Monday, June 20, 2011

Sinema: ‘Grand Canyon uranium mining ban necessary for business, residents’

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix (District 15) released the following statement today after U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the extension of the moratorium on new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon:

“I was one of the many elected officials, community and business leaders across Arizona and nationwide who asked Secretary Salazar to protect our beloved Grand Canyon, a key resource for Arizona’s tourism and long-term economic survival. I applaud Secretary Salazar’s courageous decision today to extend the moratorium on new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.

“Secretary Salazar has taken a bold and significant step today to protect the pride of Arizona, and the nation: our Grand Canyon. By extending the moratorium on new uranium mining around the
canyon for another 20 years, the Secretary has not only heard the concerns of downstream water users, including my constituents, but also the concerns of tourism-dependent small business owners and communities across the state that could not afford the risk.

“Today, the Secretary has demonstrated that we can protect the very best of our heritage, our water supplies and our economy.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sinema to meet with President Obama, White House officials

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix (District 15) will meet with President Obama Friday at the White House at a reception honoring the Young Elected Officials Network.

Sinema, a founding member of the organization, was named last year as one of TIME magazine’s nationwide list of top 40 Rising Political Stars (See:

“I am honored to be a guest at the White House and to be able to talk to the President about issues that concern Arizonans,” Sinema said. “Our state is facing some tough challenges, just like our nation, and it’s important to work together to meet our goals for a strong Arizona future.”

Prior to talking with the President, Sinema will meet with senior White House officials to discuss housing, immigration reform, innovation, energy and the economy. She will then meet the President at 3:45 p.m. ET at the White House, East Room.

Schapira to discuss education with President Obama, officials at White House

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, will meet with President Obama and senior administration officials at the White House to discuss state and national education issues on Friday, June 17.

Schapira will join a small group of young leaders from People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network (YEO) who were invited to provide input to the administration on critical issues facing state and local governments.

“I appreciate the opportunity to meet with the President and his aides to discuss the state of education in Arizona and the need for reform on the national level,” Schapira said. “In order to secure a bright future for our state and our nation, we must work together to rebuild and reform our education system so our kids can be competitive in the international economy.”

Schapira has been a member of the YEO Network since his election in 2006 at the age of 26. Schapira, now 31, is the youngest member of the Arizona Senate.

The YEO Network, a project of People For the American Way Foundation, provides support and training for over 600 state, county and city young elected officials from all 50 states.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Statement from Sen. Steve Gallardo on Ethnic Studies report

STATE CAPITOL, Phoenix – Today, Superintendent John Huppenthal released a report which claims that the Tucson Unified School District ethnic studies program violates state law.

“The release of this report culminates a multi-year effort by Superintendent John Huppenthal and Attorney General Tom Horne to ban the Tucson Unified School District ethnic studies program before either stepped foot into a classroom,” said Sen. Steve Gallardo. “Here is a program that focuses on quality education and achieving academic success, yet the state education chief is against it?”

HB 2281 (A.R.S. 15-112), signed into law in 2010, bans school districts or charter schools from including in instruction any of the following:
1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.

2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.

3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

“The legislation is so broad and vague that a ban of this program denies students their first amendment right of having open academic discussions,” said Gallardo. “What is the definition of resentment?”

A violation of the statute would result in the withholding of ten percent of state education aid from the district.

“HB2281 is a politically motivated overreach of local control that was never about helping students to better themselves academically or about historical accuracy,” said Gallardo. “It is unconscionable that the state spent an estimated $170,000 on this audit, especially at a time when school districts are forced to lay off teachers due to budget cuts.”

Monday, June 13, 2011

Republicans hit Arizona where it hurts, dismiss session without UI fix

Republicans hit Arizona where it hurts, dismiss session without UI fix
Lawmakers take home pay while cutting off jobless aid to 45,000 Arizonans

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX GOP lawmakers made it harder Monday for unemployed Arizonans to search for jobs by cutting off their unemployment during the recession and closing out a special session with no action.

Both Gov. Jan Brewer and Democratic lawmakers supported making the simple change to state law, allowing 45,000 unemployed Arizonans to receive jobless aid already appropriated by the federal government. But Republicans refused and failed to act, making the job search and putting food on the table harder for middle-class Arizona families.

“Everyone wanted to make this fix — the governor wanted this, Democrats wanted this and Arizonans wanted it to help the unemployed during this worldwide recession, not hold them hostage to partisan politics,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley. “Everyone but Republicans, who made a conscious decision to cut off $3.5 million per week coming into our state’s economy. It is absolutely outrageous and it’s time to hold Republicans accountable.”

Republican lawmakers, who have supermajorities in both chambers (more than enough to pass the fix on their own), had opportunities to make a simple change in state law so nearly 45,000 Arizonans can continue to receive jobless benefits while they search for work — Democrats asked them to make the change in March during the regular session but they refused. And last week, Gov. Jan Brewer called a special session just to make the fix, but on Friday, the first day of the session, Republicans again refused, missing a deadline. They even rejected a bill Democrats introduced using Brewer’s own bill language.

“It is disappointing that after four days of the legislature being in session and collecting per diem we have done nothing to create jobs or to help Arizona’s jobless,” said Senate Minority Leader David Schapira, who introduced a bill to waive the “per diem” pay this session. “While legislators got a bonus this week for doing nothing, many of Arizona’s jobless will go empty-handed.”  

But state lawmakers will take home cash for doing absolutely nothing — they earn $35 per diem if they live in Maricopa County and $60 per diem for living outside of Maricopa County. The amount collected per diem in this session by out-of-county representatives — $240 — is more than one week of unemployment insurance payment.

In April, 9.4 percent of Phoenix’s workers were unemployed. In Yuma County alone, the unemployment rate is three times higher. The fix would keep nearly $3.5 million a week flowing into the Arizona economy.

Even Brewer said this in a press release Friday: “…you don’t balance the federal budget by turning your back on Arizonans in their time of need. That’s not principled fiscal conservatism. It’s just cruel…get to work. The people of Arizona, your constituents, are counting on it.”

But Republican lawmakers failed.