Over the last week, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, with Democratic Legislators and Progressive Public Policy Activists has taken their agenda, outlined in the Governor’s recent State of the State address, on reproductive freedom, increasing public school funding, Empowerment Scholarship Account accountability, and prescription drug benefits to the public and the State Capitol in the form of proposed legislation.
On January 24, the Governor along with State Representative Stephanie Stahl Hamilton and State Senator Priya Sundareshan joined forces to introduce legislation to protect reproductive freedom and women’s health care in the Grand Canyon State.
Among the proposed house measures are bills designed to:
- Repeal the Civil War-era Abortion Ban.
- Protect the right to purchase contraception.
- Stop collecting abortion medical data in Arizona.
In doing this, the Governor stated in an official press release:
“I will always defend Arizonans’ freedoms, and I refuse to back down in the face of those who want to criminalize doctors, outlaw abortion, and strip away access to contraception. Instead of restricting our freedoms, we can pass common-sense legislation to expand access to healthcare. Reproductive freedom is not a partisan issue. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree that women deserve to have access to the healthcare we need, to have our individual rights protected, and to make the personal decisions we deem best for ourselves and our families.”
In the same press release, Representative Stahl Hamilton added:
“Arizona is an abortion battleground state, and with Governor Hobbs in office, not only will we stop the relentless attacks on reproductive rights, we are taking direct steps to protect and enshrine those rights at the Legislature. I’m proud to introduce a repeal of Arizona’s draconian 1864 Civil War-era total abortion ban, the Right to Contraception Act so that birth control will be available without government or ideological interference, and a ban on invasive questions and intrusive data collection from people who seek abortions.”
Senator Sundareshan offered:
“As a mother and state legislator, I understand what a deeply personal decision it is to plan and have a family, one that the government has no right to insert itself into. The outdated and life-threatening attacks on personal autonomy we are currently witnessing across the country demand an immediate and proactive response. In the face of this continued extremist attack on freedom and the right to choose, Democrats are committed to ensuring all Arizonans have access to affordable, comprehensive abortion care and contraceptives.”
Arizona Senate Democrats later posted on social media a picture of Senator Sundareshan turning in the Senate version of the Reproductive Freedom bills.
On January 29, the Governor, with State Senator Christine Marsh, State Representative Judy Schweibert, and public education activists from school districts and organizations like Save Our Schools Arizona and Stand for Children Arizona held a press event at the Capitol to advocate for Ms. Hobb’s proposed extension and expansion of Proposition 123, the legislation that would increase the percentage of land trust proceeds to go toward public education.
Saying that Prop 123 was necessary because state leaders at the time failed to do their public duty in fully funding public schools in the first place, the Governor maintained that it was necessary to extend and expand Proposition 123 because:
“We are not where we need to be. Ten years later…we continue to come up short. Something needs to change. Arizonans are tired of the empty promises and platitudes. They are tired of their words falling on deaf ears. They are tired of the status quo.”
In calling for the expansion of Prop 123, the Governor stated that “we can finally change course and strengthen the future of our students in public schools.”
Noting that the amount in the State Land Trust has exceeded economic forecasts by $1.6 billion, Ms. Hobbs relayed that “to reflect this difference, I’m proposing an increased distribution rate of 8.9 percent. This will provide an additional $1.3 billion for public schools compared to the previous rate. That means raises, not only for teachers but for every educator and support staff who make our schools a success. And it means safer schools for our children. It does all of this without raising taxes one cent and it will not jeopardize the health of the state land trust. What this proposal does do is strengthen Arizona’s foundation and invests in our student’s futures...Our public schools are the beating heart of our state. They are a place where equal opportunity is not just a principle but a lived reality where barriers are broken and doors are unlocked...As the sister of two public school teachers, I’m proud to put this proposal forward and I’m calling on the legislature to join me in ensuring a brighter future for our students, our teachers, and the state. It’s time to change the status quo. It’s time to act.
Please click on the links below to view some of Senator Marsh’s and Representative Schwiebert’s comments at the same event.
On the same day, the Governor along with Democratic Senate and House Leaders Mitzi Epstein and Lupe Contreras issued a joint press release outlining a series of measures to make the Empowerment Scholarship Account System more accountable.
Earlier, on January 25, State Senator Christine Marsh reintroduced a measure to require educators in private schools that receive Empowerment Scholarship funds to have their fingerprints checked for public safety.
House Leader Contreras plans to introduce mirror versions of the Senate plan and other aspects of the Governor’s proposed reforms that she outlined in her January State of the State Address.
In speaking out on the need for these reforms, Governor Hobbs commented:
“Arizonans deserve to know their taxpayer dollars are being spent giving Arizona children the education they deserve, not on luxury car driving lessons, ski trips, and water park passes. We must bring accountability and transparency to the ESA program. With this plan, we can keep students safe, give parents and students the information they deserve to make informed educational choices and protect taxpayer dollars. It’s simple: we need accountability for government spending, and every school receiving taxpayer money should follow basic educational and student safety standards.”
Senator Epstein added in the same press release:
“The unaccountable government expansion of ESA vouchers has put our state’s financial security, and our students, at risk. These commonsense safeguards will be vitally important for giving Arizona children a safe and quality education, and bring the same accountability and oversight to ESAs that we expect for any taxpayer spending.”
Representative Contreras relayed:
“All Arizonans, no matter their party, want to see taxpayer dollars spent wisely. We’re presenting basic standards that will establish transparency and accountability to avoid excess spending on luxury goods, ensure student safety, and provide transparency over the ESA program. Let’s pass these commonsense bills and deliver much-needed oversight for Arizona families.”
Yesterday, the Governor, along with State Senator Eva Burch, appeared at the Melrose Pharmacy in Phoenix, gathered to tout ideas to create a statewide Prescription Drug Plan for Arizona residents.
At the start of her presentation, the Governor pointed out that one in three Americans have stopped taking medication because it was too expensive.
Saying that third is why they were there “today,: parents, grandparents, workers, seniors, and so many other Arizonans who have not been able to prioritize their health and the health of their loved ones because the costs of prescription drugs have gotten out of hand.”
Blaming corporate greed in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries for the people’s suffering, the Governor went on to say:
“We need to bring it (the corporate greed and people’s suffering because of it) to an end.”
She then outlined her plan to protect Arizonans from “price gouging middlemen and make sure they don’t have to sacrifice their health just to get by.”
The Governor’s prescription drug plan includes:
- The creation of a prescription drug affordability division within the Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions to promote healthcare education and transparency in the pharmaceutical industry to make sure they are providing high-quality and low-cost medications for Arizonans.
- Preventing pharmacy benefit managers from overcharging Medicaid through “spread pricing.”
Saying “I’ve known the gravity of having to make tough decisions in order to stay afloat financially…I’ve always believed that as elected officials, we have a responsibility to make life easier for our constituents…We can and we must act now. No Arizonans should have to choose between paying their rent or buying groceries and affording their prescription drugs. It’s time to put an end to a system that advantage of Arizonans and leaves people behind. It’s time to lower the cost of prescription drugs so Arizonans can afford life-saving medication and get the health care they need…”
Please view Senator Burch’s comments below.