Throughout her first two terms in the Arizona State House of Representatives, Legislative District (LD) 18 State Representative Mitzi Epstein has been a consistent and fervent champion for the disadvantaged, the vulnerable, public education, and sustainability In advancing the future of the Grand Canyon State and its residents.
This is demonstrated by her work to pass Jake’s Law to help people that are mentally ill.
This is evidenced by her voting record which shows her support for:
- Protecting consumers.
- Fully funding public education.
- Fully funding state environmental policy programs.
- Equal and Civil Rights for members of the LGBTQ Community.
- Having Community Colleges offer four-year degrees.
- Increasing housing purchase credits for low-income earners.
- Protecting the minimum wage.
- Protecting the Citizen’s Ballot Initiative Process.
- Providing HIV Prevention Education.
- Protecting a Woman’s Right to Choose.
- Keeping school grounds safe and weapon free.
- Background checks on gun sales.
- Campaign Finance Donation Public Disclosure.
Representative Epstein would like to continue her work for the people by serving a third term in the Arizona State House.
If she prevails, this November, she would continue to work for:
- Fully funding education.
- Modernizing the Unemployment Insurance System.
- Cleaning air.
Representative Epstein graciously took the time to respond to questions about her candidacy.
The questions and her responses are below.
1) Please tell the voters two reasons they should pick you over your opponent.
“A thriving economy demands a well-educated, healthy workforce. We need to re-elect BOTH of our Democratic Representatives in the Arizona House, Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Jermaine.”
“In this pandemic, and always, good jobs and good health go together. You cannot solve one without the other. Our local small businesses are the fabric of our neighborhoods and an engine for our economy. Let’s support them as customers and with the infrastructure and resources, they need to rebound quickly. I am working on a bill to do exactly that. It will provide a framework for businesses to be open based on safe, healthy activity in the business, not closed based on capricious decisions based on the name of a business. This solution hinges on appropriate compliance, enforcement, and support for businesses to keep workers and customers healthy and safe.”
“For 24 years I have been volunteering and listening to the folks in our community, as a youth soccer coach and trainer, as a PTO / PTA leader, Kyrene School Board member and more. As State Representative, I have continued to actively listen in the regular meetings of my group called, Neighbors Council, and in open forums from Facebook to coffee-shop chats.”
2) Please tell the voters at least two ways your opponent does not reflect the vision of LD 18.
“Republican Bob Robson would take us backward on education. He was a leader in the majority party leadership of the House of Representatives when education funding was cut year after year. Even in years when the Arizona economy rebounded, funding for public education was never restored. Further, he supports expanding AZ vouchers to private schools that do not have accountability to the taxpayer.”
“He opposes even sensible firearm reforms that would require background checks on every gun sale. Under current laws, domestic violence abusers can purchase a gun in a variety of ways with no questions asked. That’s dangerous.
“In contrast, I support adding appropriate accountability measures to our existing ESA program to protect the education requirements of special needs students, but I do not support expanding private school vouchers. I am committed to restoring education funding. And I support closing the loopholes on background checks because it’s important for personal and public safety.”
3) Please tell the voters at least two accomplishments you are proudest of from the last legislative session.
A) “Jake’s Law was one of only about 90 bills that were signed into law in the 2020 session. It was very important for everybody to get it done and early. I led the coalition to develop that bill in biweekly meetings over more than a year. It is a set of solutions to some of the problems of getting access to mental health care, and it is a critical part of suicide prevention.”
“With Jake’s law, Insurance companies must provide mental healthcare in parity with physical healthcare. We began the job by reaching out to parents and suicide survivors to hear their stories. After defining the problems, we considered many solutions and chose to focus on parity laws. We brought in the AZ Department of Insurance and Insurance Companies to refine ideas to be sure everything in this complex legislation would work in Arizona.”
“Jake’s parents, Denise and Ben Denslow will always have my great admiration for their smart and persistent advocacy to make this idea become the law of the land.”
B) “In 2019 I established the Bicameral Sustainability Work Group. We brought in experts in many fields of science, conservation, grassroots advocacy, and neighbors who care about the Earth. I asked the Arizona Science Policy Network to help us define the problems and we chose five areas that need attention in Arizona: Air and Water quality, wilderness protection, waste management, and extreme heat. We collaborated among legislators and stakeholder organizations to develop bills for cost-effective, practical solutions. Even though the 2020 session was cut short, those bills are ready for the legislative session in 2021.”
4) Please tell the voters at least three public policy issues you will advance if you are reelected to the Arizona State Legislature.
A) – Restore Education Funding:
We need to work to improve education funding, and we can do it in a way that supports equity. Our current tax structure in Arizona is horribly regressive. We are a HIGH TAX state for people with low incomes. We hear politicians talk about the low taxes in Arizona – But that is not true for everyday folks in lower- and middle-income levels. I know we need to unburden small businesses and everyday Arizonans who are overburdened with tax rates that are unfair now. Our sales tax rate is one of the highest in the country. We’ve got to fix that.
