#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 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)

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.)

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)

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)

#AZLeg Should Include Healthcare in Workforce Development (video)

The Arizona House has begun debating HB2657, a high-tech workforce development bill which would funnel money through the Arizona Commerce Authority to community colleges to train workers in “high-demand” fields. The CEO of the Commerce Authority would manage the fund created by this bill, and they would determine what to fund.

As it is currently written the bill would “support career and technical education programs and courses that prepare a capable workforce for manufacturing in information technology and related industries.”

Why are we focusing only on manufacturing, financial services and technology? Previously, we saw this with CTED (formerly JTED) classes. In the last session, proposed legislation would have funneled 9th grade students into select industries like machine tooling, aerospace, and automotive services, while they left healthcare, coding and other careers by the wayside.

To meet the needs of our state, workforce development could and should go beyond tech. Why is healthcare not included in HB2657? We have a need for expanded access to care particularly in rural Arizona, and we do not have enough medical and health professionals to fill the gaps. We could train rural Arizonans to be community health workers, certified nursing assistants and home health aides. When I taught health education at the University of Arizona, I had many students from rural Arizona, particularly tribal lands, who were studying in Tucson and planned to take their new skills back to rural Arizona to help their people. How can we foster this?

Arizona has five rural counties — Cochise, Gila, Graham, Santa Cruz and LaPaz– that are considered maternal and child health deserts because of lack of medical personnel and health services in those areas. The face of premature birth in Arizona is young, brown and rural. Every preemie birth that is funded by AHCCCS costs the state between $500,000 – $1 million.

We could improve access to care, foster workforce development, save money and tackle urban/rural health disparities if we put as much effort into the healthcare workforce as we do into tech.

[In the photo, I am posing with the doctor of the day from Banner Univerity Medical Center.]

Why Does AZ Need 60+ License Plate Designs? (video)

Republican Legislators love specialty license plates. The House has bills for six new license plates in the queue. My big question is: Why are we doing this?

Specialty license plates are a way to funnel taxpayer dollars into designated charities or pet projects with seemingly innocuous bills for a license plate with a great-sounding name and a cool design. Any organization– or corporation– can get a specialty license plate. All they need is around $33,000 to design the plate and a Legislator who will propose it.

Once the plate has been approved and placed on the ADOT website, motorists can choose your design and pay an extra $25 a year to have that plate. Of that $25, $17 goes to the cause or charity that got the plate through the Legislature.

A charity can rake in $250,000 per year on a specialty plate, and the plates exist forever.  This is the ultimate in picking winners and losers. Why should one charity be on the state gravy train– forever– and not another? Why are we using license plates to funnel money to charity anyway? What groups are making the most from the plates?

Continue reading Why Does AZ Need 60+ License Plate Designs? (video)

Townsend Shows Bowers The Power of 1

Crossover Week in the Arizona Legislature is always hectic, but Crossover Week 2019 was also full of drama.

Besides rousing debates on the sub-minimum wage, wineries as agritourism, water, license plates and fake meat, there was a Republican tiff brewing between two conservatives– Reps. Kelly Townsend and Anthony Kern– last week.

On Wednesday, Townsend started voting NO on every Republican bill because Kern wouldn’t let one of her Elections Committee bills out of his Rules Committee. It is rare to see any Republican defy their leadership so publicly and effectively. Speaker Rusty Bowers depends on all 31 Republicans voting in lock step to pass their ideological bills — like the $7.25/hour minimum wage, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of occupations, and risky water deals.

After Townsend voted NO on several Republican bills, the House recessed. Republicans went into closed caucus to figure out what to do, and Democrats went to our conference room to strategize.

When we went back into session about an hour later, Townsend was gone for the day. This left the House Republicans without vote #31. The 29 Dems killed the bills we didn’t like— thanks to Townsend’s absence— before the leadership stopped all voting. The rest of the day was spent in COW debate. (The Republicans will likely try to bring these dead bills back as zombie bills. In the photo above, you’ll note that GOP Whip Rep. Becky Nutt voted no. Since she voted on the prevailing side, she can bring it back as a zombie bill.)

Townsend’s protest shows the Republicans’ vulnerability. If one of their members doesn’t get what they want or decides to take a stand on a bad bill, that one person can easily throw a wrench into the Republican machine.

The House has moved at a snail’s pace this session because Bowers won’t bring bills for a final vote without all 31 of his members present. In the 53rd Legislature, members floated in and out, took vacation days, and missed votes. Not so in the 54th Legislature. Attendance is everything– for both parties.

As of Wednesday during Crossover Week, we had passed only 100 bills out of the House. There are easily another 100 House bills waiting for us on Monday. Since many of the bills that the Legislature passes are unnecessary or just benefit one corporation, passing way fewer bills is not a bad thing.

Thanks, Kelly, for showing us the power of 1.

RTS Alert: Republicans Are Attacking Clean Elections… again (video)

Clean Elections

Arizonans love Clean Elections and the Citizens’ Initiative because these two statues allow the voters’ voices to be heard. That is exactly why these two rights of Arizona voters are under continuous attack by the Republican Party.

HB2724 is a direct assault on the autonomy of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and is the natural next step for right-wingers after the passage of the anti-Clean Elections Prop 306 in Nov. 2018.

HB2724 is politically targeted and costly over-regulation of a popular commission. HB2724 allows every rule created by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to be challenged by anyone in the state and thus start an official investigation. This bill could spark multiple unnecessary investigations by the Governor’s regulatory agency. No other state agency suffers from this oppressive oversight. This is heavy-handed regulation aimed at suppressing the voices of candidates who choose to say no to big money politics.

If you backed the Outlaw Dirty Money Citizens Initiative, if you want to get money out politics and if you want your elected officials to answer to you — instead of answering to big money donors and lobbyists — just say NO to HB2724 on Request to Speak (RTS).

HB2724 is on the Regulatory Affairs Agenda for Monday, Feb. 18. Yes, this is the same committee that passed the sub-minimum wage last week.

You all stood strong on RTS against the sub-minimum wage. The RTS commenters helped LUCHA, who showed up in person, to speak against poverty wages. Let’s stand up for Clean Elections. Elected officials should answer to the people, not to corporations, lobbyists, or big money. HB2724 is being heard, but my bill to expand Clean Elections (HB2411) has been double-assigned to two hostile committees (Elections headed by Townsend and Government headed by Kavanagh).

My constituents have told me loud and clear that they don’t like the power of money in politics. Please go to RTS and say NO to HB2724 and YES to HB2411. Yes, I am a Clean Elections candidate. That means I am free of big-money politics.

There are many wild eyed right wing bills that will be heard in committee or on the floor in the coming week. Please stay vigilant in addition to commenting on agenda items. On RTS you can go to “my bill positions”, search for bill numbers, and enter multiple positions on bills even if they are not on an agenda.