Friday, January 30, 2009

Don’t Let Another Vote for Arizona Be Accidental

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Jorge Luis Garcia, D-27
Democratic Leader
(602) 926-4171

January 30, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Don’t Let Another Vote for Arizona Be Accidental

We were shocked to see that Sen. Pamela Gorman (R-Anthem) broke ranks with her Republican colleagues when she voted against a bill that makes huge cuts to health, public safety and other vital state services only to learn that she did so accidentally.

The Associated Press reported that in yesterday’s Appropriations committee hearing she thought she was voting against an amendment, but in fact, she was voting against the actual bill.

Today, Republicans will pass a budget that makes unnecessary cuts to K-12 education, higher education, health and public safety among other vital state services.

“It is a sad day when votes to protect health and public safety are merely accidental,” said Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia (D-Tucson). “We need the public to keep contacting their legislators and Governor Jan Brewer to impress how they have other options to balancing the budget on the backs of children and families.”

Votes for the future of Arizona should never be accidental.

Contact Information:
If you do not know who your legislator is, you can find them from the Legislature’s website or you can contact the Senate Information Desk for assistance at (602) 926-3559 or Toll Free at:
1-800-352-8404.
Legislative Website: http://www.azleg.gov/alisStaticPages/HowToContactMember.asp

An email list of Senators can also be found at: http://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster.asp?Body=S

Governor’s Office: (602) 542-4331 and Toll Free at 1-800-253-0883

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

FY2009 Budget In the Offing


Senators were at the capitol late into the evening trying to garner support for a deal backed primarily by House Republicans. Even former Senate President and newly-minted Secretary of State KenBennett was spotted in the building trying to move things along. Whatever he was doing, it worked. Bills (make sure you select 49th Legislature, 1st Special Session) have been printed and distributed, and House and Senate Appropriations committees have been scheduled for this afternoon. Senate Democrats are working to analyze the bills and will provide more detail as it becomes available.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yet Another Example of "Transparency"

With the word "transparency" floating around the Capitol so much this session, one questions how stories like these keep coming up.

This is a link to a recent article from the Arizona Guardian chronicling how new Republican regulations created by Sen. Pamela Gorman are keeping members of the public out of caucus meetings.

Church Leaders Barred from GOP Meeting

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Notable Quote

Sen. Russell Pearce (R) said this during Republican Caucus on Monday:

"We want to make this process as transparent as possible," Sen. Russell Pearce said. "(But) we don't want 300 people signing up just to whine."

The Senate Democrats do not believe hearing from the public regarding how a proposed budget will affect their daily lives is "whining." In fact, we believe the opposite and have been hosting statewide hearings with House Democrats to hear from the public.

The next hearing will be on Thursday, Jan. 29, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church, 1124 N. 3rd St., Phoenix, Ariz. 85004.

Legislative Democrats will also hold hearings in Yuma on Feb. 2, 7 to 9 p.m. at Arizona Western College, 2020 S. Ave. 8E, Yuma, Ariz., in the College Community Center, in Tucson on Feb. 4 (location to be announced) and in Flagstaff on Feb. 9 (location to be announced).

Sen. Lopez “Right to Know” Press Conference and Rally

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator Linda Lopez, D-29
(602) 926-4089

January 27, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Sen. Lopez “Right to Know” Press Conference and Rally

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – State Senator Linda Lopez (D-Tucson) will host the “Right to Know Rally” on Thursday, January 29 at 11:30 a.m. and a press conference at noon on the House Lawn at the Arizona State Capitol.

Sen. Lopez is sponsoring legislation that requires a health care provider to provide, upon request, information and counseling regarding legally available treatment options to patients diagnosed with a terminal illness. The bill also stipulates that if a health care provider does not wish to comply with the patient’s request for information the provider shall refer the patient to another provider who will do so.

“Patients rely on information from health care professionals; they should have access to full information regarding their condition and treatment options,” said Sen. Lopez (D-Tucson). “Individuals who are terminally ill should have the right to be informed about their end of life care choices to make informed decisions.”

California passed similar legislation last year, which became effective on Jan. 1.

This is the fourth annual rally. The rally is sponsored by Compassion & Choices Arizona, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. It is the statewide chapter of the national organization Compassion & Choices formed by the merger of Compassion in Dying and End of Life Choices (formerly Hemlock Society).


