Let’s be clear on these points:
- Democrats in the Arizona legislature stood united in restoring KidsCare to an estimated 30,000 Arizona children. Democrats provided the core of the votes needed to pass restoration of KidsCare. Kudos!
- Governor Doug Ducey and Tea-Publican legislative leaders did not include KidsCare in the GOP budget passed earlier this week, and the Governor never advocated on behalf of the KidsCare program. The Governor eventually signed the bill that included KidsCare restoration only under public pressure, and only to mitigate the public relations disaster that KidsCare restoration had become for him. Governor Ducey deserves absolutely no credit. Period.
- Tea-Publican leadership in the House and Senate got rolled by public pressure to pass KidsCare restoration. The handful of GOP defectors does not mitigate the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Tea-Publican Caucus stood ideologically, some virulently opposed to restoration of KidsCare.
- Tea-Publican leaders are already threatening to file a lawsuit to overturn the KidsCare restoration, just as they are currently in court seeking to overturn the Medicaid (AHCCCS) expansion bill from two years ago, both overwhelmingly supported by the public.
The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, Ducey signs KidsCare children’s health insurance bill:
Arizona is going to restore a program it shelved six years ago to provide health care to the children of the working poor.
Without comment, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation Friday to allow Arizona to accept federal dollars to restart the KidsCare program. Backers say it could help about 30,000 children.
The governor’s action came just hours after the Senate, over the objections of Republican legislative leaders, voted 16-12 to restore the KidsCare program in Arizona. The House had given its blessing Thursday night.
Ducey had never publicly supported the program. There was no explanation from his press aide about the decision.
But even with Ducey’s signature, there may be hurdles. Senate Majority Leader Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, said he anticipates a lawsuit, saying SB 1457 is illegal.
That’s because the provision to restore KidsCare was attached to language dealing with eligibility of disabled students to continue to get vouchers to attend private and parochial school at taxpayer expense. Yarbrough said that violates a provision of the Arizona Constitution that says legislation can deal with only one subject.
* * *
Senate President Andy Biggs refused to even give a hearing to a House-passed bill to reinstate the program.
So rank and file Republicans joined with Democrats to line up the votes and find procedural ways to bypass the blockades thrown in their path.
On Friday, Biggs opted to simply allow a vote. But he was clearly displeased about being outmaneuvered.
The Senate president said he wasn’t buying arguments that there would be no cost to the state. But he said even if that were not the case, Arizona shouldn’t be lining up for the federal dollars.
Biggs, who is running for Congress, said the national debt increased by more than $1 trillion in the last six months and now stands at $19 trillion.
“While every program … has an advocate and a desire to accomplish a certain albeit potentially even altruistic or beneficent purpose, at some point one realizes that perhaps we can’t afford every program,’’ he said.
And Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, was unimpressed by arguments that Arizona has been the only state without a CHIP program.
“Well, kudos to us,’’ she said.
[Other selected comments from ideological extremist Tea-Publicans. KidsCare passes House after GOP leaders outmaneuvered:
House Majority Whip David Livingston, R-Peoria, decried the fact that the program covers those up to twice the federal poverty level. That is about $40,100 for that family of three — but nearly $82,000 for a family of eight, the highest level on federal charts, a figure Livingston said does not qualify as needy.
“One thing I am fearful that is getting lost on our culture is personal responsibility,” said Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert. He said putting families into a situation where they get such help teaches children “a path to dependency.”
“This particular piece of legislation, in my opinion, takes away the concept of America,” complained Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert.
“It doesn’t matter how many times we say, ‘It’s for the kids,’ ” he said. “A government that can take from people and give to other people through the force of the police force can take everything from us.”
And Farnsworth, like Livingston, decried the eligibility limits, citing the figures for a family of eight of close to $82,000.
“I don’t care whether you have 12 or 14 kids,” he said.
Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, said he sees a downside of providing health care to children of families at those income levels.
“We’re giving them a benefit that will lead them not to want to get out of the income bracket in which this is provided,” he said.]
That still leaves the legal question.
The Arizona Constitution says that “every act shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith.’’ Yarbrough, who is an attorney, said SB 1457 does not comply.
“Frankly, if someone chooses to file suit, I suspect they will be successful,’’ he said. And Yarbrough said if the attorney general attempts to defend the law all that will do is run up legal bills.
But Brophy McGee pointed out the underlying bill dealing with vouchers contains language about evaluating children to see if they need such help.
