Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Governor’s committee blatantly ignores public safety

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Members of the Governor’s Commission on Privatization and Efficiency say that the committee’s report due out by December 31 will include increasing privatization of state prisons.

“Apparently this committee was not paying attention this summer when prisoners escaped from a private prison in Arizona caused a nationwide manhunt and the deaths of several innocent people,” said incoming Senator Minority Leader David Schapira. “Before we start putting the for sale signs out on more of our prisons we need to make certain that public safety will not be further compromised.”

On July 31, 2010, three convicted murders escaped from a Kingman prison managed by Management and Training Corporation. Two of the escapees are facing capital murder charges for the deaths of Gary and Linda Haas of Oklahoma. Arizona is currently facing a $40 million suit as a result of the murders.

“Republicans are rushing to abandon state responsibility without considering the welfare of the state,” said incoming Senate Assistant Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor. “Increasing dependence on for-profit companies puts us all at risk.”

Senate Democrats call on Governor to take action

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Mark Price, the first AHCCCS patient to come forward after he was denied a bone marrow transplant due to Republican budget cuts has died.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of Mark Price and offer our prayers and condolences to his family,” said incoming Senator Minority Leader David Schapira. “Unfortunately the clock has run out for Mr. Price, but the clock is still ticking for others in Arizona who are counting on the Governor to take action by restoring life-saving transplant funding.”

Yesterday, Governor Brewer called the AHCCCS program a “Cadillac Plan” and claimed federal stimulus dollars are already accounted for in designated places, but refuses to state where she spent the money.

“Gov. Brewer continues to make excuses for cutting a program that denies life-saving transplants, but has not offered any solutions to people who are seriously ill and in need of those transplants,” said incoming Senator Minority Leader David Schapira.

Senate Democrats call on Gov. Brewer to immediately act to deal with these dire circumstances. According to an NPR report on November 11, there are nearly 100 Arizona patients awaiting life-saving transplants who have been turned away because of the budget cuts made by Brewer and Republicans in the Legislature.

“In the time it will take for Gov. Brewer to light a Christmas tree and a Menorah in the State Capitol this week, she could have issued a solution,” said Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, incoming Senate Assistant Minority Leader. “The lack of urgency to fix the AHCCCS problem is horrifying. These are life and death situations, and people may literally die if the Republicans do not take immediate action to change the law or provide the resources for these life-saving services.”

The coverage of specific transplants and services was revoked in HB 2010: health; budget reconciliation; 2010-2011 in the Seventh Special Session. The specific references to transplants are on page 21. http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/7s/bills/hb2010h.pdf

In the final Senate vote, all Democrats voted against the bill. All Republicans voted for the bill, except for Sen. Jay Tibshraeny who voted no and Sen. Carolyn Allen, who did not vote. http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/49leg/7s/bills/hb2010.sthird.1.asp

All House Democrats voted against the bill and all Republicans voted for it except for Rep. Doug Quelland. http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/49leg/7s/bills/hb2010.hthird.1.asp
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

In case you missed it: AZ Republic Fact Check Proves Brewer Wrong

Here is the full fact-check, which was only in the hard copy edition of Monday's Arizona Republic.

THE CONTROVERSY: TRANSPLANT COVERAGE FOR LOW-INCOME ARIZONANS
by Mary Jo Pitzl - November 22, 2010

THE CONTROVERSY:
Transplant coverage for low-income Arizonans and the federal health-care-reform bill.

THE FORUM:
Dueling news statements from legislative Democrats and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.

WHAT WE'RE LOOKING AT:
Gov. Jan Brewer has said the state can't afford to pay for certain transplant surgeries because of the constraints of the federal health-care-reform bill. Democrats say she's lying, and note Brewer could tap into federal stimulus dollars over which she has discretion to pay for the procedures. Alternatively, they argue she could call the Legislature into a special session to restore funding for the services.

The rhetoric has been heated and impassioned: Incoming Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, has called the governor a "one-person death panel" because she refuses to act.

ANALYSIS:
The Legislature in March approved a fiscal 2011 budget that cut funding for optional services provided by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid alternative. That included coverage of certain transplant surgeries, including bone marrow, kidney, liver problems due to hepatitis C and others. Those cuts took effect Oct. 1.

