Thursday, July 13, 2017

Senator Peshlakai welcomes completion of school lead testing

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senator Jamescita Peshlakai released the following statement as the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) nears completion of its statewide Public School Drinking Water Lead Screening Program.

Background:
ADEQ has coordinated with multiple state and local agencies, public water systems and public schools to proactively conduct a six-month, fast-track screening program for the presence of lead in school drinking water. More on the program and test results can be found here: http://azdeq.gov/LeadScreeningProg
Sen. Peshlakai

"ADEQ has kept me apprised of any samples collected from our community schools that have tested positive for lead and I want to assure parents that remediation is currently in process and every effort to keep our children safe is being made."

This effort by ADEQ to rapidly and comprehensively test for lead in our schools is a successful program and I appreciate their focus on keeping our kids learning in a safe environment."

I will continue to monitor the final test results as they come in and look forward to Arizona's students starting the new school year with clean, safe water in their schools."

Sen. Miranda to receive Exemplary Leadership award from Valle del Sol

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senator Catherine Miranda (LD-27) has been selected to receive the 2017 Profiles of Success Exemplary Leadership Award from Valle del Sol in recognition for her service to the Latino community.
Sen. Miranda

Valle del Sol's Profiles of Success Hispanic Leadership Awards recognize Latino leadership and service in the Valley. Senator Miranda will receive the award on September 8th, 2017, during the 27th Annual Hispanic Leadership Awards Celebration at the Phoenix Convention Center. The event, which draws more than 1,400 attendees, also kicks off National Hispanic Heritage Month in Arizona.

"What I do is not for a day such as this. However, I am honored and dedicate this recognition to the community I serve. Thank you Valle del Sol for your leadership that makes all of the difference," said Senator Miranda.

Funds raised from this event will support Valle del Sol's mission of investing in health and human services to strengthen families with tools and skills for self-sufficiency and by building the next generation of Latino and diverse leaders. More information on the event can be found here: valledelsol.com/profiles

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Senator Bowie named legislative 'Arts Champion'

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX Senator Sean Bowie has been named a 2017 Arts Champion by Arizona Citizens for the Arts for being a strong supporter of the arts and advocating for a $1.5 million appropriation to the Arizona Commission on the Arts for grants to nonprofit arts and culture organizations across Arizona.

Sen. Bowie
Senator Bowie and ten of his legislative colleagues were chosen “for ensuring that critical funding for arts and culture will benefit the entire state of Arizona,” said Catherine “Rusty” Foley, executive director of Arizona Citizens for the Arts. “Those vital dollars will be invested in local nonprofit arts and culture organizations which will reinvest the funds in local economies all around the state.”

"As someone who grew up in Chandler and Ahwatukee participating in theatre and music programs, it is a huge honor to receive this award from the Arizona Citizens for the Arts. The arts community is a critical part of the community and economy in my district, and I will always advocate for additional support to strengthen our local arts programs."


About Arizona Citizens for the Arts

Arizona Citizens for the Arts, a 35-year-old 501 c3 organization, acts as the eyes, ears and voice of the nonprofit arts and culture sector in Arizona at the State Legislature, in local city halls and partnerships with business and community leaders involved in building and supporting quality of life in Arizona.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tuition ruling will be devastating for Arizona's Dreamers

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today, Arizona State Senator Catherine Miranda expressed her deep concern regarding the recent ruling by the Arizona Court of Appeals that DACA recipients are not in this country legally and are, therefore, not eligible for in-state college tuition.

Sen. Miranda
Judge Kenton Jones argued that despite the fact that in 2006 Arizona voters approved Prop 300, which establishes that in-state tuition is reserved for those with "lawful immigration status", DACA is not a law and the legal status of those in the program has never been approved by Congress. Thus, since the Court does not consider "Dreamers" to be state residents for purposes of Prop 300, more than 28,000 current DACA beneficiaries in Arizona may be required to pay burdensome out-of-state tuition.

Arizona attorney Danny Ortega, who represents DACA recipient students said he was, “very disappointed in the decision because it will triple the students’ tuition costs and likely force many of them to not pursue their education. At this point, we urge the Maricopa Community College District to appeal the Court’s decision and we stand ready to continue the fight for justice in education.” 

Senator Miranda stated:

"I stand with DACA recipients and will continue to fight for justice for them,” said Senator Miranda. “For Arizona's Dreamers, our state is their home. They are decent, hard-working students who every day contribute to our society in positive ways. They love this country and have worked hard all their lives to one day have an economic impact in their community,” she continued.

“This ruling will not only impact the more than 2,200 DACA students currently attending our universities and community colleges. It will also impact those who are studying hard and saving up to enter college in the near future, but who may now be forced to put those plans aside. Our nation is strengthened by its diversity. Let us all work together and continue to reinforce our democracy by supporting those who seek a brighter tomorrow and are motivated by the dream of greater opportunity."

