Friday, May 18, 2018

Senate Democrats call for Special Session to enact gun safety measures

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate Democratic Leadership released the following statement after another deadly school shooting occurred today at Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas:

“We demand that Governor Ducey immediately call the Legislature back into session to adopt comprehensive and effective gun safety legislation that will keep weapons of mass murder out of the hands of dangerous people and provide resources to identify and help troubled individuals,” said Senator Katie Hobbs. “Offering thoughts and prayers for the thousandth time won’t keep our kids safe in their schools, taking action will. Let’s work together like we did on the Opioid Epidemic Act and enact meaningful legislation to protect the people of Arizona, including comprehensive background checks and Severe Threat Orders of Protection that have the teeth to be effective.”

This session Senate Democrats introduced the following gun safety bills. None were allowed a hearing by Senate Republican leadership.

  • SCR1015 would require universal criminal background checks for people buying firearms, closing the so-called "gun show" or "private sale" loophole by requiring a private person selling or transferring a firearm to go through a licensed firearm dealer.
  • SB 1224 would require a person on probation for a domestic-violence offense to hand all their firearms over to a law enforcement agency for the duration of their probation.
  • SB 1348 would ban bump stocks and other devices designed to make semi-automatic weapons fire similarly to fully-automatic weapons.

Additionally, we offered the following amendments to Governor Ducey’s gun lobby-endorsed SB 1519. All were voted down by Senate Republicans.

  • Universal Background Check: Background check at every point of sale
  • Child Access Prevention: Requires firearms to be secured and add penalties for parents who allow access
  • Extreme Risk Protection Orders: GIFFORDS version of the STOP orders
  • Bump Stocks: Ban on bump stocks and other accessories
  • Age to 21: Raises age to all gun sales from 18 to 21
  • Right of ways repeal: Repeals the guns on rights of ways by high schools and universities from 2016
  • Stolen/Theft Reporting: Class 6 Felony for failure to report to police the theft/loss of a firearm
  • SRO/Counselor Menu: Allows SRO appropriation to be requested by schools for counselors
  • Firearm Tax: Sales tax on all gun purchases with 50% of funds directed to a Counselors on Campus Fund and 50% to a Gun Violence Victims Restitution and Assistance Fund.
  • Appropriation for counselors: $5 million appropriation for counselors/social workers in schools
  • Custodian Removal: Under STOP, removes option to give guns to a custodian for safe keeping 







Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bowie legislation to make emergency communications accessible to all Arizonans is signed into law

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senator Sean Bowie (LD-18) released the following statement on the signing into law of his Senate Bill 1296.

The law established by SB 1296 requires state and local governments to ensure communications with persons with disabilities are equal to those without disabilities, including online and emergency communications. As part of this, the law requires those governments have a protocol in place to have licensed American Sign Language interpreters available to translate emergency communications to the public in emergency situations.

Senator Sean Bowie:

“Having access to critical information in an emergency is vitally important, and having a standard in place for professional interpretation and captioning is long overdue. SB 1296 will help make sure that life-saving information is available for all Arizonans. A huge thank you to the stakeholders who worked with me to craft this legislation, which included the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Ability 360, the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the Arizona League of Cities and Towns. I also want to extend thanks to my legislative colleagues for their support and to Governor Ducey for signing this bill into law.”

Sarah Kader, staff attorney with the Arizona Center for Disability Law:

“The Arizona Center for Disability Law applauds the passage of SB 1296 which will improve access to emergency communications for people with disabilities. Given that people with disabilities and especially those who are deaf and hard of hearing have historically been excluded from accessible alerts and instructions during emergencies, this law is an important step towards improved access in the State of Arizona.”

Thursday, May 3, 2018

2018 is the Year of the Teacher


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs (LD-24) released the following statement on the passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget:

"The 2018 legislative session will be known as the year of the teacher. Their passion, their perseverance and their unleashed power is the sole reason we finally passed a budget that begins to give them a long overdue raise and makes a small step toward making our neglected public schools whole.

"The budget passed tonight is nowhere near perfect. It does some good, like sweeping far less of the critical HURF dollars that our state's roads desperately need. It hires back some of the corporate tax auditors fired by Governor Ducey, which had let tax cheats slide and state revenues plummet. But it also spitefully punishes taxpayers who live in Democratic districts, and gives more of Arizonans' hard-earned tax dollars to the dark money benefactor Koch brothers' 'freedom schools' to produce extremist-indoctrinating K-12 curriculum.

