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days of session: 82

Regular sessions shall be adjourned sine die no later than Saturday of the week in which the one hundredth day from the beginning of each regular session falls. The President and Speaker of the House may by declaration authorize the extension of the session for a period of not to exceed seven additional days. Thereafter, the session can be extended only by the Senate and House by a majority vote of the members present in each body. 

in focus

Are we there yet?

That’s the question a lot of Capitol-watchers are asking as Friday marked the 82nd day of the legislative Regular Session … and a budget deal remains nowhere in sight. Day 100 is the unofficial end of each year’s session, according to House and Senate rules, but completing legislative business by that date has been more the exception than rule during the modern era.

Achieving a timely conclusion to the 1st Regular Session of the 54th Legislature may prove especially challenging, given the razor-thin margins in the House (31R-29D) and Senate (17R-13D).

Regardless, more than halfway(?) through session, this is where things stand:

  • 1,289 bills and 98 memorandums have been introduced;
  • Of those, 384 bills are still alive; 858 are “dead”;
  • 46 have been signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey;
  • Just one piece of legislation, (the GOP-backed tax conformity bill), has been vetoed. 

Of course, that single veto is a major point of contention – and the tax fight has become one of the biggest obstacles standing between Arizona lawmakers (and the rest of us) and a swift Sine Die.

At this rate, the 2019 session has the potential to be the longest of the Ducey Era. So far, that title belongs to the 2017 session – which lasted 122 days. The shortest, in 2015, clocked-in at just 81 days. Yep . . .  we would have been done yesterday. *sigh*

Not to mention: legislation is moving through the process at a significantly slower pace than in previous years; roughly twice as many bills were sitting on the Governor’s desk by this point in the 2018, 2017 and 2016 sessions.

Needless to say, we could be in for the long haul. Representative Pierce . . . are you sure you want to do this again?

Former Arizona Senate president will replace David Stringer in House

Arizona Republic

Steve Pierce, a former president of the Arizona Senate, was appointed Wednesday to fill the vacant seat in the Arizona House of Representatives formerly held by embattled state Rep. David Stringer.

Stringer abruptly resigned March 27, and two days later it was revealed that he was arrested in 1983 on suspicion of paying two children to have sex with him.

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors voted to appoint Pierce around 10 a.m. and he rushed to Phoenix where he was sworn in to the House around 12:15 p.m., in time for the afternoon session.

For Republicans, the timing is crucial given they have a 31-29 majority in the House. The GOP cancelled floor votes for three days because they didn't have a majority while the seat was vacant.

[...] Pierce thanked the supervisors and acknowledged the urgency of his appointment, noting a logjam of bills awaiting votes in the House.

"It’s time to hit it running," he said. "I appreciate your trust. I’ll do the best I can down there."

[...] “I think it’s time that we got back some of our reputation that seems to have been soiled," said Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Garrison, a Republican. “It’s going to be nice to have that reset happen."

[...] Read more HERE.

Governor Ducey And First Lady Receive National Recognition For Arizona’s Child Welfare Efforts

News Release

PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey and First Lady Angela Ducey today received the Childhelp Diamond Jubilee Voice of Children Award at the Childhelp National Day of Hope Breakfast in Washington D.C. At the event, hosted by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Governor Ducey and the First Lady were recognized for Arizona’s efforts to improve child welfare.

Childhelp, a national nonprofit organization based in Arizona, works to prevent and provide treatment for abused, neglected and at-risk children. The organization is celebrating its 60 year anniversary and the milestone of reaching 10.5 million children since its founding.

“Angela and I are honored to accept this award on behalf of all of the foster, adoptive and kinship families, caseworkers, mentors, teachers, faith leaders, volunteers and more who work tirelessly each day to serve Arizona’s children and families,” said Governor Ducey. “Arizona has turned around its child welfare system — becoming a model for improving outcomes and providing kids safe and loving homes. We’re proud of this progress, but we are never going to stop fighting for Arizona’s kids.”

[...] Arizona has worked to improve outcomes at the Department of Child Safety (DCS). The state moved from last place to first place in foster care reduction, safely decreasing the number of children in out-of-home care 25 percent from a record high of 19,000 in 2016. Arizona has also reduced the caseload for DCS caseworkers by 70 percent, helping caseworkers better serve Arizona’s most vulnerable children.

Read more HERE.

Trump announces Second Step Act to help ex-prisoners find work

Washington Examiner

If the first step was getting more people out of prison, the second step is helping those people get jobs — and that's exactly what President Trump said he plans on doing. That's great and lawmakers should waste no time in backing up the president's actions with robust legislation.

Speaking during an event billed as a celebration of the FIRST STEP Act, President Trump championed the bipartisan legislation passed by Congress and signed into law in December. With better access to drug treatment programs, more pathways for early release, some sentencing reform and provisions for elderly, ill and others to serve sentences at home, the goal of the bill has already made a difference.

Flanked by former inmates released under the FIRST STEP Act, Trump told the audience, “Today I’m announcing that the Second Step Act will be focused on successful reentry and reduced unemployment for Americans with past criminal records, and that’s what we’re starting right away.”

[...] Although there are clearly specifics to be ironed out, likely another round of sparing in Congress, and plenty more to be done on actually getting people out of prison, Trump is right to add a focus on reentry to his administration's efforts on criminal justice reform.

