What do you DO when you’re not in Session?

October 26, 2009 by  

It’s a question I imagine many people wonder of their elected representatives.  Below is an update on a few of the issues/activities keeping me hopping – between Special Sessions, of course. 

 –     A fourth Special Session, addressing this year’s budget, is expected to be called in early November.   Now that the latest revenue numbers are in, revealing a $2 billion deficit in the current budget year many of us are pushing to begin tackling this deficit  before we have to deal with next year’s budget cuts.  But the agencies’ 15% budget cutting exercise will result in nowhere near the real budget cuts we will see next year, ie. prisoners will not be released to the streets!

–     Arizona Healthcare Freedom Act.   People are incensed at Congress’ imminent  move to nationalize health care and are anxious to learn how they can  preserve their fundamental health care freedoms.  Requests for interviews, articles and to speak to groups about the AHCFA continue unabated.  It’s a movement catching fire across the country.  So far 20 other states, Kansas being the latest, plan to follow Arizona’s lead and introduce the legislation next year, if they haven’t already. 

–     Healthcare Reform.   Reforming health care is needed and protecting physicians from junk malpractice suits is an important part of lowering costs as tort costs in the U.S. are double the average cost of other industrialized nations.  Read what Arizona accomplished on this issue last session at “Party of “no” to Healthcare Reform?  No way!” under Legislative Action tab.  But there is more to do.

–     Child Prostitution.  Twenty-eight valley churches are working together and reaching out to girls as young as 13 who have been lured into and trapped in the sex trafficking industry in Phoenix – offering them a safe place and support.  But current laws provide no protection for these sexually exploited and abused girls and are inadequate in prosecuting the “johns”.  I am working to address the demand side of this horrific and growing industry in our own backyard.  To learn more about the issue see http://www.streetlightphx.org/.

–     Behavioral Health.   Governor Brewer submitted an interesting proposal to the Courts last week, promising reforms in the delivery of mental healthcare in the State.  This was largely in response to the most recent court monitor’s report saying the current system is coming up short on a number of measurements.  

I and three other legislators have been part of a working group alongside the Governor this past year to address the multi-faceted issue in a way that uses our limited resources more effectively.  The proposal was not a result of this working group, however, and Legislation will be required to enable these or other changes before anything will be implemented.

–    Interim Committees.   The Legislature has oversight responsibility over numerous commissions, boards, programs and agencies that come up for periodic review.  The Health and Human Services Committee of Reference, which I co-chair, has a full agenda set for a November 9th hearing when we will evaluate the State Board of Psychologist Examiners, the Advisory Council on Aging, the Board of Homeopathic and Integrated Medical Exminers, Dept. of Health and several others. 

Based on what we learn from testimony and audits, the Committee makes recommendations to the Legislature for the following session.  It’s an awesome responsibility that requires considerable time outside of Committee to adequately prepare for.

I also serve on the Maricopa County Commission for the Seriously Mentally Ill and have been working with fellow legislators on CPS,  welfare fraud, immigration and Foster Care Review Board reforms.

–    HOA Legislation.  The HOA parking bill clarifying that HOA boards have no authority to regulate parking on public streets within their communities, died in the Senate Government Committee last session, after passing the House with 44 out of 60 votes.  I plan to introduce this common sense legislation again, but we will be more organized next session.  Leaving the law as is presents major problems for homeowners as some HOA boards are increasing penalties and enforcement for these parking “violations” to make ends meet in a foreclosure-ridden environment.

–     R & R.    I did prioritize a two week vacation with my husband, Joe, in early October,  which was wonderfully refreshing.  And plan to attend two legislative conferences in the next few weeks – one sponsored by Wallbuilders in Dallas and a healthcare summit in San Diego with NCSL, the National Conference of State Legislators.  These aren’t exactly restful, but they offer invaluable and refreshing perspective. 


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