Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Republicans again silence Arizona citizens

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senators Linda Lopez D-29 and David Lujan D-15 released the following statement in response to Republican Senator Don Shooter's decision, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to not allow public input in today's committee hearing on how taxpayer dollars are spent by two of the state's largest agencies: Department of Economic Security and Department of Health Services. The over-burdened and under-staffed Child Protective Services is overseen by DES.

Sen. Lopez
Reacting to the Democratic senators’ complaints, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Senator Ron Gould replied, “That’s how we do it here. Welcome to the Senate.”

Senator Linda Lopez:
"Republicans find it easier to make cuts if they don't have to listen to the public about the impacts and if they don't have to see actual victims of their cuts," said Senator Lopez. "It's easier when they can dehumanize vulnerable citizens - they're just numbers that way. For us to not hear from them is just unconscionable."

Senator David Lujan:
Sen. Lujan
"With all the tragedies we've seen in the news lately involving vulnerable Arizona kids, it's heartless that Republicans prefer to only hear from DES Director Carter and not any of the families who have lost children to the system," said Senator Lujan. "Now is the time to scrutinize how CPS is run to ensure our kids are safe, not stick fingers in our ears so we can get home for dinner."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Democratic Legislators introduce Reproductive Rights Resolution

Sen. Lopez
Part of national movement on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Senators Linda Lopez, Olivia Cajero Bedford and Representative Katie Hobbs announced today that they are introducing a first of its kind resolution (SR1002) to the Arizona Legislature proclaiming the week of January 22, 2012 as Reproductive Rights Awareness Week to raise awareness about women’s reproductive rights in Arizona on the day after the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

“A majority of Americans believe that matters related to reproductive rights are personal issues to be decided on by each individual woman, yet Arizona laws not reflect this,” said Senator Linda Lopez. “Women’s rights are human rights, plain and simple, and they should not infringed upon by those who ignore public opinion in pursuit of their rigid ideologies.”

Rep. Hobbs

With last year’s attack by Tea Party Republicans on Planned Parenthood, the combination of laws to decrease funding for family planning services has resulted in the lowest number of reproductive healthcare options available to Arizona women in years.

"I’m proud that in our country, we can set a precedent and example for undeveloped countries where deaths are more prevalent, and show that by allowing a woman and her family to make their own decisions, we can work together to reduce the number of abortions and maternal deaths due to government regulation invading the privacy of the family. In Arizona, that privacy is at stake and we will continue to work to make sure the Tea Party isn't deciding what's right for families."
The recent decrease in women’s healthcare resources is especially hard on Arizona’s rural and minority communities.

Sen. Cajero Bedford
“I represent a district where nearly 50 percent of my constituents are Hispanic and where women are finding fewer options for family planning and access to medical care,” said Senator Olivia Cajero Bedford. “Last year, former Senate President Russell Pearce advocated for the proliferation of "freedom, liberty and constitutional rights" in this state, yet when it comes to women’s reproductive rights, this standard is certainly not being upheld.”

Women across Arizona can join in a nationwide virtual freedom march by visiting http://www.oursilverribbon.org./

Click here to see state leaders from around the country who are part of this week’s national awareness movement. Click these links for more information on reproductive healthcare in America, Arizona and the world.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gov. Brewer wants to build more prisons than schools

By Dennis Welch
The Arizona Guardian

Less than two years after fighting for a sales tax increase to pay for education, Gov. Jan Brewer plans on using her remaining time in office to build more prisons than schools.

Over the final three years left in her term, Brewer wants to shell out roughly $124 million on new prison construction and about $9 million on new school construction, according to the state spending plan she released last week.

The governor’s proposal comes as the number of students and prisoners in Arizona are declining and not expected increase in the foreseeable future.

The Brewer administration says the plan addresses the state’s needs. But critics slammed the state’s highest ranking official, saying the disparity between prison and school construction shows the governor’s priorities.

