Thursday, March 14, 2019

Arizona needs true charter financial accountability reform

Senate Bill 1394 falls short of that mark

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIXSenator David Bradley released the following statement on the passage of Senate Bill 1394:

Sen. Bradley
"For years, Democratic legislators have introduced bills to provide financial transparency and accountability of Arizona's charter schools. We support charter schools and send our own children and grandchildren to them. But we have known for quite a while that there are charter operators who take advantage of the system to enrich themselves with taxpayer dollars meant for educating kids.

"Senate Bill 1394 began its journey with its sponsor expressing a willingness to proactively engage both the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses in the discussion. We signed on with the promise that we would be at the table to discuss measures that would strengthen the bill, which we were.

"At the first and every subsequent meeting on this issue we discussed the need to strengthen the reporting and transparency requirements for charter holders and the need to increase transparency around Charter Management Organization contracts. Also discussed, but not resolved, was the capping of administrative expenses and a prospective ban on for-profit charters.

"There were many other ideas discussed in meetings with the sponsor and stake holders but these two main issues represent the minimum focus our caucus needed to vote for the bill. We made this very clear during discussions and that is why they were addressed in our two amendments that were rejected yesterday by Republicans. The notion that our amendments were last minute demands is disingenuous and categorically false.

"With the rejection of our amendments, SB 1394 in its current form fails to resolve these issues.

"While there are provisions within SB 1394 that have merit, such as the Attorney General's ability to issue civil subpoenas, they fail to ultimately target CMOs - the entities that make the operational decisions that can enrich self-dealing charter owners.

"If SB 1394 is enacted, its proponents will claim we have 'checked the box' on charter financial accountability and transparency reform when in actuality we have not. When the regulated have veto power over their own regulation, we will never achieve true reform."

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Blue Wave for March 11, 2019

A weekly legislative update from the Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus

Volume 1, Issue 8
Monday, March 11, 2019

Top Stories

Equal Rights Amendment

Women from all over Arizona began a 38-mile march today to demand a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment in the legislature because Arizona has the chance this session to be the 38th and final state to ratify the ERA, putting it into the U.S. Constitution. Republicans who control both the Senate and the House, however, refuse to give it a hearing.

On Wednesday, when the march finishes at the Capitol, Senator Victoria Steele will recognize and honor them and all Arizonans who are working to see the ERA ratified. All are welcome to sit in the Senate gallery on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. to wear white and show your support for the ERA!
Bills moving!

We currently have 14 bills that have been passed out of the Senate and hope to have another three out of the chamber soon.

Among those bills, Senators Rebecca Rios and Tony Navarrete have two bills that are moving through the legislature. They are:
  • Senate Bill 1453 (Rios) would create a special license plate to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity.
  • Senate Bill 1382 (Navarrete) would require the Joint Legislative Income Tax Credit Review Committee to meet at least once annually, require Legislative Council to prepare legislation based on the Committee's recommendations and require all new income tax credits to have a sunset date.
Hear more about their bills in this week's Canyonside Chat:
In this week's Canyonside Chat, Senator Rebecca Rios and Senator Tony Navarrete discuss their bills that are moving through the system this session and share what it's like moving from the House of Representatives to the Senate.
Senator Steele bill would offer greater protection to sexual assault victims

Senator Victoria Steele's SB 1250 would bridge a gap in current state law.

"This would keep someone who has raped you from having access to you say at work or at school or from coming into your house or even coming near a relative or someone in your family," Steele said.

See the KGUN 9 report on SB 1250:

“Bipartisan” bill count

The final tally of Senate bills heard in the Senate:
Republican: 311
Democratic: 27

While Democrats hold 43 percent of seats in the Senate, our bills only account for 7.9 percent of bills heard.

The Week Ahead

Democratic bills being heard this week:
SB 1474 POW/MIA flag; display (Sen. Contreras)
House Military & Veterans Affairs Committee - Monday afternoon

Allows the prisoner of war and missing in action (POW/MIA) flag to be displayed on or in front of court buildings on any day when the U.S. flag is displayed.
Troublesome bills this week:
HB 2119 school safety; reporting (Rep. Barto)
Education Committee - Tuesday afternoon

Requires school district and charter school governing boards to develop policies and procedures for reporting suspected crimes or threatening conduct. Allows the State Board of Education or the Superintendent of Public Instruction to withhold up to 10% of the district's or charter school's monthly share of state aid.
HB 2275 TPT exemption; crop production tools (Rep. Cook)
Finance Committee - Wednesday afternoon

Exempts from sales tax for agricultural purposes: fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee fiscal note, exempting these would result in a General Fund revenue loss of $17.1 million annually.
HCM 2007 administratively recommended wilderness; urging Congress (Rep. Griffin)
Natural Resources and Energy Committee - Wednesday afternoon

Urges the United States Congress to prohibit federal agencies from recommending and identifying Arizona's public lands as wilderness areas without congressional, state and local consent.
HB 2693 misconduct involving weapons; school grounds (Rep. Petersen)
Judiciary Committee - Thursday, 9 a.m.

Specifies that a person does not commit misconduct involving weapons by having a loaded firearm on school grounds.
HB 2475 water use; criminal penalty; wells (Rep. Bowers)
Water and Agriculture Committee - Thursday, 9 a.m.

Exempts a person from being guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor if the person takes water that is entitled to another person through a registered well, including the subflow of a river or stream.
HB 2523 youth employment (Rep. Grantham)
Commerce Committee - Thursday, 9 a.m.

 Would exempt businesses from having to pay employees who are full-time students under age 22 the state’s voter-approved and constitutionally-protected minimum wage.

News Clips

Arizona Legislature still has no code of conduct, despite last year’s promise

Minority Leader David Bradley believes this issue shouldn’t be hard to solve. “I don’t think it’s all that complicated, I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel,” Bradley said. “I think there are standards out there that we can apply and we can adapt to … we just need the energies to do it.”

Arizona bill putting more requirements on initiative petition circulators advances

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said that amounts to “disenfranchisement.” “In all the committee hearings, no one has attempted to argue that the signatures that would be tossed out as a result of this bill aren’t 100 percent valid,” he argued during floor debate. “Nobody testified that the voters who signed the initiative petitions did not intend for the valid signatures to help put that proposal on the ballot and give all Arizonans an opportunity to vote for it,” Quezada continued. “This is clearly and blatantly and expressly an effort to increase the ability of special interest groups to litigate these initiative measures on purely technical deficiencies.”

Poll suggests Arizona voters are warming to idea of legalized recreational marijuana

Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, proposed making possession of up to an ounce a civil penalty carrying a $50 fine. 

Arizona Senate passes statewide distracted driving bill

“Many of us on the committee are moved to tears,” said Senator Lisa Otondo. “I pray for the day in Arizona that these families do not have to continue to come to committee and tell of the tragedies that their loved ones faced.”

Arizona Republicans working to make voting harder

Senator Martin Quezada said it best. "I think these are unnecessary barriers. We should be looking to modernize our system. This (Bill) goes in the opposite direction."

State senator says he could make money off of his legislation

"I think that betrays the public's trust that's not what we're down here for," said Sen. Rebecca Rios, a Democrat from Phoenix. Rios suggested that Senate leaders should do a better job policing elected officials since the laws are so loose. "It's always troubling when you find out there could be a direct financial benefit to a member behind the legislation," Rios said.

Highlights From Last Week

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