Friday, June 2, 2017

ADEQ school lead screening program deserves praise

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senator Catherine Miranda released the following statement as the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) wraps up its Public School Drinking Water Lead Screening Program, which is testing schools statewide:

  "I have been following ADEQ's Public School Drinking Water Lead Screening Program ever since I was first
Sen. Miranda
notified in March that a schools in my district was found to have excessive levels of lead in its drinking water," said Senator Miranda.
 
"Since then, ADEQ has kept me and the school superintendents in my district updated on test results and have provided prompt and clear instructions on how to remediate sources of lead. So far 12 schools in my district have been found to have high lead levels in sources of drinking water.
 
"Our Superintendent in the Roosevelt School District, Jeanne Koba, has been following ADEQ's directions explicitly regarding precautions to take where they have found lead. ADEQ has assured Superintendent Koba that they will be working with her on permanent fixes to remove sources of lead and that in the meantime shutting down the tainted fixtures and flushing water lines will keep everyone safe.
 
"Exposure to lead is a serious threat to developing children and ADEQ deserves praise for initiating this ambitious program to test every school in the state within just six months. I have been informed that they expect to receive the last test results by mid-July to ensure Arizona children will learn in lead-free schools by the beginning of next school year."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Climate agreement departure threatens AZ economy, future


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX Leaders of the Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statement on President Trump removing the United States from the Paris Agreement:

"President Trump's decision to back out of the Paris Agreement is an act of ideological folly that will cause long-term damage to Arizona's environment and our economy.

The first decade of this millennium was warmer than any of the 20th century and temperatures are rising still. Multiple climate models show the Southwest will experience some of the worst climate change in the U.S. over the next 40 to 80 years. Those higher temperatures will amplify drought conditions, making water more scarce, and require more energy to cool buildings.

Of the historic "Five C's" of Arizona's economy, the one whose value has never fluctuated is climate. Arizona's weather and natural beauty still draw millions of visitors from around the world each year. In 2015 alone, those visitors put $21 billion into our economy and supported almost 180,000 jobs.

And Arizona's climate provides the nation and the world with fresh fruits, vegetables and grains from our $17 billion-per-year agriculture industry. A lack of water and shifting growing seasons would be devastating to Arizona's farms and the 77,000 jobs they create.

With our abundance of sunshine and our renowned entrepreneurial spirit, Arizona can benefit immensely by welcoming innovative clean power companies that will help us transition from fossil fuel dependency, safeguarding the health of our environment, our economy and our people while creating new, high-skilled jobs.

By pulling out of the Paris Agreement, President Trump is abandoning the majority of Arizonans, and Americans, who support the Agreement and acting counter to the advice of U.S. Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney.


Sticking your head in the sand is not leadership, it's cowardice. Climate change is an issue where the U.S. should be a world leader. Leading in this area can grow our economy at the same time as we protect our world for our children and grandchildren."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Budget prioritizes partisanship over greater good

Senator Katie Hobbs, Senate Democratic Leader
Senator Steve Farley, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader
Senator Martin Quezada, Senate Democratic Whip
Senator Lupe Contreras, Senate Democratic Whip

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Leaders of the Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statement on the passage of this session's budget:

"A state's budget reflects the priorities of those in power and the priorities of Arizona's Republican legislators and governor are crystal clear.

Governor Ducey and Republican legislative leaders had every opportunity to work together with Democratic legislators, who represent more than 40% of our state, to find realistic solutions to the real problems facing our state.

But they chose to ignore us.

For weeks, legislative Democrats offered our support for Governor Ducey's forward-thinking university bonding plan. With our cities and counties held harmless, his plan is a reasonable start to restoring the billions of dollars Republicans have cut from our state universities.

But he chose to put partisanship over collaboration.

Without the full support on bonding from Republican legislators, Governor Ducey needed our votes. For our support, we asked for a meaningful four percent raise for Arizona teachers, who have the lowest salaries in the nation, and a clean restoration of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to 24 months.

Instead of prioritizing Arizona's struggling families and hard-working teachers, Governor Ducey chose to spend your hard-earned tax dollars buying off Republicans with $1 million to the Koch brothers' pet project at ASU, $10 million in tax cuts and a petty swipe at cities.

Governor Ducey proclaimed in his state of the state speech, "Along with Leaders Hobbs and Rios, I’m excited to continue working together on areas of common ground."

It's hard to imagine, but Governor Ducey must not consider teachers, the working poor and our universities to be areas of common concern.

The priorities reflected in this purely Republican budget are that of partisanship over democracy, special interests over the public interest and hollow talking points over meaningful substance.

