As the second week of the new legislative session ends, I see a glass that is both half full -- and half empty.
We anticipate another state budget surplus of nearly $1 billion, and the Governor indicated in his proposed 2021 budget that he wants to allocate considerable new funding for public education. Funding is proposed to go to additional counselors and to fully restore District Additional Assistance (DAA) for district and charter schools, which covers capital needs such as technology, desks, building repairs and textbooks. DAA funds, which are part of the school funding formula, were cut severely during the recession, and our schools paid a price. Since 2009, schools have lost out on over $2 billion in DAA funds, leaving them unable to purchase updated materials, maintain aging buildings or replace old school buses. While this year's restoration of DAA funds is a very positive step, it still does not provide enough to address all deferred projects and critical needs that accumulated since the Great Recession.
The Governor’s budget would also invest some much-needed funds in community colleges and state universities, and one-time revenues would be used to replace several bridges in rural Arizona and widen I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson.
It’s a good start, and there will be bipartisan support for many of the Governor’s proposals, but these investments still do not restore per pupil funding for K-12 to pre-recession levels. Population increases and the cost of inflation require a greater commitment to our public schools that will require additional, sustainable and equitable funding. Access to affordable, quality healthcare for all Arizonans remains another elusive goal. And we now know that we must also prioritize the critical needs for more affordable housing and ground water management. Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget misses the opportunity to take more meaningful steps and make more long-term investments.
As the session continues through these next few months, I look forward to robust debates over our varying legislative and budget priorities and I will keep you informed on any important developments.
I am ranking member of the House Health and Human Services Committee and I invite you to sit in on any of our committee hearings, scheduled at 9 am every Thursday. Spending time at the Capitol is always a learning experience and while you are there, you can sign up for Request to Speak in the lobby of the House of Representatives, which will allow you to weigh in on bills online from your home.
I have re-introduced my bill to offer affordable healthcare to individuals through our state Medicaid program but it has not yet been assigned to committee. I continue to advocate for my proposed legislation that could double the number of children eligible for affordable insurance through KidsCare, but so far, the majority party appears uninterested in any expansion of the program. Stay tuned!
I take my role as your state representative very seriously and I have been honored to serve for the past three years. I am running for re-election in 2020 and hope I have earned your continued support. I need hundreds of LD28 voters to sign my online petition to qualify me for the ballot -- you can help by clicking this link to sign my petition online. You'll need your driver's license and you will be offered the opportunity to sign petitions for all candidates you're eligible to support.
Representative Kelli Butler
We all know there is a teacher shortage in Arizona. We’ve heard our prisons can’t find enough corrections officers and the Department of Child Safety needs caseworkers.
We’ve heard the reasons, too. Pay is low and budget cuts mean class sizes are too large, prison guards feel unsafe and social workers have unmanageable caseloads.
And last week I heard more troubling news – the Arizona Department of Health Services doesn’t have the staff necessary to conduct timely investigations of complaints against long-term care facilities. Some uninvestigated complaints alleging abuse and neglect of nursing home residents have been ignored, in fact, for more than two years, according to a recent Auditor General review of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
As the Ranking Member on the House Health Committee, I attended the Senate Health Committee of Reference hearing last week, scheduled to review the Auditor General’s report. I expected to hear directly from ADHS about their plans to correct this serious lack of oversight. This Committee of Reference is a special type of hearing held when the legislature is not in session, in part because they require adequate time and attention to be completely diligent and thorough, and they conclude with a recommendation to either continue, revise, consolidate, or terminate the agency under review.
In its written response to the Auditor General’s report, the ADHS indicated they would need 44 additional staff members to conduct needed investigations, but would allocate just two. It was frankly shocking that during the Senate's investigative hearing, there was no opportunity given for committee members to ask any questions of ADHS. The stated reason: there wasn’t enough time. Instead, the Senate Health Committee chair and her three colleagues voted to proceed and approve the continuation of the Dept. of Health Services through 2028. During their votes, every Democratic member explained they could not vote to continue the agency without adequate answers to these significant safety concerns. We should all be concerned that the committee was denied the opportunity to fulfill their mission – to thoroughly investigate the Auditor General’s report and learn how ADHS intends to ensure the safety of residents in nursing homes in Arizona. Despite no assurance that adequate steps will be taken to keep vulnerable people in long-term care facilities safe, the motion to continue the agency passed on a 4-3 party-line vote.
Voting NO was a drastic move, but warranted, I believe.
Each of us who serves in the State Legislature has an obligation to ensure state services like education and health care are adequately funded and infrastructure maintained. Safety must always be a priority.
I am concerned that budget cuts have compromised our ability to do our jobs. Indiscriminate cuts to vital programs create obvious risks to public health and safety. It’s important to note that since 2008, our state’s population has grown by 14 percent, but we have seen a cut of 15 percent in the total number of government employees in Arizona. We all want cost-effective and efficient government services, but we must have honest, bipartisan discussions as to how best to provide those services. Our job as legislators is to hold agencies accountable and to insist on the transparent use of our tax dollars.