“Of course if you build fewer schools your going to have to build more prisons,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “We’d be a lot better off if we built more schools and gave those kids a great education so they don’t end up in prison in the first place.”

Republican lawmakers at the Capitol weren't commenting on the governor’s plans. Most, like Senate President Steve Pierce, said they wanted to hold off of saying anything until they had a chance to further review the details.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Brewer’s office, said, “it’s not a matter of whether the governor supports prisons or schools.” He added the state needs both and, “to argue anything else would be ridiculous.”

The overall $9 billion budget proposal comes as the state sees its first surplus since Brewer took office in January 2009. The temporary one-cent sales tax she championed and voters approved in 2010 helped generate the current $615 million surplus.

Two-thirds of that money was slated to go toward K-12 education as a the economic recession forced Brewer and the GOP-led Legislature to make deep cuts to government programs and services.

The rest of the money goes to healthcare and public safety. The three-year tax is scheduled to die next year and Brewer has already said she will not extend it.

Under Brewer’s budget proposal, the state would pay about $50 million to construct a new building at the Lewis Prison near Buckeye. The facility would house 500 maximum security prisoners.

Over the following two years Brewer is proposing about $62 million for private prison construction and another $12 million for maximum security beds at state-run facilities.

The governor wants private prisons take over 2,500 medium security prisoners at the start if 2014. Unlike the overall prison population, the medium security prisoners, which include sex offenders and other inmates that need to be kept away from other prisoners, has grown.

Sex offenders, which make up 14 percent of the total prison population, grew by 4 percent last year, according to the governor’s budget plan. And the number of prisoners kept in protective custody is expected to jump to 2,441 by July from 791 in 2009.

During the next three years, Brewer is setting aside $9.6 million for new school construction. According to her budget proposal no money would be spent for two years. But in fiscal year 2015, which starts July 1, 2014, there’s about $7.6 million for a school in the Sahuarita Unified School District and about $1.9 million for another building in the Pima Unified School District.

The governor does plan on putting $100 million into the Arizona School Facilities Board to help with upkeep and maintenance of current schools. But that money is not for new school construction.

Brewer is now entering the last three years of her term and will preside over two more legislative sessions after the current one ends.

State law limit’s the number of terms elected officials can serve to two. Brewer took over for the outgoing Democratic Gov. Jan Brewer in January 2009 and was elected her first full term in Nov. 2010.

The two years Brewer served before her election count as one term, according to state law. Therefore Brewer can’t run again. But Brewer has disagreed with that interpretation of the law and has said she could run again if she wanted too. But she’s never indicated whether she will push the issue.

Reprinted with permission

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Democrats release 2012 plan for a stronger Arizona

Senator David Schapira, D-17, Senate Minority Leader
Representative Chad Campbell, D-14, House Minority Leader
Sen. David Schapira

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Democratic lawmakers unveiled today their 2012 plan that included awarding local businesses contracts, drawing the line at cuts to public schools and stopping the partisan bickering to yield results.
The plan outlined specific policy priorities and legislation for the year that would create jobs, boost the economy and invest in our schools and law enforcement.

“This year, our state’s 100th birthday, is a chance for the state legislature to get things right and work for the people of Arizona in the next 100 years,” House Minority Leader Chad Campbell said. “We want Arizona to move on a path of economic success instead of the direction it’s been headed — toward destructive divisiveness that rips our state apart. It’s time for a new direction.”

Democrats’ roadmap is a common-sense, practical plan that sheds Tea Party extremism and rigid ideologies to yield results for Arizona’s families, focusing on four different areas: No More Partisan Bickering, Jobs, Clean Energy & Economic Development, Education and Public Safety, Health & Immigration.