Legislative Democrats, by contrast, have always stood for Arizona's poor, our students and teachers, our universities, our public servants and our businesses. We strive every day to serve all Arizonans.

Such was our intention with our gesture of bipartisanship, a missed opportunity to collaborate for the greater good of Arizona because of wrong priorities."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ducey, Republican leaders eschew real solutions for partisan politics

Sen. Katie Hobbs, Senate Democratic Leader
Sen. Steve Farley, Asst. Senate Democratic Leader
Sen. Martin Quezada, Senate Democratic Whip
Sen. Lupe Contreras, Senate Democratic Whip
 Rep. Rebecca Rios, House Democratic Leader
Rep. Randall Friese, Asst. House Democratic Leader
Rep. Charlene Fernandez, House Democratic Whip


STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX Democratic leaders of the Senate and House released the following statement on the introduction of budget bills:

"Yesterday Governor Ducey and legislative Republican leaders introduced their budget bills, including a separate bill on university bonding.

"Republicans have known they don't have enough votes of their own members to pass university bonding, so we have been negotiating in good faith to support it in exchange for a clean restoration of the cruel and unnecessary TANF cut made in 2015, and diverting the governor's inequitable results-based funding to go toward teacher raises of 4%.

"Instead of working across party lines, they have decided to play partisan politics and pulled university bonding out of the higher education budget bill with the hope that enough Dems will be willing to leave struggling families and teachers behind to pass the bonding.

"That will not happen.

"Dems have always and will always stand up for our state's universities, which have been seen their budgets negligently slashed by Republicans for years. But we have also always stood up for Arizona's poor families and hard-working teachers who have been scapegoated and sacrificed in the name of conservative ideology.

"There is still an opportunity to work together to achieve both of these goals. We do not disagree with Governor Ducey's university bonding proposal. So long as our cities and towns are held harmless, it is a reasonable way to put a meaningful band aid on the damage that years of Republican neglect have caused.

"But rather than work with Democrats in true bipartisanship, Governor Ducey and Republican legislative leaders have decided they would rather risk university bonding than make a humane gesture to poor Arizona families and give our teachers a truly meaningful raise.


"Until they are willing to put ugly partisan politics aside and work with us, they will lose that gamble."

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

LD7 Senator Peshlakai's Resolution endorsing AZ Veterans Services and Navajo Nation MOU is unanimously adopted

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX Senator Jamescita Peshlakai released the following statement on the Legislature's unanimous adoption of her Senate Concurrent Resolution 1028.

SCR 1028 expresses the Legislature's commitment to ensuring the cooperation of the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services and the Navajo Nation in an effort to increase the number of veteran service officers working within the Navajo Nation. The resolution officially recognizes the memorandum of understanding between the ADVS and the Navajo Nation that was signed on June 24, 2016.

Sen. Peshlakai
"SCR 1028 is a promise that the state of Arizona will collaborate with the Navajo Nation Veterans' Administration to have their staff federally accredited and working under the umbrella of the state Department of Veterans' Services. When implemented, this will be the first time tribal veteran service officers are able to file federal Veterans' Administration claims and benefits applications for our tribal veterans," said Senator Peshlakai. "This significant improvement will change the lives of many tribal veterans, their families and communities by not forcing them to travel many hours away from home to be able to receive these hard earned benefits.

"As a combat war veteran, I thank my legislative colleagues for stepping up to right an incredible wrong and oversight in our state. We must act now and purposely for our patriots and forgotten soldiers."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

ESA expansion is 'next step' in wholesale dismantling of Arizona public schools

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Leaders of the Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statement on the passage of SB 1431:

"Since taking office in 2014, this governor and his Republican legislators have gleefully claimed to support public education in Arizona, despite the hypocrisy of deliberately slashing funding for years and taking every opportunity to undermine our struggling schools.

"This year alone there are bills to remove $211 million from our schools, eliminate standards that ensure our children are taught by qualified teachers, and the governor's budget proposes an insultingly inadequate 4/10ths of a percent raise for Arizona teachers who are paid the least of any state.

"By passing this legislation Republicans are enabling a system that data show subsidizes affluent families, while poorer Arizonans are unable to use ESAs because they cannot afford the remaining costs of private-school tuition.

"94% of Arizona families choose public schools for their children and 77% of Arizonans believe the state should be investing more in those schools. It is long past time for the Legislature to honor their choice by adequately funding our public schools.

"But the Republicans who control Arizona continue to chronically underfund our public schools and have now chosen to further siphon money from them by expanding school vouchers.

"During today's floor debate Senate President Yarbrough stated, 'this is a very important day in the history of Arizona.' Sadly, he is correct. Today will be remembered as the 'next step' in the wholesale dismantling of public education in Arizona."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Arizona Legislative Democrats FY18 Education Policy & Fiscal Priorities

Education

Investing in public education, including K-12 schools and universities, is critical to changing the trajectory of the state. Democrats have prioritized efforts to reduce class sizes, correct the teacher shortage problem and develop long-term solutions that will provide our schools the resources they need.