"We voted for the good parts of this budget and we voted against the bad parts of this budget, but ultimately we helped get this budget through the legislature and on the governor’s desk so our dedicated teachers can return to their students with the start of a decent raise and a little more money for their classrooms.

"Just a month ago, those in power here were only willing to give Arizona's teachers another one percent bonus. Our teachers deserve all the credit for forcing Governor Ducey and legislative Republicans to finally acknowledge the devastation their policies have done to our kids' schools.

"But make no mistake, there is much more to do to restore the funding that decades of Republican control have taken from Arizona’s public schools. We are not done fighting."

Friday, April 27, 2018

Walkout could be ended if legislature, governor willing to work with education leaders, Democratic colleagues


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs released the following statement on the lack of progress toward resolving the teacher walkout:

“Yesterday, as well over 50,000 Arizona educators, parents and students gathered at the Capitol, no action was taken to resolve or even discuss the education funding crisis that brought us to this point. While Democratic lawmakers gave impassioned floor speeches urging action to properly fund public schools, Republican lawmakers chided our dedicated teachers for standing up for themselves and our governor hid in his tower giving carefully scripted interviews about his unsustainable plan. As the rally reached its zenith at the front doors of the legislature, our Senate and House majority leaders quietly gaveled floor to a close and slipped out the back door for three days away from the work we were elected to complete. Shame on them.

"Let me be very clear, Senate Democrats would be happy to be in session all day today and into the weekend if we were working across the aisle, and with education leaders, on a sustainable plan to fund the 20 percent pay raise our educators deserve. The devil is in the details and we support this pay increase only if all classroom and instructional support personnel are included in a raise that is responsibly funded. Numbers matter. The Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates that Governor Ducey’s plan would lead to a $265 million cash shortfall in FY’20, growing to $302 million in FY’21. 

"The biggest reason that this plan has not already been enacted is that our Republican legislative colleagues can also do the math. The governor’s rosy revenue estimates, fund sweeps and starving of other budget priorities is not sustainable over time or what the voters want. Passing this budget on the back of critical care providers for our developmentally disabled community, cutting funding to our universities, not protecting KidsCare in future years and continuing to shift state responsibilities to our cities, counties and towns is both fiscally and morally irresponsible. And increasing our sales tax to the nation's highest save California would put an exponentially greater burden on Arizona's poor and middle class. They shouldn't have to pay for tax cuts this state has given away to corporations and the wealthy.

"My Democratic colleagues and I are here to serve the people of Arizona, not on our schedule but on theirs, and they are demanding action now. We are, and always have been, eager to work with whoever is willing to find meaningful solutions, not simply to recite talking points at us. Working with people who share different viewpoints than your own can be challenging, but the results from doing so are what has made our nation and our state a place where people from all over the world yearn to live.

"That's democracy. Let's give it a try.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Senator Catherine Miranda welcomes DACA ruling, urges DHS to keep program



STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senator Catherine Miranda today welcomed US District Judge John Bates’
Sen. Miranda
decision giving the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 90 days to provide the legal rationale behind the Administration’s decision to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This is the third federal judge that rebukes the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA but the first to order DHS to accept new applications. It is also the first judge appointed by a Republican president to issue such a ruling, which underscores the bipartisan consensus on the legality of the DACA program. The lawsuit was brought, among others, by Princeton University; highlighting the importance of this issue to the nation’s higher education system and economic security.

“Beyond the legal basis for the decision, DACA is simply good policy for America. The fact that one of the plaintiffs in this case is Princeton University shows once more that Dreamers are some of our best and brightest. You don’t deport the next Einstein because he crossed a border illegally as a child. You don’t get rid of the doctor who could save your life because you resent that her parents brought her here 20 years ago when she was six years old. The American people realize that and reject the Trump administration’s throw-out-the-baby-with-the-bathwater approach to governance,” said Senator Miranda.

Senator Miranda is a member of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), which represents the voices of more than 400 Hispanic state legislators from across the country, US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which also celebrated the court decision and warned the Trump administration not to terminate the program until a permanent solution is enacted by Congress and signed into law.