Rep. Chad Campbell

"The bills we are proposing are common sense solutions to the real problems hard-working Arizonans face every day. Making opportunities for job creation, protecting our kids' education and ensuring the safety of our families - that's what Democrats stand for," Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira said.
Some of the policy priorities include:
  • Adopt ethics reform to stop gifts and favors to legislators from special interests in the wake of the Fiesta Bowl scandal.
  • Create a lower tax burden for small businesses who hire Arizona workers.
  • Create local preference for in-state bidders on state and local contracts.
  • Require a competency test for courses taken at schools that provide online instruction and conduct audits of those schools to ensure accountability.
  • Stop private prison expansion, which has led to serious safety issues, including violent prisoners escaping and committing murders and costs Arizona taxpayers more than traditional public prisons.
“This is a comprehensive, common-sense plan that prepares Arizona for the long term, for our businesses and families,” Campbell said. “Right here, right now, it’s time to stop the partisan bickering. It’s time for Democrats and Republicans to sit down at the table, break down the Tea Party’s rigid walls, roll up our sleeves and get to work."

Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce the common-sense plan in multiple bills throughout the session, even if Tea Party lawmakers refuse to work in a bipartisan way.

"We invite any Republican legislator who is willing to put partisanship aside and the people of Arizona first to join us in getting Arizona back on track,” Schapira said.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Governor’s budget short-sighted

Ignores struggling middle-class Arizona families, looming fiscal pitfall

Senator David Schapira, D-17, Senate Minority Leader
Representative Chad Campbell, D-14, House Minority Leader

January 13, 2012

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX - Senate Minority Leader David Schapira and House Minority Leader Chad Campbell released the following statement today in response to Governor Brewer’s proposed budget that still has no plan and long-term vision for the future of Arizona.

Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira:

Sen. David Schapira

“For the past few years, middle class Arizonans have not only suffered through hard times, but they’ve endured leadership at the state capitol focused only on serving their extreme agenda. It’s time to put differences aside and find common sense solutions to the real problems facing our state. I’m happy to work with Governor Brewer on some initiatives in this budget, like funding K-3 early reading intervention and investing in building renewal to create jobs and repair our kids’ crumbling schools, which we’ve called for repeatedly. However, these are just a few small steps in the right direction,” said Schapira. “Her budget doesn’t adequately address the fiscal pitfalls we’ll be facing when her handouts to big corporations kick in and the one-cent sales tax ends. I can’t understand how the Governor could propose using surplus taxpayer dollars to buy back her office building and build more private prisons instead of a stronger focus on job creation and restoring the devastating cuts she’s made to our kids’ schools. By presenting this short-sighted budget, the Governor has clearly demonstrated that she has no idea how much Arizonans are struggling right now. This looks to me like someone concerned with trying to avoid being remembered as the governor who sold the Capitol, not someone interested in real solutions to protect Arizona’s future."

House Democratic Leader Chad Campbell:

Rep. Chad Campbell

“Like all Arizonans, we’re sick of partisan bickering at the capitol, and instead of fighting each other on the budget, let’s work to get things done,” said House Minority Leader Chad Campbell. “There is common ground between us on funding for tourism, law enforcement and the seriously mentally ill. But this budget also unnecessarily spends money early to buy back the state capitol buildings when we could fund Kids Care, and it gives even more money to lax-security private prisons, from which murderers have escaped. The budget plan also should hold companies that receive tax credits accountable for creating jobs they promised, reform our unfair tax code or first award companies state and local government contracts so we can create jobs, but it does not. We hope The Tea Party, including Gov. Brewer, lets go of their rigid, extremist ideologies and work toward practical results for this year’s budget. We encourage the governor to work with us for the first time during her tenure to achieve bipartisan and practical results for Arizonans."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sen. David Lujan sworn in

Sen. David Lujan has been sworn in by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch to represent Legislative District 15.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Statement from David Lujan on Board of Supervisors’ Appointment to Arizona Senate

Lujan vows to advance forward-thinking, inclusive vision for Arizona

David Lujan
PHOENIX – “I’m grateful for the opportunity to complete the term of my former seatmate, Kyrsten Sinema, and look forward to fighting harder than ever before for the forward-thinking, inclusive values that the voters of our district hold dear. The Arizona Legislature will be faced with two competing options this session. We can either return to the divisive, destructive agenda of Tea Party extremists; or we can pursue an agenda to jumpstart Arizona’s business climate by embracing our diversity as a strength, and remain laser-focused on creating quality jobs and world-class schools,” Lujan said Wednesday morning. “I look forward to that debate, and look forward to standing on the side of prosperity and inclusion."