The budget also eliminated 310,000 people from AHCCCS coverage as of Jan. 1, 2011.

Soon after the state budget was completed in March, President Barack Obama signed the federal health-care-reform bill into law. It locked the state into providing required Medicaid services at the level in place at the time. That meant Arizona had to continue covering the 310,000 people, or risk the loss of $7 billion in Medicaid dollars to services such as long-term-care centers. It did not have to continue optional services such as the transplants.

The state is obliged to continue the required coverage through fiscal 2014, when federal dollars would arrive to cover them. The state's estimated cost over the next three years is roughly $1 billion a year.

Although the state is part of a lawsuit seeking to overturn the federal health-care-reform law, lawmakers and Brewer so far have concluded the state can't afford to ignore its requirements since $7 billion in Medicaid payments hangs in the balance. Therefore, they say they need to save money where they can - for example, by not covering optional services such as some transplants.

However, the decision to cut off some transplant funding was made before the effects of the federal health-care bill were known.

Brewer has said she would consider restoring the transplant funding if she were provided ideas on where to raise the money.

Democrats last week said the governor could tap into federal stimulus dollars that she controls. The latest available accounting of those dollars, from May, shows the governor had $46 million at her disposal. It would cost about $800,000 to restore transplant coverage through the June 30 end of this fiscal year; another $1.4 million for the following year.

Brewer's office did not respond to requests on whether she would consider using the stimulus dollars. Her office also did not immediately respond to a public-records request for the amount of stimulus money still unspent.

THE FINDING:
Brewer is wrong to directly link the denial of transplant coverage to federal health-care reform; it was a decision lawmakers made before the federal bill became law. But she is correct in noting that the federal law puts pressure on the state budget, which is facing chronic deficits.

Sources:
House Democrats' news release
Senate Democrats' news release
FY 2011 Appropriations Report, 5/24/2010/ May 24, and Long-Term Budget Projections, April 23, 4/23/2010
Budget bill with transplant language

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fact check proves Brewer wrong on transplant cuts

Senate Democrats call for governor to stop making excuses and take action

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – A fact-check by The Arizona Republic today agreed with Senate Democrats’ contention that Gov. Jan Brewer is wrong to tie denial of transplant coverage with the new federal health-care law because transplant cuts were made before passage of the federal law.

“People’s lives are on the line and instead of acting, the governor is revising history to shift blame away from herself and Republicans,” said incoming Senate Minority Leader David Schapira. “It’s time to set politics aside and take action to resolve this life-and-death issue. The governor’s inaction is absolutely irresponsible. She has yet to do anything other than misplace blame on others.”

Brewer has been cheering cuts to vital programs since coming into office. During a Thanksgiving week press conference in 2009, Brewer said, “Since I've become governor, we've cut over $1 billion out of the state budget. So, we are going to have a great Thanksgiving, have everybody go home and enjoy their families.” Brewer went on to say, “It’s a good day. It’s a good beginning to righting the ship here in Arizona.”

These cuts are just the beginning of what we will see as Republicans attempt to kick hundreds of thousands of low-income people off of health care while continuing to pander to special interests.

“We are glad the fact check sheds light on the governor's failed attempt to pin blame on federal heath-care reform,” said incoming Senate Assistant Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor. “For people on AHCCCS who need an organ transplant, unless they can find donated services, Brewer's budget cuts are essentially a death sentence. That is not something to celebrate.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brewercare costing Arizona lives: Senate Democrats call on Governor to take action

NEWS RELEASE
Arizona State Senate
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85007
Senator-elect David Schapira, D-17
Senate Minority Leader (incoming)
Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, D-16
Senate Assistant Minority Leader (incoming)

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – This week, Arizonans faced some stark examples of the impact of the cuts the Republican majority voted for to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System budget when Francisco Felix was denied a desperately needed liver transplant and Randy Shepherd denied a heart transplant.

Senate Democrats call on Gov. Brewer to take action to deal with these dire circumstances.

“Brewercare is putting lives at risk,” said incoming Senate Minority Leader David Schapira. “Governor Brewer is now a one-person death panel. These Arizona citizens deserve to have the medical care they were promised. The Governor must take action now by allocating stimulus money or calling a special session. This cannot wait any longer while lives are at stake.”