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Additional Media Contact:
Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez
Director of Communication
Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 * jtejeda@azleg.gov

Documents From Last Night's Budget Hearing

Democrats held the first of four public hearings on the proposed budget last night in Casa Grande. At the hearing, Democrats from the House of Representatives discussed the proposal they delivered to House leadership yesterday. Documents are located here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Legislative Democrats announce budget hearing dates for Phoenix, Yuma

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia, D-Tucson (District 27)
House Democratic Leader Rep. David Lujan, D-Phoenix (District 15)

Legislative Democrats announce budget hearing dates for Phoenix, Yuma


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX (Jan. 26, 2009) – Legislative Democrats invite members of the public to a budget hearing in Phoenix, the second of five hearings that will be held statewide.

Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees will be in attendance to hear citizens’ concerns of the deep cuts in the state’s budget.

When: Thursday, Jan. 29, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Where: Grace Lutheran Church, 1124 N. 3rd St., Phoenix, AZ 85004

Legislative Democrats will also hold hearings in Yuma on Feb. 2, 7 to 9 p.m. at Arizona Western College, 2020 S. Ave. 8E, Yuma, Ariz., in the College Community Center, in Tucson on Feb. 4 (location to be announced) and in Flagstaff on Feb. 9 (location to be announced).

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Additional Media Contacts:

Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Director of Communication, Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 – jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov 

Sarah Muench, Public Information Officer, House of Representatives
602-926-5848 – smuench@azleg.gov

Speak Up Against Republican Cuts to Education!

A new website popped up over the weekend at http://www.speakupnowaz.org. Apparently created by some students at Arizona State University, it aims to mobilize Arizonans against the proposed cuts to K-12 and higher education contained in the current "chairmen's options" that we have seen so much of over the past week. One of the highlights of the site currently is this video:


Speak Up Now, Arizona from Speak Up Now on Vimeo.

Powerful stuff. Visit the site for more information on how you can let your legislators know that education is of vital importance to our state. They also have a page on Facebook, and you can follow them on Twitter at speakupnowaz. You can make a difference!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Republican Leadership Plans FY09 Budget Next Week

Word just went out down here at the capitol that President Burns would like to get the "fix" for fiscal year '09 out of the Senate by next Thursday. This despite the fact that no one has seen even an inkling of a document that outlines an agreement or heard a whisper that bills are being prepared. All committees for next week have been cancelled, and the Senate will convene at 1 p.m. on Monday. Are there 16 votes for this phantom budget? Or perhaps Senate Republican Leadership is hoping that their members will fall in line over the course of the week. Let the arm twisting begin!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Legislative Democrats to Hold Statewide Budget Hearings

January 22, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Legislative Democrats to Hold Statewide Budget Hearings

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Legislative Democrats invite members of the public to a series of budget hearings that will be held statewide. Members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees will be in attendance to hear citizens’ concerns of the drastic cuts in the state budget.

The first hearing will be held on Monday, Jan. 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Casa Grande Middle School District Conference Room, 300 W. McMurray Blvd., Casa Grande, Ariz.

“Our communities are facing draconian cuts outlined in the Republican budget proposals, but they were not given a voice at the State Capitol,” said Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Apache Junction, Assistant Democratic Leader. "We are holding these hearings to provide more transparency in the process and to hear directly from the public how these cuts will affect their daily lives.”

“We want to hear what the people of Arizona have to say about budget cut options because these cuts will affect them the most,” said Rep. Barbara McGuire, D-Kearny. “Arizona’s children and middle class families are the backbone of our state. We also must not forget our veterans and our most vulnerable populations – the disabled and the elderly. How we treat our citizens is what will be said about us as a society.”

In the next few weeks, Legislative Democrats will also hold hearings in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma. Dates and times will be released as they are available.

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Additional Media Contact:
Jeanette Tejeda de Gomez, Director of Communication, Senate Democratic Caucus
602-926-4477 – jtejedadegomez@azleg.gov

Sarah Muench, Public Information Officer, House of Representatives
602-926-3561 – smuench@azleg.gov

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The "Fix" is In

Senate Democrats have been reviewing the 1,200 pages of options released by the chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees over the past couple days. We thought we would share with you some of what we have learned. Here are some highlights:

The Chairmen’s options begin with a reduction to each agency that includes a lump sum reduction of approximately 10% in FY 2009 and 15% in FY 2010, plus a reduction in state employee pay and benefits by 4.2% in FY 2009 and 10% in FY 2010, but also includes the following:

AHCCCS

  • Eliminate HealthCare Group. This covers roughly 18,000 people who work for small businesses.

