jennifer Pawlik– herself a soft-spoken and kind special ed teacher– said that teachers have tools to help children who are progressing but may not be at grade level. Filmore’s bill ignores the expertise of teachers and ignores the fact that some children may need extra help because of Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Far too many Arizona children have the chips stacked against them before they are born and due to significant ACEs during their early years, they enter kindergarten with emotional trauma. At a meeting with Amphi School District educators and parents, I learned that 40-50% of Amphi elementary school children who enroll in school in the fall, don’t end the year in the same school. Why? Housing insecurity, eviction, domestic violence, death, poverty, foster care. With low wages and bad policies, we are forcing far too many families to live with hardship.
Holding a student back a grade is second only to death of a parent in childhood trauma. HB2013 just increases the likelihood that Arizona children will be continue to be worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Across the nation today, men and women were protesting stringent anti-abortion bills that have passed in at least eight states recently. There was an impressive rally with close to 200 people at the Capitol today in Phoenix and even more in Tucson.
Alabama’s bill is the most recent and the most stringent. It is essentially an all out ban on abortion because it does not exclude women who have been raped or who have been the victims of incest. It also criminalizes doctors. They can be charged with a felony for conducting an abortion.
Six states including Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio have passed heartbeat bills. This means that an abortion cannot be conducted after a heartbeat has been detected. This can be as early as 6 to 8 weeks. Often women don’t even know they’re pregnant by then. Utah and Arkansas ban abortions after the middle of the second trimester.
Some states, like Arizona, still have abortion bans that pre-date Roe v Wade on the books. If one of these 2019 right-wing bills gets to the Supreme Court and results in over-turning Roe, it is unclear what will happen, but Arizona’s law could go into effect.
I was in college at Ohio State, when Roe v Wade passed the Supreme Court. I remember what life was like for young women in the time before abortion was legal and when access to contraception was limited. Everybody was on the “Rhythm Method”, and everybody in the dorm knew if somebody was “late.” I knew at least a half a dozen women in the dorm who were driven to New York for abortions. I knew a guy who got three women pregnant and drove them all to New York City. (You’d think he could figure out that he was part of the problem!) When abortions became legalized in Detroit, my boyfriend and I gave his younger sister a ride to Detroit.
To get birth control pills, I had to take a 1.5 hour bus ride from campus to the Planned Parenthood Clinic in ghetto on the near East Side. The clinic was in a dingy storefront. The waiting room was filled primarily with African-American women and children who lived in the neighborhood nearby plus a handful of white college girls like me.
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.
Homelessness, transitional housing, low-income housing and affordable housing are obviously big problems in the state of Arizona. There is a mixed bag of several bills in the legislature that deal with 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. This is one of several bills.
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 had a marathon Health and Human Services Committee Meeting today— with several long debates on topics including childcare subsidies, prescribing rights for pharmacists, expedited foster care and pornography.
To the supporters of the anti-pornography measure, I suggested that if we want people to practice healthy sexuality, we should be teaching medically accurate sex education in our schools. They were concerned about children and men watching too much porn on the Internet. Arizona is the third worst state in the country in terms of comprehensive and medically accurate sex education. If children and teenagers want to learn about sex and adults are not giving them any information, they will turn to the Internet.
The Tucson marchers were a diverse group. Although the event was dubbed the Women’s March, everyone was invited, and everyone came. From children to seniors, all ages were represented. There was an impressive number of men who marched, and the LGBTQ, Latino, and African American communities were also well-represented. There were people in strollers and people who use wheelchairs. For more photos, go to my Facebook page. (Video after the jump.)
The Supreme Court is in the midst of its 2016 decision season, when legal cases that have been winding their way through the system for years have their big day. Since the Republicans in Congress refuse to do their job and confirm a new SCOTUS justice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly, many recent decisions have been deadlocked 4-4, allowing the lower court’s decision to stand.
Today’s decisions were wins for women because both decisions will save lives.
Abortion Clinic Restrictions Shot Down
In a 5-4 decision, Supreme Court justices struct down Texas abortion clinic restrictions that would have closed all of the clinics in Texas, except a handful in the five major urban areas. This was the Texas law that catapulted Texas Legislator Wendy Davis to national prominence when she filibustered it in 2013. That year, Republican-controlled Legislatures across the country debated 300 bills to limit women’s rights and abortion access. Thanks to copycat laws pedaled by anti-abortion groups like the Center for Arizona Policy, today’s SCOTUS decision means similar restrictions in other states (like Arizona) are likely unconstitutional. (Check out the New York Timesmaps here.)