Balanced Public Health Policy Should Be Legislature’s Goal (video)

Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act

This is the transcript of my opening remarks at the Arizona Public Health Association Conference on Oct. 3, 2018. A video of the speech is below.

It is an honor for me to address the Arizona Public Health Association, since I have a Masters in Public Health from the University of Arizona. I worked in health communication, medicine, public health and behavioral research for many years before deciding to run for the Arizona House in 2015.

In fact, it was my background in public health that prompted me to run for office. Many times since I moved to Arizona in 1981, I have found myself shouting at the radio or the TV or the newspaper or a social post about bad policy decisions made by the Arizona Legislature. Anybody else have that experience?

In the public health arena, the Legislature far too often makes short-term decisions to save a buck or make an ideological point, but in the long-term, these decisions cost money and lives. Do you remember Governor Jan Brewer’s Death Panels? Brewer knocked more than 250,000 adults off of Medicaid—including people on transplant waiting lists. That decision made national news as transplant patients began dying.

Another example of a short-term savings that caused long-term problems is the $80 million cut in childcare subsidies and preventive services for families in need. That recession-era funding sweep played a major role in Arizona’s foster care crisis. At its peak, nearly 19,000 Arizona children were in foster care. Most of those children were removed from their homes for “neglect”. Unfortunately, in Arizona, neglect is a catch-all term which could encompass anything from lack of reliable child care to drug abuse to domestic violence.

None of that $80 million in state funding for childcare has been restored. Why not? Because, of course, we have to cut taxes every year—regardless of the needs of the people.

In the wee hours of May 3, 2018, I proposed a budget amendment to use $56 million in federal childcare subsidies to restore part of that $80 million in state funds that were swept. These funds would have dovetailed nicely with tiered reimbursement for high-quality childcare bill that was passed in 2018 but had no funding attached to it.

Despite the crushing need for childcare subsidies, the amendment was rejected on a party line vote, and Arizona became the ONLY state in the US not to use these federal funds to help our families living in poverty. A few months later, a lobbyist told me that one powerful man stopped these funds from being used.

Where’s the fairness in that? How can we allow one powerful man’s opinion to force thousands of single mothers and their children to live in poverty?  How does that promote the common good? It doesn’t.

Last summer, I read the book Envisioning a New World: Awakening to Life’s Oneness by Unitarian Universalist Rev. Rosemarie Carnarius. In it, she applies the concept of balancing yin and yang to public policy. Taoists believe that to lead a healthy and happy life one must seek balance.

Carnarius suggests that to have good government we should try to consciously balance social responsibility—the yin—with individual liberty—the yang. With this model, policy is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about balance. This sounds simple yet so profound. Doesn’t it?

Carnarius goes on to point out that our Declaration of Independence is the first document in history in which “… an individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness was proclaimed as divinely ordained, unassailable, and constitutionally guaranteed.” This was a huge step for the common man.

The framers of the Constitution balanced “the ascendency of the individual” with a “trust in humanity’s capacity for self-governance.”

Democracy—the voice of the people—would balance the rights of the individual. To help keep this delicate balance the founders added a free press to educate the public. In fact, President Thomas Jefferson valued newspapers so much that he proposed mailing them to all Americans for free, so they could be educated about current events and the government.

So, what happened to our Democratic utopia? Individual liberty and social responsibility are out of balance.

Big money politics, voter suppression, disinformation, and the slow death of the free press have adulterated our democracy and put special interests in charge of our government. If you look at many issues—like gun violence prevention, school choice, environmental protection, or healthcare– it is obvious that in many cases individual liberty is being promoted over the social responsibility and the common good.

As a result, lawmakers often pass laws that are contrary to the voters’ wishes. In fact, in the Arizona Legislature, it is shocking how many bills we hear—and pass—that are crafted to benefit one corporation or one special interest group. It’s no wonder voters are frustrated.

Let’s look at two examples.

Congress has perpetually skirted meaningful gun reform, and nearly every bill that expands gun rights passes the Arizona Legislature. On Second Amendment, individual liberty is sacrosanct.

Unfortunately, tipping the scales so heavily toward individualism has made us less safe as a country. A recent CDC study looked at 10,000 homicides of women and found that half of these women were shot to death by their male partners.