This session, Democrats introduced a package of bills to properly invest in our educators, students, and schools. Taken together or individually, we strongly recommended that the Legislature consider these items in order to move our K-12 education system forward:  

Teacher Salary  

  • The first step in achieving these goals is providing our classroom teachers an immediate 4% salary increase starting in FY 2018. 
  • Arizona ranks 50th in teacher pay, with teachers earning just $45,477 compared to the national median teacher salary of $54,120. (NEA 2015-2016)
  • We recognize the Executive's FY 2018 budget provides a raise for teachers, but the immediate impact is negligible – a mere .4% increase in the first year does little to address inadequate pay and alarming turnover rates.    

Building Renewal & Soft Capital 

  • The building renewal funding formula to repair and maintain school buildings was repealed in 2013 and replaced with a grants program that is less than one-tenth of what the formula funded. Last September two Glendale elementary schools were forced to close due to emergency repairs.
  • The Joint Legislative Budget Committee estimates that the now-repealed formula would have generated $289 million for the current fiscal year. The FY 17 budget appropriated just $31.7 million to the building renewal grant program.
  • Governor Ducey's budget proposal continues hundreds of millions of dollars in annual direct cuts to schools for school maintenance and soft capital like technology, textbooks and classroom supplies. 
  • Democrats propose reinstating the building renewal formula in statute and increasing funding 10% per year until the formula is fully restored.
  • Addressing soft capital needs is critical to supporting our schools and requires an intentional effort to reverse these devastating cuts to education. Suspensions of these district and charter additional assistance formulas have totaled more than $2 billion since 2009.
  • Democrats propose increasing funding to District Additional Assistance by 10% per year until the formula amount is fully restored.

Prop 301 Renewal

  • Approved by the voters on the 2000 general election ballot, Prop 301 monies provide a key source of financial support for schools and are scheduled to expire in June 2021.
  • Democrats propose referring Proposition 301 renewal to the 2018 General Election ballot and increasing the amount from .6 to 1 cent, which would generate over $400 million additional dollars to support teacher pay increases, reduce classroom sizes and begin to turn the corner on our statewide teacher recruitment and retention crisis. 
  • 77% of Arizonans want to renew Prop 301 and 65% agree with Democrats that we should renew at a full penny. Now is the time to make that commitment to the children of our state. (SFC).
  • Volkswagen Emissions Settlement
  • 30% of our school buses fail safety inspections and schools are constantly forced to prioritize building repairs over basic needs because of lack of funding. 
  • Democrats support using the $48 million in funding received from the Volkswagen Emissions Settlement for the purpose of purchasing or updating school buses in the K-12 education system.

Resources

With a population of nearly 7 million and growing, the need for vital state services and infrastructure will not diminish. Nonetheless, our current tax structure is stacked against the middle class and favors special interests. Reckless cuts have left Arizona without the revenue needed to meet the long-term needs of our state's population. We need tax reforms that more fairly impact taxpayers and create a consistent source of revenue to fund the priorities that voters have repeatedly said they value. Legislative Democrats are committed to starting a statewide conversation about how to fund the education system our voters and the business community strongly support. Our state's future economic development prospects are directly tied to educating the workforce needed for our businesses to grow and compete in a global marketplace.

Tax Credit Sunset Process

  • Establish a sunset review of all income tax credits to force the Legislature to proactively assess, debate and act to continue each individual credit

Tax Expenditure Review

  • Require the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee to review the return-on-investment for all tax expenditures to determine if they create new economic activity, generate revenue and lead to quantifiable job creation. 

STO Cap

  • Cap the School Tuition Organization (STO) corporate tax credit expansion and allocate the savings to teacher recruitment, retention and training. This will save $12 million in revenue in just the first year. 

Rehire Department of Revenue Compliance Staff

  • According to a recent study by the non-partisan Grand Canyon Institute, Arizona could increase annual revenue by $70-100 million dollars by hiring 100 additional collectors and auditors plus needed support staff.  

Finance Review Task Force

  • Create a state finance review task force comprised of legislators, agency representatives, economists, business and community leaders and stakeholders to review the expenditure and revenue sides of the state budget and recommend a reform package that provides for adequate and sustainable funding. The Legislature should ensure that the revenues of the state are sufficient to address the essential functions of government. Fund sweeps and other gimmicks are not an acceptable way to build a sustainable and structurally balanced budget. 


