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The Capitol Roundup

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

April 7, 2017


Give and Take
At the Statehouse...

​Nelson Mandela once said, “A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger.” Arizona legislators put that to the test this week, as members of both the House and Senate engaged in long hours of debate on a wide variety of controversial issues.

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Passionate debate unfolded on bills to expand the state’s school voucher program, and on changes to benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The Senate killed a bill that would have expanded the amount of information required for proposed property tax bonds like those used for school districts, and overrode Democratic opposition to ensure gun owners were never required to use gun tracking technology.
One proposal made the news this week because it was not considered: a House chairman blocked further discussion of a bill that would prohibit teenage drivers from texting while behind the wheel, despite calls for action when a new report showed the impact mobile phones have on the rate of car crashes.

Not all legislation sparked controversy. The House revived and approved an occupational safety bill it had previously failed, and the Senate advanced a bill to provide protections for Good Samaritans who break into cars to aid minors or animals. (A House chairman explained why he had blocked earlier discussion on the bill.) A proposal to facilitate a return to work for those convicted of non-violent crimes moved forward. The House unanimously approved a bill to ensure students can use sunscreen at school or camps, and the Senate unanimously approved changes to law enforcement’s authority to seize property.

The legislature continues to move quickly through the remaining bills eligible for consideration this year. Approximately 150 bills await debate or a final vote; 141 bills have been signed into law, and 12 await action from the Governor.

This week, Governor Ducey signed an expansion of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, limits on the property tax deals local governments can offer for economic development incentives, new options for individuals who have served time in prison to work as substance abuse treatment coaches, and a shift in biomedical oversight responsibilities from the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission to the Department of Health Services. He enacted a bill to limit a state agency’s ability to implement occupational regulations, but warned that he will seek additional action to reduce occupational licensing. He vetoed a bill that would have exempted some generators from air quality standards, calling the change “unnecessary.”

April 18 marks the 100th day of the legislative session – the date when legislative rules say the session should adjourn. Legislative leaders began the year hoping for a 110-day session, but without a budget agreement it is unclear whether that hope remains realistic.
 
Budget Update

House budget leaders continue to express optimism that a state budget proposal will be released soon, but no evidence of progress on a fiscal plan is evident yet. Democrats say their budget priorities are being ignored, and Republicans continue to express concern about the Governor’s proposal to use sales taxes for university research and infrastructure. House and Senate leaders continue to compare notes on the priorities of their Republican caucus members, which could identify priorities that will shape a legislative budget package.

This week, Governor Ducey expressed a desire for a budget proposal to reach his desk, but he has not yet threatened to veto other legislation that advances while budget negotiations continue – a step that often gives the executive leverage over budget negotiations.

As budget discussions continue, federal health care uncertainty continues to overshadow the process. After a highly publicized pause on the issue last week, the Vice President resumed work on health care changes this week. Federal funding for Medicaid programs significantly impacts state resources, and Governor Ducey continues to ask Congress to provide flexibility for state implementation of any changes.
 
Priority Legislation 
  • HB 2372 (public benefits; fee waivers; requirements)
The bill would extend TANF benefits from 12 to 24 months under a long list of requirements and restrictions. It passed the Senate Committee on Appropriations on a 5-4 vote last week, but did not advance this week.
  • HCR 2013 (convention; balanced federal budget)
The referral calls for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to include a balanced budget requirement. It passed and added Arizona to the list of states calling for the convention.
  • SB 1030 (AHCCCS; covered services; occupational therapy)
The bill would expand AHCCCS coverage to include occupational therapy. It unanimously passed the House Committee on Health last month but did not advance this week; it may be included in ongoing budget negotiations.
  • SB 1031 (dangerous; incompetent defendants; study committee)
The bill created a Study Committee on Incompetent, Nonrestorable and Dangerous Defendants to evaluate short-and long-term treatment and supervision. The committee includes a person with expertise in developmental disabilities. Governor Ducey signed the bill into law.
  • SB 1037 (special education; audit; cost study)
The bill would require the Arizona Auditor General to do an audit of a representative sample of 60 special education programs in Arizona. It unanimously passed the House Committee on Education and the House Committee on Appropriations last month, bud did not advance this week.
  • SB 1406 (public accommodation; services; civil actions)
The bill would prescribe requirements for civil action to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act, and exempt websites from compliance with the ADA. It passed the House Committee on Rules this week.
  • 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 was amended to require general education personnel to collaborate with special education teachers when delivering specialized instruction, and requires the State Board of Education to adopt rules to clarify the administration of specially designed instruction. It awaits a final Senate vote.
 
