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The Capitol Roundup

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

March 10, 2017


Rules are Rules
At the Statehouse...

​Some things about March in Arizona are certain. The sun will shine, spring training games will make adults want to skip work to enjoy baseball, wildflowers will bloom, and state legislators will disagree on budget priorities.

This year is no exception. As spring fills the air, the Capitol is increasingly filled with quiet complaints that a state budget proposal is nowhere to be seen (more on that in the budget update below). There is no shortage of non-budget work to keep legislators busy, however, and committee hearings stretched into long evenings throughout this week as policy committees took action on a wide variety of topics.

Legislators voted for more reporting on the drug and alcohol treatments available for inmates, requiring the Department of Corrections to submit an annual summary of the programs. They sought to give state and local governments more ability to determine what is designated as protected sites and monuments under The Antiquities Act, extend the length of terms in office for state senators, and increased reporting to gauge where and how federal dollars are distributed to governments and programs in Arizona. They approved proposals to require background checks for individuals the governor appoints to serve in medical, judicial, or financial oversight positions, and to protect Spanish speakers from those who incorrectly present themselves as attorneys.

The House moved closer to approving more liberty to student journalists, and the Senate gave courts more ability to decide when to suspend the driver’s license of a parent that is behind on child support payments. Former U.S. Congressman and Presidential candidate Ron Paul visited the Capitol to support a tax break for gold and silver, and calls for a U.S. Constitutional convention moved forward.

There are approximately 500 bills still eligible for consideration this year – 44% of the total introduced in the early weeks of the legislative session. Almost 300 of those bills still require at least one committee hearing; with only two weeks scheduled for committee hearings, legislators will work long days and difficult decisions as they rush to seek support for their proposals.


Budget Update

This week House Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) defended himself and his caucus from complaints that their budget process was slowing progress toward a state budget agreement.  Members of the Senate and some Capitol observers have expressed frustration that the House is following a budget process that has been out of style in recent years – a process that relies on subcommittees to provide a more thorough analysis of state funding priorities.

Mesnard said his pledge to provide more input and involvement in the budget process was one reason he was elected to serve as Speaker, and said the process better informed discussions since legislative leaders could better understand the priorities of the legislators whose support will be needed to achieve a budget agreement.

Both the House and Senate continue their separate budget development processes as they identify the priorities that must be negotiated when they begin budget meetings with the Governor.

As state leaders work on budget priorities, several big unknown factors will impact how much funding will be available to address those priorities. Proposition 206, the voter-approved minimum wage increase, will have a significant impact on state revenues but a specific amount is not yet known. The Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities (AAPPD) calculates costs associated with the new minimum wage to be more than $72 million; schools and businesses are also facing increased costs.

Federal health care changes are another unknown that has direct and significant ties to state resources. Legislative budget staff has estimated that federal action on the Affordable Care Act and programs like Medicaid will impact state dollars by up to $1.4 billion. Governor Ducey joined a coalition of Republican governors who are fighting to protect federal funding of Medicaid benefits, and other state leaders are closely following federal health care proposals to determine how they will impact funding for Arizona. Business and healthcare representatives joined the discussion this week, calling for support for state programs.

A state budget is always a complicated project, but with high-dollar uncertainties like these the task becomes even more challenging.
 
 
Priority Legislation
  • HB 2372 (public benefits; fee waivers; requirements)
The bill extends TANF benefits from 12 to 24 months under a long list of requirements and restrictions. It passed the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services by a vote of 5-2.
  • HB 2408 (disability parking; wheelchair uses)
The bill would require some van-accessible parking spaces to be limited only to wheelchair users. It was held in the Senate Committee on Transportation & Technology this week, and is not currently scheduled for another hearing.
  • 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 did not advance to the full House for consideration this week.
  • 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 passed the Senate Committee on Government on a 4-3 vote.
  • SB 1030 (AHCCCS; covered services; occupational therapy)
The bill would expand AHCCCS coverage to include occupational therapy. It has not been heard in 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. It passed the House Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety last week.
  • SB 1037 (special education; audit; cost study)
The bill would require the Arizona Auditor General to audit special education programs in Arizona. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Education on March 13 and the House Committee on Appropriations on March 15.
  • 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 last week. It has not been scheduled for a hearing in 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 last month.
 
Senate Stalls Divisive Parking Proposal

An attempt to compartmentalize accessible parking spaces hit a roadblock this week, when Senator Bob Worsley (R-Mesa) stopped progress on a bill that has drawn significant opposition from individuals with disabilities. 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. Representative David Stringer (R-Prescott) said he introduced the bill after hearing from a wheelchair user who could not park his van because other cars with parking placards were using the designated spaces. But opponents of the measure say the bill is unnecessary, will negatively impact all individuals with disabilities, and places divides between various types of disabilities.