I am just beginning my campaign for re-election and I am asking for your help. I am hopeful that there will be more balance in state leadership following the 2020 elections and I look forward to crafting budgets and overseeing state agencies in ways that will serve you and your families well.
Arizona has an obligation to protect military service members and veterans from financial predators. I've sponsored legislation to ensure that those who protect our country are also protected from predatory loans and schemes that put both military families and our nation's military operations at risk. Financial trouble follows a family for years, and it can also put a service member's military security clearance at risk.
The legislation I've sponsored will reinforce vital financial protections -- please read the message I sent to the Arizona Speaker of the House, Rep. Rusty Bowers, and to the Chairman of the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Jay Lawrence, below.
If you would like to help encourage Speaker Bowers and Chairman Lawrence to support this legislation, please consider sending them an email.
Speaker Bowers: RBowers@azleg.gov
Chairman Lawrence: JLawrence@azleg.gov
Subject: Please Support Our Military with HB2458 and HB2459.
This is the message I sent to Speaker Bowers, Chairman Lawrence and Mr. Hunter, the House Chief of Staff:
February 1, 2019
Speaker Bowers, Rep. Lawrence and Mr. Hunter -
I've sponsored two bills that I want to bring to your attention:
I introduced these bills because the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has weakened oversight and protection against predatory lending for military service members -- a move that has been criticized by the Defense Department, Pentagon and every major group representing military service members. Forty-four state Attorneys General signed on to two separate letters expressing concern, including our own Attorney General Brnovich.
HB2458 would codify the protections of the Military Lending Act into Arizona statute, AND would add the extension of the same vital protections to veterans one-year post service.
HB2459 would give Arizona's Department of Financial Institutions the ability to examine lenders in Arizona for compliance with the MLA. It is not a mandate for DFI to examine, but gives DFI authority and clarity to do so.
I discussed these bills in the Veterans Caucus this week and there was resounding support. I've attached several articles, below, to highlight the broad concern over the weakening of the federal protections.
I hope you will help these bills get quickly assigned to committee - and hopefully to Rep. Lawrence's Military and Veteran's Affairs committee.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
1 - https://www.americanbanker.com/news/pentagon-others-baffled-by-cfpb-plan-to-cease-military-lending-exams
2 - https://ncdoj.gov/Files/News/CFPBLetter-reMLA.aspx
3 - https://www.militarytimes.com/pay-benefits/2019/01/31/group-wants-to-force-consumer-agency-to-show-why-it-stopped-monitoring-military-lending-protections/?utm_campaign=Socialflow+MIL&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social
Representative Kelli Butler
My husband and I are small business owners of our family’s dental practice. For 26 years, we’ve worked to care for our patients and provide for our employees.
One Saturday morning a few years ago, we got a call from a mother whose 6-year-old daughter had a terrible toothache. Our practice was closed that day, but we agreed to meet them at the office later that morning.
The little girl was in a lot of pain and she was crying. Her tooth needed to be pulled, but the family had no insurance. As we explained the process and the cost, the mother’s eyes filled with tears. She had two younger children who sat quietly nearby. It was obvious to me this young mother was trying to figure out what her family would have to do without in order to pay for this unexpected necessity. I will never forget the look on her face when we told her we would pull her daughter’s tooth at no charge.
I know we all have to make difficult, sometimes unexpected financial choices. But a young mother choosing between medical care and paying for rent or food for her family is just not right.
Experiences like this shape my decisions at the legislature. As your State Representative, I have sponsored bills to expand access to affordable healthcare for all Arizonans:
- HB2441 (2018) - Would have protected our state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, KidsCare, from an automatic enrollment freeze if federal funding is reduced by even $1.
- HB2442 (2017) - Would have provided pregnant women enrolled in our state’s Medicaid program with a dental benefit, which has been shown to improve the health of babies and moms.
- HB2443 (2018) - Would have allowed individuals the option to purchase their health insurance through our state’s existing Medicaid program, using their own money, if the coverage and cost made sense for their family.
As a member of the House Health Committee and the Banking and Insurance Committee, I am committed to continuing to explore solutions to make health care more accessible and insurance more affordable.
I’m honored to have received the endorsement of respected medical and healthcare associations. They know I work tirelessly to balance the needs of patients and providers, especially in today’s difficult healthcare environment:
I need your support to make sure I can return to the Capitol and continue to fight for affordable, accessible health care. Midnight tonight is a critical fundraising deadline.
State Representative, District 28
(602) 509-2790 cell
While national issues swirl endlessly around us, perhaps it’s time to hit the pause button -- to remind ourselves we CAN make a real difference in the outcome of local elections here in Arizona.