Congress should follow his lead and hit pause on partisan point scoring to take another step towards meaningful criminal justice reform — this time focused on helping those with criminal records get back into the workforce and successfully rejoin society. In the long run, investing in those programs with make stronger, safer communities, reduce recidivism, and boost the economy.

[...] Read more HERE.

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Opinion: Failure of charter school reform a missed opportunity

Chamber Business News

Big things aren’t easily done at the Arizona Capitol.

More often, progress is made incrementally. It requires give and take – compromise that has regrettably become something of a lost art in our modern politics.

I say this in noting the demise of legislation I led – the Charter School Transparency & Accountability Act, SB 1394. Why did it come up short? Simply put, some lawmakers believed the legislation went too far and others felt strongly it didn’t go far enough, thereby ensuring there would not be the required 31 YES votes on the Floor of the Arizona House.

A Bipartisan Product

The legislation was the product of months of work beginning in the summer of 2018. We sought input from lawmakers of both parties, education leaders and charter advocates and skeptics alike. Two of Arizona’s biggest charter-school critics – the Grand Canyon Institute and ACLU – each participated in discussions and had recommendations incorporated into the bill. Ultimately, the ACLU endorsed SB 1394, as did Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman (a Democrat) and Attorney General Mark Brnovich (a Republican).

Bill Would Have Made a Difference

As I said, getting things done isn’t easy. But the fact remains that this was a tremendous missed opportunity to improve governance and oversight of public charter schools in Arizona. SB 1394. would have:

  • Empowered the Arizona Attorney General to investigate and prosecute charter-school financial abuses, including granting the office civil subpoena authority;

  • Enabled the Auditor General to review charter finances, upon referral by the AG;

  • Mandated every charter school have a governing body of at least 3 members, and prohibited family members from constituting a majority;

  • Made it easier to follow the money by requiring critical charter financial data – annual revenues, expenditures, assets, liabilities and more – be trackable at a single online clearinghouse;

  • Barred any related-party transactions unless publicly approved and disclosed with a written justification showing how the deal is in the best interest of the school.

The Arizona Republic itself grudgingly acknowledged SB 1394 “would have made the most significant changes to charter schools since the Arizona Legislature authorized their creation in 1994.”

Charter Reform Will Have to Wait

The legislation would not have solved every concern relating to charter schools in Arizona. But it would have been a big step forward when it comes to shining a light on charter finances, ensuring charter governance is more independent and granting oversight entities ranging from the Attorney General to the Auditor General new and enhanced tools to do their job.

SB 1394 would have made a difference. Charter reform will have to wait now.  And that’s too bad.

State Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix) is a member of the Senate Education Committee. She was elected to the Arizona Legislature in 2010.

Read HERE.

Edtech company Zovio bringing 800 jobs to Chandler


Today, Bridgepoint Education, Inc.’s CEO, Andrew Clark, announced the company is changing its name to Zovio Inc, further advancing the company’s strategy and transformation to an education technology services company.  Zovio partners with higher education institutions and employers to deliver innovative, personalized solutions and is redefining education technology.

“Today, America has 7 million jobs currently vacant because of a shortage of qualified workers – a skills gap that threatens our country’s competitiveness in a global economy,” said Andrew Clark, CEO. “Zovio will work alongside education institutions, employers, and learners to provide technology and services differentiated by meaningful insights gained through powerful data and analytics, which will enable our partners to address the skills-to-employment challenge.”

Zovio is also relocating its headquarters to Chandler, Arizona. A 130,000-square-foot energy-efficient, open-concept work space, already in development, has been designed to support its unique culture and commitment to innovation and growth.

[...] Read more HERE.

Produce shortages, price hikes could start soon as feds end Sunday truck inspections on Arizona border

Arizona Republic

Arizona businesses and consumers could start feeling the pinch of trade disruptions with Mexico as early as next week — even without a border closure.

Federal officials say they are halting Sunday commercial-truck inspections that have expedited cross-border trade, including the northward flow of produce during the peak harvest season.

That could push up fruit and vegetable prices, possibly lead to temporary shortages, along with other consequences.

Inspection staff will be diverted to help handle the surge in the number of migrants along the border.

"We'll see a huge amount of produce overwhelming the lines" starting early next week, predicted Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, a Nogales-based trade group promoting Mexican agricultural imports.

Watermelons, squash and tomatoes are among the Mexican crops reaching peak harvest times right now, with grapes and other items coming in a few weeks. The impact could include a short supply of some produce and sharp fluctuations in the prices paid by consumers.

[...] Read more HERE.

Cigna launches program to cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $25/month


(Reuters) - Health insurer Cigna Corp on Wednesday launched a program aimed at ensuring some diabetes patients pay no more than $25 for a 30-day supply of insulin in the wake of heightened public scrutiny over soaring prices of the life-saving drug.

[...] The annual cost of insulin for treating a type 1 diabetes patient in the United States nearly doubled to $5,705 in 2016 from $2,864 in 2012, according to a recent study.

The program will be for eligible people with diabetes in participating health plans, the company said.

Cigna, which bought pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts last year, said it was partnering with insulin manufacturers to lower copayments to $25 at the point of sale.

For users of insulin plans managed by Cigna and Express Scripts, the average out-of-pocket cost for insulin was $41.50 for a 30-day supply in 2018, the company said.

[...] Read more HERE.

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