  • Eliminate KidsCare, Arizona’s version of a federal program that provides medical coverage to uninsured children. The program serves approximately 64,000 children. If this happens, KidsCare parents, the companion program that allows their parents to get insurance for a fee, must also be eliminated.

  • Eliminate non-federally required Arizona Long-Term Care System services. Currently, the program covers people who make $23,100 per year or less. This option would only cover persons who make $7,500 or less.

Department of Economic Security


  • Drug test all recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and General Assistance. The Department of Health Services estimates that only 2.9% of Arizona’s population has a dependency on drugs. The price of drug testing would be $15 per recipient.

  • Reduce children support services by $5 million, which includes counseling and parenting skills training for parents of abused or neglected children.

  • Reduce the JOBS program by $10 million in 2010. These services are for current or past TANF recipients. The past 13,881 recipients of these monies have obtained employment.

  • Decrease child care funding by $8 million in FY 2009 and $19 million in FY 2010. This would result in a total decrease to that line of $57 million since we would also lose federal funding. Either this would result in 13,500 children losing funding or a reduction to each child to $247 per month from $352.

Department of Education


  • A $220 million lump sum reduction to school districts from the non-voter protected funding formula.

  • Phase out of career ladders and the teacher experience index and cap district desegregation funding.

  • Suspend 57% of the money school districts use to buy equipment in FY 2009, and all of it in FY 2010. This includes money for furniture, technology and school buses.

  • Eliminate full day kindergarten and require that schools not offer kindergarten to children who turn five on or after September 1.

Department of Health Services


  • Reduce non-federally required behavioral health services by 25%.

  • Reduce funding for vaccines to FY 2006 levels.

  • Close the UA poison control center.

School Facilities Board


  • Continue to suspend the construction of new schools.

  • No funding for school facilities maintenance.

Universities

  • Reverses progress made by rolling back past funding increases.

  • Requiring students receiving need-based financial aid to pay a minimum of $1,000 of their total tuition bill.

  • Repeals the university construction package passed last year and requires universities to make payments for debt already incurred on their own.


Senate Democrats understand that we are in a difficult economic time and must reduce the state budget in order to be fiscally sound. We stand ready to work to do so. We provide this information in an effort to keep our constituents informed about proposals at the legislature, and assure our constituents that we will fight to preserve vital government services to not only our most vulnerable populations, but also for those Arizonans who find themselves turning to government in these difficult economic times. The state should be there for you in your time of need.

Quote of the Week

This insightful quote is from today's Arizona Republic article by Laurie Roberts titled "Let's schedule a fair fight over budget cuts."

"OK, raise your hand if you're happy with Arizona's budget plan, the one put out last week by Republican leaders.

The one that guts one of the nation's most woefully underfunded school systems and debones the universities. The one that eliminates all-day kindergarten and health care for 63,000 kids. The one that slashes services to autistic children and the mentally ill and old people and, oh yeah, abused babies. Applause? Anyone?"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Whither State Revenue??

Gone. And it's not coming back anytime soon. Legislators spent the week hearing from panels of economists, business leaders, county officials and its own budget analysts, and all of them said essentially the same thing: This year is going to hurt, and the recovery will be slow.

On Monday, University of Arizona economist Marshall Vest told the Finance Advisory Committee "clearly this is the worst recession in Arizona history, or at least since World War II."

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee revealed in presentations that the state faces a shortfall of $1.6 billion (yes, with a "b") in the current fiscal year ending June 30, as well as an additional $3.0 billion shortfall in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. Moreover, revenue is not projected to return to the same level that it was two years ago until after June 30, 2012.

There is some silver lining, however. Economists predict that the precipitous economic decline that occurred at the end of 2008 is not likely to repeat, and that each subsequent year will be, if not fantastic, at least better than the previous. We appear to have taken the barrel ride over the economic falls. Now we have to fix it. But how?

