Boarder Action Network
Legislative Update: January 17-21, 2011
By Jaime Farrant, Policy Director
I. Introduction: Governor Brewer Files a Budget that puts Arizona on the Verge of a Public Health and Moral Crisis
Governor Brewer announced her proposed budget for Arizona last Jan. 14. The budget dominated this week’s political discussion, given our state’s current financial situation: depending on the estimate, Arizona’s deficit ranges between 1 and 2 billion dollars. However, instead of proposing a budget that considers all available options to save costs and raise revenues for the state, the Arizona Capitol Times described it as one that “hinges on empathy from the federal government, surviving potential lawsuits and a $330 million accounting gimmick that may not be legal”. Governor Brewer’s main plan to reduce government spending is a $561 million cut to AHCCCS, the state’s health insurance program for the poor. The cuts will end coverage for approximately 280,000 people, most of them childless adults, parents of eligible children and elderly, blind and disabled patients. The Governor also proposed a $170 million cut to the university system. However, not all agencies suffered cuts. Governor Brewer requested $8.4 million to hire 100 new correctional officers this year, to be followed by 200 more over the next two years. She also requested a $50 million bond to cover needs at the state's 10 prison complexes.
Speaking of budget cuts, Senator Sylvia Allen (R-Dist. 5) stated to the Arizona Guardian that these will send the message that “we’ve got to preach to people to save up for their colonoscopy, to save up for their welfare visits, to put some money back into their lives and their own responsibilities for healthcare”. The Arizona Guardian also asked Senate President Russell Pearce whether it was realistic for low-income people to save the money necessary for doctor visits and exams. His response was simply "that's the way it used to be."
II. Summary of Legislative Bills Filed and Discussed This Week
This was another busy week at the Legislature, with over 350 bills filed. As of the end of Thursday’s session, there are 756 bills before the 2 legislative bodies. Many of them will have a direct impact on Arizonans’ human rights, and on the direction this state takes. The following is a summary of several of these measures, with Border Action’s observations on them.
A. Measures Impacting Civil and Constitutional Rights and Public Justice
Some of the measures filed this week that impact civil and constitutional rights and our public justice system include:
1. HB 2444: Law Enforcement Officer Discipline. Rep. Steve Montenegro, R- Dist. 12. This measure prohibits filing disciplinary procedures against law enforcement officers if the investigation is not completed within 120 days after the employer received notice of the allegation. If disciplinary action is appropriate, the employer must give notice to the officer of intent to proceed with disciplinary action, along with a proposal of the specific action sought. The bill prohibits polygraph examinations in administrative procedures unless the law enforcement or probation officer and the employer agree to its administration. This measure has the effect of making it more difficult to hold law enforcement officers for inappropriate acts.
B. Measures Impacting a Secure and Productive Border and Immigration Issues
On Thursday, January 20, the Senate’s Committee on Border Security, Federalism and States’ Sovereignty (chaired by Sylvia Allen, R-Dist. 5) held its first hearing. It began with Sen. Allen introducing the members, and then, by asking Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever and Pinal County Paul Babeu to speak about their county’s law enforcement efforts.
Sheriff Dever talked for almost 1 hour. He stated that, as a way to resolve immigration issues, “until they (referring to the undocumented) aren’t incarcerated for a long period of time, they’ll continue to come back”. He also declared that there are delegations across the country ready to file bills similar to SB 1070, and that if the federal government “thinks that this is going to die, they are incorrect”. He said that he is interested to see if the Department of Justice will sue other states that pass Arizona-inspired laws.
Senator Allen asked Sheriff Dever if he would like for the legislature to pass a law that would create a border security voluntary group that would provide him “with more bodies to help”. He responded that if that was ever to happen, that “he would like to see them under the supervision of the sheriff.” He also criticized Border Patrol’s efforts, because they are “scattered and not holding the frontline”, and because of their policy of measuring success by their number of apprehensions, saying “that’s measuring how many fish are in the lake by the number of fish you catch”.
1. HB 2537: Immigration Legislation Challenges. Rep. Kirk Adams, R-Dist. 19. This is the House version of SB 1117, which seeks to amend last year’s HB 2162 (passed to amend SB 1070) and authorize the Senate President or House Speaker to direct counsel to initiate legal proceedings or appear on behalf of their respective chambers or on behalf of the legislature in any challenge in a state or federal court to SB 1070 and any amendments to it. Border Action Network spoke at the Senate last week opposing SB 1117, questioning the need of a measure that grants a blank check to these 2 persons to spend taxpayer monies during these difficult economic times.
