Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Blue Wave for February 13

A weekly legislative update from the Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus

Volume 2, Issue 3
Thursday, February 13

Top Stories

Democrats introduce The People's Budget

This week we introduced a joint budget, in collaboration with our House colleagues, that raises pay for educators, fully restores funding for school classroom supplies, makes higher education more affordable, fixes crumbling roads, bridges and airports and better protects and uplifts the most vulnerable Arizonans.

Our $12.5 billion plan will:
  • Continue to provide large, substantial investments in Arizona’s P-20 education system for students and schools.
  • Provide impactful funding for homelessness, social services, and vulnerable adults
  • Enhance environmental programs that protect our long-term water future and confront climate change.
  • Expand access to healthcare in a meaningful and targeted way for children and families.
  • Invest in infrastructure projects statewide that create jobs while improving Arizona’s roadways, bridges and airports, ensuring Arizona stays competitive with its neighbors and an attractive place to visit and do business.
  • Make these investments, and more, all without raising taxes.
Watch this week's Canyonside Chat, below, to learn more about why we introduced this budget, then read the executive summary and review the budget itself.
Senate Democratic Leader David Bradley and House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez introduce the joint Democratic budget for Fiscal Year '21.
Governor Ducey continues unconstitutional stacking of Commission on Appellate Court Appointments

For well over a year, we have been calling on Governor Ducey to properly fill appointments to the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. Yet he still refuses to appoint members who reflect the ethnic and gender diversity of Arizona and he refuses to appoint a single Democrat.

This week our members of the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the governor demanding that he follow the state constitution. Nevertheless, he reappointed three current members of the Commission.

The Commission on Appellate Court Appointments is one of three Arizona judicial nominating commissions and deals with appointments to Arizona's appellate courts, which include the Arizona Supreme Court. Commission members evaluate applicants for vacant judicial positions and then submit a list of candidates from which the governor makes his decision. The Commission also chooses the candidates available for selection by elected officials to the Independent Redistricting Commission, which determines Arizona's congressional and legislative districts every ten years.

The Arizona Constitution states: "In making or confirming appointments to the appellate court commission, the governor, the senate and the state bar shall endeavor to see that the commission reflects the diversity of Arizona's population."
  • Currently Arizona has slightly more women than men, yet only four out of 15 current Commission members are women.
  • Arizona is split in thirds by party registration – Republican, Democratic and Independent – yet there is not a single Democrat on the Commission.
  • 55% of Arizona citizens identify as White, 32% Hispanic, 5% American Indian, 5% Black and 3.5% Asian, yet there is just one person of color serving on the commission.
  • One Republican state senator complained that Governor Napolitano only appointed Democrats to this commission but that is false. She appointed seven Republicans to the commission.
Read our letter:
Senate and House Democratic caucuses presented their 2020 Blueprint for a Better Arizona at a press conference on Opening Day of the session. In this document we share our consensus vision to address challenges facing our fast-growing and evolving state including: investing in our children, fighting for equality, good jobs and workplace rights, protecting access to healthcare, rebuilding our infrastructure, and protecting voting rights. Click the image to read our Blueprint for a Better Arizona

“Bipartisan” bill count

Senate bills heard in Senate committees so far this session:
Republican: 245
Democratic: 6

While Democrats hold 43 percent of seats in the Senate, our bills account for 2.4 percent of those heard so far this session.

News Clips

Senator Tony Navarrete joins Representative Athena Salman to discuss our Democratic budget with host Ted Simon on Arizona Horizon.

Arizona Democrats release $12.5 billion state budget proposal

Arizona Democrats on Monday released their $12.5 billion state budget proposal, which they said was crafted with the citizens of Arizona in mind. “This is not a nanny state budget,” said Senate Minority Leader David Bradley. “It is one that lifts people up when necessary and gets out of their way to let them grow as they see fit.” Bradley said their budget would not raise taxes to cover the additional funding they’re requesting. Instead, it would roll back some credits and programs he said “do not fairly distribute the resources of our state.”

Senate committee passes bill to add restrictions to recall elections

A Senate panel voted Thursday to erect some new hurdles in the path of those seeking to recall state and local elected officials. Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said that still leaves the door open for inconsistent practices across the state should some county recorders decide that they don’t want to do that. And that effectively would nullify any ballot within an unsigned envelope.

Bill to allow Navajo students to use school vouchers in New Mexico advances in Arizona Senate

“We must truly prioritize the education of our Native American students by adequately funding their public schools, not just use them as an excuse to advance an agenda of expanding school vouchers against the wishes of Arizona voters,” said Sen. Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson.

IN MY VIEW: Dalessandro supporting Medicare bill

Thanks to state Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Sahuarita, SB1287 (“Medicare supplement insurance; guaranteed availability”) has now been introduced at the state Legislature. This bill would provide coverage protections for seniors on Medicare who have pre-existing health conditions. It would allow individuals who have a supplemental policy (Medigap) to change their Medigap policies for another without passing a health screening. Similarly, it would allow those with a Medicare Advantage Plan to move from that plan to a Medigap policy without regard to pre-existing health conditions. 

Sierra club holds environment day at the capitol

Senator Jamescita Peshlakai talked about house Bill 2447, which is currently moving through the legislature. This bill, if put into action, would prohibit the state from issuing or renewing tribal-gaming compacts with tribes that are adverse parties to water rights litigation. Peshlakai said this bill would compromise tribal water rights. “Arizona, like many other states in our country, has failed to conserve, has failed to plan and has failed all of us,” Peshlakai said. “Holding people economically hostage for their water is absolutely immoral.”

Highlights from this Week

Senator Lela Alston, right, held a press conference on her SB 1315, which increases the stipend for kinship care from $75 to $250 per month per child. With her is Molly Dunn, the new Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Advocacy policy advisor with Children's Action Alliance, who also spoke about the importance of this bill.
Congratulations to Senator Sean Bowie, who had three of his bills clear committees this week.

SB1284 - Establishes Arizona Works Community College Grants for students enrolled in CTE program at community colleges.
SB1444 - Requires the Arizona Department of Education to identify and absence caused by a student's mental or behavioral health as an excused absence.
SB1445 - Requires training programs at the university level for school counselors or school social workers to develop or adopt evidence-based instruction on suicide awareness and prevention.
Congratulations to Senator Tony Navarrete, who had two of his bills clear committees this week.

SB1454 - Extends the College Credit by Examination Incentive Program to provide incentive bonuses for a student who completes a dual enrollment course with a passing grade.
SB1463 - Establishes the Community College Opportunity Grants for eligible community college students to pay for tuition and approved educational fees. Appropriates $5 million for Fiscal Years 2021 through 2025.

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