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The Capitol Roundup

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

March 3, 2017

Halfway Home
At the Statehouse...

​It is the 54th day of the 2017 legislative session – more than halfway through the 100 days automatically allotted for legislative efforts each year. There is no state budget agreement in sight, but legislators spent long hours this week hard at work on a wide variety of topics and priorities.
 
And the policy successes were not limited only to the majority party. This year, Democrats are seeing a higher rate of success on their priorities. Republicans have recently joined their efforts to achieve things like funding for restoring historic State Fair buildings, adding another layer of review of sales tax credits, and ensuring rights for survivors of sexual assault.
Bipartisan support extends to Republican-sponsored proposals, as well. This week the Senate passed a bill to allow counties to levy a gas tax and a proposal to increase liability standards for car insurance. Senators of both parties also voted to allow electronic billboards in a corner of rural Arizona and reduce the age at which a restaurant employee can serve alcohol. And a bipartisan coalition successfully opposed a bill to let more guns in public buildings, failing the bill on the Senate floor.
 
After a bill to strengthen penalties against people who plan protests that turn violent drew national attention last week, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) announced that the House would not consider the proposal. But House Republicans did approve controversial measures to amend the citizen initiative process, moving the discussion to the Senate.
 
The House also passed a bill to ban traffic cameras on every road in Arizona, and 17 years after enacting the “Shannon’s Law” restrictions against shooting guns in city limits, House Republicans agreed to restrict the law to not apply to accidental shots fired.

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The legislature has voted to send five bills to the Governor’s desk, and all have been signed into law. One law, signed last week, allows the San Tan area of Pinal County to incorporate. This week, the Governor signed four more proposals. Two of the new laws, which will become effective 90 days after the session ends, will align state tax laws with IRS codes and require members of the Arizona Power Authority Commission to follow state conflict of interest and open meeting laws. Two other proposals approved by the Governor will designate the Phoenix-Goodyear Airport as a Military Reuse Zone – a designation to aid economic development, and will give the Arizona Department of Water Resources authority to negotiate an agreement for the state – a step that will aid an ongoing negotiations on Colorado River Water.
 
The steady pace of debate and votes is scheduled to continue next week, as legislators finalize amendments and seek support for their priorities. House and Senate policy committees have three more weeks to consider and advance legislation – a deadline that is sure to inspire longer committee hearings and more floor votes as the session moves forward.
 
Budget Update
 
The legislature’s fast process on bills does not extend to a state budget proposal. The House and Senate seem focused on outreach to their own members, rather than moving into negotiations that will create a proposal with enough support to reach the Governor.
 
Members of the Senate have been asked to submit their budget priorities to Republican leaders, but some legislators complain the process does not really reflect a chance to be involved in shaping fiscal goals. 
 
In the House, the education budget subcommittee approved its recommendation this week, largely following the basic budget outline provided by legislative budget staff earlier this year. It rejects two of the Governor’s funding items: $800,000 for the School for the Deaf and Blind home visits program, and $50,000 for one-time legal fees of the State Board of Education. The report agrees with a School Facilities Board request of $17.2 million but does not specify a funding source, and it urges a longer-term strategy to funding school capital needs.
 
It does not recommend funding for increased school costs associated with implementing Proposition 206, the voter-approved minimum wage increase, but suggests a two-year period to monitor the measure. The report also calls for a “robust discussion” on how education funding should occur when Proposition 301 expires in 2021.
 
Subcommittee reports were submitted to the full House Committee on Appropriations, which has not yet scheduled any budget-related action but is accepting input from both Republicans and Democrats. 


Priority Legislation
  • HB 2372 (public benefits; fee waivers; requirements)
The bill extends TANF benefits from 12 to 24 months under specified circumstances with a variety of new reporting and fraud prevention measures. It passed the House last week with a controversial amendment that added a long list of requirements and restrictions on TANF benefits. It is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services on March 8.
  • HB 2408 (disability parking; wheelchair uses)
The bill would require some van-accessible parking spaces to be limited only to wheelchair users. (The Arizona Republic recently highlighted the bill and the arguments against it.) It passed the House last week, and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Transportation & Technology on March 7.
  • 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. It passed the House Committee on Rules and was discussed in partisan caucus meetings.
  • 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. It is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Committee on Government on March 8.
  • SB 1030 (AHCCCS; covered services; occupational therapy)
The bill would expand AHCCCS coverage to include occupational therapy. It was referred to the House Committee on Health.
  • 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, and was amended to include more legislators. It passed the House Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety 8-1.
  • SB 1037 (special education; audit; cost study)
The bill would require the Arizona Auditor General to audit special education programs in Arizona. It passed the Senate 30-0 and was referred to the House Committees on Appropriations and Education.
  • 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 22-8 and was referred to the House Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety.
  • 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 House Committee on Education by a vote of 10-0.

House, Senate Take Diverse Paths Toward ADA Compliance
 
Despite strong opposition from individuals who will be impacted by the legislation, the Senate voted this week to approve SB 1198. The bill would require a delay and specified notification before a lawsuit could be filed for an ADA violation – a step that small businesses believe will prevent harassing lawsuits, but opponents say will lead to more hardship for people with disabilities. It was amended to further define the details that must be included in a written notice of ADA compliance violations.
 
Opponents of the bill pointed out that the concept has been proven unnecessary because the legal process already threw out a large number of lawsuits that started the discussion. They argued that the ADA had been law for 27 years, and additional time for business owners to follow that law was unnecessary. 
 
