Back by popular demand, welcome back to my updates from the capitol! Each Tuesday I like to update my constituents on what life is like at the capitol and what I’m working on. As always, your support is appreciated – given that this is an election year, showing your support for the campaign goes a long way towards ensuring we can run a strong campaign this fall!
We kicked off our legislative session last week, and while we weren’t sworn in like last year, there was still plenty of pomp and circumstance on hand.
A personal highlight for me was our special guest speaker for the opening ceremony, Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl OLB Chandler Jones. He’s one of my favorite players, and he gave a really good speech about leadership and dealing with pressure. He said that “pressure is a privilege,” and it’s words that I took to heart as we began our legislative session.
As senators we are each allowed to invite six guests to sit in the gallery for the opening ceremonies. Last year I invited several members of my family and close personal friends, many of whom played a big role in getting me elected. This year I invited a new group of guests, many of whom I work with regularly in the district. My guests this year included Tyler Kissell (and his three month old son David!), who is a long-time friend and elected Justice of the Peace in Tempe; Daniel and Janee Garcia, two close friends of mine who are both attorneys and live in Ahwatukee; Dr. Kent Baca, the superintendent of the Tempe Union High School district; and Terri Kimble, who is the CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.
People often like to describe opening week as busy and hectic, which it is, but it’s busy for different reasons than the rest of the session. Most bills are still being written and tweaked, so we’re not voting on bills or having long committee hearings quite yet. Most of the work opening week is co-sponsoring bills from colleagues and working with staff to refine and edit your own bills that you are working on. Some of my colleagues like to introduce dozens of bills, many of which they introduce every year, while others focus on only one or two.
My approach is more in the middle; I currently have seven bills I’m working on. I have already submitted two of them, and hope to introduce the other five before the end of this week, once they are done.
The first bill I dropped is one I’m proud of, SB 1139. It concerns the issue of child marriages, and seeks to add stronger protections for young women. I first read about this issue last summer, when New York state and then Texas passed bills similar to the one I introduced last week. Under current Arizona law, there is no floor when it comes to age; if a judge and parents approve of the union, young women could get married as teenagers at really any age. We have some data from counties that showed women as young as 15 years old being married last year, which I think is a problem.
So my bill, modeled after what Texas did in 2017, is simple: it bans marriages for all minors under 16, and if the child is 16 or 17, they must be emancipated from their parents in order to get married. Getting emancipated is a lengthy and difficult process, so it strengthens protections for young women, and should reduce the number of child marriages per year if signed into law. I worked with colleagues from both sides of the aisle on this, and am proud to report that a majority of the senate is signed on to my bill as co-sponsors.
My second bill is another one I’m proud of. SB 1160 would prohibit the hateful practice known as “conversion therapy,” which impacts teenage LGBTQ individuals. Nine states currently prohibit this, and passing this bill into law would make Arizona the tenth. We’ve already seen some national attention about this, and I’m hoping that the increased attention about this will make more people aware of how hurtful this practice is for teenagers across Arizona.
Stay tuned for updates on the other five bills – two involve education issues, one deals with accessibility for the disability community, another is related to health care, and the last sets up a task force for economic development issues. More details next week!
This past weekend I spent a lot of time out in the community talking to constituents. Saturday morning was our first Constituents and Coffee event in Ahwatukee, where I had one-on-one chats with over a dozen people who joined us. Later that day and on Sunday, I knocked on doors in Tempe and asked my constituents what questions and feedback they had for me. Over 200 doors later, I consistently heard the same message I’ve been hearing for months: we need to do more to support our schools, but especially our teachers.
I hear you. The governor’s State of the State speech last week was underwhelming, partly because he didn’t give us very many details on how we were to going to help. It was filled with stories about guests in the gallery, and light on specifics. That’s what the Friday budget release was for, we heard, and that’s where the governor released the details on his proposal that he sent to the legislature.
I’m looking forward to diving into the proposal this week; like every bill that comes before me, I will examine it carefully and look at it with an open mind. I’m concerned that the proposal is not enough to help our teachers – while the additional support for district additional assistance is well and good, it still puts us far short of where we were in 2008. Even if this proposal were approved, our overall investment in K-12 would still be almost $1 billion under where we were in 2008, right before the recession. That’s how big of a hole we are in.
And the 1% stipend that teachers received last year? This proposal would make that permanent, which yes, is good, but still falls far below where we need to be in order to keep our teachers from leaving the profession or moving to other states.
This budget also doesn’t restore any investment in our community colleges – a persistent frustration of mine.
The governor did listen to Democrats a little bit, and include in his proposal an idea we had last year, to re-hire auditors at the Department of Revenue in order to collect more tax revenue from people that owe the state money. Really a common sense idea if I’ve ever heard one, and I’m glad the governor decided to agree with us and restore the auditors that were removed a couple of years ago.
One idea that the governor covered in this State of the State speech, which I support, is a special session to specifically deal with the opioid crisis that is ravaging Arizona, and the country. This is a serious problem, and it requires significant action from the legislature. Many of the ideas being floated are ones I support, like requiring doctors to use an electronic database to store prescription information, and common sense limits on how many opioids can be prescribed at a given time. While I haven’t seen specific legislation yet, I’m hopeful we can work together in a bipartisan way to address this crisis.
Upcoming this week – our Finance committee meets Wednesday morning to hear some bills, and more work on the legislation we are sponsoring and co-sponsoring. I am particularly excited and optimistic about my community college bill – stay tuned for details on that.
I’m also holding my second Constituents and Coffee event this Saturday, January 20th, from 8:30am to 10am at the Panera Bread in Tempe, at Guadalupe and McClintock. Following that, I’m knocking on doors both Saturday and Sunday. The work never stops!
More to come next week – I appreciate your support and feedback.
Yours in the fight,