2014 Session – Opening Week

February 2, 2014 by  

The first week of the 2014 session was action-packed, but before we get there – today we commemorate the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  How much do you know about his “I have a dream” speech? Check out other important African-Americans in our nation’s history: Neglected Voices. Now for the highlights of Opening Day and the week’s issues:

Opening Day

  • Starting the session right – with prayer. The Center for Arizona Policy again organized their (early morning) annual prayer event at the Capitol.  I am grateful to everyone of you and the many pastors, including mine, who attended and who regularly pray for me and all elected officials in Arizona.
  • Special Guests.  Along with my husband, Joe, Troop 616 scout, Alex Murr, and his mom, Heather, were my special guests for Opening Day ceremonies.  It was an honor to host this bright aspiring space explorer.
  • Inspiring Keynote.  Cardinals kicker Jay Feely “kicked off” the 2014 Senate session with an inspiring message on staying focused amidst failure.  Here’s a shot of my husband, Joe, with Feely and Cards owner Michael Bidwell.
  • State of the State.  Governor Brewer highlighted a plethora of her accomplishments in her speech, which I applaud.  But, is Arizona’s fiscal house in order?  While we certainly did some important things right throughout the tumultuous recession, I agree with Robert Robb that it’s not –  however, we are on the right track to getting it in order IF we continue to insist on a balanced budget without gimmicks, debt, sweeps and rollovers and commit to reform in our greatest spending categories.   Education, health care and welfare are the biggies, including Child Protective Services (CPS).  Speaking of CPS, the  Governor’s establishment of a cabinet level Child Safety and Family Services Division may not altogether be on strong legal grounds as an executive order, but it does send a strong message that she intends to remake what we have into an effective, transparent and accountable agency that will better protect Arizona’s vulnerable children – and that is a good thing.  The devil’s in the details, of course, so now the work begins to ensure changes & resources are efficiently focused and put into law.

The Week’s Action

  • Senate Health & Human Services Committee – Focus on CPS: What’s working in other states?  Considering its importance this session, my first hearing featured a presentation by Cynthia Schuler, who was instrumental in turning around Florida’s child welfare system a decade ago when similarly plagued with unmanageable caseloads & problems.  See video highlights here.
  • Guns Save Lives:   In Judiciary Committee we considered (and passed) SB 1063 which would clarify the recently passed requirement that businesses that post “no guns allowed” signs actually provide lockers for weapons carriers in their establishments – according to the law.  Sorry, but complying with half of the law won’t work.
  • Pot: Will Arizona go Further?  We all know he smoked it, but when exactly did the President become an expert  – proclaiming pot no more dangerous than alcohol?  The research says differently – and Legislators at the AZ Capitol are taking notice. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk broke down the myths one by one – explaining what’s really happening to the public in terms of incarceration, addiction and how pot physically affects kids ’brains & their ability to sense the reward of accomplishment – leading to depression and mental illness. That’s great for kids in the K-12 system already struggling with motivation and learning, right? See the FAQ & more – Check out Marijuana Harmless? Think Again
  • Arizona Pro-Life!  Arizona climbed to the 4th most pro-life state in the country according to Americans United for Life which tracks the states that best protect women & children – up from 29th since 2009!  This is encouraging news this week after the Supreme Court allowed a lower court ruling to stand – striking down Arizona’s 20 week ban. Read more here.
  • Sanctity of Life Sunday.  It was a joy to pray with members of the Arizona Life Coalition gathered at Wesley Bolin Plaza yesterday. Thank you, Bishop Olmsted and Dave Everitt, the founder of the Crisis Pregnancy Centers, for your leadership and inspiring remarks!
  • Religious Liberty in Focus.  Important legislation protecting the rights of individuals to freely practice their faith in their daily lives and businesses moved forward this week.   Track this issue here.

What’s on Tap

  • Bd. Of Behavioral Health.  Senate HHS Committee will hear SB 1077, a “trailer bill” on reciprocal licenses that will further the major reforms we passed last year.  It’s a process to turn this dysfunctional board around, but we’re headed in the right direction.
  • Price Transparency. Starting NOW – in 2014 – patients can ask their doctors and hospitals what their health care will cost them when they’re spending their own money – and actually get an answer! Transparent Medical Prices will be highlighted at a Friday Chamber of Commerce event with Dr. Eric Novack – celebrating the importance of this aspect of health care reform.

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