Week #10: 55th Legislature, 1st Session
March 16: Senate Education Committee -- Marilyn Duerbeck
The Committee considered and passed four bills in bipartisan votes: HB2824 (appropriates additional money for grants for programs providing adult education for high school diplomas or GED and job training at community colleges); HB2667 (clarifies services that county free library districts may offer); HB2135 (a strike everything bill which directs the board of education to determine competency modules/standards beginning with math curriculum, specifically algebra -- the thinking is that students may pass parts of a class and fail others and would be able to retake the parts that were failed); and HB2862 (which would adopt instructional time modules allowing flexibility in the manner in which instructional hours would occur). Senator Marsh voted no on the last two bills stating that she felt they were too broad and unintended consequences may result. The committee also recommended nominations for the State Board for Charter Schools and State Board for Private and PostSecondary Education.
March 17, 2021: House Appropriations -- Ann Wallack
SB1123 - Digital Evidence Fund: $400,000 in 2022, 490,000 in 2023 to create a digital storage system of evidence for the courts. More video is being entered into evidence and AZ needs a consistent format that can be used and accessed across the state. The body cam evidence is piling up!
Kaiser: how many vendors did you speak to? Where did this number come from?
Answer: no vendors had software or systems to accommodate AZ’s needs. This is a custom solution from one vendor.
Passed: 10 yes, 2 no (Hoffman and Kaiser) Nutt is absent.
SB1355 - provider increases for developmental disabilities. This is a $71 million appropriation which will be matched by the feds to be used to increase salaries and help underfunded providers who are struggling with an increased population and huge staffing shortages. Charlene Fernandez asks: didn’t we determine last year that the shortfall was $150 million? Cobb said (maybe) but are you implying this isn’t a substantial amount? Fernandez: of course not.
Friese starts to comment on staff shortages and necessary salary increases but is cut off by Cobb: “Don’t you lecture us!” It was an ugly moment. A brief back and forth and Friese backed off and even apologized! From then on, both individuals were emphatically courteous, but maybe not sincere.
Stuart Goodman presents on behalf of non-profit agencies. They were “down” 1,200 positions and the existing staff are working long hours in group homes and day care programs.
Another woman representing a non profit described how hard her employees work for 12.50/hour.
Aaron Lieberman describes constituent calls about group homes that are desperate and need help. The callers weren’t complaining, just concerned.
Passes: 11/0 1 absent.
SB1514 - Emergency Shelter beds for seniors
Senator Livingston appears to thank the people who have “softened his heart” as to the needs of the homeless: Lela Alston and Rebecca Rios, and Lisa Glow from CASS. and Joe Gaudio of United Healthcare (husband to our own PC Mary Gaudio)
This appropriation is 5 million from the state for a 100 room hotel to provide shelter to senior (55+) and disabled individuals. It will be matched by a group of non profits. Lisa Glow, CEO of CASS speaks about the need for this.
Fernandez: “I vote aye, but I want to point out that this comes from the general fund and this problem is statewide. We can’t keep addressing the needs only in Maricopa.”
Passes: 12 yes, 1 absent
SB1422 - state board, Charter schools
The State Board for Charter Schoolsneeds a new website. This is where documents, progress reports and other stuff is kept. The board needs $ 547,250 for the first year of this 5 year project. The present system is 15 years old, clunky and hard to use.
Passes: 12 yes,1 absent
SB1680 - newborn screening program,testing
This bill would make AZ increase its newborn testing to cover all 35 tests recommended by HHS. Currently AZ does 31 and is the worst in the country according to Jessie from the March of Dimes. Two mothers spoke on behalf of the Bill. One included her disabled daughter who wasn’t tested for her illness and missed the appropriate therapy when she was born. She has since received it and has lived longer than expected. The second mother spoke of her older sons (one was 10) who became ill and severely disabled from ALD. He died in her arms. It was gut wrenching testimony.
Charlene Fernandez tries to say that this was introduced by Kelli Butler last session but (sounds like it was shot down because Kelli introduced it…) but Charlene is cut off by Cobb. “We can’t talk about this now!”
Passes: 12 yes, 1 absent.
