Category: Legislation (page 1 of 3)

2016 Legislative Wrap Up

Over this past weekend, the Arizona Legislature adjourned the 2016 legislative session!

I am proud to report we enacted both good public policy and a fiscally responsible budget. We began to reinvest in education by increasing funding for our schools. We prioritized K-12 education funding and ensured schools were protected from formula funding changes in last year’s budget that would have left them short changed. We increased university funding, restored JTED funding and incentivized excellence in education.

We increased funding to child safety and public safety, tackled pension reform, embraced the sharing economy, and we passed KidsCare – providing health insurance to 30,000 uninsured children at no cost to Arizona.

Most importantly, we were able to invest in these programs while protecting Arizona taxpayers.

I hope to build on this progress next year. But first, I need your help to get re-elected. Please help me qualify for the 2016 ballot by signing my electronic nominating petition. Must be registered Republican or Independent and live in LD15 Click here to see a map of LD 15. It is safe, secure, and only takes a minute.

Thank you for your continued support,

Heather

Arizona adds heart defects to newborn screening panel

Michelle Ye Hee Lee, The Republic | azcentral.com

Hospitals will be required to test babies for heart defects, report results to the state.

Arizona babies will be tested for at least one more life-threatening condition under new legislation that expands the state’s newborn screening panel for the first time in nearly a decade.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation into law last week, and the new requirement goes into effect early this fall.

All Arizona hospitals will be required to measure newborns’ blood-oxygen levels and report the results to the state Department of Health Services. Low oxygen levels can indicate a dangerous heart malformation, and early detection can help prevent debilitating or fatal illnesses.

Most hospitals already screen babies at birth for critical congenital heart defects, or CCHDs, using a non-invasive device that measures oxygen levels. The device, called a pulse oximeter, is also clipped like a clothespin onto adult patients’ fingertips to measure blood-oxygen level and pulse.

“This potentially saves 80,000 babies’ lives each year,” said House Health Committee Chairwoman Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, who sponsored House Bill 2491. “Now that they will be screened for these congenital heart defects, this is a big step in the right direction for Arizona to save newborn lives.”

The new law also allows the state health director to evaluate whether to add testing for severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, and Krabbe disease, after cost-benefit analyses and input from health-care providers.

The addition of CCHDs to the state’s screening panel takes Arizona a step closer to adopting the minimum threshold of federally recommended testing for newborns. SCID testing is the only test Arizona has not adopted from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommended core list.

The newborn-screening program is run by the state. The number of conditions tested by other states varies — a point of contention among newborn-screening advocates, who are pushing for uniform testing across the country. They argue that babies should not live or die based on the state in which they are born.

Carter said it is important for the state to evaluate potential new screenings as technology develops, and as new diseases become known.

“What’s so unbelievable (is) that it took us 10 years just to get to this point. Hopefully, it won’t take us another 10 years to add additional screenings that could save lives,” Carter said. “I look forward to continuing to make sure that we move toward the complete federal recommended panel for newborn screenings.”

The diseases that are tested for within 24 to 48 hours of birth are rare but can be severe or deadly if not caught early. Families can end up spending tens of thousands of dollars in what is described as a “diagnostic odyssey,” hoping to figure out just what’s wrong with their babies. By the time they find out, it may be too late.

Screenings of newborns are designed to help doctors treat those diseases before they become debilitating or deadly.

The state health department will move quickly to add CCHD testing and reporting requirements to the newborn-screening panel, said ADHS Director Will Humble.

“The screening is pretty much happening throughout the state. Where the disconnect is sometimes happening is on the reporting side,” Humble said. “It’ll help us close that feedback loop with the reporting so we can make sure that pediatricians are aware of the issue more quickly, so that they’re in a better position to do quality medical management in a timely way.”

William Mueller’s first visit to the pediatrician was at 19 days old. The doctor heard something that didn’t sound right and sent him to a cardiologist, who found he was born with five heart defects.

He had lifesaving surgery at 3 months old.

William is now 9. He plays sports and practices piano. He testified before House and Senate committees, urging legislators to add CCHDs to the newborn-screening panel.

“I’m lucky,” he said, standing on a stool to reach the microphone. “Not all kids are as lucky.”

His mother, Nicole Olmstead, now government-relations director for the American Heart Association of Arizona, said she was thrilled Brewer signed the bill.

“From now on, Arizona parents will know that their newborns had been screened for potentially deadly heart defects,” Olmstead said.

The heart association and March of Dimes Arizonalobbied for the bill, along with families of babies who suffered from the three conditions listed in HB 2491. Carter said the work of advocacy groups was crucial, and testimony from families helped put faces on the issues.

