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The Capitol Roundup

The Arc of Arizona's weekly recap of State & Federal legislative happenings

February 10, 2017

A Question of Priorities
At the Statehouse...

​It is the 40th day of the 2017 legislative session, and legislators have introduced a total of 1,054 bills and 99 resolutions or memorials. That total is lower than any regular legislative session since 2003, but it is more than enough to keep state leaders at the Capitol for long hours. The introduced proposals are divided almost equally between the House and Senate, with 583 coming from the House and 570 from the Senate. Less than 50% of the bills are still able to advance this year, due to committee hearing deadlines that move the session forward. More than 600 of the proposed laws failed to receive a hearing in a committee, and a small number failed either in committee or in floor votes in the legislature. With more than 500 bills, memorials, and ballot referrals still in play, though, there is still a lot of work to be done.

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This week, legislators advanced proposals that would require insurance business to be conducted in English, increase taxes on gas and vehicle registrations to create more funding for road construction and maintenance, exempt diapers and feminine products from sales taxes, and prevent teenagers from texting while driving. They gave initial approval to the legalization of hemp products in the state, and agreed that Arizonans should be protected from surprise medical bills. And the House killed – and then revived – a proposal to add partisan factors to elections on the Central Arizona Project’s board elections.
The Senate unanimously gave podiatrists the authority to amputate toes, and advanced a resolution that would authorize the Arizona Department of Water Resources to enter into an agreement on Colorado River water rights on behalf of the state.
 
The Senate Committee on Health & Human Services ordered AHCCCS to evaluate whether foster children in AHCCCS are prescribed more psychotropic drugs than children in AHCCCS who are not in foster care. The Committee also approved the creation of a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on the Department of Child Safety – an oversight body that would replace the Child Safety Oversight Committee, which completed its work late last year. Unlike the Child Safety Oversight Committee, the new Oversight Committee would be composed of only legislators, rather than medical or legal experts. 
 
Throughout the action on a wide range of policy issues, a fierce debate continued on proposals to alter the state laws that allow citizens to bring issues to the ballot through an initiative process.
 
Debate also continued on two proposals that would expand the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program to all Arizona students. The ESAs use public funding for students to attend private schools – a system that initially applied only to students with disabilities and has gradually increased to other student groups like children in foster care and children in D or F-rated school districts. This year’s proposals would implement a four-year plan to open the program to all students – a step that supporters say will save money and give more choice to parents, and opponents say will cost the state and gut public school funding. Education committees have devoted hours to debate and public testimony on the subject, but both the House and Senate version of the bill moved forward and could be considered by the full legislature in the near future.
 
Few committee hearings are scheduled next week, as both the House and Senate focus on floor debates and votes that send their priority bills to the other chamber for consideration. Click here for information on bills to be considered; floor calendars will be updated daily.
 
Budget Update

There was no clear evidence of progress on state budget negotiations this week. Senate leaders asked their Republican caucus members to notify them of their budget preferences in writing – a departure from the usual small group meetings that allow legislators to verbally share their priorities, but a step toward a budget proposal. House Appropriations subcommittees continued their evaluation of state agency budgets and funding levels, and both the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations completed their study of major state agencies with a briefing on the Department of Child Safety and the Department of Economic Security. Subcommittees will discuss and approve their reports to the House next week. 
 
Priority Legislation
  • HB 2209 (family caregiver income tax credit)
The bill would create a new tax credit to provide up to $1,000 in credit for individuals who care for a family member, if that individual earns less than $75,000 a year. It passed the House Committee on Ways & Means 7-2 last week, but is not yet scheduled to move to the full House for discussion.
  • HB 2310 (appropriations; ALTCS; elderly; physical disabilities)
The bill would give funds to ALTCS to increase payment to providers for services to the elderly and  persons with disabilities. It was not heard in committees, and will not move forward though the issue may be discussed in budget negotiations.
  • HB 2372 (public benefits; fee waivers; requirements),
The bill would extend TANF benefits from 12 to 24 months under specified circumstances, and would establish a variety of new reporting and fraud prevention measures. It passed the House Committee on Health and the House Committee on Appropriations.
  • HB2504 (public accommodation; disability; discrimination; sanctions)
The bill would authorize a court to impose a sanction on a plaintiff if an action or series of actions are brought for the primary purpose of getting payment from the defendant due to the costs of defending the action in court. The House Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety amended the bill to outline actions associated with civil action and affirmative defense, and unanimously approved the bill with support from The Arc of Arizona.
  • HCR 2013 (convention; balanced federal budget)
The referral would ask Arizona voters to petition for a Congressional convention to pass a balanced federal budget amendment. Last week, it passed the House 33-25.
  • SB 1030 (AHCCCS; covered services; occupational therapy)
The bill would expand AHCCCS coverage to include occupational therapy. Last week, it passed the Senate 26-3.
  • SB 1031 (dangerous; incompetent defendants; study committee)
The bill would create a Study Committee on Incompetent, Nonrestorable and Dangerous Defendants to evaluate short-and long-term treatment and supervision. The committee would include a person with expertise in developmental disabilities. Earlier this month, it passed the Senate 30-0.
  • SB 1037 (special education; audit; cost study)
The bill would require the Arizona Auditor General to audit special education programs in Arizona. It was amended and passed the Senate Committee on Education 7-0, and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Appropriations on February 21.
  • SB 1102 (appropriations; DES; developmental disabilities)
The bill gives money for ALTCS to increase reimbursement rates for services through the Division of Developmental Disabilities. (The bill does not include an amount of money.) It was not heard in committees, and will not move forward though the issue may be discussed in budget negotiations.
  • SB 1104 (appropriations; ALTCS; elderly; physical disabilities)
The bill would give funds to ALTCS to increase payment to providers for services to the elderly and  persons with disabilities. It was not heard in committees, and will not move forward though the issue may be discussed in budget negotiations.
  • SB 1198 (public accommodation; services; civil actions)
The bill would require a delay and specified notification before a lawsuit against ADA compliances. Despite strong opposition from The Arc of Arizona and other advocacy groups, it passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary 4-3.
  • SB 1317 (schools; specially designed instruction)
The bill would expand specially designed instruction to include instruction from a person certified by the Board of Education and determined to be an appropriate provider for the student’s needs. It passed the Senate 30-0 this week.
 
