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?

#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)

#AZHouse Republicans Pass Burdensome Regulation on Citizens Initiative (video)

Arizona House Republicans recently passed SB1451, Senator Vince Leach’s latest attempt to kill the Citizens Initiative process. Every year, Republicans add new regulations to the popular Citizens Initiative process–like dramatically increasing the number of signatures, strict compliance on petitions (forcing us to write in between the lines or risk having our signature knocked off), or eliminating the pay-per-signature practice for paid circulators.

The worst part of 1451 was taken out in the Senate. That was the section that made people group the petitions by circulator and allowed for elimination of whole petitions if one volunteer’s petitions got mixed up with another. The house added another amendment to give the attorney general the power to change the language used to explain the initiative. (This is a scary thought, after all of the intrigue and BS that surrounded the language of the initiatives on the 2018 ballot. You’ll remember that the anti-Clean Elections initiative was allowed to be purposefully misleading.)

SB1451 is a bad bill that over-regulates the Citizens Initiative process, adds bureaucracy and slows the process of circulator recruitment and signature gathering down.

Continue reading #AZHouse Republicans Pass Burdensome Regulation on Citizens Initiative (video)

#AZ House Debates, Passes Association Health Plans SB1085 (video)

Although we had a short floor calendar on May 1, we had some rousing debates. The highlight was a two-hour debate on SB1085, association health plans. (Watch the action here, beginning at 19:32 min.)

The Republicans have had three bills this year to lower healthcare insurance costs by encouraging people to leave the healthcare marketplace. I agree that the Affordable Care Act is too expensive, particularly for sole proprietors (like my husband who was offered a silver ACA plan for more than $1000 per month just for him.) This is why I voted for direct care contracts. I believe those are a better deal for sole proprietors than association health plans.)

Democrats debated valiantly, led by Health and Human Services Ranking Member Rep. Kelli Butler (right). Here, she does Q&A with Rep. Isela Blanc.

I get that costs are too high, but the association health plans are not the way to go. They could, indeed, lower costs for business owners, but they could be risky due to limited coverage. There are reasons why these plans will likely be cheaper. Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”. If sole proprietor business owners want to take a risk with their own insurance and their own health, I have a mind to let them take their own risk. (Just don’t ask me to help you later with a Go Fund Me Request if it turns out I was right on limited coverage under cheap junk insurance plans.)

Where I object is when businesses are making these risky insurance decisions for their employees— just to save money.

Continue reading #AZ House Debates, Passes Association Health Plans SB1085 (video)

With ‘Wayfair’ Bill Stalled, Will Republicans Stop New Revenue Streams? (Video)

The budget is still being negotiated behind closed doors. The Republicans have passed several tax cut bills, but not all of them have been heard in Committee of the Whole (COW, where the real debates happen).

We also have not heard the “Wayfair Bill” in COW because it is stalled in House Rules (with several other bills). HB2702 passed House Ways and Means unanimously several weeks ago but never got to the Floor for debate or a vote.

South Dakota vs Wayfair Inc. is the supreme court case that said states can charge sales tax on online sales. States, local governments, and brick and mortar businesses have been losing trillions of dollars to online retailers. Just look around town, and you will see fewer local businesses, less stock on the shelves, and many vacant store fronts. Taxing in-person purchases but not online purchases is unfair to local small businesses, hurts our local economy, reduces the General Fund (thus reducing education funding), and ultimately reduces consumer choice.

Arizona residents made $1.7 trillion worth of online purchases in 2018. That is how much Arizona businesses lost in sales. On those purchases, the state lost $85 million in sales tax (TPT). Cities and counties lost more than $45 million. Prop 301 (the education sales tax) lost $10.2 million.

Continue reading With ‘Wayfair’ Bill Stalled, Will Republicans Stop New Revenue Streams? (Video)

In #AZ, Maternal & Child Health Is in Crisis (video)

Maternal and child health is in crisis in the state of Arizona. Too many infants die. Too many new

Maternal and child health is in crisis in the state of Arizona. Too many babies die. Too many new Moms die. Too many babies are born prematurely. Too many babies are born with birth defects. Too many pregnant women don’t get adequate prenatal care.

Some Arizona counties have been labeled maternal health deserts because of lack of medical care. Cochise, Graham, Gila, La Paz, Santa Cruz and Yuma are the worst off. Around 50% of the babies born in Arizona are born to unwed mothers (which makes them more likely to live in poverty with their Moms.) And around 50% of the live births are funded by AHCCCS (Arizona’s Medicaid program).

Arizona’s lack of attention to maternal and child health and our stingy social safety net policies have exacerbated the situation and cost the state lives and money. Each premature baby born under AHCCCS costs the state around $1 million. How many of these one-million-dollar babies are accidents due to lack of access to affordable birth control and the scarcity of women’s health clinics, particularly in rural Arizona? We should be funding women’s health and well baby clinics in rural Arizona and should be hiring community health workers to do outreach with pregnant women and new Moms. You can hire an army of community health workers for the cost of one or two premature babies.

Continue reading In #AZ, Maternal & Child Health Is in Crisis (video)

#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.

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 SB1105, healthcare moves into the gig economy. SB1105 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)

Voter Suppression Is ‘Theme’ for #AZLeg in 2019 (video)

Republicans have two big problems with the 2018 election: too many of you voted, which resulted in too many of them losing.

Each year of the Arizona Legislature seems to have a theme. For 2017, the theme was big tax giveaways. For 2018, it was Red for Ed. The theme for 2019 is voter suppression. One of the Democrats suggested that the Republicans were overreacting to their losses in 2018.

The sheer volume of voter suppression bills is staggering. In the multiple ways, the Republicans are trying to make it more difficult to vote, to register someone to vote, and to submit Citizens’ Initiatives. They also want to solidify big money politics by attacking the independence of Clean Elections Commission.

There are so many awful bills that I needed a cheat sheet to do this video. Many of these are still in play, and you can use the Request to Speak system to comment. HB2724 (anti-Clean Elections) and HB2616 (adds penalties and unnecessary burden to registering people to vote) passed the Arizona House this week and will head to the Senate. (You can stop them there!)

For some of them, it’s time to start pleading with Governor Ducey for vetoes. SB1072 (even stricter voter ID laws, which would result in a poll tax for people who move often) passed both the House and the Senate. Other horrible bills from Senators Michelle Ugenti-Rita (SB1090) and Vince Leach (SB1451) are on there way to the House floor soon.

Stopping people from voting is anti-Democratic. (I am working on a blog post with more bills and details.)