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The Capitol Roundup

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

​August 18, 2017

Laws of the Land
At the Statehouse...

There is still an empty seat in the state House of Representatives, but the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is one step closer to filling the vacancy created by the recent resignation of Representative Jesus Rubalcalva (D-Gila Bend). On August 9, a panel of citizens nominated three candidates for the Board to consider; a vote on the appointment is not yet scheduled.

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Hundreds of laws that the legislature enacted earlier this year became effective last week, including strengthened protections against kids and pets in hot cars and a change to law enforcement’s ability to seize property that may be connected to criminal activity. Supporters of a Gold Star memorial can now raise funds to build a monument at the Capitol to honor individuals from Arizona who have been killed in military action from and after February 13, 1912, and members of the military can use the education and training they received during their service to obtain licensure to work in fields that are relevant to their military experience. Restaurant employees who are 18 can serve alcohol, and podiatrists can amputate toes. The definition and punishments for acts of terrorism are expanded. School districts have to allow more time for public input on textbooks to be used in classrooms, and there is a new effort to encourage teachers in STEM fields. More Mohave County advertisers can use electronic billboards, counties can warn drivers about unmaintained roads, and small business start-ups have a new potential source of funding.
State agencies are working to implement other enacted changes, including the use of medication to combat opioid addiction in state inmates and additional screening for newborns with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease (SCID).

At the Capitol, a panel continues to plan the state’s leadership of a national effort to amend the U.S. Constitution, and the issue is drawing more attention as elected officials across the country weigh in on whether a Constitutional Convention would help or hurt the country. Arizona’s convention of states, which will occur next month, is believed to be the first of its kind since the Civil War.

Backers of a proposal to repeal the legislature’s expansion of the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program successfully – though perhaps temporarily – prevented enactment of the expansion this week, when they turned in more than 111,000 signatures on their citizen initiative. The Secretary of State will spend weeks verifying whether the signatures are from voters registered in Arizona; if there are 75,321 valid signatures, Arizonans will have the chance to vote for or against ESA expansion in the November 2018 election. 

Supporters of other citizen initiatives – including an effort to invalidate the legislature’s changes to the initiative process itself – did not turn in enough signatures to be considered for the ballot. A legal challenge to the legislative changes to initiatives also was unsuccessful: a Superior Court judge ruled this week that the legislature’s action did not violate the Constitution when it altered requirements for the process by which citizens can seek changes to the law. This means that the Secretary of State’s office will hold signatures and petitions to a standard of “strict compliance” to every legal requirement – like the size of paper and of the font on petitions – as they validate signatures for the ESA initiative. 
 
Judges also upheld Proposition 206 – a measure that increased Arizona’s minimum wage when it was approved by voters last year. The Arizona Supreme Court rejected a challenge from the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, which argued that the proposal violated a law that bans increased state costs without identifying a funding source to cover the additional revenue. The unanimous Court ruling said state expenditures under the initiative were indirect, and therefore not subject to the revenue-source law.

As summer nears an end, legislators are finding more reasons to return to the Capitol. A panel began its work to understand and simplify state taxation of digital goods and services, and plans to meet monthly throughout the rest of the year. Legislators who have convened meetings in rural areas of the state to discuss reforms to the state’s pension system for public safety personnel brought their discussion back to the Capitol with a hearing this week, and next week a Senate committee plans to host a forum on Arizona businesses and industries.
 
Healthcare Debate Continues and Governor Calls for Medical Malpractice Limits

Though Congress is adjourned for an August break, several members of Arizona’s delegation have joined a “Problem Solvers Caucus” to craft bipartisan proposals for healthcare changes. It is not yet clear whether their efforts will be successful, but the issue continues to hold the attention of individuals and organizations across the state – and across the country.

Governor Ducey has other ideas about federal changes, as well: this week, he called for a federal cap on medical malpractice awards that he believes will reduce the burden of practicing medicine. He advocates for a federal malpractice cap to override a provision in the Arizona Constitution that voters have repeatedly failed to change. The Governor said reform of malpractice rewards has worked in other states – like Texas. His position quickly drew concern from the Arizona Attorneys for Justice, who argued Congress should not override state laws. 
 

​On the Federal Front...

Major Recent Events

Immigration - Senators Introduce Bill Restricting Legal Immigration

Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act (S.354), which would cut the total number of legal immigrants allowed in the country in half and make substantial changes to the system. The bill eliminates the diversity immigrant visa category and creates a new visa system that awards points to potential immigrants based on such things as education and English-language ability. Other provisions include limiting the number of refugees granted permanent residence to 50,000; banning all members of an immigrant's household, including U.S. citizens, from receiving public assistance for five years; and prohibiting U.S. citizens from sponsoring their parents' immigration into the U.S. These provisions could disadvantage immigrants with disabilities, particularly people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Additionally, this could lead to fewer immigrants being able to work as direct support professionals, exacerbating an already severe workforce shortage. Contrary to claims that immigration is harming the economy, 1,470 economists from across the political spectrum sent a letter to President Trump and Congressional leadership stating that immigration provides the country with "broad economic benefit." The Arc opposes the RAISE Act.

Tax - Montana and the District of Columbia Open Qualified ABLE Programs

Recently, Montana and the District of Columbia opened qualified ABLE programs, bringing the total number of jurisdictions with ABLE programs to 26. Both plans are open to all eligible individuals nationwide. They have six investment options and a checking account with a debit card. There is a $40 annual account maintenance fee, an annual $15 fee for printing and delivery of statements, and asset-based fees that range from 0.34% to 0.38% for investment options. The minimum initial deposit is $25. More information about state implementation of 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.
 
Announcements
 
ABLE National Resource Center Hosting Webinar Series

The ABLE National Resource Center (ANRC) has declared August as #ABLEtoSave month. During this month, the center will be raising awareness and providing resources relating to ABLE programs. Additionally, they are hosting a series of webinars:
  • Week 1 (July 30 - August 5): Basic Overview of ABLE - COMPLETED
  • Week 2 (August 6 -12): Eligibility - COMPLETED
  • Week 3 (August 13 - 19): Qualified Disability Expenses - COMPLETED
  • Week 4 (August 20 - 26): Financial Literacy
  • Week 5 (August 27 - September 2): Enrollment
To learn more about the #ABLEtoSave campaign and ABLE accounts, visit the ANRC website and be sure to "like" the ANRC on Facebook and Twitter (@theABLENRC).



Note: With the 115th Congress on recess until September 5, the next Federal Front update will be provide during the weeks of September 11. In the meantime, please check The Arc's Capitol Insider blog for updates.


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Prepared by:
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The Arc of Arizona
www.arcarizona.org

and

The Arc of the United States

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The Capitol Roundup is provided weekly throughout the Arizona Legislative session and periodically between sessions 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!