Legislative Democrats
K-12 Funding Proposal- FY'18

Proposed Investments
Teacher Raises                                           $136 M
Reinstate the Building Renewal Formula*                           $29 M
District Additional Assistance Formula increase*                           $38 M
K-12 school buses                                                   $48 M
TOTAL                                                                   $251 M
* First year of a 10-year, 10% per year funding restoration plan

Funding Sources
General Fund                                                  $55.6 M
Shift funding from the Governor's "credit enhancement" funds  $24 M
Freeze growth in corporate STO tax credits for private school tuition  $12 M (20% growth per year)
General Fund lottery revenue                                          $50 M
Revenue from adding additional DOR tax collection staff  $61.4 M
VW settlement for K-12 school buses                          $48 M
TOTAL                                                                          $251 M


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Friday, March 17, 2017

Lead sources in AZ schools are being identified and removed

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senator Catherine Miranda has been alerted by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) that three drinking water samples from Amy Houston Academy in the Roosevelt School District showed levels exceeding the federal lead drinking water standard.

The samples were taken as part of ADEQ's Public School Drinking Water Lead Screening Program, which is testing schools statewide.
Sen. Miranda

"The safety of our children is always my greatest priority, so it is concerning to learn the students of Amy Houston Academy may have been exposed to lead in their drinking water," said Senator Miranda. "I have requested ADEQ keep me updated on the lead testing program's progress and have contacted Roosevelt Superintendent Jeanne Koba and Board President Norma Muñoz to confirm all corrective measures are being taken to eliminate any sources of exposure to their students.

"After years of budgetary neglect by the state, Arizona now has many aging schools in desperate need of repairs. I will do everything in my power to ensure the students of my legislative district can learn in schools that keep them healthy and safe by continuing to be a strong voice for increased education funding.

"I must express my appreciation to ADEQ for their proactive effort to test every school in Arizona and their quick response to inform the public and act swiftly to ensure the safety of our children."

Friday, March 10, 2017

Business/Education Forum holds inaugural meeting

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – The recently created Arizona Legislature Business/Education Forum held its first meeting of the 2017 Session on February 27th in the historic Supreme Court Chamber of the Old Capitol Building.

Sen. Miranda
The topic of discussion was "Autonomous and Electrical Vehicles" and featured a presentation from executives of Lucid Motors, including: Peter Rawlinson, Chief Technology Officer; Brian Barron, Director of Global Manufacturing; and Zak Edson, Director of Marketing and Communication. They presented a thorough overview of their company and the innovative electric vehicle scheduled to be manufactured at a new plant in Casa Grande, which they project will bring over 2,000 jobs and more than $700 million in capital investment to the region by 2022.

Joining the panel discussion with Lucid executives Rawlinson, Barron and Edson were: Dr. Maria Marper-Marinick, Chancellor of Maricopa County Community Colleges and recently named the 2017 Valley Leadership Woman of the Year; ADOT Director John Halikowski; and Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan, Executive Vice President of Knowledge Enterprise at ASU. 

Senator Miranda said that the Forum offers a unique opportunity to strengthen the relationship between business and education.

"Education is the key to economic success and community prosperity. As legislators, we must enlist our business community to share their knowledge to make long-lasting impacts that will benefit our community," said Sen. Miranda. "This forum provides a platform for policymakers and stakeholders to meet, hear unique perspectives and gain valuable insights that will produce practical and sustainable policy recommendations on the matter."

The event drew leaders of the business and education community as well as members of the Arizona Legislature.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Legislature welcomes Mexican Sen. Romero Hicks

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – At the invitation of Arizona Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard and Representative Anthony Rivero, Phoenix welcomed last week the visit of the Honorable Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, Mexican Federal Senator of the State of Guanajuato.
                                                                             
Sen. Miranda
Senator Romero Hicks, a member of the National Action Party and former Governor of Guanajuato, visited the Arizona House of Representatives during a joint session of both chambers to deliver a message of unity and good will. The Senator spoke about the current state of Mexico-U.S. relations and the desire of the Mexican people to continue the good relationship between Mexico and the U.S.

During his address to the Legislature, Senator Romero Hicks spoke about the mutual problems Mexico and the United States are currently facing and the benefits for our countries of working together towards the achievement of common goals. He expressed the need to stop blaming each other for our problems. "Let's try to solve our problems together," he said. "If we are going to be neighbors forever, why not build together a great North American community."

Arizona State Senator Catherine Miranda, LD27, had the opportunity to talk with Senator Romero Hicks, as well as with his political advisor, Juan Hernandez. She said she is looking forward to working with our two countries to maintain the good relationship between Mexico and Arizona, in view of the existing political climate around our nation. She also expressed her willingness to continue working for a shared prosperity.  