SB1789 - Rental Vehicle Surcharge
This bill allows rental agencies to make a one time adjustment on the fees they collect on vehicle rentals. Normally they collect and give to the state more than is required. For example, Enterprise threw in $36 million more in the past ten years. But last year, due to Covid, the industry is way down and can’t meet its obligation. But considering their generosity in the past they want to be relieved of it this year.
Passes: 12 yes, 1 absent.
Osborne asked if this would be reimbursable from the Cares fund. Cobb says no. No one seemed interested in it. (Personally I think it would qualify.)
March 15: Senate Transportation and Technology -- Laura Terech
(Held) HB2876: Government contracts; public-private partnerships
Party line votes
HB2366: Criminal speeding
This bill would define excessive speeding as 20mph over the posted limit rather than 85mph. The Democrats voted no because they felt this wasn’t reflective of what’s happening on Arizona highways.
HB2588: Driver licenses; foster youth
This allows an eligible minor who is in foster care to apply for a learner’s permit or DL without the signature of a parent, foster parent, guardian, or employer. Minors must be 16 to apply for a state ID. This bill is sponsored by Leader Bolding, and it gives foster youth the flexibility to access their birth certificate to get an ID, seek work, gain housing, etc. Discussion of adding something to the bill which would waive the application fee.
HB2395: Parked vehicles blocking sidewalk; prohibition
Prohibits someone from blocking the sidewalk with any part of their vehicle. This aligns with the Americans with Disabilities Act. An amendment was added including private driveways except in the case of loading or unloading.
HB2721: Motor vehicle transactions; advertised vehicle price
Requires a motor vehicle dealer to clearly and conspicuously advertise that a document fee will be charged for the transaction. Christine wanted clarification that the document fee would be posted in the price rather than the advertisement because that wouldn’t be “clear and conspicuous”.
HB2757: Traffic survival school; online prohibited
Requires traffic school survival courses to be completed in person unless the Governor has declared an emergency and ADOT determines classes cannot be held in person. This does not impact online traffic schools, it only applies to survival school, which is completed behind the wheel. This would not apply to someone who got a speeding ticket and needs a course to remove points from their license.
HB2596: ADOT; telecommunication facilities installation
HB2144: ADOT revisions; aircraft staggered registration
Requires the director of ADOT to establish a system of staggered aircraft registration and pro-rate if necessary. An amendment removes the aircraft registration because the rest of the bill is focused on fuel procured outside the state. ADOT called it a “cleanup” bill.
HB2294: Yielding to emergency vehicles; penalties
Monday, March 15, 2021: House Health and Human Services -- Jane McNamara
Committee considered 15 bills. All were non-controversial, and many were considered last session, but because of early adjournment due to COVID, they did not complete the legislative process in time to land on the Governor’s desk. SB1355, concerning development disabilities and provider increases, was withdrawn from Monday’s agenda.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021: House Government and Elections -- Jane McNamara
This is a depressing committee. Not only are dreadful voter suppression bills from the Senate passing House Gov and Elections on 7-6 party-line votes, there is little respect for women who have important perspectives that Chair Kavanagh and Vice-Chair Hoffman would prefer not to hear. Ranking member, Rep. Athena Salman, in fact, tweeted a photo showing Rep. Frank Carroll’s behavior during efforts by Rep. Salman and other women on the committee to derail the PEVL purge bill, SB1485, which passed the committee last week: https://twitter.com/AthenaSalman/status/1372559523466997760
Other bills: SB1409, concerning ordinances; property rights, asking local governments to look at costs of regulations as an impediment to housing development, passed 7-6; two bills, SB1468 and SB1467, addressed pension shortfalls. SB1468 directs $300 million to PSPRS. Rep Butler said we needed a broader look at all our pension systems and our debt before passing this particular bill. She voted no, as did four other D’s. Rep. Pawlik voted yes. Then, SB1467, addressing retirement shortfall for elected officials, judges in particular, was about to fail, following Hoffman’s no vote, and three vote flips by three D’s from yes to no, forcing Hoffman to flip his vote to yes. Although he had said when he explained his no vote that elected officials shouldn’t have pensions, and that he would prefer to defund them, he was forced to flip his vote from no to yes, in order to get the bill out of committee, saying he “was disgusted by the naked politics that go on in this committee.” After 3 D’s and 1 R flipped their votes, SB1467 passed 7-6.