The bill passed the House last month on a largely party-line vote of 33-25 and was scheduled to move through the Senate Committee on Transportation & Technology on Tuesday. But after opposition and testimony from individuals with disabilities, Senator Worsley held the bill without a vote. The committee has two more weeks to resume consideration of the bill, but it is not on the agenda for next week.
 
Progress Slows on Controversial ADA Bills

Neither the House nor Senate took action this week on proposals to address the recent ADA “drive-by” lawsuit problem, and thus far no action is scheduled on the bills next week.

SB 1198, which requires 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 and impose barriers that other groups do not face when enforcing their civil rights. The bill passed the Senate last week but is not scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety.

HB 2504, a compromise proposal that 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, has not moved to the full House for a vote. It was unanimously approved by a committee last month.
 
Partisan Divide Continues as Debate on TANF Benefits Moves Forward

The 2017 legislative session started with bipartisan tones of agreement when Governor Ducey’s State of the State speech recommended a restoration of two-year benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. But that agreement has turned to sharply partisan debate as the Governor’s proposal moves through the legislative process.

The divide occurred when House Republicans approved an amendment that implemented stricter compliance measures for TANF recipients, requiring more fraud prevention, additional job search evidence, and stronger penalties for misuse of TANF dollars. House Democrats criticized the shift away from a bipartisan approach, the Governor’s office responded with strong statements against Democrats’ position on the issue, and the bill became a lightning rod of debate as it moved to the Senate.

This week, the proposal moved through the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services on strictly party lines. Advocacy groups for low-income individuals spoke against the bill in its amended form, asking legislators to emphasize education rather than penalties for TANF recipients who misuse their benefits. 

But the committee rejected an opportunity to pursue the graduated system of sanctions requested by numerous advocacy groups, failing to pass an amendment offered by Senator Katie Hobbs (D-Phoenix) despite promises that the change would restore support from Democrats in the House and Senate.

Senator David Bradley (D-Tucson) said the altered form of the bill saddened him. If the state’s goal was to reduce the number of people receiving TANF benefits, he observed, “we succeeded.” But Bradley argued the amount saved from reduction of TANF enrollment is “equivalent to a rounding error” in the DES budget each year, and a removal of TANF benefits makes low-income individuals show up elsewhere – like courts and hospitals. “It seems ludicrous to me to continue to hammer away and reduce the resources to people who desperately need them,” Bradley stated as he voted against the bill.

Senator Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) and other Republican members of the committee criticized the Democrats’ opposition, praising the bill for extending resources to those who need it and protecting those who follow the rules while using state programs to get a hand up.

HB 2372 passed on a vote of 5-2, and now awaits a hearing in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
 
On the Bright Side…

​Think political news should be more like TV entertainment news? Then you’ll like The Arizona Republic’s new program.​


​On the Federal Front...

FINDS Survey Deadline This Month!

We need your input and 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.

Action Alerts


​Major Recent Events


House Committees Markup Bill to Cap Medicaid and Repeal the ACA 

This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Ways and Means Committee each began markup of a bill that will fundamentally restructure the Medicaid program by altering the current federal/state partnership and cost reimbursement structure and replacing it with a per capita cap. This would significantly limit federal funding to the states now and into the future. In addition, the bill will begin the process of repealing major sections of the Affordable Care Act. These Committee markups are part of the budget reconciliation process which allows only certain revenue and spending provisions to be included. The Committee bills are expected to move quickly and be combined into one bill by the House Budget Committee. Supporters' plan is to have the bill ready for a vote by the full House of Representatives before the end of March. The Senate Majority Leader has indicated that he hopes to schedule a vote on the House bill before the mid-April recess.

The bill development has been controversial because no official version is available for public review. The draft bill has been very closely held and some Members of Congress have publicly complained about not being able to obtain a copy of the bill. However, based on leaked earlier versions, The Arc believes that, if passed by the Congress, the legislative direction the House leadership is considering would have devastating impacts on people with disabilities and their families. The Arc will continue to convey our concerns about the impact of the repeal of the ACA and restructuring of Medicaid to Congress.


Senate Approves Ben Carson as HUD Secretary

On March 2, the Senate confirmed Ben Carson as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development by a vote of 58-41. HUD is the cabinet level department that oversees federal housing programs and enforces housing laws such as the Fair Housing Act.

Senate Committee Votes to Approve Verma Nomination

On March 2, the Senate Finance Committee voted 14-12 to recommend that the full Senate confirm Seema Verma as Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in the Department of Health and Human Services. 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, home and community based services, personal assistance, respite care, supported living, assistive technology, and supported employment.
 
Announcements

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.
 
Alabama Opens ABLE Program

On February 27, Alabama became the 18th state to launch a qualified ABLE Program. This program is open to eligible individuals nationwide. The plan has three investment options, a bank savings option, and a checking option. There is a quarterly fee of $11.25 and annual asset-based fees that range from 0.50% to 0.56% for investment options. 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.  

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The Arc of Arizona
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and

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