The Fiftieth Legislature's first regular session has come to a close, and the second regular session is now in progress.
Here is the 2011 Legislative Report Card so you can see how your legislators voted on the issues important to Arizona's children and families in last year's sessions and see below for our policy priorities for this year's session.
1. A State Budget That Works for Arizona Families - CAA supports a budget that promotes children's health, education, and security. This year's budget should make current investments with long-term payoffs and should lay the foundation for balancing the budget in the future when the temporary sales tax expires and new tax cuts phase in.
Update: The Governor and Legislative leadership have offered their budget plans. The Legislative budget has passed through both the House (bills HB2852-HB2861) and Senate (bills SB1523-SB1532) Appropriations Committees. Read our analysis of the plans.
2.Child Protective Services Reform - Arizona can take action to better protect children from abuse and neglect. CAA supports recommendations from Governor Brewer's Child Safety Task Force to improve the coordination and collaboration in CPS investigations, especially those involving crimes; increase cross-training for CPS staff and other multidisciplinary partners; improve the CPS Hotline so that reports can be taken efficiently; and enhance support for foster families. The most important reform is to strengthen the CPS workforce with stronger supervision, lower caseloads, more technological and staff support, and better salaries.
Update: CAA supports HB2794, it passed through the committee on Rules and is scheduled to be heard in the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, February 28th. CAA also supports the striker in bill SB1187 which passed unanimously through the Senate on February 27th and is now awaiting to be heard in committee in the House.
3.Stop TABOR - The so-called Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR) would lock state lawmakers into a flawed mathematical formula for future budget decisions. Because population growth and inflation alone simply don't match the reality of Arizona, TABOR would endanger all state priorities, including education, prisons and public safety, economic development, and health care. CAA opposes HCR2032 and SCR1030, they are the most dangerous of the TABOR bills out there.
Update: CAA opposes SCR1030, one of the most dangerous TABOR bills proposed, it passed the Senate by a 17-13 vote and has been transmitted to the House and assigned to the Appropriations Cmte.
SCR1030 Would Enact TABOR's Faulty Formulas fact sheet
We are delighted to report that HCR2032, a bill CAA opposes, was DEFEATED by a 4-6 vote in the House Appropriations Committee on February 23rd.
CAA opposes TABOR rule (Rule 38) proposed by Some House Republicans. The rule would prevent the House from adopting a budget outside of the TABOR formula. This is a backdoor attempt to pass something that can't stand up to the regular democratic process. Rule 38 had been scheduled for presentation to House membership on Monday January 30, but was pulled and has not resurfaced.
4.Successful Systems for Health Care Coverage - Arizona has the chance to shape our health care future as we make decisions about how to implement federal health reform. Arizonans expect our leaders to update health care enrollment opportunities to keep costs low, help people find and compare health plans, and improve the health of children and families.
5.Oppose Unfair and Unbalanced Tax Schemes - It makes no sense to adopt new tax cuts and tax credits until there is a plan for balancing the budget after the sales tax expires and last year's "Jobs Bill" tax cuts kick in. Without offsetting revenue, any new tax cuts or tax credits will make the drop off the fiscal cliff higher and more dangerous for children and families.
6.Quality Early Education for Reading Success - Reading proficiency in third grade is a key benchmark for later school success and for Arizona's economic competitiveness. Based on national standards, three out of four Arizona fourth graders read below proficient levels. Yet lawmakers have cut school budgets and wiped out state funding for the strategies that help more children learn to read -- full-day Kindergarten, quality preschool, and child care assistance for qualified working families. CAA supports these strategies and parent involvement to bring more children reading success. We also support Governor Brewer's proposal to appropriate $50 million to elementary schools for reading specialists and curriculum to help struggling readers catch up.
Update: CAA supports SB1258, as amended, strengthens the Move on When Reading Law, by among other things, requiring school districts to offer at least one intervention and one remedial strategy for pupils with deficiencies, and to notify parents about these options. Move on When Reading prohibits promoting to Fourth grade children who read far below grade level at the end of grade three, beginning in 2014. SB1258 passed unanimously in the House Education committee, but has not moved any further.
7.Bring Back KidsCare - For ten years, working families were able to purchase affordable health insurance for their children through KidsCare. But two years ago, short-sighted budget cuts froze enrollment, leaving tens of thousands of children without coverage, forgoing millions of federal dollars that could be helping Arizona's economy, and putting more families in financial crisis. With a very modest investment, Arizona can Bring Back KidsCare so all children can be healthy and ready to learn.
Lifting the KidsCare Freeze is a Smart Investment
Update: CAA supports HB2235, legislation that would Bring Back KidsCare, but leadership refused to schedule a hearing for this important bill.
8.Smart Corrections Policy - More than a decade of research shows that youth who are prosecuted in the adult system have higher rates of recidivism and worse outcomes than youth treated in the juvenile justice system. To improve public safety, more decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis before Arizona youth are prosecuted in the adult criminal system. CAA supports legislation to update the definition of "chronic felony offender" so that fewer youth would be automatically prosecuted as adults. For youth who have been charged with non-violent or less serious offenses, county prosecutors would have the discretion to bring charges in adult court or juvenile court.
Update: CAA supports SB1439 was introduced in the Senate and assigned to the Judiciary committee. Leadership has decided not to schedule a hearing for this bill that would improve our juvenile corrections system.
9.Open the Gate to Schoolyards - Children who are physically active are healthier and more successful in school. Today, too many children are getting too little exercise. School playgrounds and fields can give children a place to play and run right in their neighborhood. But many schoolyards are off limits after school and on weekends. CAA supports SB1059, a simple clarification in the liability laws to encourage more schools to open their playgrounds and fields to after-school play.
Update: CAA supports SB1059 has passed both the House and Senate and was recently signed by the Governor.
10.Help Grandparents Raising the Next Generation - 70,000 children in Arizona are being raised by their grandparents. Many grandparents face challenges with housing, transportation, child care and after-school care, and health care for themselves and their grandkids. A range of recent state budget cuts in Arizona have made it harder for grandparents to get basic assistance to keep their grandchildren thriving and their families intact. CAA supports SB1098 to provide grandparents with basic financial assistance.
Update: CAA supports SB1098 passed unanimously in the Senate Public Safety and Human Services committee on Wednesday, January 25, but was never scheduled by Senator Don Shooter for the next step, which would have been to be heard in the Senate Appropriations committee.