Senator Miranda commended Speaker Mesnard and Representative Rivero for the opportunity to hear Senator Romero Hicks, whose message was very well received by legislators.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Communities, families and environment must remain focus of NGS transition plan

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX –  The legislators from District 7 issued the following statements regarding the announcement from the Navajo Generating Station owners that they will continue operating the plant until 2019, pending the approval of the Navajo Nation:

Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai, D-Cameron (District 7)
"NGS opened in 1976 and was expected to operate for 68 years until 2044. The current plan is to close the plant 25 years earlier than expected.  The southwest, the nation and the world have benefitted from the Navajo Generating Station, but the communities surrounding the plant remain underdeveloped, and now the owners are planning an exit.  The reality is we cannot allow what the mining industry did to our tribal nations after the Cold War to be repeated. I am looking forward to working with everyone on this transition, the length of which depends on the leaders of the Navajo Nation.  I hope the recent announcement is sincere and not a stunt to renegotiate a new lease, which would further undervalue natural resources and undercuts revenues going to tribal nations. We must seize this opportunity to develop an industry that can carry on for centuries in the renewable energy sector.”

Rep. Wenona Benally, D-Window Rock (District 7)
"With yesterday's announcement on the closure of NGS, we must now focus our attention on ensuring that the transition is done in a responsible manner. The economic security of the communities impacted is paramount, and I look forward to working on creating opportunities for workers to receive significant job and skills training in other sectors, including the renewable energy industry. Additionally, I look forward to having further discussions about the plans for clean-up and restoration."  

Rep. Eric Descheenie, D-Chinle (District 7)
"My heart goes out to the working women and men who are directly impacted by this issue. All those who are stakeholders in NGS need to commit publicly now how they plan to ensure our families have every opportunity to transition from these unearned circumstances. By that, I mean leaders created the dire circumstance we have before us. Leaders created this, not our families doing their best to make an honest living. I implore leaders to chart a new path, one that is responsive to traditional knowledge and environmental sustainability, in addition to economics. Anything less is unacceptable."

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Senator Hobbs appoints Amy Chan to Clean Elections

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs today announced the appointment of Amy B. Chan to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

Ms. Chan is an attorney and former elections director for then Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

"Amy Chan and her wealth of election law knowledge will be a valuable addition to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission," said Senator Hobbs. "Her dedication to defending its mission and its voter-protected ability to enforce election laws are welcome at a time when the Commission finds itself under attack from those who fear transparent elections."

Previously, Ms. Chan served as legal counsel and policy advisor for the majority in the state Senate, administrative law judge for the Arizona Corporation Commission and on staff at the state Departments of Real Estate and Corrections.

Ms. Chan earned her J.D. from Arizona State University and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Arizona.

Her term on the Citizens Clean Elections Commission expires in January of 2022.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Senate Democratic priorities for the 2017 session

Protecting essential services and planning for the future
Budget Priorities for the 2017 Session
Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus

The state of Arizona is facing a challenge that was created by this Legislature. Years of corporate tax cuts - falsely passed as 'jobs bills' - have left state agencies hindered and the critical services they provide limited. We can and must do better for the people of Arizona.

We must prioritize the programs and services that voters have said time and time again - in poll after poll - they overwhelmingly support. Our public safety nets must be strong, our roads must be repaired and expanded, and our public schools must finally see an investment that demonstrates a commitment to the future of our children and our state.

Long-Term Investment in our K-12 Education System

Prop. 123 finally paid school districts some of the inflation funds owed to them by the state, but K-12 education needs more resources to ensure Arizona children have the skills to compete for the jobs of the future. More than a year after Prop. 123's referral to the ballot, and eight months after its approval by voters, we are finally hearing talk of restoring lost funds to our district schools. But the devil is in the details and we can no longer accept an inequitable education funding system that leaves our state's schools among the lowest funded in the nation.

To begin a long-term investment of putting significant new funds in to Arizona's schools, we propose:

  • Sending Prop. 301 for renewal on the 2018 general election ballot with an increase from 0.6 cent to a full one cent. 74% of Arizonans support such an increase, which would result in approximately $430 million annually in funding for K-12 education and other beneficiaries;
  • Allocating $28 million for teacher recruitment, retention and training ($16 million from ongoing funding and an additional $12 million from freezing the corporate STO tax credits);
  • Directing $35 million in one-time funding for classroom resources such as technology, curriculum, tutoring and classroom aides, and;
  • Using the money awarded to Arizona from the Volkswagen emissions settlement to purchase fuel efficient buses for school districts.

Prioritizing Education over Incarceration

We believe the state's priorities are out of balance when an average of $23,826 is spent annually to house a prisoner in our state while only $4,500 in state funding is spent on average to educate a K-12 student and just $5,300 is spent on resident students in higher education. The failure to invest in our education system creates a cycle that feeds our prison system instead of our economy.

