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

#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)

Bills! The Good, the Bad, the Ugly & Mine

Moms

After the first three weeks of the 53rd Legislature, things are starting to heat up. Hundreds of bills have been filed, and as usual, they run the gamut from boring to hopeful to dangerous.

I want to personally thank Speaker J.D. Mesnard for assigning some Democratic Party bills and some more moderate Republican bills to committee. (In recent Legislatures, bills from these sponsors were never assigned to committee. Of course, it’s up to the committee chair to put the bills on their agendas, but getting assigned to a committee is a welcome first step, in my book.)

Assignment to committee and very orderly and cordial floor meetings are positive notes in what has been a fast-paced time. Last week we shift from third gear to fifth gear and floor debates start on Tuesday, January 31. If you like reality TV, you should watch your Legislature in action. (The Arizona Capitol Television link on the Arizona Legislature’s website will take you to live proceedings and archives.)

All action and inaction on the floor of the House and Senate is televised– as are the Democratic and Republican Caucus Meetings (10 a.m. on Tuesdays, where we discuss the bills with staff, audience members, and paid lobbyists) and all committee meetings. Representatives have TVs on our desks, so we can keep up with the action while doing email, etc. Rep. Randy Friese’s motorcycle bill (HB2046) crashed and burned in the Transportation Committee but not without over an hour of testimony pro and con (bikers vs doctors). It was TV worth watching– as was the lengthy preemption discussion about local IDs and “illegals”.

When a variety of bills are heard, more constituent voices are heard. Here are a variety of bills that are coming down the pike this week (or in the near future). This is by no means an exhaustive list. Every committee meets every week, and agendas can include any number of bills. (Translation: there’s a lot happening.)

My Bills

HCR2012 (Powers Hannley) ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment in Arizona. (Assigned to Judiciary Committee in the House, headed by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth.) We only need three states to ratify the ERA to meet the requirement for a new amendment to the US Constitution. The ERA deserves to be debated in committee and on the Floor of the House and the Senate. Senator Martin Quezada has sponsored SCR1003— a mirror bill in the Senate (assigned to Government, headed by Senator John Kavanagh). Farnsworth and Kavanagh are blocking the ERA in the Legislature. If you think women’s rights should be debated and voted on in the Arizona Legislature, contact those two and your representatives and senators this week to get it on an agenda.

HB2172 (Powers Hannley) offers medical treatment instead of arrest in overdose situations. (Assigned to Judiciary, Farnsworth, again.) Thanks to the Arizona Republic‘s EJ Montini for giving a shoutout to this bill every time it has been proposed. Yes, this will save lives. Unfortunately, Farnsworth told me that he “doesn’t want to offer immunity to criminals” and refuses to hear this. If you think drugs addicts deserve a second chance at life, contact his office and encourage him to allow public testimony on this. There are several Moms lobbying Legislators to hear this bill– including the two pictured with this blog post.

HB2336 (Powers Hannley) allows terminally ill patients to make the decision to take their own lives with the help of their physician and medical team. (Assigned to Health Committee.)

HB2401 (Powers Hannley) requires medical providers to reveal the services they will not provide due to their religious beliefs. This is a major issue for women, particularly pregnant women. If you’re in a pregnancy-related emergency, you don’t want to end up in a hospital with services restricted by religious beliefs. Also – we should know which pharmacies dispense medications based upon the religion of the pharmacist and not based upon what is best for the patient. (Assigned to Health Committee.)

HB2400 (Powers Hannley) lengthens the renewal period for medical marijuana cards from every year to every five years. We have heard multiple bills to make other newals easier and less cumbersome, why not make the medical MJ card easier to renew? If you have arthritis, it’s not going away in a year– so why do patients have to renew every year and get a new ID card every year. Seems like too much bureaucracy to me. (Not assigned to committee.)

HB2439 (Powers Hannley) requires home health aides to have the same training, regardless who pays for the care. Currently, in Arizona, home health aides whose care is paid for my Medicare or Medicaid have to meet certain basic training requirements, but there are no standard training requirements for home health aides who are otherwise funded. (For example, an individual could pay for home health themselves.) There has been a rise in elder abuse cases, and I think better training could help that situation. This is a topic that the Health Committee has tried to fix in the past but didn’t have the votes for change. (Not assigned to committee.)to committee.)

HB2531 (Powers Hannley) expands the Clean Elections system to county and local, unpaid boards. There was a backlash against big money politics in the 2016. The original “chosen candidates” with the most money– Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush– lost. Multiple Clean Elections candidates beat traditionally funded candidates in Legislative races. I think candidates running for county and unpaid boards (like school boards, water boards, etc.) should have a Clean Elections option. (Not assigned to committee.)

HB2532 (Powers Hannley) establishes a feasibility study to create a state public bank. The Arizona Legislature is hearing multiple economic development bills that theoretically boost our economy by giving away more taxpayer funds. The basic premise behind all of them is giving a tax break to someone who will develop land. Is development our only economic development tool? When will we jump off this merry-go-round? At every level– city, county and state– politicians say we don’t have the money we need to have the schools and roads we want. Then… why do we continue to give away tax money? Setting up a public bank would give us an alternative, sustainable economic development tool. We could offer low-interest loans to local, small businesses and college students, while strengthening our community bank system. The return on our low-interest loans who go back to the state to pay for public education and/or transportation infrastructure. (With our current economic development system based upon giveaways, there is not direct return on investment of taxpayer funds… only promises of jobs and prosperity in the future.) I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the trickle down.

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Here are some other bills you may be interested in.

Continue reading Bills! The Good, the Bad, the Ugly & Mine

Prince: Another Life Lost to Presciption Opiates

Prince mural in Tucson

Prince– the enigmatic rocker and creative genius– collapsed at his home a few weeks ago and passed from this world into the next.

Initially, the cause of death was unclear. Now, as the stories come out, we learn that Prince was likely abusing prescription painkillers. Decades of jumping and dancing on stage in platform shoes had left the 57-year-old musician in chronic pain.

Another life lost to prescription opiate overdose.

This article in the New York Times talks about Prince’s clean lifestyle– no meat, alcohol, marijuana or other drugs– but legal prescription drugs were OK. People think that prescription drugs are safe because they’re legal. That’s not necessarily so. Painkillers build up in your body. There is an additive effect when you take too many pills, and this is how innocent people in pain die from legal drugs. Prince’s denial and secret struggle with addiction and his tragic death should be a wake up call regarding the dangers of prescription painkiller abuse. Ironically, if he had switched to medical marijuana for pain, he would still be alive.

In Arizona, more people die from prescription opiate overdose than from heroin overdose. Prince’s friends reached out for addiction treatment help too late. If you know someone who may be abusing prescription drugs, heroin, alcohol or other dangerous drugs, there are multiple hotlines and online resources.

Wake up, Arizona. People are dying.

[Image credit: Prince tribute mural in downtown Tucson by local artist Joe Pagac.]