And whether it’s education, affordable healthcare or women’s rights, my re-election to the State House matters.
In my first term, I introduced bills that would have offered an affordable healthcare option to individuals and would have provided more oversight to the operation of charter schools in our state. I offered amendments to the budget that would have increased teacher pay raises and decreased class sizes. I voted against terrible bills that stripped away a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health.
I’m not giving up.
As your state representative, I will continue to advocate for what’s best for all Arizonans. But I need your help now. Donate here.
Early ballots will be mailed in just a few weeks, and I am almost out of yard signs, bumper stickers and t-shirts. We've already knocked on so many doors we need to reorder our campaign flyers. With added resources, we will be able to boost our videos on social media.
Donate what you can today and know we are doing all we can to win my race in Legislative District 28. Arizona’s families are counting on us – and I am counting on you!
Thank you for your continued support!
State Representative, District 28
P.S. Please visit our campaign office at 10401 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix - east side of 32nd Street, just south of Shea Blvd. We're open Monday - Friday from 10am to 7pm; Saturday from 8:30am to 3:30pm; Sunday from 11-4pm. Stop by and pick up a sign - get one before they're all gone!
Happy Father’s Day!
I have a wonderful, loving father who is thoughtful, kind and gives great advice. Years ago, he decided to create a motto to share with his kids and grandkids – all his best advice in one place. He calls it GLIRP. Clearly, not the most elegant acronym, but some very good life lessons:
G – Don’t be GREEDY
L – LOVE and be Loved
I – Always have INTEGRITY
R – Live the Golden RULE
P – Find and Pursue your PASSION
And, I am so grateful for having had an incredible father-in-law, Ben’s dad, Nelson. Nelson passed away just last year from lung cancer and we are still heartbroken. He was an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and when we went on family camping trips, he always spent time cleaning up trash – his motto was to leave a place better than you found it. He certainly did.
I’m hoping you have a dad in your life you look up to and whose advice you treasure. And I’m hoping we can all have a little more GLIRP and spend more time trying to make the world a better place.
All the best to dads and the kids who love them -
Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, and a good day to reflect on the remarkable teachers in our lives who influenced us and perhaps encouraged us to pursue our life’s path.
And for many of us, this is also a day to reflect on the impact of the teacher-led #RedForEd movement that took hold all across our state, and influenced final budget decisions at the Capitol last week. Wow! It was an emotional experience – and the teachers’ presence in the galleries and on the lawn made it obvious to all that the Governor’s original proposal of a 1 percent pay increase for teachers was woefully inadequate.
No one knows for sure whether the teachers will receive the 20 percent increase by 2020 that the Governor now promises, but the additional 8 percent we’ve been told is in next year’s budget could be a good start. However, we know the state is not allocating enough money to give all teachers the promised increase. We know support staff and some campus specialists were not included in the funding plan.
And now that the Legislature has adjourned, my first term as your State Representative nears its end. I have learned a great deal. I hope you know that I have consistently supported public education and will continue to work to increase state support of our schools to pre-recession levels. I am committed to working to ensure smaller class sizes, sufficient funding for building maintenance and pay raises for support staff as well as for teachers.
I offered an amendment, in fact, during last week’s budget debates to cap class sizes to 25 students per teacher, but it was shouted down quickly on a partisan voice vote. I offered a second amendment, to protect our children’s health insurance program, KidsCare, if federal support levels change, but that amendment also failed on a party-line vote.
But change is coming. I’m convinced. Because of the #RedForEd movement, there is a better understanding by many of the inability of our current budget to provide the resources needed to support our children, improve our workforce and strengthen our economy.
My work – our work -- on behalf of Arizona’s children and families is not finished. I appreciate your support in the past and look forward to your help with what surely will be a robust campaign this summer and fall.
Here’s what you can do to help:
We have just opened an office at 10401 N. 32nd St (east side of 32nd Street, just south of Shea Blvd). We’ll be canvassing from the office at 9 am this Saturday, May 12th. Please let me know if you can join us!
State Representative, District 28
We think of the word, change, most often as a verb, and it usually means to make different or to become different, or perhaps to replace.
But the word is also a noun, and it can mean the act of changing, such as an alteration, or a transformation, or a substitution.
Many of us look to the November elections to change the direction of our state. In Arizona, we are hopeful that the RedforEd and March For Our Lives events are the beginning of needed change and that the activism we see by teachers and young people will lead to election results that bring a balance of power to our state legislature.
My re-election to the State House of Representatives is critical. But we need to do more. Changing just two seats in the State Senate, or five in the House will change leadership, committee assignments and legislative priorities. And that will be transformative for our state.
If you have already donated or volunteered in support of my campaign, I am grateful. If you would consider donating again or making your first donation now, I would appreciate it. March 31 is an important deadline for fundraising. Numbers matter and I would like to report that I have donations from as many supporters as possible.
