Tag Archives: Arizona Legislature

#AZLeg Passes Landmark, Bipartisan Opioid Bill

There were a lot of conversations going on in advance of the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act.

January 25, 2018 was one of the most dramatic days at the Arizona Legislature, since I was elected.

Not only did we have ~75 Luchadores visiting their Legislators and five extremely aggressive anti-immigrant, pro-Trump protesters heckling them, we also had the big vote on the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act (SB1001).

We have been working on SB1001/HB2001 for weeks. Unlike much of what we do in the Arizona Legislature, the Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act was a truly bipartisan effort. The governor even gave the Democrats the bill language in advance and asked for our input. The Republicans included us in the bill development process because they needed our votes and because didn’t want us to blow it up on the floor with our speechifying, as we did with the stingy TANF and teacher raises in 2017.

As someone who worked in public health and nicotine addiction treatment for years, I was proud to serve on the Democratic Caucus team that reviewed the bill and offered suggestions for revision. It was very heartening that they included several Democratic ideas in this bill. Four of my suggestions were included: offering treatment instead of jail during an overdose situation, AKA the 911 Good Samaritan bill (HB2101), which has been proposed by Democrats for four years in a row; providing funds to counties for life-saving NARCAN kits (HB2201); providing a non-commercial treatment referral service; and offering treatment in a brief intervention after an overdose scare (when your doctor says, “You didn’t die this time. Maybe you should quit!”). The Democrats also suggested including the Angel Initiative (where addicts can drop off their drugs and ask for treatment, without fear of arrest) and $10 million for drug addiction treatment services for people not on AHCCCS (Medicaid) or private insurance.

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Arizona House Dems Drop 2018 ERA Bill

ERA in Arizona House

Arizona House representatives dropped the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) into the hopper on January 11, 2018.

In 2017, the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in eight states, debated in three, and ratified in one– Nevada. The Arizona Legislature was one of the bodies that debated the ERA. (Watch the video.) I have vowed to introduce the ERA every year until it is ratified by the states. Only two more states are needed. This could be the year the ERA is finally sent back to Congress to become an amendment to the US Constitution.

On Thursday, January 11, 2018, I dropped the ERA– with the help of some of my Democratic sisters. All of the House Democrats signed the bill. I stopped asking Republicans to sign the ERA, when I confirmed that Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita also has introduced the ERA this year.  Ugenti-Rita and Rep. Heather Carter were the only two Republicans who voted to hear the ERA in 2017 (rather than shutting down debate, as the Republican leadership wanted to do.)

You’ll remember that in 2017 the Democrats forced the ERA debate by using parliamentary procedures. We did this because Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, chair of the Judiciary Committee, refused to hear it in committee. (Committee chairs often kill bills with this parliamentary procedure.)

In 2018, the ERA is coming in the front door of the Arizona Legislature.

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Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley’s 3 Ways to Improve Arizona Economy

State Representative Pamela Powers Hannley outlined three ways the legislature can lessen economic inequality and create new jobs.

She called for ending corporate tax loopholes, giving seed grants to local scientists and allowing dental therapists to do dental screening and simple procedures.

Each point is a hot topic in the legislature.

“When the legislature cut funding for education, roads, safety, justice, healthcare and social safety net programs, they cut jobs and potentially threw people into poverty,” she said. “We need to push back. If we invested in the people’s to-do list, we would grow our economy and diversify our workplace.”

She spoke at the Democrats of Greater Tucson meeting. Based on a recent lecture by economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, she pointed to three key areas of the economy “that keep the rich rich and keep the rest of us in our places”:

  • Trickle-down economics and corporate tax loopholes in the state budget, which benefit special interests at the expense of the public.
  • Intellectual property rights, like patent protection for prescription drugs, designed to privatize scientific research.
  • Protecting highly-paid professions like dentists, making healthcare unaffordable and inaccessible.

1. Ending corporate tax loopholes
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Governor Candidates Farley and Garcia Will Restore Education in Arizona

Student moderator Patrick Robles of Sunnyside High School, Candidates David Garcia and Steve Farley, and student moderator Aiselyn Anaya of Amphi High School.