Along the same lines, recent research on violent death in 23 high-income countries revealed that 90% of the women who died a violent death were killed by a firearm in the US. And 80% of the children who died a violent death were killed by a firearm in the US. This is unacceptable.

“… firearms are killing us rather than protecting us,” is what authors of the American Journal of Medicine article concluded. As a society, we need to find balance between the individual’s right to own a gun and the larger community’s right to safety. These mass murders, fatal traffic stops, and family tragedies must stop. We are better than this.

In 2018, after the Parkland Florida shootings, students representing March for Our Lives descended upon the Captiol and pushed for common sense gun reforms. For weeks, Democrats negotiated with the governor and our Republican colleagues, but there was no consensus and no movement on gun violence prevention. Maybe next year, we can find some balance on that issue.

The battle over healthcare insurance reform is another glaring example of the imbalance between liberty and responsibility in public policy.

Since the early 1900s, many special interest groups have fought successfully against meaningful health insurance reform in the United States. The Affordable Care Act was a major step in the right direction because it increased health insurance coverage dramatically; it eliminated pre-existing conditions; it eliminated gender-based price discrimination; it eliminated lifetime insurance caps; it mandated a basic healthcare package that focused on disease prevention; it capped health insurance company profits; and it included fees and taxes (primarily on the wealthy) to make it self-sustaining. The Affordable Care Act was an attempt as balanced policy.

Unfortunately, as the ACA played out and insurance companies dropped out of the exchanges, it was obvious that reform was needed.

For several years, the Congressional “reform” plans have focused on: 1) Repeal of the ACA with no alternative plan, 2) Repeal and replace, or 3) Death by 1000 cuts to collapse the insurance system.

Last fall I organized the 200 Stories Healthcare Forum. More than 75 Tucsonans came together to share their medical stories. When asked how they would describe their ideal health insurance plan, they said it should be universal, affordable and fair. Overwhelmingly, the attendees said that healthcare, health insurance, and drugs were too expensive, and that access to care and drugs was too limited. There were many complaints about narrow networks, surprise billing, balance billing and an overly complicated system.

Although health insurance coverage increased dramatically after the passage of the ACA, medical bankruptcy is still a major problem. Far too many people are underinsured because they are buying the insurance they can afford—not the insurance they need.

Denying access to affordable healthcare results in unnecessary disease and premature death. It doesn’t do our communities, our state, or our country any good to allow our people to live in poverty and sickness. The Affordable Care Act was an attempt at balanced policy. Let’s fix it—instead of allowing special interest groups to kill it.

Here at home, Arizonans need affordable options and improved access to care. That is why I joined Rep. Kelli Butler when she proposed a bill to allow Arizona residents to buy-in to Medicaid. This would be like an Arizona public option that is more affordable than the Affordable Care Act.

In the 53rd Legislature, the passage of dental therapy and the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act were wins for access to care and balanced policy. The Legislature can do good when we work together for the good of the people. [A photo of the bill signing is above.]

We hear on the news that we are a country divided. Social media fuels this narrative with countless stories of political and ideological stalemates– despite mounting societal needs. It’s no wonder people are upset and frustrated

The Taoists believe that to attain health, we must have balance in our lives. Without balance, there is dis-ease.

Are the anger, the bullying, the hatred, and the violence that we see in our country just symptoms of our societal dis-ease?

I touched on only a few policy areas today. If you think about this concept of balanced policies, you’ll realize that many of our country’s and our state’s policies are out of balance because they are not aligned with needs or desires of the general public.

It’s no wonder people across the political spectrum say that the system is broken or rigged against them, and that they feel left behind or left out.

Could balanced public policy calm the tension in our country by bringing fairness to the lawmaking process?

I say, it’s worth a try!

In my opinion, it’s time to say “no” to special interest groups and “yes” to what’s good for the people.

Pam Powers Hannley: Your Voice in the Arizona House

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

When I ran for office in 2016, I said I wanted be your voice—the voice of the people—in the Arizona Legislature. And that is exactly what I did.

I used my voice, my votes, my amendments, and my bills to fight for the rights and wellbeing of workers, patients, teachers, students, women and the underserved.

Protecting your family…

I was a strong voice for public health and affordable access to care during the negotiations and eventual passage of both the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act and dental therapy. I also co-sponsored a bill to allow Arizonans to buy-in to Medicaid (AHCCCS). This is a potentially cheaper option for folks who are struggling with the cost of health insurance. House Democrats will be proposing it again in 2019.