According to an NPR report on November 11, there are nearly 100 Arizona patients awaiting transplants who have been denied because of the cuts made by Brewer and Republicans in the Legislature.

“The Arizona voters passed Proposition 204 to require the state to cover people who are at 100 percent of the federal poverty limit,” said Senator Leah Landrum Taylor, incoming Senate Assistant Minority Leader. “This is only Republicans continuing to look for ways to back out of their obligations to the voters by kicking low-income people off of health care.”

The coverage of specific transplants and services was revoked in HB 2010: health; budget reconciliation; 2010-2011 in the Seventh Special Session. The specific references to transplants is on page 21. http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/7s/bills/hb2010h.pdf

In the final Senate vote, all Democrats voted against the bill. All Republicans voted for the bill, except for Sen. Jay Tibshraeny who voted no and Sen. Carolyn Allen, who did not vote. http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/49leg/7s/bills/hb2010.sthird.1.asp

All House Democrats voted against the bill and all Republicans voted for it except for Rep. Doug Quelland. http://www.azleg.gov/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/legtext/49leg/7s/bills/hb2010.hthird.1.asp

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Senate Welcomes Senator Maria Garcia

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Today, Maria Garcia accepted the Oath of Office for the remainder of the late Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia’s term as Legislative District 27 State Senator.

Maria Garcia was born in Phoenix where she attended grammar school in South Phoenix and graduated from Phoenix Union High School. She attended Phoenix Community College and is near completion of a degree from the University of Arizona Eller College of Management.

Maria Garcia has been employed with Raytheon for thirty years where she has been involved in manufacturing, electronic technology, quality engineering and prototypes. She was promoted to supervision and is currently a value stream manager at Raytheon.

Jorge and Maria met when they were 15 years old and were married for 38 years.
She and Jorge moved to Tucson for him to attend the University of Arizona. They have three adult children, Yvette, a teacher, Dominique, a Harvard graduate who works in marketing and Rolando Jorge Luis, a civil engineer.

Maria has always been active and supportive in Jorge’s endeavors and participated in many conferences with him. She is involved in Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Shine for Shoes, which provides shoes for underprivileged children.

Previous to Senator Jorge Luis Garcia’s death, he and Maria had discussed her taking over his office should it be necessary. Maria Garcia was appointed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to fill out the remainder of her late husband’s term.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge William “Bill” Brotherton, who had previously served in the Senate with Jorge Garcia, administered the Oath of Office.

Monday, November 8, 2010

SENATE APPOINTMENT CEREMONY FOR MARIA GARCIA

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – The Senate will convene an informal session on Wednesday, November 10 at 10 a.m. in order to administer the Oath of Office to Maria Garcia for the remainder of the late Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia’s term in Legislative District 27.

Following the administration of the Oath, the Senate will hold a commemoration ceremony in honor of the life and contributions of Senator Jorge Luis Garcia.

“Senator Garcia was a staunch advocate for Arizonans and he will be deeply missed by many,” said Rios. “We are honored to have Maria Garcia with us and welcome her to the Senate.”

Maria Garcia was appointed by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to fill out the remainder of her late husband’s term. They were married for 37 years.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Senate Democrats Elect New Leadership, Urge Focus on Economy

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Senate Democrats elected new leadership for the 50th Legislative Session. The Senate Democratic members elected Senator-elect David Schapira as the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Leah Landrum Taylor as Assistant Minority Leader and Senator Paula Aboud as Minority Whip.

“We must dedicate the next legislative session to addressing the economy and jobs,” said Schapira. “We need to move past the issues that divide us and move forward together to solve Arizona's problems. We need a legislature themed by moderation that is focused on building a stronger Arizona.”

Schapira is currently a state representative, a faculty member at Arizona State University and small business owner known for working on education issues and across party lines. He is a native of Arizona and is married and a father of one. He will be youngest member of state senate.

Landrum Taylor is a third generation native Phoenician educated at Xavier College Preparatory and Arizona State University where she received a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Political Science. Landrum Taylor was elected to the House in 1998 and to the Senate in 2006. She is married and has three children.

Aboud, who has served in the Senate since 2006, is a graduate of the University of Arizona and a third-generation Tucsonan. She is currently the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations committee. She is committed to maintaining the quality of life for Arizona residents.

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