House, Senate Pursue Alternate Paths to ADA Complaints
This week, the legislature advanced two different attempts to stop a flood of lawsuits claiming noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. SB 1198, sponsored by Senator John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), would mandate a “cure” waiting period to allow a business to comply with ADA laws before any complaint of the violation could be filed. Kavanagh has repeatedly ignored the insights of those advocating for individuals with disabilities on this issue; last year, he introduced a similar measure that drew strong opposition. In a committee hearing this week, he conceded that he had not made any attempt to address the concerns brought forward by advocates for those with disabilities. Despite strong opposition from The Arc of Arizona and many other disability law and advocacy groups, the Senate Committee on Judiciary approved the bill 4-3 and forwarded it to the full Senate for consideration.

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In the House, newly elected Representative Maria Syms (R-Paradise Valley) has taken a different approach. She worked closely with business groups and disability advocacy experts to find a way to stop the wave of lawsuits while protecting ADA compliance and the rights of individuals with disabilities. Her bill, HB 2504, would give judges the authority to determine when an attorney files large numbers of lawsuits designed to generate payments through settlements, and to direct fines against unethical lawyers and plaintiffs to the Attorney General’s Office for enhanced education programs on the rights of businesses and individuals with disabilities. The introduced version of the bill does not require a waiting period before an ADA complaint can be filed, although an amendment added by House Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety chair Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert) provides for a mandatory cure period as part of an optional noncompliance notice process. The committee unanimously approved the bill, which now moves to the full House for consideration. 
 
Legislature Acts on JTEDs
 
In a legislative session focused largely on education policy and funding debates, Arizona’s Joint Technological Education Districts (JTEDs) continue to draw attention. This week, the House Committee on Education unanimously approved a proposal to allow JTEDs to offer vocational education programs to adult students who have either received a GED or graduated from high school.
 
It is a step that the bill’s sponsor, Representative Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) said would allow JTEDs to accept adult students seeking an education under federal Pell grant funding. HB 2248 passed the House Committee on Education unanimously and moves to the full House for consideration.
 
A legislative committee also authorized the first state audit of JTEDs in Arizona, an effort that the legislature mandated last year.  The audit will review eight areas of operation, including spending habits, growth and delivery, and cooperation between JTEDs and school districts.  Senator Bob Worsley (R-Mesa) emphasized that these audits are not inspired by evidence of problems, but are a baseline analysis by which the legislature can measure future performance.  The audit will be completed by October 1, 2017. 
 
Bill with Dental Benefits for Soon-To-Be Mothers on AHCCCS Stalls
 
This week, the House Committee on Health unanimously approved a bill that would extend dental benefits to AHCCCS members that are pregnant. Describing HB 2442 as “a two-for-one benefit” that aids both mothers and babies, Representative Kelli Butler (D-Phoenix), the bill’s sponsor, praised the many entities and individuals who had registered support for the proposal. Those supporters pointed to the health benefits of dental care, and to the cost savings that come from reduced dental emergencies.
 
The bill does not appear likely to move to the full House for discussion, however, since it is not scheduled for a required hearing in the House Committee on Appropriations.
 
Court Battle on Medicaid Expansion Continues…
 
All eyes are on DC as discussion on national health care policies continues, but this week an Arizona Court of Appeals heard arguments in a challenge to the Arizona Medicaid restoration enacted in 2013. The challenge to that law is led by The Goldwater Institute, a conservative legal think tank, and legislators who opposed the expansion of Medicaid benefits. They argue that the law was implemented illegally because it did not obtain a supermajority vote at the legislature – a step that would be required if the bill constitutes an increase to state revenues. Advocates of the change say that the legislature acted by the rules, and express pride that their decisions helped expand health care access for many Arizonans.
 