On budget night 2018, I proposed an amendment to appropriate $56 million in federal child care subsidies to fill the $80 million gap left after Republicans swept the funds during the Great Recession. Arizona House Republicans voted to leave those funds unspent; Arizona is the only state in the country that didn’t use those earmarked childcare funds. (I’ll try again in 2019.) I also backed a bill for tiered reimbursement for childcare subsidies. This bill, which was signed into law, and the $56 million in subsidies would go a long way to help Arizona families and children.

Protecting your rights…

Also on budget night, at around 4 a.m., I defended the rights of pregnant homeless women to have access to abortion and abortion referrals. I have seen young homeless women with infants on the streets of Tucson. The streets are no place for adults– let alone children and babies. Because we are a state that does very little to help women once their babies have been born, I believe we should expand access to contraception and all legal medical procedures and teach medically accurate sex education in the schools.

ERA
ERA advocates participated in the Together We Rise rally on opening day at the Arizona Legislature in 2018. Besides me on the far left, legislative candidates Victoria Steele (third from left) and Sharon Girard (far right) are also pictured above.

Two years in a row, I proposed ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Arizona. Arizona women won’t have equal pay for equal work without passage of the ERA.  Overall, women are paid roughly 78 cents on the dollar compared to men. Due to the intersectionality of race, class, ethnicity and gender,  African-American women, Native American women and Latinas are paid far less than white men. Latinas make roughly 55 cents per hour for every $1 earned by a white man. Tucson’s population is 41% Latino. Just think of the economic impact to our city and our region if Latinas were paid fairly and if they were offered quality education for themselves and their children. It doesn’t do our community, our state or our country to force people to live in poverty and sickness.

Continue reading Pam Powers Hannley: Your Voice in the Arizona House

Know Your Candidates: Early Voting Begins Aug 1 (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

It’ go time, people. Today is July 26, 2018.

In five days, voter registration closes for the August 28 primary on July 30.

In seven days, early voting begins for the August 28 primary on August 1.

In 34 days, it will be Primary Election day on August 28.

It’s time for voters to get serious about making up their minds on who to vote for. Many news outlets– like the Arizona Republic and the Tucson Weekly— are compiling voter guides. (The link to the Republic’s guide is below. The Weekly’s will be published soon.) The state’s main Voter Education Guide, which you will receive in the US mail soon, is already available online here.

In addition to voter guides, organizations, nonprofits, and unions have released candidate statements and endorsements (linked below).

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley
Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

For your consideration, I have compiled a list of my endorsements, ratings, awards and news clips– along with links to five organizations that have compiled candidate issue statements.

I am asking for your vote on or before the August 28, 2018 primary and again in the fall– on or before the November 6, 2018 general election.

I promised to be the voice of the people in the Arizona Legislature, and that’s exactly what I did. As a Progressive Democrat and a Clean Elections candidate, I am beholden to no one but you– the voters of Arizona. I accept no big-money donations from lobbyists, special interest groups or unions. Votes should decide our elections– not money.

In the 53rd Legislature, I voted my values and stood up for your rights and wellbeing. The People’s work is not done. We must turn the Arizona Legislature around. It’s time that elected officials stopped voting to give our tax money away and started voting to fund the People’s To-Do List: education, healthcare, infrastructure, and safety and security. I am proud to say that I voted against every tax giveaway that was proposed in two years. Do you want a representative who stands with teachers, students and families or one who stands with the developers? That is your choice in the LD9 primary.

Please check out the links and videos below. It has been an honor to serve you for the past two years in the Arizona House. Thank you for your support.

Continue reading Know Your Candidates: Early Voting Begins Aug 1 (video)

#ICYMI: Watch the LD9 Clean Elections Debate (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) organizes and hosts debates for all elections in which at least one Clean Elections candidate is running. In Legislative District 9, three of the five people running for office are Clean candidates: Jim Love, Victoria Steele and me. The other two people who are running for house– Rep. Randy Friese and J.P. Martin– are running traditional.

Since early ballots for the August 28 primary election will be mailed on August 1, the CCEC has been hosting many debates in the past month. On July 19, the LD9 candidates had their debate.  (The LD9 video link is here and the embedded video is below. To watch other CCEC debates go here.)

