Interesting week at the Capitol this past week – Friday was the deadline to hear bills in committee from the chamber they originated from, so each of my committee hearings were quite long. Monday’s Commerce and Public Safety Committee went until about 7:40pm, and Wednesday’s Senate Finance Committee went four and a half hours.
A piece of good news out of the Finance Committee – my bill that looks at the issue of surprise medical billing, SB 1321, passed out of committee unanimously! More on that below.
Lots of meetings last week, mainly on bills coming up for votes and larger issues relating to the budget. I met with the Chair of the Board of Regents, Greg Patterson, where we discussed higher education funding and issues before the board. I also met with the governor’s office, where we discussed various pieces of the budget and where things are headed as we get further into session.
One of my favorite parts of last week was attending two of our school board meetings here in the district. I attended the Kyrene School District board meeting on Tuesday night, where their recent audit was discussed and analyzed in detail. I am very much looking forward to reading the full audit in the coming weeks to see where the district and our schools can improve on their already excellent reputation. I also attended the Tempe Elementary School District board meeting on Wednesday night, where I was fortunate to witness many awards presented for excellence in the classroom and in our schools. The board also passed a resolution opposing Senate Bill 1174 (which I oppose as well), which would result in a $14 million annual loss to the district.
On Thursday I attended the Tempe/Kyrene Business Advisory Council Education Summit, where I participated in a panel discussion with my fellow LD18 State Representative Mitzi Epstein. We discussed bills coming before the legislature around education, what concerned parents and citizens can do to impact legislation, and the key bills we are following in each chamber. It was great to see so many friends and education advocates in our community – please know that I am fighting for our public schools each and every day at the capitol!
I spent all day Friday in the district, making my way to different meetings. Friday morning I attended the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce Day of Champions Breakfast, where I was fortunate to meet local business owners and see many of them receive awards for service to the Ahwatukee area. From there I visited the Microsoft store at Chandler Fashion Center to take a look at all of the trainings and workshops they provide for our LD18 residents – a great resource for students and families alike!
I was very fortunate to receive a tour of Tempe-based The Centers for Habilitation (TCH) – it was great to see all the hard work they do for our developmentally disabled adult community. I ended the day with a meeting with Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny, where we discussed issues impacting the city of Chandler and ways I could help at the legislature. A jam packed day of events in the district!
A milestone of sorts for me: SB 1321, a bill I introduced that asks the state’s Department of Insurance to produce a report on the issue of surprise medical billing, passed the Senate Finance Committee unanimously on Wednesday. I get a lot of people who tell me how surprised they are that a Democratic bill passed committee! What can I chalk up my success to?
Simply, since I was elected in November, I’ve worked very hard on building relationships with my colleagues, especially my Republican colleagues. We disagree on most issues, but I’ve worked hard to get to know them as people first, and find areas of agreement. In order for a bill to get heard in committee, the chairperson of the committee the bill is assigned to has to agree to hear it. I’ve built a friendly relationship with the Finance chairman, Senator David Farnsworth, since November. We even met BEFORE I was sworn in, and I greatly enjoyed spending time with him and getting to know him better.
So when my bill was assigned to the Finance Committee, I talked to the chairman about the bill and why I thought it should move forward. He could have taken the easy way out and said no, but he agreed to listen. I am extremely grateful and appreciative of him hearing the bill, and for allowing it to come up for an up or down vote. Now it moves to the full Senate floor!
This is an example of where my effort to work with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle has paid off. I consider myself to be a reasonable, pragmatic legislator, and I think my colleagues would agree.
Pay attention to the capitol this week, because there will be a lot going on. We are scheduled to go into floor sessions ALL DAY on Wednesday and Thursday, along with afternoon sessions Monday and Tuesday.
The biggest bill that will likely come forward this week is SB 1431, otherwise known as the voucher expansion bill. I have been working tirelessly to whip up the votes to stop this bad piece of legislation, and it’s going to be close. Please continue to call and email your legislators – this is shaping up to be the most important bill we vote on this session. I sincerely hope I have some good news to report in next week’s report!
The vast majority of votes we have taken so far have been unanimous, or close to unanimous. I have a feeling that will change this week, as we discuss and vote on more controversial bills. Stay tuned!
Capitol Snapshot – Taking you behind the scenes of what I’m working on! Here are some of the photos that we took at the capitol last week:
We filmed an “introductory” video on the Senate floor on Monday, which will go online and give viewers a little bit of my background and facts about the district. The best part: we filmed it in one take!
Monday was Early Childhood Day at the capitol, and it was a real treat to meet with so many advocates both in my office and for lunch. They are so passionate about the needs of our children and our education system, and I greatly enjoyed spending time with them!
Wednesday was Environmental Day at the capitol, and I welcomed several LD18 residents to my office to discuss bills coming before the legislature related to the environment.
And finally, as I mentioned above, I visited the Microsoft store at Chandler Fashion Center to take a look at all of the wonderful community service solutions they offer to our district. They even put my name on the big board!
As always, you can follow me on Facebook and on Twitter for more up to the minute updates. I appreciate all of your help and support – if you can, please consider showing your support today so I can keep fighting for our values and priorities at the state capitol. It is an honor to represent you in the state senate!
Yours in the fight,