SB1793, (voter registration database; death records) is an apparent answer to the problem of dead people voting. Rep Butler said this bill just further the narrative that the election results were fraudulent. The bill passed 7-5 with Rep Pawlik joining the R’s in voting yes, though she said the bill wasn’t necessary.
SB1636 (legislative drafting requirements; repeal) and SB1349 (procurement; final list; number) passed on 7-6 votes, following limited discussion.
SB1003 (early voting; signature requested; notice) eliminates the 5-day curing period for voters who fail to sign their ballots. County recorders would still have 5 days after 7 pm on Election Day to contact voters whose signatures are mismatched, but not voters whose ballots were sent in unsigned. Those testifying against said that this was inconsistent, and brings in constitutional questions, knowing that people voting at the polls have an opportunity to return with an acceptable ID, but that right would no longer be afforded to someone who forgot or didn’t know that they needed to sign the envelope. Also, the change would discriminate against people with disabilities, people whose primary language is not part of the printed instructions on the ballot and/or who live in remote areas and whose ballots didn’t arrive before Election Day, giving recorders’ offices time to contact them and ask them to provide a signature. After Rep Roberts said the opponents’ arguments were “a bunch of drivel,” and that we should “put responsibilities on the voter,” Rep Fernandez said he had impugned her. Kavanagh said she “was out of order,” and the bill passed, 7-6.
SB1083 would require an automatic recount of any election if the difference in votes is .5 percent instead of the current .1 percent. County recorders are against. The Cochise County Recorder testified, saying that every county would have had to recount the last presidential election under this law. She said 13 counties do not have the resources for recounts, that ballots were not designed to be run through machines multiple times and that voting centers, as opposed to precinct polling locations, would mean that a smaller, local election would force recorders to recount millions of ballots. The Association of Counties said all counties are opposed to this legislation. It didn’t matter. It passed, 7-6.
SB1497 (ballot measures; prop 105; disclosure) would require the language of Prop 105 to be printed on the ballot as part of the description of any new ballot measure. Essentially, the language would remind people that the legislature could not change a measure passed by voters unless their bill had the same intent as the original law and that it passed with ¾ vote of each chamber. Obviously, this could influence voters by dampening the enthusiasm for a ballot measure. Opponents all said that it was appropriate to include the language of the Voter Protection Act on pamphlets and voter instructions, but not on actual ballots. There was also concern that additional printed information might mean that ballots become multi-page. Republicans answered that the font size and margins could be reduced, and the bill passed, 7-6.
Two bills passed unanimously before the meeting ended: SB1492, as a clean-up to moving the primary date up in Arizona, and SB1722, as an increase in the number of days political signs are allowed in a planned community before a primary, from 60 days to 71 days.
March 16: Natural Resource Committee -- Gillian McSheffrey
SB 1120 only bill considered, now a strike everything from county fiscal provisions; technical correction to: fire districts; medical services; reimbursement, concerning reimbursement for fire district with population of less than 10,000 as result of responding to emergency medical calls on federal land
Chairman Griffin’s amendment:
- Reduces population for eligible districts from 10,000 to districts with a population of 5,000 and reduces the days that the state forester must process the claim from 90 days to 30 days
Amendment also excludes the reimbursement for ambulance services
- This reduction would reduce the number of eligible counties by 25
John Flinn (Arizona Fire District Association)- in support
- Benefits small, rural fire districts
- With the 5,000 it covers 90 fire districts
- 67 operate at less than half a million of tax revenue annually
- The remaining operate on less than 100,000 per year
Caroll: why isn’t the federal government paying for this?
- They get reimbursed for fire events but not medical events
Lieberman: Is the first recourse to try to get the person or their insurance provider to cover the medical cost, and if that is not working why?
- That is how it works on county property but on federal property only the cost of the ambulance is reimbursed but not the cost of sending out first responders
- That is why Griffin’s amendment excludes ambulances
Why do they not bill for the first responders?