That’s right, the only way to get a handful of Tea-Publicans to vote for restoration of KidsCare was to attach it to a bill for private school “vouchers.” As Groucho Marx used to say, “Say the ‘Secret Word’ and win a prize.” Senate passes KidsCare, sends measure to Ducey:
Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, attached language to restore the program in Arizona to legislation dealing with vouchers that allow parents to use public dollars to send their children to private and parochial schools.
There was a political component to that choice: The change in SB 1457 is wanted by Republican legislative leadership — the same leadership that blocked efforts to put the restoration of KidsCare into the just-approved budget.
That gambit succeeded as the House attached the amendment and approved the bill with 38 votes, as 14 Republicans joined with all 24 Democrats to override the GOP leaders.
Much of the credit for passage of KidsCare restoration belongs to public pressure being brought to bear on our state legislators and governor. Just think what you could accomplish if you voted these ideological extremist Tea-Publicans out of office in November. Here’s the tally from The Arizona Republic. Consider it a litmus test for November. Ducey signs bill restoring kids health insurance:
The Senate approved SB 1457 on a 16-12 vote.
How They Voted
David Bradley, Tucson
Lupe Contreras, Avondale
Andrea Dalessandro, Green Valley
Steve Farley, Tucson
Katie Hobbs, Phoenix
Barbara McGuire, Kearny
Robert Meza, Phoenix
Catherine Miranda, Phoenix
Lynne Pancrazi, Yuma
Martin Quezada, Phoenix
Andrew Sherwood, Tempe
Carlyle Begay, Ganado [running for Congress in CD 1]
Jeff Dial, Chandler
Adam Driggs, Phoenix [retiring]
Steve Pierce, Prescott [retiring]
Bob Worsley, Mesa
Sylvia Allen, Snowflake
Nancy Barto, Phoenix
Andy Biggs, Gilbert
Judy Burges, Sun City West
David Farnsworth, Mesa
Gail Griffin, Hereford
John Kavanagh, Scottsdale
Debbie Lesko, Peoria
Don Shooter, Yuma
Steve Smith, Maricopa
Steve Yarbrough, Chandler
Kimberly Yee, Phoenix
The House approved SB 1457 on 38-21 vote.
How They Voted
Lela Alston, Phoenix
Richard Andrade, Glendale
Jennifer Benally, Tuba City
Reginald Bolding, Laveen
Mark Cardenas, Phoenix
Ken Clark, Phoenix
Diego Espinoza, Tolleson
Charlene Fernandez, Yuma
Randall Friese, Tucson
Rosanna Gabaldon, Green Valley
Sally Ann Gonzales, Tucson
Albert Hale, St. Michaels
Matthew Kopec, Tucson
Jonathan Larkin, Glendale
Stefanie Mach, Tucson
Debbie McCune Davis, Phoenix
Juan Mendez, Tempe
Eric Meyer, Paradise Valley
Lisa Otondo, Yuma
Celeste Plumlee, Tempe
Rebecca Rios, Phoenix
Macario Saldate, Tucson
Ceci Velasquez, Litchfield Park
Bruce Wheeler, Tucson
Jonathan Ackerley, Sahuarita
Kate Brophy McGee, Phoenix
Heather Carter, Cave Creek
Noel Campbell, Prescott
Regina Cobb, Kingman
Doug Coleman, Apache Junction
Karen Fann, Prescott
Rick Gray, Sun City
Jill Norgaard, Phoenix
Justin Olson, Mesa
Frank Pratt, Casa Grande
Bob Robson, Chandler
T.J. Shope, Coolidge
Kelly Townsend, Mesa
John Allen, Scottsdale
Brenda Barton, Payson
Sonny Borrelli, Lake Havasu City
Rusty Bowers, Mesa
Paul Boyer, Phoenix
Eddie Farnsworth, Gilbert
Mark Finchem, Oro Valley
David Gowan, Sierra Vista
Anthony Kern, Glendale
Jay Lawrence, Scottsdale
Vince Leach, Tucson
David Livingston, Peoria
Phil Lovas, Peoria
J.D. Mesnard, Chandler
Darin Mitchell, Litchfield Park
Steve Montenegro, Litchfield Park
Warren Petersen, Gilbert
David Stevens, Sierra Vista
Bob Thorpe, Flagstaff
Michelle Ugenti-Rita, Scottsdale
Jeff Weninger, Chandler