NHCSL recently approved an emergency resolution regarding DACA and the DREAMers during the group’s annual Summit in Chicago, IL in February. The resolution states that: “…the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators urges Congress to take action with no further delay to stop the uncertainty with which thousands of families are living regarding DACA preferably by granting that pathway to citizenship or, at least, by extending DACA while a deal can be reached that creates that pathway…”

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NHCSL is the premier national association of Hispanic state legislators working to design and implement policies and procedures that will improve the quality of life for Hispanics throughout the country.  NHCSL was founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3 with the mission to be the most effective voice for the more than 400 Hispanic legislators.  For more information visit www.nhcsl.org.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ducey budget unsustainable according to legislative forecast

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate Democratic leadership requested and has received from the Joint Legislative Budget Committee an updated long-term forecast of Governor Ducey's budget plan based on this month's Finance Advisory Committee revenue forecast. This forecast projects a cash shortfall of $265 million for FY20, increasing to $302 million by FY21. These numbers are in sharp contrast to the governor's claim of a $73 million balance in FY20 and $3 million in FY21.

Projected cash balances
Forecast
Fiscal Year 2020
Fiscal Year 2021



JLBC (FAC)
$(265) million
$(302) million
Ducey Budget
$73 million
$3 million
Source: Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Finance Advisory Committee

"After a decade of seeing their school budgets cut to the bone, Arizona's educators and students deserve to see those cuts reversed in a significant and sustainable way. Unfortunately, the governor's proposal relies on shell games and Pollyannish forecasts that don't reflect the reality of our state's revenues," said Senator Hobbs.

"As we've said all along, legislative Democrats are ready to sit down and roll up our sleeves with our Republican colleagues and the governor to find a sustainable way, utilizing realistic revenue forecasts, to restore funding to our starved public schools. Our kids, educators and classroom support personnel deserve better than another year of irresponsible budgeting and empty promises."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Democratic Leaders Respond to Ducey Budget Plan


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs (D-24) and House Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios (D-27) released the following statements on Governor Ducey's budget proposal:
Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs (LD24):
“At the beginning of this legislative session nobody thought we'd be talking about giving educators a 20 percent raise. The credit for making that happen rests entirely with Arizona's dedicated and passionate educators who made their voices heard.

“After years of neglect and empty promises, our educators deserve an iron-clad commitment that their raises will be delivered and be permanent, but Governor Ducey's plan to pay for them raises serious sustainability concerns and forces other state services to suffer.

“Right now we have the opportunity to sit down with legislators, the governor and, most importantly, educators to find a way to fund a 20 percent raise as quickly as possible and not subject to the whims of legislative appropriation or economic fluctuations. This increase should also cover other instructional and classroom support personnel.

“We've been advocating for meaningful increases to K-12 funding and educator pay for the decade since Republicans started slashing education funding. Now that Republicans finally agree with the goal of increasing educator pay, we must work together to ensure the execution of that goal is done sustainably and responsibly.”

House Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios (LD27):
“Make no mistake, Democrats strongly support 20 percent pay increase for our public-school educators, and doing it without shifting funds from other education priorities. We have been pushing for a real, meaningful, sustainable pay increase for our educators for years. We stand with all educators -- teachers, counselors and all support staff – who have led the incredible Red for Ed movement.

“Thanks to them, the Governor has made an abrupt about face on this issue in the right direction. However, as details of his proposal emerge, it's clear he is not having an honest conversation with Arizonans. We must raise educator salaries in a sustainable way without taking much-needed money away from universities (that are training our workforce), environmental protections (that keep our air and water clean), healthcare and other services for Arizona's most vulnerable populations.  

“We need to bring educators to the table with all stakeholders to find a reliable, dedicated and sustainable funding source for education. We need all revenue options on the table to do this right, not simply robbing Peter to pay Paul. We are ready to make the tough decisions to do this correctly.

“As it stands, Governor Ducey is cutting vital services and making a risky bet on perpetual revenue growth in a state with a historically cyclical and sometimes volatile economy. If Arizona experiences an even slight downturn, the demand for AHCCCS and other vital services will go up, pitting those services against education and throwing this budget out of balance. There are better options.”