Lujan was appointed to the Senate after being selected by fellow Democrats in Legislative District 15 and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for the seat. He will be sworn in on the floor of the Senate tomorrow, January 12, during the Senate’s regular floor session.

“I know there will be some who take issue with my appointment. I humbly ask them to join me in looking to the future; that we might move forward together, fighting side by side for hard-working Arizonans in this Centennial Legislature. Let me be perfectly clear: it is only by standing together that Arizonans of good will can put a stop to the destructive agenda of the remaining extremist Republicans, and I look forward to standing tall for a prosperous, long-term vision of Arizona,” Lujan said. “It’s no mystery what kind of policies it takes to get Arizona moving in the right direction: policies that focus on quality schools and that value diversity. Anyone who is willing to let personal gain get in the way of those policies should consider themselves on notice.”

Lujan’s priorities for the 2012 Legislative Session include:
  • Working with Sen. Steve Gallardo as co-sponsor of a bill repealing SB 1070.
  • Fighting for our children’s education, including restoring funding for public schools.
  • Supporting SB 1071, which would prohibit racial profiling in Arizona.
  • Standing up for the rule of law by opposing any appropriations to MCSO should it fail to cooperate with the DOJ Civil Rights Investigation, and joining with other community leaders and elected officials across Arizona in calling for the resignation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
David Lujan is a former three-term member of the Arizona Legislature, where he was the prime sponsor of the Arizona DREAM Act and a proud advocate for additional funding for English Language Learners. He is also a former Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board President, where he helped reform schools, improve student achievement and led the charge to create a district-wide Cesar Chavez holiday. A nationally-recognized child welfare attorney, Lujan serves as Chief Administrator of a college preparatory charter school in Central Phoenix. He has lived in Central Phoenix for over 15 years.

No more “Get out of Jail Free” cards for legislators

Sen. Steve Gallardo
State Capitol, Phoenix – Senator Steve Gallardo has introduced legislation to strip state legislators of immunity from criminal charges while in session.

“We’ve seen legislative immunity too easily abused in Arizona. This change will ensure that when a member of this legislature has not lived up to the high standards to which our constituents hold us, they will face the same repercussions as anyone else,” said Sen. Gallardo.

Pending approval by the voters, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1007 would alter Article 4, Section 2, Part 6 of the Arizona Constitution to remove legislators’ privilege from arrest for all cases. SCR1007 would still exempt legislators’ from civil process during session and 15 days before the start of session.

“Legislators should have to follow the laws they create,” said Sen. Gallardo. “Legislators should lead be example, not exception.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Uranium mining ban will protect Grand Canyon, tourism dollars, future generations

Sen. Jack C. Jackson Jr.
January 10, 2012

State Capitol, Phoenix – Senator Jack C. Jackson, Jr. released the following statement today in support of the ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon by the Obama administration.
“This ban is responsible stewardship of our public lands,” Sen. Jackson said.

“I wholeheartedly support this decision, which follows the Navajo Nation’s ban on uranium mining. The Navajo Nation has been dealing with the health fallout from uranium mining for decades including lung cancers and other respiratory illnesses.”

Although this ban does not affect existing claims in the area, it prohibits new mining claims for the next 20 years. The decision was announced Monday by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to the applause of environmental groups and lawmakers who had worked for years to stop uranium mining near one of the seven natural wonders of the world. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the nation, the Grand Canyon attracts more than four million tourists a year and generates an estimated $3.5 billion in economic activity for the state and tribal communities.

"Arizona is known worldwide as The Grand Canyon State," said Sen. Jackson. "This decision will ensure the preservation and enjoyment of this splendor for future generations."