CCEC debates include some questions that are asked of all candidates and other questions that are asked of specific people. I have annotated the debate with time stamps– in case you want to focus on particular topics. Since there were several audience questions about guns in schools, the environment and prison reform, I have grouped those questions and answers.

Continue reading #ICYMI: Watch the LD9 Clean Elections Debate (video)

What Did the 53rd Arizona Legislature Accomplish? (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

It has been a little more than a month since the 53rd Legislature ended with a 40-hour marathon, passing the budget in the middle of the night, under the watchful eye of Red for Ed teachers and supporters.

What did the Legislature do in the 53rd Session?

  • We passed the comprehensive Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act, to attack the opioid epidemic in Arizona.
  • We passed dental therapy, expanding access to affordable dental care for urban and rural residents and creating new healthcare jobs. (Video.)
  • We stopped several corporate tax giveaway bills that would have further drained the general fund and taken money from public education. (Video.)
  • We stopped an untested technology from being used on Arizona workers. After Uber and Theranos, hopefully we have learned our lesson on putting untested technologies into statute. (Video.)

What didn’t we do?

    • We failed to adequately fund k-12 public education, community colleges or the university system. In fact, the Republican response to the Red for Ed movement was to make 50 fund transfers to pay the teachers a bit more (but not as much as they deserve). It’s time to restore k-12 public education funds for personnel and infrastructure to pre-recession levels. Funding education is economic development. (Video.)

Continue reading What Did the 53rd Arizona Legislature Accomplish? (video)

Passage of Dental Therapy Expands Access to Affordable Care (video)

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

For several weeks during the 53rd Legislative Session, I posted (almost) daily one-minute video updates from my office at the Capitol and posted them on Facebook and YouTube.

I never imagined how wildly popular these videos would be. At the Capitol, #RedForEd advocates would randomly come up to me and say, “I love your videos!” Now that I am back in Tucson, people come up to me at events, at church and in stores, and say, “I love your videos!”

So… I will be keeping them up during the interim.

My first interim video is on the passage of dental therapy. To catch up, I am doing a few videos on some of the bills we passed in a flurry at the end of the 53rd Session last week.

On the very last day, we passed dental therapy as a striker on another bill. I played an integral role in getting dental therapy out of the sunrise committee hearing last fall. I believe it is good public health policy because it will offer affordable dental care in rural and urban areas. This will expand access to care, prevent tooth loss and offer a new career to residents of Arizona.

To Learn more about why dental therapy is important, you can read:

Economic Inequality, Access to Care & Workforce Development: A Progressive Roadmap.

Here is some of the media coverage on the passage of dental therapy:

Arizona law creates dental therapists to handle fillings, extractions and crowns 

Arizona is about to get a new type of dental professional

Chester Antone: Dental therapists good for tribes, good for Arizona

#AZ Leg Passes Landmark, Bipartisan Opioid Bill (video)

Arizona Legislature

January 25, 2018 was one of the most dramatic days at the Arizona Legislature, since I was elected.

Not only did we have ~75 Luchadores visiting their Legislators and five extremely aggressive anti-immigrant, pro-Trump protesters heckling them, we also had the big vote on the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act (SB1001).

We have been working on SB1001/HB2001 for weeks. Unlike much of what we do in the Arizona Legislature, the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act was a truly bipartisan effort. The governor even gave the Democrats the bill language in advance and asked for our input. The Republicans included us in the bill development process because they needed our votes and because didn’t want us to blow it up on the floor with our speechifying, as we did with the stingy TANF and teacher raises in 2017.

As someone who worked in public health and nicotine addiction treatment for years, I was proud to serve on the Democratic Caucus team that reviewed the bill and offered suggestions for revision. It was very heartening that they included several Democratic ideas in this bill. Four of my suggestions were included: offering treatment instead of jail during an overdose situation, AKA the 911 Good Samaritan bill (HB2101), which has been proposed by Democrats for four years in a row; providing funds to counties for life-saving NARCAN kits (HB2201); providing a non-commercial treatment referral service; and offering treatment in a brief intervention after an overdose scare (when your doctor says, “You didn’t die this time. Maybe you should quit!”). The Democrats also suggested including the Angel Initiative (where addicts can drop off their drugs and ask for treatment, without fear of arrest) and $10 million for drug addiction treatment services for people not on AHCCCS (Medicaid) or private insurance.

