Brass Tacks

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The Capitol Roundup

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

April 28, 2017


Brass Tacks
At the Statehouse...

Winston Churchill once said, “I never worry about action, but only inaction.” Arizona legislative leaders may understand this sentiment, as they work to fill long days with action on a small number of remaining legislative proposals. With only about 100 bills left to consider this year, floor debates on a handful of issues in the House consumed long hours and highlighted partisan divides. The Senate debates were more limited, but with few bills to consider the senators frequently adjourned early in the day.

The House debates were a dramatic start for the newest state legislator, Ben Toma, who was appointed by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors this week to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Representative Phil Lovas. Representative Toma is a real estate broker and former Peoria City Councilman.

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Much of the most passionate debate centered on SB 1042, a proposal that would alter the requirements for teacher certification to allow individuals that have experience in specific areas to teach in Arizona public schools. Supporters – including Governor Doug Ducey – say the bill will allow experts to teach and reduce the teacher shortage across the state; opponents believe the bill will weaken teaching standards, and argue only more funding can attract teachers to address the shortage. The bill passed the House and Senate and the Governor is expected to sign the bill.
Governor Ducey did sign an authorization for students to use sunscreen products, a ban on texting for teenage drivers, a restriction on surprise medical bills, a change to the process and requirements for health regulatory oversight boards, and an effort to create more guidance on dyslexia for parents and teachers. The Superintendent of Public Instruction acted even before the legislation was signed, though, and this week the Arizona Department of Education released a new Dyslexia Handbook.

The Senate voted for the creation of a program to provide grants for schools in rural areas of the state that provide science, technology, engineer, or mathematics (STEM) education. (The bill does not provide funding for the grants.) Legislators also approved more billboards in Mohave County, gave preliminary approval to free speech protections for student journalists, and revived a proposal that would establish a legislative committee to oversee the actions of the Department of Child Safety, but failed bills to expand landlord powers over tenants and reduce the fleet of vehicles for state employees. 

It is not yet clear whether the legislature will successfully reach a budget agreement next week, but a Senate committee is scheduled to consider Governor Ducey’s nominees to the State Board of Education and other education oversight entities.

The dwindling number of bills mean that once a budget deal is approved, the legislative session will quickly adjourn for the year.
 
Budget Update

House and Senate budget leaders have worked late into the night several times this week as they negotiate the details behind a budget proposal they can send to the Governor. It is not evident how the negotiations are progressing, or when a proposal may be released to the public.

In the absence of a new proposal, legislators, observers, and the media continue to debate existing options. Governor Ducey’s proposed investment in high-performing schools drew attention this week when The Arizona Republic analyzed which schools would qualify for the $38 million in new funding. Legislators of both parties continued to debate a proposed investment in state universities. And the Superintendent of Public Instruction stirred renewed discussions of education funding this week with her call for an increase and extension of the state’s sales tax for education and teacher raises.

Federal action continues to cast doubt on state programs and resources, as well, as Congress again works on changes to federal health care policies and debates national budget priorities.

This week, AHCCCS released public responses it received to the state’s application for a waiver to exempt Arizona Medicaid programs from federal restrictions on time limits and work requirements for those enrolled in the programs. A majority of the individuals who responded to AHCCCS’ outreach for public opinion on the waiver were critical of the proposed changes. (The public responses are here.) 
 
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 did not advance this week – a fact that may be connected to budget negotiations.
  • SB 1030 (AHCCCS; covered services; occupational therapy)
The bill would expand AHCCCS coverage to include occupational therapy. It was scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on Rules this week but the Committee did not meet. The slow progress on the bill may be related to ongoing budget negotiations.
  • 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 did not advance this week.
  • SB 1317 (schools; specially designed instruction)
The bill allows specially designed instruction aligned with an IEP to be delivered by general education teachers or other certified personnel, and requires the State Board of Education to amend its rules to eliminate confusion on the instruction options for students with special needs. It passed the Senate 27-0 and awaits a final vote in the House.
  • SB 1406 (public accommodation; services; civil actions)
The House amended the bill to establish a “cure period” timeframe and detailed requirements an individual with a disability must file before taking legal action against a business that does not comply with the requirements of the Arizonans with Disabilities Act. It also exempts websites from ADA requirements. The bill passed the House 38-20 and the Senate 18-11, and was signed into law by Governor Ducey.
 
On the Bright Side…

The Department of Public Safety held an event to celebrate Arizona Special Olympics last week, and it was a huge success.

​On the Federal Front...


ABLE Act Improvement Bills Reintroduced

On April 4, three bills to make improvements to the Stephen J. Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act were introduced:
  • The ABLE Age Adjustment Act (H.R.1874/S.817) would raise the age limit for eligibility for ABLE accounts to individuals disabled before age 46.
  • The ABLE to Work Act (H.R.1896/S.818) would allow individuals and their families to save more money in an ABLE account if the beneficiary works and earns income.
  • The ABLE Financial Planning Act (H.R.1897/S.816) would allow families to rollover savings from a Section 529 college savings plan to an ABLE account.​
More information about the bills and The Arc's position can be found on our blog.

Congress Returns This Week

On April 25, Congress returned after its April recess and resumed negotiations on a plan to fund most of the federal government past April 28 when the current funding measure expires. Current stumbling blocks appeared to be funding for Planned Parenthood and funding for the wall on the border with Mexico. The House also resumed negotiations on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the measure that would repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and make dramatic cuts to the Medicaid program. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) indicated that the AHCA bill would not be brought to a vote in the House until enough votes are secured for it to pass. (As of this writing those votes had not been secured and House leadership indicated the bill would not be scheduled for a formal vote this week.) The Arc will continue to monitor Congress's activity and keep our constituents up to date on important events. 
 
House Holds Hearing on Stopping Disability Fraud

On April 26, the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee held a hearing on "Stopping Disability Fraud: Risk, Prevention, and Detection". As stated in the Committee's announcement, the hearing was to examine "the agency's ability to identify and manage fraud risk, and the status of the Social Security Administration's antifraud initiatives". Visit the Committee web site for more information or to access live video from the day of the hearing.

Announcements 

The Arc Seeking Reports of Activity During Congressional Recess

The Arc is seeking records of how its constituents engaged their Members of Congress during the April recess. If you engaged your Member of Congress on the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid, whether in the form of calling or emailing their offices, meeting directly with them or their staffs, or attending a town hall, please share your experience using our action alert. We thank you for being part of our efforts.

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.
Paul Marchand Internship Application for Fall 2017 Session -
Deadline extended to May 15

The Paul Marchand Internship Fund will provide $3,000 per semester or summer session to assist interns interested in pursuing careers in public policy advocacy for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). For 38 years, Paul Marchand was a dedicated disability policy advocate and recognized leader working on behalf of people with I/DD and the larger disability community. Upon his retirement in 2011, The Arc, with substantial contributions from United Cerebral Palsy, other organizations, and individuals with whom Paul worked during his decades in Washington, D.C. established an internship to honor Paul and to continue to cultivate disability policy advocates. See more information here.


Correction: In a recent issue of The Capitol Roundup, we incorrectly stated that the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling in the case Moore v. Texas. The correct vote was 5-3. The Arc regrets this error.




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