Necessary reforms are often born of crisis and this is most certainly a crisis. Conservatives in the legislature will push to cut government to the bone and blame our current situation on "excesses" of the Napolitano administration. The truth is much more complicated. The largesse that the state enjoyed just three years ago was mostly the result of large upticks in volatile income tax categories, along with very strong sales tax returns. The state depends overwhelmingly on sales tax revenue. In fact, it made up 50 percent of the state's revenue in fiscal year 2008. As such, when consumer spending suffers, so does the state.

This presents an opportunity to examine our current tax structure and see if there's not a way to more equally balance the sources of revenue so that the state is not doubly pummeled in difficult economic times. Indeed, much of this work has already been done, but was not actively pursued. After all, government is where many people look for assistance when they fall on hard times. It has to be there for them. It is, in essence, what people pay their taxes for to begin with.

Below, you will see a graphic with data provided by JLBC during a joint House and Senate Caucus. These are not "savings options" like they were presented, but cuts to vital programs in education and healthcare.

Democrats are ready to be part of the solution to this particular budget crisis, but are also ready to stand up for Arizona's families and vulnerable populations in the process. More importantly, there must be an emphasis on the future and the creation of a more economically sustainable Arizona.

Thank you for your readership and we hope that you will pass this along.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Republican Budget Options: Example 2

In this second example, Sen. Jack Harper inquires as to whether the state is constitutionally required to fund kindergarten.

Video from Primer on Education Finance held at the Arizona Capitol on January 13.

video

Republican Budget Options: Example 1

Several Republican senators commented on healthcare and education funding as it relates to how to address the budget shortfall during the Primer on Education Finance held at the Arizona Capitol on January 13.

"Republicans want to take healthcare and kindergarten from Arizona's children," said Sen. Jorge Garcia. "We need to continue to look for ways to address the deficit without shortchanging children and families."

The video below and the one in the following post show two examples of these comments.

In the first video, Sen. Sylvia Allen suggests that education funding could not be increased without cutting AHCCCS, the state's Medicaid program, to the bone.


video
Please send this to all of your friends.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Senate Democrats Kick Off 2009 Session


We in Arizona, like at least 30 other states, are facing the reality that our revenue is not meeting the expenses of our state. Democrats believe that this present crisis, like the previous economic crisis, is a direct effect of the unbridled economic greed, nurtured and perpetuated by President Bush and Republican policies. Americans were pummeled as consumer protections were consistently ignored and loosened while white-collar crime was given free rein.

Most of my Republican colleagues want Arizonans to believe that the state’s financial crisis is a direct result of needless and reckless spending by Governor Napolitano. The fact that a number of states are also experiencing budget shortfalls speaks otherwise.

The Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus blog is designed to provide Arizonans with an alternative view of how government in Arizona should and can operate. We will explore the causes, effects and the solutions that will move the state forward through this financial crisis. We expect this session to be a very challenging one with good reason. The primary issue we face is closing a budget deficit of $1.2 billion for the current fiscal year and an even bigger one for the coming year without shortchanging Arizona’s children and families.

This blog will be more than budget talk. We will keep you up to date on our efforts to preserve quality of life for the citizens of Arizona through the difficult days ahead, including controversial policy issues to be heard in committee, how they fared and how they progress. We also invite you to comment on issues that you feel are important.

The 12 members of the Arizona Senate Democratic caucus are committed to giving voice to the citizens of Arizona, and making sure that people are not pushed aside in favor of politics and special interests. We look forward to working for you this session and beyond.

AZsenatedemocrats.com: A Democratic View of the Arizona Legislature

Welcome to AZsenatedemocrats.com, the official blog of the Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus. We hope to be able to use this tool to communicate with our constituents around the state in a more efficient and direct manner than ever before.

Throughout the 2009 Legislative session and beyond, we will chronicle our efforts to make good on the promise of an Arizona that has something to offer everyone who lives here. We will highlight our efforts and accomplishments on a number of key issues, as well as keep you informed about what is happening at the legislature with proposed changes that will impact you and your family.

In addition, we will also be making available any press releases and other media that the caucus produces, and chronicling when our members gain exposure in local, state or national media. Who knows, check back often enough, and you might even get a little slice of life at the legislature every once in awhile.

If you'd like to receive periodic updates on issues of extreme importance to Democrats, please provide us your email address with the form in the righthand column, and we'd be happy to keep you informed. We hope you will join us often, or if efficiency is more your thing, go ahead and subscribe to our post feed, and we'd be happy to come to you.