The bill received bipartisan support, though, and passed the Senate 22-8.
 
In the House, a proposal to address ADA lawsuit concerns without a delay took a small step forward. HB 2504 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. It was discussed in House caucus meetings (separate gatherings of Republicans and Democrats).  
 
Representative Maria Syms (R-Phoenix) emphasized that she had worked with – and continued to meet with – advocates for individuals with disabilities, and strongly argued against any attempt to establish a mandatory cure period. “This is a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer,” she summarized. Several of her colleagues expressed strong support for the bill, and for her cooperation with key stakeholders. The proposal can now move to the full House for consideration.


Senate to Consider Bill that Brings Parking Problems for Individuals with Disabilities
 
The Senate Committee on Transportation and Technology is scheduled to consider a bill that could complicate parking accessible to persons with disabilities, overriding input from those who rely on accessible parking spaces.  As The Arizona Republic reports, HB 2408 seeks to designate some accessible parking only for individuals who use wheelchairs – a step that can reduce parking for individuals with disabilities that do not use wheelchairs.
 
The bill passed the House last month on a largely party-line vote of 33-25.  Republican Representative Paul Mosley (R-Lake Havasu City) joined Democrats in opposition to the measure. 
 
The Senate committee meets March 7 at 2:00 p.m.


House Committee Approves Study of Incompetent, Nonrestorable, or Dangerous Defendants
 
A House committee advanced a proposal this week that could lead to additional treatment options for criminal defendants with developmental disabilities and mental health issues.  SB 1031, which passed the House Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety by 8-1, would re-establish the Study Committee on Incompetent, Nonrestorable and Dangerous Defendants to evaluate short- and long-term treatment options and recommendations.
 
Supporters shared a history of the study committee, which was created and expired in statute last year.  They explained the need for additional research on treatment options for defendants, and disputed legislators’ assertions that the committee had failed to meet frequently last year because of a lack of interest.
 
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), also objected to House members’ doubts that a study committee was needed.  She disagreed with assertions that the committee was a way to grow government.  “This study committee definitely has a purpose,” Barto argued.  “As long as I’ve been here [at the legislature], we’ve been trying to identify solutions to this problem.” 
 
The House committee approved an amendment to increase the legislative membership on the study committee; the bill now moves to the full House for consideration.




​On the Federal Front...

Action Alerts

The FINDS Survey is here!

We need your help completing this crucial survey! The Research and Training Center on Community Living at the University of Minnesota in collaboration with The Arc, is seeking caregivers to share their perceptions on a range of life-span issues impacting individuals with I/DD. We are inviting family or unrelated caregivers aged 18 years or older who provide frequent primary support to a person with an I/DD to participate. The results of the 2010 Survey provided unique insight into the growing gaps in education, employment, and other life-span activities that exist between persons with disabilities and their non-disabled peers, which has informed further dialogue and policy changes at the Federal and State levels. Take the survey and share it widely in your networks! Deadline: March 30.

Major Recent Events

 ​​Bills To Repeal ACA and Cut Medicaid Being Analyzed

Late last week, a draft bill believed to be under consideration for the House Republican approach to restructuring Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act was "leaked". It is believed that the draft bill and perhaps other draft bills have been sent to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to obtain cost estimates (known as "scoring") expected to assist the House Energy and Commerce Committee in preparing legislation for possible mark-up during the week of March 6. It is, of course, unknown until the Committee releases its own bill what the actual legislation will try to achieve. However, given the elements of the leaked version and the proposals that have been discussed to date, it is likely to involve repeal of key parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and drastic cuts to Medicaid through permanent restructuring of the federal/state partnership relationship. Therefore, continued advocacy is more urgent than ever. See action alert above.
 
Supreme Court Unanimously Rules in Favor of Student in Disability Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in the case of Ehlena Fry, a student with cerebral palsy, who sought to use a service dog in school for tasks such as "retrieving dropped items, helping her balance when she uses her walker, opening and closing doors, turning on and off lights, and helping her take off her coat, [and] helping her transfer to and from the toilet." The school refused to allow the service dog, arguing that a human aide was sufficient. Her parents sued the school district for violating her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. A federal district court had dismissed the case on the basis that the parents must exhaust the administrative procedures under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) before seeking relief under the ADA and Section 504 and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The Supreme Court, in an 8-0 decision in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, ruled that a student does not need to exhaust the IDEA's administrative process if the claim is not is not related to the adequacy of his/her education. Read The Arc's statement on the ruling here. 

Announcements

Vermont Opens ABLE Program

On February 27, Vermont became the 17th state to launch a qualified ABLE Program. This program is currently only open to Vermont residents. The plan has five investment options. There is a monthly fee of $5 and annual asset-based fees that range from 0.19% to 0.34% depending on the investment option. Additionally, there is a minimum initial deposit of $50. More information about state implementation the ABLE Act can be found here. General information about ABLE programs can be found in the National Policy Matters: ABLE Accounts for People with Disabilities here.

Disability Policy Seminar - Less than a Month Away!

We are less than a month away from the 2017 Disability Policy Seminar! Join us in the heart of Washington D.C. from March 20-22 to cultivate champions on Capitol Hill and advance the grassroots movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Learn from the experts about the issues that matter to you and network with other advocates from across the country as you prepare to interface and build relationships with your representatives. The Disability Policy Seminar is your chance to make an impact! Register here.

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Prepared by:
Peters, Cannata & Moody, PLC
www.pcmlawaz.com

The Arc of Arizona
www.arcarizona.org

and

The Arc of the United States

www.thearc.org


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!