- Some do not have the staff to spend time doing that, but usually insurance companies only pay for the ambulances because that is how it typically works
Lieberman takes issue with this because he believes they are letting the insurance companies off the hook for not covering the cost of first responders, however these counties do not have the capability to chase down these insurance companies and make them cover the cost. Lieberman wants to introduce an amendment so that this is a secondary option for covering the cost.
Hamilton: What are federal lands, are there both state and federal lands?
- Yes there are both in these rural areas
Is this solely about emergency medical services that happen on federal land or does it include state land?
- Only federal land
- Will this include things like helicopters that have to be used in emergency response situations, or other similar costly scenarios?
How much is this going to cost?
- This will most likely cost less than half a million dollars
- Most calls will cost less than 1,000 dollars
Caroll: Is there anyone in the state that can work on behalf of these small fire districts to help collect the money from insurance companies?
- There isn’t
- The issue is there is a long waiting period for these districts to get repaid and they need the money
This does not seem like a permanent solution
Finchem: They should not be debating this because these counties need the money urgently
Travis North (Fire Chief in Alpine)
- 30-50 rescues per year
- In support
Vote Amendment: passed unanimously
Vote on Bill: passed unanimously
March 16, 2021
Party line votes
SB1572: Schools; early literacy/SB1403: Literacy; dyslexia screening
Delays the requirement (by one year) that each public school have one K-3 teacher who has received dyslexia training. Delays the Dept of Ed develop a dyslexia screening plan. Directs the State Board to establish a literacy endorsement as a requirement for all certificated instructors providing literacy instruction grades K-5. Requires a kinder entry evaluation tool used to monitor student progress. Rep Pawlik added an amendment that the literacy endorsement would be required for all certified and non-certified teachers.
Teachers will have 3 years to earn their endorsement. Some teachers may be able to take the exam without the coursework (grandfathered) and the exam fee might come from the budget. While Rep Udall said she also had concerns about the cost to teachers and the impact this might have on teacher retention, she remarked “This is not supposed to cost teachers anything.” The AEA spoke against the bill.
SB1572: 5 yeas, 3 nays, 2 absent
SB1403: 6 yeas, 3 nays, 1 absent
As per Rep Pawlik:
We had a pair of bills in the ED committee this afternoon, SB1403 and SB1572. SB1403 is the dyslexia bill. SB1403 is embedded in 1572; it also includes kindergarten assessment and parent notification requirements. Both have great elements, but there is NO FUNDING ATTACHED to either bill. We heard it's part of the Executive Budget, it's part of the Department's budget request, it's part of the budget negotiations...
The training, assessment, and endorsement requirements only apply to certified teachers. (In K-5, 96% of teachers in district schools are certified, and 61% of teachers in charters are certified.) I tried to amend both bills to include ALL K-5 teachers rather than just certified teachers, and the amendments were rejected.
The required coursework for new teachers will be a 3 credit class. Nobody knows exactly what the requirement for the current certified teachers will be. Both the number of hours required and credit for previous coursework that might be accepted seems to be outside of the purview of the bill, and will be decided in the rule making process at the State Board of Education.
All K-5 certified teachers will be required to take an assessment after their training and pay to add an endorsement in Early Literacy to their certificate by 2025.
Stakeholder meetings are expected to continue. I sincerely hope that we can agree on some changes, so that I can support the bills eventually on the floor.
I am grateful for the few educators who testified remotely. I hear your voices, and I heard your opposition loud and clear. The points you made are valid. I am truly sorry I couldn't do more. It weighs on me very heavily tonight.
SB1236: College savings program; name change
Changes the name of the Arizona Family College Savings Program to AZ529 (as it’s used in marketing).
SB1422: State board; charter schools; appropriation
Appropriates $547,000 from the general fund for charter schools to modernize their IT platforms.
SB1529: Education programs; county jails; appropriation
Requires each county that operates a county jail to offer an education program to prisoners 21 and younger who do not have a high school diploma or GED. This also covers special needs students 21 and younger. $114,000 is appropriated from the general fund to distribute to county superintendents for these programs.