As the ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee – that’s the revenue side of the budget — it is my job to assure taxpayers have accountability and get a return on their tax dollar investments. We can prioritize funding for schools in many ways including closing tax loopholes, and Criminal Justice Reform. I am leading on revenue planning, especially to improve funding for education and affordable housing investments. The bottom line is equity. I am leading a team of people to find the best basket of revenue options that will not hurt people who are just starting their careers or who are retired and on a fixed income.
I support Prop 208 because it is a good way to fund our schools and we need to fund our schools better — right now.
B) I am leading a team of Legislators, Economists, and Stakeholder organizations to reform Unemployment Insurance. We have three steps:
1-More money in your pockets,
2- Performance audit of DES-UI, and
3- Adequate, stable, and fair taxes and funding for the UI system.
UI is a bridge to the next job for individuals, and also an economic stabilizer for all Arizonans. However, Arizona’s maximum benefit is so low that it has not been adequate to help individuals and it has not worked well enough as a stabilizer for the economy. The CBO rated UI as one of the best programs to create jobs during a recession. When people have money in their pockets, they can pay their rent, keep food on the table, and generally support local businesses. That stops job loss.
I am calling for a performance audit of the DES UI division to develop a detailed analysis of the performance problems. Far too many Arizonans are suffering without money to pay their rent. They are eligible for UI benefits, but the ancient computer system is crushed by this mass unemployment event. A performance audit will analyze the processing problems and suggest solutions.
We need to assure that the UI trust fund is adequate and stable. Just like our overall tax structure, I will be working to assure that the taxes supporting UI are fair and not regressive.
C) Clean Air — I am working with the Sustainability Work Group and ADEQ and stakeholder organizations to improve air quality in Arizona. Maricopa County is not on track to meet health standards for air quality by 2024. If those standards are not met, it will be very harmful to public health. Ozone is invisible to the eye, but it can cause damage that has been described as “like a sunburn on your lungs.” Federal requirements will cause Arizona businesses to be closed or not allowed to expand if we do not meet our air quality goals. Nobody wants that. Business leaders are motivated to collaborate with us on this issue. It will be difficult to find the right solutions, but we will roll up our sleeves and get to work!
5) Is there anything you would like the voter to know about you or your candidacy that has not been asked in the first three questions.
“Public education, health, safety, affordable housing, and equal rights in work: all of these issues need attention and the pandemic has illuminated the problems that have been ignored by past legislative majority leadership teams. It’s time for a new majority, and Democrats are ready to lead in the Arizona Legislature!”
“To meet the needs of the people of Arizona during this pandemic, I have organized our House Democratic Caucus into seven workgroups. Each group collaborates to develop bills that provide comprehensive solutions to issues in public health, business, schools, human services (like unemployment insurance), indigenous people, racial justice, and sustainability. I led the way for our legislators and staff to begin to use the Microsoft Teams computer app in our work because teamwork makes the dream work!”
“I have a new vision for the Arizona Legislature. Our strength as a Democratic Caucus has always been the determination and cleverness of each of our Democratic Legislators to sponsor bills that make life better for real people. Because of partisan leadership in the majority, only a handful of Democratic bills were considered each year. When we are in the majority, we will have the opportunity to meet people’s needs more comprehensively. To get that done, we need 21st Century tools and a new vision for collaborative work. We need to ramp up our teamwork! “
“I feel that the Republicans’ leadership in the Arizona Legislature has promoted secrecy and competition, causing transparency and collaboration to fade away. The result has been neglect of long-term planning, such as planning for a pandemic, and the neglect of our housing, health, and public education systems.”
“The people of Arizona deserve transparency, and I believe that all our laws will be stronger and serve people better if they are developed collaboratively. Competition can be a great motivator and it has its place, but not if it causes secrecy from the people of Arizona.”
“With my experience working in international businesses and very large organizations, and my general love of technology, I am bringing forward a vision and a plan for the Arizona Legislature to be more inclusive to all Arizonans, and to foster teamwork among legislators.”
“It is not enough to have a vision; one must have a plan of action. By listening to you, the folks in our community, and collaborating with other legislators and stakeholder groups, we are developing a detailed plan to implement improvements. For example, we want to improve inclusion in committee meetings. In the past, if you wanted to testify in an Education Committee meeting, you were told, “Drive to Phoenix. Try to find a place to park. Get there by noon. You might have to stay until midnight. You have no guarantee that you will get a chance to speak.”
“The Republicans’ leadership of the People’s House was disrespectful to the people’s voices.”
“With 21st Century technology, and the determination to open the doors to The People, we must get to the point where people can either submit video testimony or be told a precise window of time to appear to speak on a bill. The RTS system should allow people to comment on a bill at any step of the process; it should not be limited as it is now to only certain windows of opportunity.”
“I am bringing together our House Democratic Leadership team, and many other interested legislators to develop the plans to meet the needs of the People of Arizona comprehensively, effectively, and inclusively!”
For more information on Representative Epstein and her candidacy, please click on her Webpage here, her Facebook Page here, her appearance at the LD 18 Clean Elections Debate here, her interview with Maricopa County School Superintendent Nominee Jeanne Casteen here, and her previous interviews/comments with the Blog for Arizona here.
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