With one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, it is time for Arizona to develop specific sentencing and parole reform efforts that will modernize our corrections system and save taxpayer dollars. We must invest directly in our education system to show a commitment to prioritizing our education system.

We propose directing the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission to study sentencing and parole reforms and make recommendations that include:

  • Revising the "truth in sentencing" laws to allow non-violent offenders to obtain earned release credit at a rate of one day for every three served and reducing the mandatory minimum sentence served guidelines;
  • Removing the ability to re-incarcerate a person for technical or minor violation of terms of release (both probation and community supervision);
  • Dedicating all savings from sentencing and parole reforms to the Arizona university resident funding model, focused on achieving the ABOR goal to fund 50 percent of resident student tuition from state appropriated funds. This would lower in-state tuition costs and provide more Arizona students the opportunity to obtain a higher education;
  • Stopping the expansion of private prison contracts and reinstating the Joint Select Committee on Corrections to provide the Legislature with oversight of the Department of Corrections and private prisons, and;
  • Allocating new federal funding for substance abuse treatment in diversion programs designed to minimize costly incarceration time for nonviolent offenders and decrease recidivism rates.

An Ounce of Prevention for a Pound of Progress

After years of reform and millions of dollars, Arizona's child welfare system continues to struggle with high caseloads, startling staff turnover and children languishing in a foster care system that too often fails them.

Children in this system are at very high risk of academic failure, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, sex traffic victimization and incarceration, and the majority are entering this broken system because of situations of neglect that very often are tied closely to poverty in the home and are preventable.

Independent reviews of the Department of Child Safety show that reforms proven to address some of these issues still have not been implemented. And in recent months, DCS has refused to even share reporting data with legislators in a timely manner and cooperate with the Auditor General's recommendations.

We propose:

  • That DCS implement the Chapin Hall and Auditor General recommendations for accountability measures and DCS leadership be held accountable for their failure to act with transparency;
  • Restoring TANF eligibility from 12 months to 24 months for $4 million to provide families on the edge of crisis an opportunity to complete job training and education programs that could lead to self-sufficiency;
  • Allocating $4 million to increase access to low-income child care subsidies to prevent families from being forced to place their children in unsafe environments to continue their employment, and;
  • Vigorously defending AHCCCS, KidsCare and the ACA from the current frenzy in D.C. to rip apart our healthcare system with no replacement plan of any kind. 80% of Arizonans agree there should be no repeal without replacement. To do so would nearly double the number of uninsured Arizonans, would potentially remove more than $3 billion from our economy and put our hospital safety net at risk.

Revenue and Budget Reform

As the 16th most populous state in the country and growing, the need for vital state services and infrastructure will not diminish. But we pay for these priorities through a tax structure that is stacked against the middle class and favors special interests. On top of that, reckless cuts have left Arizona without the revenue needed to meet the long-term needs of our state.

We need tax reforms that more fairly impact taxpayers and create a consistent source of revenue to fund the priorities that voters have repeatedly said they value. These goals can be achieved without increasing taxes this year.

We propose:

  • Capping the School Tuition Organization (STO) corporate tax credit expansion and allocating the savings to teacher recruitment, retention and training. This will save $12 million in revenue in just the first year;
  • Requiring the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Budget Committee to review the return-on-investment for existing tax credits to verify they create new economic activity, generate revenue and lead to quantifiable job creation;
  • Establishing a sunset review of all sales tax exemptions to force the legislature to proactively assess, debate and act to continue each individual exemption, and;
  • Creating a state finance review task force comprised of legislators, agency representatives, economists, business and community leaders and stakeholders to review the expenditure and revenue sides of the state budget and recommend a reform package that provides for adequate and sustainable funding.  The Legislature should ensure that the revenues of the state are sufficient to address the essential functions of government. Fund sweeps and other gimmicks are not an acceptable way to build a sustainable and structurally balanced budget.

We can easily achieve these goals and we can do them this year. All that we and the people of Arizona need is a Legislature willing to serve the greater good, not special interests. If true fiscal responsibility and transparency are incorporated into the budget process, we can use the savings to protect the progress we have made, strengthen the critical services that only the state can provide and which the people of Arizona overwhelmingly support, and formulate a sustainable plan for the future. Senate Democrats stand ready to roll up our sleeves and work across the aisle to move our state forward. Our door is open.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Democratic leaders file amicus brief supporting Prop 206

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs and House Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios filed an amicus brief with the Arizona Supreme Court in the case of Arizona Chamber of Commerce, et al vs. State of Arizona, et al in support of the state's position that Proposition 206 does not trigger mandatory state expenditures.