The Court did not announce when it will release its decision on the case, which could impact insurance coverage for more than 400,000 low-income Arizonans.
 
…and Court Battle on Minimum Wage Begins
 
This week the Supreme Court agreed to wade into the politically divisive topic of the state minimum wage, accepting a case brought by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber seeks to overturn the minimum wage increase that Arizona voters approved in November, arguing that it is unconstitutional because it did not identify a funding source for the costs of implementing the wage increase.
 
The Court will hear arguments on March 9.
 
On the Bright Side…
 
Arizona turned 105 this week!


On the Federal Front...

Major Recent Events
 
Senate Approves Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary

On February 7, the Senate confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos by a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. The Department of Education is responsible for implementation of federal education laws including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and the Higher Education Act.
 
DeVos Issues Letter on ESSA implementation

On February 10, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued a letter to chief state school officers intended to provide clarity on implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This letter follows the announced delay by the Department of Education of the effective date of regulations concerning accountability and State plans until March 21, 2017, as the Administration reviews recently issued regulations. The Congressional Review Act allows Congress 60 legislative days to disapprove of certain regulations recently issued by federal agencies. On Feb 7, the House passed H.J. Res. 57 to overturn the regulation on accountability and state plans that went into effect on Jan 30, 2017. The Senate vote on the measure has not yet been announced.

The February 10 letter emphasizes that states should continue to move forward and that the Department will work to ensure that states' education leaders have the state and local flexibility that Congress intended. States should continue to follow the timeline for developing and submitting their plans for review and approval, building on the work they have already completed. The Department will still accept consolidated State plans on April 3 or September 18, 2017. Further guidance will be issued on the state plan requirements by March 13, 2017. The Arc supports strong accountability regulations in order to provide transparency in the performance of all students, including those with disabilities.
 
Senate Approves Jeff Sessions as Attorney General

On February 8, the Senate confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions with a vote of 52-47. The Attorney General is a cabinet level position in charge of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
 
Senate Approves Tom Price as HHS Secretary

On February 10, the Senate confirmed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price by a vote of 52-47. HHS is the cabinet level department that administers most federal health and social service programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act programs, Developmental Disabilities Act programs, Head Start, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Additionally, it oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.
 House Holds Hearing on Charter Schools and Voucher Programs

On February 2, the House Education and Workforce Committee's Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee held a hearing examining charter schools and voucher programs throughout the country. Witnesses included Michael L. William, former Texas Commissioner of Education; Almo J. Carter, a parent of a child with a disability from Washington, D.C.; Kevin Kubacki, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Charter Network in Indianapolis, IN; and Nina Cherry, a parent from Dover, FL. Visit the Committee web site for more information, including testimony and archived video.

Income Support - House Holds Hearing on the Geography of Poverty

On February 15, the House Ways and Means Committee Human Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on the geography of poverty. The hearing examined the differences between rural, urban, and suburban poverty. Visit the committee web site for more information or to access video of the hearing.
 
Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing for CMS Administrator Nominee

On February 16, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Seema Verma to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS oversees both Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is a health insurance program for Social Security beneficiaries. Medicaid is a joint state-federal health insurance program for low-income individuals. Both programs serve people with disabilities. In addition to medical care, Medicaid also covers long term supports and services such as residential support, personal assistance, respite care, supported living, assistive technology, and supported employment. Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access video of the hearing.
 
Announcements

Civil Rights - The Arc Issues Statement on Leaked Draft Executive Order

In light of a recently leaked draft Executive Order that would impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who are legally residing in the United States as well as people with I/DD who are hoping to legally immigrate, The Arc released a statement:

"We are facing a civil rights crisis in our nation and people with disabilities are in the crosshairs with the latest draft Executive Order being circulated in the White House. The Executive Order, if finalized and signed by the President, would discriminate against immigrants with disabilities, making it harder to legally enter or remain in the country. To deport individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in our country legally or prevent them from immigrating, goes against the values of our nation."
Read the full statement on The Arc's blog.


2017 Disability Policy Seminar - Registration is Open

The 2017 Disability Policy Seminar will be held in Washington, D.C. from March 20-22. This event is the premier opportunity to cultivate champions on Capitol Hill and advance the grassroots movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). For over 40 years, this unique platform has offered the opportunity to come together with passionate advocates, self-advocates, experts, and professionals in the field to learn about key issues.
 
The first 100 days of any new Administration and Congress are key to setting the agenda-and this year, more than ever, The Arc needs you in Washington, DC to advocate. Access to health care and community living supports, bedrock civil rights protections, and Medicaid are at risk. The Disability Policy Seminar is your chance to make an impact! Register here.

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The Capitol Roundup is provided weekly throughout the Arizona Legislative session as a benefit of Membership in The Arc of Arizona. To continue receiving this publication, visit www.arcarizona.org/become-a-member to start or renew your Membership today!