Continue reading #AZ Leg Passes Landmark, Bipartisan Opioid Bill (video)

Reflections on 2017 at year end…

Arizona House Dems

To say that 2017 was a challenging year is a gross understatement. Buffeted by angry Tweets, backward-thinking executive orders, political grandstanding, militarism, and attacks on our healthcare, our finances, and our freedom, the American people have been on an emotional roller coaster since November 8, 2016. At the dawn of 2018, we have nowhere to go but up.

Inequality in the Trump Era
The summer 2017 news cycle was filled with stories about Congressional Republican plans to end the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and throw millions of Americans off of health insurance. Problem is: Most people didn’t want to lose their health insurance. Vigilant activists and 1000s of phone calls, emails, and protests stopped multiple ACA repeal and replace attempts. Tucsonans at the 200 Stories Healthcare Forum overwhelming said they wanted health insurance to be affordable and universal— not more expensive and less accessible, as the Republicans had planned. We must stay vigilant because Republicans plan to continue their attacks on our health and well being in 2018.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the fall 2017 news cycle flip flopped between stories on militaristic Tweet tantrums and details of Congressional Republican plans to dramatically reduce taxes for big corporations and 0.01% of the richest Americans. Who will pay for massive tax cuts for the rich? The rest of us, of course. Tax Cut and Jobs Act is blatantly unfair to millions of Americans. As far as I’m concerned if the federal government is giving away billions in tax cuts, the State of Arizona can roll back our tax cuts. After all, we need the money to fund education and other items on the People’s To-Do List. For more thoughts on this, check out the text and video of my DGT speech on solving economic inequality: Economic Inequality, Access to Care & Workforce Development: A Progressive Roadmap.

#MeToo Movement Shake-up
A year that began with amazing women’s marches nationwide, ended with months of sexual harassment and sexual assault charges against powerful men in entertainment and politics. Several Congressmen, State Legislators, and entertainment icons like Matt Lauer, Henry Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey and others have lost their jobs and fallen from power.

In the #MeToo Era, is it finally time to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)? I think so. I proposed the ERA in 2017, and I have opened a 2018 bill folder for it. You can read my blog post on this topic here. Watch for ERA activists at the Together We Rise Rally on Opening Day of the Legislature, January 8, 2018. Check out the ERA in AZ Facebook Group here and my blog here for news and updates.

Happy New Year! Take care of yourself. In a few days, I will be heading back to the Arizona House.

Below the fold, check event updates from December 2017 Constituent Newsletter. (BTW, the feature photo depicts Arizona House Democrats at their December retreat on the Gila River Indian Reservation.)

Continue reading Reflections on 2017 at year end…

Economic Inequality, Access to Care & Workforce Development: A Progressive Roadmap (video)

On December 4, 2017, I gave a talk on economic inequality at the Democrats of Greater Tucson Luncheon. This is the text of that speech.

Economist Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, recently gave a talk which focused on solving economic inequality. He pointed to five key areas of the economy that keep the rich rich and keep the rest of us in our places:

  • Macroeconomics;
  • Intellectual property rights;
  • Practice protection by highly paid professionals;
  • Financial regulation; and
  • Cooperate governance.

Given this list, can a state legislator like me make a dent in economic inequality? I think so.

I ran on a platform that focused on economic reform and public banking; equality and paycheck fairness; and attacking the opioid crisis.

How does my platform dovetail with Dean Baker’s list? There is quite a bit of overlap—particularly in macroeconomics, intellectual property rights, and practice protection.

Continue reading Economic Inequality, Access to Care & Workforce Development: A Progressive Roadmap (video)

Inequality, Access to Care & Workforce Development: Legislative Update at DGT, Dec 4

Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley

Economic Inequality, Access to Care & Workforce Development will be the focus of my Legislative update at the Democrats of Greater Tucson Meeting on Monday, December 4.

Come on down and hear how Arizona could lessen economic inequality and improve access to care while developing new career paths. Also, hear about new legislation being proposed in these areas in 2018.

Mingling starts after 11:30 a.m., and the program starts at noon on the dot. For $10, you can enjoy the Chinese buffet at the Dragon View Restaurant, 400 N. Bonita Ave.

If you live in LD9 and have not donated $5 to support my Clean Elections campaign, please bring an extra $5 to the luncheon. Can’t make it on Monday? You can donate $5 online here and watch my blog for more on this topic.