Democrats in Arizona have two outstanding choices in the candidates for Governor: college professor David Garcia and veteran Arizona state senator Steve Farley — both of whom pledged to restore school funding and raise teacher salaries after years of sabotage by the Republican legislature and governor.

They spoke at an education town hall sponsored by the Arizona Education Association at Pueblo High School on the far south side.

Highlights:

Farley pledged to give teachers a 20% pay raise, to fully fund education, to sponsor a constitutional amendment to allow collective bargaining by teachers, and to block deportation of DACA recipients.

Best quotes by Farley:

  • “Every time President Trump tweets, another Democratic activist is born.”
  • When Governor Ducey tell you we don’t have enough money for education, he’s lying.”

Garcia called for an end to reliance on standardized testing, restoring ethnic studies in schools, paying teachers as professionals, revising the public school funding formula, and going to teachers’ unions first to formulate school policy.

He repeatedly spoke in Spanish to the standing-room only audience, emphasizing his Latino heritage, and referring to himself as “The anti-Ducey.”

Best quotes by Garcia:

  • “My goal is to have Arizona be one of the best places in the country to be a kid.”
  • “The legislature looks at teachers like missionaries, as people who would teach just for the good of the kids. The reality is we must pay our teachers as professionals.”

Teacher salaries
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January Contreras Campaigns for Consumer Protection in Attorney General Race

Former Prosecutor January Contreras is campaigning to restore protections for Arizona consumers, kids and seniors as she runs to be state Attorney General.

“Consumer protection is the core mission of Attorney General’s office,” she says. “This has not been on the agenda of Attorney General. We need an Attorney General who is willing to ruffle feathers when it involves going after these drug companies purposely making money off the opioid crisis.”

Contreras seeks to oust incumbent Republican Mark Brnovich, who has been A.G. since 2015, carrying out the agenda of Gov. Doug Ducey. She spoke recently at the LD9 Democratic party meeting in Tucson.

She was Ombudsman and Director for U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2009-2012, Arizona Health Policy Advisor from 2006-2008, Assistant Director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System from 2004-2006, and an Assistant Attorney General from 2000 – 2003. Prior to that she was a deputy Maricopa County prosecutor.

She plans to enforce laws against drug companies and distributors that have caused the opioid crisis by flooding Arizona with hydrocodone and fentanyl. More than 3,200 suspected opioid overdoses have been reported to state officials since June 15, with more than 400 of those deaths, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“Recently, 44 Attorneys Generals – Republicans and Democrats – took action to hold drug companies accountable. Mark Brnovich wasn’t one of them,” she says. “As this bipartisan group called on Congress to repeal legislation that weakens the DEA’s power to go after suspicious drug companies, Brnovich was one of six Attorneys General who looked the other way.”
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Victoria Steele Charts a Comeback with a State Senate Bid

Bruce Wheeler, candidate for US Congress, and fellow Democrat Victoria Steele, candidate for State Senate.

Victoria Steele (right), candidate for State Senate, with fellow Democrat Bruce Wheeler, candidate for US Congress.

Charting a comeback to the Arizona legislature, Democrat Victoria Steele asserts that ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment is a first step to improving the Tucson economy.

“Women are an economic powerhouse.  But if you are a woman of color, you make 54 cents for every dollar white man makes,” she said. “We need a constitutional amendment that guarantees wage equality. Until we have constitutionally guaranteed protection for women, we won’t have wage equality.”

She spoke at the hot new political gathering, the Over-60 Liberals Who Do Breakfast and Lunch meetup on Saturday at Monterey Court on Miracle Mile.

The 4 E’s

Steele is running for the state Senate seat in northern Tucson that opened up when Steve Farley launched a run for Governor. The economy is one of the four “E’s” that are guiding Steele’s return campaign: Education, economy, environment, and equality. Each is affected by the other.

“Nevada ratified the ERA this year,” said Steele, State Legislative Coordinator for the National Organization for Women and co-founder of the Tucson NOW Chapter. “I will work to push it over the edge in Arizona.”
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