Capitol roundup: KidsCare, reporters return, bill updates
Another week at the Capitol concludes and legislators still have not presented their response to the budget.
Instead the major news at the Capitol this week revolved around the House of Representatives temporarily suspending new security protocols that barred reporters from the floor.
The other news to note came from a Children’s Action Alliance press conference urging legislators and Gov. Doug Ducey to lift the freeze on the KidsCare program, which provides low-cost healthcare to needy children.
Kids need care
More than 100 supporters of KidsCare rallied at the Capitol on Monday urging the legislature and governor to pass a bill lifting the freeze on the KidsCare program.
KidsCare provides one simple, low-cost plan to children under 19-years-old with medical, dental and vision services. The program was stopped in 2010 as part of budget cuts.
HB 2309 would reinstate the program to cover the more than 30,000 children in low-income working families who do not qualify for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System — the state’s Medicaid program — but also cannot afford private healthcare coverage.
Right now, Arizona is eligible for 100 percent funding from the federal government for the program, which means unfreezing KidsCare would be cost free to the state.
The bill passed the House earlier in the session with bipartisan support by a 47-12 vote. However Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, stopped the bill from moving forward in the Senate.
His argument is the federal funding for the program is not guaranteed. If Washington decides to drop the funding to balance its $1 trillion federal budget deficit then 30,000 children will look to the state to pick up the slack.
According to the Children’s Action Alliance, organizer of Monday’s rally, Arizona is the only state in the country without a Children’s Health Insurance Program and the state with the third highest rate of uninsured children.
Reporters' access restored, partially
Speaker of the House David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, partially restored reporters’ access to the House floor on Tuesday after revoking privileges last week if they did not sign off on civil and criminal background checks.
The move spurred heavy criticism about First Amendment rights and the real reasoning behind the media ban, which prompted Gowan to suspend the policy.
Unfettered access for reporters was not reinstated. Media badges that gave access to the House remain deactivated. Instead media members must sign in at the security desk and be escorted to the floor and seated at press tables alongside legislators.
Gowan argues the goal is to ensure the safety and security of all employees and legislators in the House following a March 28 incident where one person was arrested during the House floor session. He said a number of legislators requested increased security policies in the House.
Each week fewer and fewer bills are up for votes. These bills are still alive and hope to be signed before the legislative session ends.
HB 2127 terminates live dog racing in Arizona as of Dec. 31. The bill allows the Tucson Greyhound Park, the longest continuously running track in the country and last of its kind in Arizona, to continue off-track betting for two more years. It unanimously passed the Senate on Monday and needs a final vote in the House.
HB 2340 protects Arizona’s Salt River wild horse herd by placing them under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture and County Sheriffs. The bill makes it illegal to harass, shoot, injure, kill or remove a horse from the herd without authorization from the department or sheriffs in the Tonto National Forest region. It was sent back to the House for final approval before it can go to the governor’s desk.
HB 2615 protects student’s First Amendment rights on college campuses. The bill is in response to schools enacting free speech zones on campuses limiting students’ ability to conduct public forums. The bill passed the Senate on Monday and awaits final approval in the House.HB 2452 requires the Department of Economic Security to provide cash assistance to children moving through the foster care system. DES anticipates an annual increase of $500 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families payments in order to restore the cash benefit for excluded kids. The bill needs final a final vote in the House after unanimously passing the Senate on Tuesday.
HB 2522 establishes new requirements for the Department of Child Safety hotline to prepare reports for investigation and outlines when to report cases to law enforcement. The bill unanimously passed the Senate on Tuesday and awaits a final vote in the House.
David McGlothlin is the Bolles Fellow from the University of Arizona covering the legislature for Arizona Sonora News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.