The amicus brief, which can be downloaded here, explains:

  • The majority in the Legislature made the policy decision to cut provider rates since the Great Recession, without fully restoring them;
  • The majority in the Legislature made the policy decision to cut taxes, thereby reducing funds in the state coffers, at the same time it was slashing agency budgets;
  • Agency budget requests are merely requests and not mandatory, and;
  • The majority in the Legislature made the policy choice to use private contractors to provide services under Medicaid.

In summary, the amicus brief argues:
"The decision to cut tax rates and reduce the state's revenue is a policy choice within the discretion of the legislative majority. It is that same legislative discretion that allows the majority in the Legislature to slash appropriations for agency budgets, including provider rates. The combination of those discretionary actions – cutting taxes and reducing appropriations – has led to the fiscal crisis that AHCCCS and other agencies find themselves in today. It is not a result of the voters' approval of Prop 206."
Arizona Legislative Democrats have consistently, and for years, fought the reduction in provider rates and the tax cuts that deplete the general fund of the revenue necessary to meet essential state needs. We will continue to advocate for a full restoration of services for our most vulnerable populations.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gov. Ducey – let's work together to fund our schools

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Leaders of the Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statement:

"In yesterday's state of the state speech, Governor Ducey promised a lot of things we've been saying for years. His promises to help recruit and retain teachers, continue restoring funds to our neglected public schools, and restore TANF limits is refreshing. But the big question everyone's asking is how he will pay for it. Well, in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation we've put together some ways we can pay for it - easily and immediately.

  • Cap the school tuition organization (STO) corporate tax credit expansion and allocate the savings to teacher recruitment, retention and training. This will allocate $12 million in just the first year.
  • Redirect the ongoing $5 million per year "freedom school" appropriation to fund the Teacher Academies. Let the Koch brothers pay for their little pet project, not Arizona taxpayers. Trust us, the brothers can afford it.
  • Send Prop. 301 for renewal and increase the sales tax from 0.6 cent to a full one cent. This would result in approximately $430 million annually in funding for K-12 education and other beneficiaries.
  • TANF restoration back to 24 months is easy because any state investment is more than doubled by federal matching funds. Currently we're losing millions by restricting it to 12 months.
  • We even have a bonus proposal that isn't on your list: use the money awarded to Arizona from the Volkswagen emissions settlement to purchase fuel efficient buses for school districts.

"We're ready to work with you to get this done. In fact, for years we've been ready to work with Republicans to give the people of Arizona, the people we are elected to serve, what they have been demanding all along - strong state support for our neighborhood district schools.

"Our door is open, let's get this done."

Monday, January 9, 2017

Democratic leaders announce 2017 legislative priorities

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senate and House Democratic leaders today presented their priorities for the 2017 Legislative Session:

Senate Democratic Leader Katie Hobbs (LD24):
Sen. Hobbs

"The state of Arizona is facing a challenge that was created by this Legislature. Years of corporate tax cuts, falsely passed as ‘jobs bills’, have left state agencies hindered and the critical services they provide limited. We can and must do better for the people of Arizona.

"We must prioritize the programs and services that voters have said time and time again - in poll after poll – they overwhelmingly support. Our public safety nets must be strong, our roads must be repaired and expanded, and our public schools must finally see an investment that demonstrates a commitment to the future of our children and our state.

"As the 16th most populous state in the country and growing, the need for these vital services will not diminish. But we pay for them through a tax structure that is stacked against the middle class and favors special interests.

"This Legislature must not endorse the current frenzy in DC to rip apart AHCCCS, KidsCare and Obamacare with no replacement plan of any kind. To do so would nearly double the number of uninsured Arizonans and would immediately remove more than $3 billion from our economy.

"And after years of reform and millions of dollars, Arizona's child welfare system continues to struggle with high caseloads, startling staff turnover statistics and children languishing in a foster care system that too often fails them.

"Continuing the policy of slashing services for the working poor while forcing them to take a greater tax burden than corporations and the wealthy is unsustainable and grossly unethical. We must protect and strengthen the services that only the state can provide and which the people of Arizona overwhelmingly support."

House Democratic Leader Rebecca Rios (LD27):
Rep. Rios

"Democrats are working for a state where people can go to school, get a great education, find a prosperous job, live in a safe community and ensure their children have bright future. It is a state that is both prosperous and inclusive.

"Arizonans value equity and fairness, and it is our job to ensure the government represents those values. We have an obligation to be fiscally responsible, accountable and transparent.  To meet that mandate, Democrats will support programs and policies that build a solid foundation.

"That means investing in public education at the K-12 and university levels so schools have the resources needed to prepare our students for the future and so that college is affordable. When we prioritize education, we increase the strength of our future economy.  It also means protecting the gains we have made in individual rights and in access to health care, including Medicaid expansion and KidsCare.

"Our state is fighting to recover from decades of failed Republican leadership and policies, which put the needs of special interests above the needs of Arizonans. Democrats will always prioritize people over politics."