C. Measures Impacting Employment and Workers Rights
1. HB 2263: Discrimination; Enforcement; Damages. Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Dist. 17. This bill seeks to increase the statute of limitations on filing employment discrimination charges to 2 years from 1 year. It also allows the recovering party in unlawful employment practice cases to recover punitive or compensatory damages under certain conditions. This is a positive measure that will help Arizona workers who are discriminated against.
2. HB 2271: Employment; Unlawful Termination; Family Responsibility. Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Dist. 17 (pictured right). This measure prohibits employers from firing or threaten to fire an employee for being notified by a school or law enforcement officer of an emergency regarding the employee's child or for leaving work to attend to the child's emergency, except in cases of excessive abuse of this protection.
3. HB 2367: Public Employees; Prohibited Negotiations. Rep. David Smith, R-Dist. 7. This measure prohibits the state and its political subdivisions from negotiating with a labor organization or employee association representing public employees about employee wages and benefits, hours of work, or other financial issues. This is a bill that seeks to further diminish labor unions’ ability to negotiate on behalf of their members in our state.
D. Measures Impacting Education
1. HB 2505 – School pupils; lawful status; state aid. Rep. Carl Seel, R-Dist. 6; Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Dist. 18. This measure prohibits school districts and charter schools from counting children whose parents are unable to prove the child’s lawful presence in the US for purposes of determining average daily membership, the measure used to determine state funding to school districts and charter schools. This bill has the intent of forcing schools to turn away undocumented children from their schools, and an attempt to force a lawsuit to challenge the Supreme Court Decision of Plyler v. Doe, which established that all children in this country are entitled to a free public education.
E. Measures Impacting Integration and Civic Participation
Representative Carl Seel (R-Dist 6, pictured left), filed various bills this week that attempt to eliminate the advances made by various groups throughout AZ during last year’s elections to increase voter participation, by making it harder for Arizonans to register to vote and by creating mechanisms to deter organizations from assisting in voter registration efforts. These measures are:
1. HB 2240: Voter Registration; Assistance; Notary. Mandates that voter registration forms include a space for the registrant to provide the name of any person who assisted the registrant, including the name of that person's organization, if any. It also establishes that the signature of the voter in permanent early voter request forms (“PEVL”) be notarized by a notary public. Voters already on the permanent early voting list must submit a notarized renewal within 2 years or their name will be removed. The paper record provided by an electronic voting system must be used in manual audits and recounts on electronic equipment that uses a touch screen system or that is usable with assistive devices.
F. Measures Impacting Health Care
While we have a budget that seeks to cut health care services to over 280,000 persons, several other bills were filed this week that will impact health care in our state. These are:
1. SB 1214: Interstate Compact; Health Care. Sen. Silvia Allen R, Dist. 5 (pictured right). This measure seeks to create an inter-state agreement to aggressively oppose President Obama’s health care reform law signed in Congress last year. SB 1214 seeks to:
a. Prohibit governmental agencies from depriving any resident of any party of any party state of the rights and freedoms guaranteed under their respective current or anticipated health care freedom laws.
b. Prohibit government agencies from penalizing residents of these states.
c. Allow cooperation between signatory states that will allow criminal prosecutions of anyone who violates the health care freedom criminal laws of any party state. The measure defines these “health care freedom criminal laws” as any state law that makes it a crime for anyone to interfere with a resident’s enjoyment of the freedoms protected and guaranteed obey the state’s respective health care freedom laws”. These freedom laws, in turn, are laws by which persons’ have the “freedom to pay or not to pay directly for lawful health care services and to participate or not to participate in health care plans and health care systems.”
G. Measures Impacting Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development
There were several measures filed this week that should concern all of Arizona’s residents, particularly as our state struggles to correct its financial situation. They are:
1. SB 1210: Corporate Income Tax; Repeal. First Sponsor Sen. Lori Klein, R-Dist.6. This measure seeks to eliminate Arizona’s Revised Statutes (“ARS”) Chapter on Corporate Taxes effective December 31, 2011. It also instructs legislative council staff to prepare new legislation on this matter. Under this measure, Arizona’s corporations would not pay any income tax until a new corporate tax code is filed. Considering our state’s financial situation, this is an irresponsible measure that must be rejected.
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Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...
This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.
Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.
Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.
I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.
In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.
I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.
I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281. email@example.com
until all are free -
MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)