Donate whatever you can today. Look for that “change” in your drawer or your coat pockets and put it to good use, changing the direction of our state come November.
Thank you for your support!
State Representative, District 28
This week at the Capitol, we voted to reauthorize Prop 301, the 0.6-cent sales tax for education. Extending Prop 301 means schools will be able to maintain current funding levels instead of falling off another fiscal cliff.
I supported the bill, because I know our schools are in crisis. Prop 301 was set to expire in 2021 and our schools need to be able to plan.
However, there is serious concern because after 2021, the legislature will be able to alter the sales tax amount or redirect the funds. Because the original Prop 301 was a ballot initiative, it was voter-protected - the legislature couldn’t change the amount, or use the funds for different programs. Now, with this reauthorization by the legislature, instead of by the voters, those protections are gone.
So now it’s a question of trust.
Do you trust the current majority party to continue to dedicate Prop 301 funds to public education, or do you share my concerns that the legislature might cut funds, or sweep or redirect funds to other purposes? And just as importantly, do you trust the current majority to take the additional steps necessary to address our teacher shortage crisis and to prioritize funding for long-neglected building maintenance and repairs?
Make no mistake - even with this Prop 301 reauthorization in place, we remain at the bottom nationally, and our elementary teachers are still the lowest paid in the nation. Our public schools receive a billion dollars less per year than they did before the recession. Current funding levels aren’t nearly enough and Prop 301 reauthorization does nothing to change that.
Reauthorizing Prop 301 funds is a tiny step away from what was a looming fiscal cliff. But we’ve opened the door to future, harmful changes unless we elect leaders who will protect the amount and distribution of those funds.
As your Representative, I truly prioritize public schools, students and teachers. I understand that the status quo is not good enough and that real, long-term solutions are required.
The coming November elections are critical. If you share my concerns and my priorities, I hope you will do what you can to help with my re-election campaign:
Thank you for your continued support!
National healthcare policy has been a frightening rollercoaster lately. Unfortunately, it's not over yet.
Affordable Care Act - REPEAL WITHOUT REPLACE
For months we’ve seen Congress introduce ACA reform bills that would take healthcare from hundreds of thousands in Arizona, cause tens of thousands to lose their jobs and threaten our state’s entire healthcare system.
The latest proposal introduced by Senators Graham and Cassidy appears to be losing momentum, due in part to opposition by Senator John McCain, who has criticized the lack of transparency in the process. In Arizona, Graham-Cassidy is expected to reduce healthcare funding by $1.7 billion in 2020, eliminate Medicaid expansion for low-income adults, make insurance more expensive and remove protections requiring coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Unfortunately, and inexplicably, Governor Ducey expressed strong support for the bill, even before the impact to Arizona's healthcare system and economy was known. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “beginning in 2027, Cassidy-Graham would be virtually identical to a repeal-without-replace bill" due to the phase out of all federal Medicaid funding.
Children’s Health Insurance Program - KidsCare AT RISK
Funding for the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), called “KidsCare” in Arizona, must be reauthorized by Congress before it expires on September 30. KidsCare offers health coverage for children of low-income families who are working and earning too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage, but whose income is too low to afford insurance through marketplace exchanges. KidsCare is a proven, cost-effective program that incentivizes parents to work, while allowing their children access to healthcare during their critical childhood years.
If the program is reauthorized, but with reduced funding, KidsCare still faces grave threats. During the 2018 budget process, there was a last-minute provision added that will freeze enrollment in our KidsCare program if federal funding levels drop. Families who earn enough will move out of the program, and no new families will be able to sign up. Arizona has been down this misguided path before; beginning in 2009, enrollment was frozen for five years, and Arizona became the third worst state for uninsured children in the nation.
Along with a bipartisan coalition of State Representatives, I am urging our congressional delegation to reauthorize funding at current levels. Without reauthorization, federal funding for KidsCare will end, and over 23,000 Arizona children will lose their healthcare.
WHAT TO DO?
Contact Senators Flake and McCain:
- Thank Senator John McCain for his stated opposition to Graham-Cassidy (602) 952-2410
- Ask Senator Jeff Flake to oppose the Graham-Cassidy bill and vote NO if it comes to a vote (602) 840-1891
- Ask them BOTH to seek reauthorization of full funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program before the Sept. 30 deadline
Contact Governor Ducey:
- Remind Governor Ducey that Graham-Cassidy will take healthcare from thousands and cause serious harm to our economy and healthcare system;
- Ask him to advocate for Arizona children by seeking reauthorization of full funding for CHIP/KidsCare
- Governor Doug Ducey: (602) 542-4331 or (520) 628-6580
We need this rollercoaster to end. I will continue to work for reforms that protect healthcare while improving access and affordability of care.
State Representative, District 28