Legislature Approves Expansion of School Voucher Program

As the legislature wrapped up its work for the week, the House and Senate both took action on a controversial proposal on school vouchers. Though proposals to expand Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to all students advanced early this session, the bills stalled due to a lack of required support. Governor Ducey urged Republicans in the House and Senate to support the proposals, however, and this week a narrowed version of the bill successfully obtained support from a majority of both the House and Senate. The Governor signed the bill when it reached his desk.

The final version of SB 1431 allows all students to apply for the ESA funding, but limits the number of those who can be accepted to the current enrollment cap (approximately 5,500 per year). It expands some reporting standards, requiring schools with 50 or more students receiving ESAs to publish aggregate student test scores, establishes new accountability from the Arizona Department of Education, and creates an ESA Review Council to oversee the program.

It removes language adopted last year that requires an Annual Education Plan from ADE in order to remain in the ESA program until the age of 22, but continues to allow an ESA student to remain in the program until they graduate from high school, obtain a GED, or reach 22 years of age as long as the student uses at least 50% of ESA resources for educational therapies or services.

Democrats believe the bill will undermine school districts across the state. They pointed to a report that recently highlighted the distribution of ESA funds across low-income and wealthier school districts. Republican supporters of the bill disagreed that expanded access to ESAs would negatively impact public school funding, and framed the change as a broader approach to school choice.

Throughout this legislative session, funding for schools has been at the forefront of debate and public engagement. The fierce debate on ESA expansion is certain to further enhance that focus as all attention turns to a state budget proposal.
 
Changes to ADA Compliance Await House Vote

House members dedicated time this week to discuss a revised approach to legal action for ADA compliance. In partisan caucus meetings, legislators discussed both this and earlier versions of the bill – like SB 1198, which failed in a House committee last month.

The new proposal, SB 1406, establishes more specific limits on legal action against businesses – limits designed to protect an individual’s right to seek enforcement of ADA complaints but prevent abuse of those rights.

The measure continues to draw opposition from some advocates for individuals with disabilities, who seek to remove a provision that would exempt websites from standards of accessibility for people with disabilities. This provision drew criticism from legislative attorneys this week, who advised the House Committee on Rules that it attempts to impose mandates on future federal action.

Many advocates agree that this bill is a step in the right direction, though; it is the result of a more comprehensive negotiation process that included the perspective of individuals with disabilities.

The Arizona Attorney General also took action on the issue this week, calling for a deeper investigation into the attorneys who filed more than 1,700 lawsuits against businesses with ADA compliance shortfalls.
 
On the Bright Side…

An unusual program is giving some Arizona prisoners renewed inspiration to reduce recidivism.


​On the Federal Front...



Major Recent Events


HHS Secretary and CMS Administrator Write Letter to Governors Regarding Medicaid Changes
 
On March 14, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Thomas Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma sent a letter to Governors expressing the Administration's priorities in Medicaid policy. Among the topics mentioned were speeding up the review of state plan amendments and waivers, allowing more premiums or contributions from beneficiaries, the use of alternative benefit plan designs such as health savings accounts, and waivers of retroactive coverage and presumptive eligibility. The letter also referred to the Administration's openness to using demonstration authority to develop health care plans that focus on training and employment. This has been widely interpreted to indicate that the Administration will consider work requirements for adults applying for Medicaid, a proposal that a number of states had included in demonstrations but the previous Administration would not approve. The letter also indicated the Administration would be pursuing additional time for states to implement the Home and Community-Based Services settings rule and looking at ways to engage with states on the implementation of the rule. The Arc has expressed concern about the letter.
 
Senate Committee Votes to Approve Secretary of Labor Nomination
 
On March 30, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 to recommend that the full Senate confirm Alexander Acosta to be the Secretary of Labor. The Department of Labor is the agency responsible for the implementation of federal labor and employment laws, including those relating to wages and hours. Additionally, it includes the Office of Disability Employment Policy which is a non-regulatory agency that promotes employment of people with disabilities.


Announcements 

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 networksDeadline for completion has been extended to April 30.




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!