Now, ADHS must do cost-benefit analyses and hold stakeholder meetings to help decide whether to add SCID and Krabbe disease to the panel. Priority diseases added to the newborn-screening panel are those that have a reliable test that is cost-effective, and those for which early intervention can lead to treatment and management. The two diseases being considered will be weighed against those criteria, Humble said.

SCID is treatable. If left untreated, it can lead to repeated infections or death. But testing for SCID requires new equipment and technology at the state lab, and can be expensive.

Under the new law, the state health director now can designate labs other than the state’s own to test for conditions added to the screening panel. It gives the state an option to explore labs that are privately owned or run by other states if it would cost less than to process the sample at the Arizona state lab.

There is no known cure forKrabbe disease, a rare degenerative disorder that eventually paralyzes all muscle motion. There is debate across the country over the effectiveness of screening for that reason. However, bone-marrow transplants can slow its symptoms.

If Arizona begins testing for Krabbe disease, it would be one of just a handful of states that do so. Krabbe is not on the federal core list of recommended diseases to test for.

The new law also establishes within ADHS an advisory committee on vaccine financing and availability. The committee is required to submit recommendations regarding vaccines for newborns, children and adolescents to the Governor’s Office and the Legislature by Dec. 15, 2015.

Ariz. House rejects HB 2291

Mary Jo Pitzl, The Republic

Calling it a “step too far,” lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives rejected a bill Thursday that would have expanded taxpayer-funded scholarships for private schooling to thousands of children.

House Bill 2291 went down to a 31-27 defeat after more than two hours of debate about school choice and its effect on Arizona’s public-school system.

“This legislation gives low-income students an opportunity to improve their education,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, said as she tried to muster support for what are called Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.

The bill would have allowed parents of children who live in low-income ZIP codes to apply for a scholarship account. The scholarship, funded by tax dollars, is worth about $4,800 and is already being used by 689 students this year. The money can be spent on private-school tuition, tutoring or online instruction or be saved for college tuition.

Figures varied wildly about how many children would be covered under the expansion envisioned in HB 2291. Lesko put the figure at 120,000 students; Democrats argued that it was closer to 400,000. However, the program is capped at 5,600 new students a year, another point of spirited debate.

“It (the cap) can be set this year, changed next year,” said Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson and the assistant House minority leader. “That is no assurance whatsoever that the number of people eligible for this program will be contained.”

Legislative budget analysts estimated the program would have cost the state $1 million in its first year and nearly $3 million by 2019.

Lesko’s bill would have opened up the program to children who live in ZIP codes where the average household income is $44,123 a year for a family of four, or 185 percent of federal poverty level.

Supporters said it would have allowed parents to choose the best educational option for their child if they were not happy with the choices offered by public or charter schools. Critics argued that the program lacked any accountability, such as testing to gauge students’ academic achievement. And, they added, Arizona already offers an array of school choices, although most are in urban areas.

Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, was one of nine Republicans to vote against the bill. She noted that open-enrollment charter schools and the state’s school-tuition organizations provide lots of choice. But the scholarships, enacted in the name of helping low-income students, are “a step too far,” she said. “We are driving taxpayer dollars into a system of private schools,” she said. “If I want to send my daughter to a private school, and I can’t afford it, I can go and apply for a tuition tax credit.”

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, switched his vote to “no” in the closing minute of debate to give him the option of bringing the bill back for reconsideration. He has until Monday to make such a request.

 

Personal Statement: SB 1062

Discrimination, in any form, at any time, against any person is never ok. My vote on SB 1062 was not about politics; it was about common sense and what’s important for Arizona. As a life-long Republican who strongly supports religious freedoms, I view this bill as redundant and unnecessary. In Arizona, we have clearly articulated state statutes defining and protecting religious liberties. While people debate whether or not this bill would or would not allow discrimination to happen, the chance that it ‘might’ is why I voted no.

The unintended and unknown negative consequences of SB 1062 are too great. However, one thing is for sure – this bill is extremely divisive as we have already seen in the media. This bill simply attempts to magnify, exacerbate and perpetuate negative perceptions and caustic issues that separate us as a nation, state, and Party.

We need to recalibrate, realign, and refocus our attention, our priorities, and our politics to matters that truly affect hardworking families; issues like job creation, excellence in education, improved business regulations, improvements in transportation infrastructure and other matters of real importance.

Rather than working on legislation that divides our electorate, we need to be working on legislation that unites us and ultimately encourages outside investment in our state.

The past few days following the passage of SB 1062 have been a whirlwind.  The outpouring of support I have received for my vote overwhelms me. People have sent me countless emails, messages and letters expressing their sincere appreciation for a common-sense approach to this controversial issue. The voices cross party lines, people from both inside and outside my legislative district, and from all over the country, have expressed grave concerns over this legislation.

However, it is certain that there will be groups and individuals who will attack me for my vote (and they have already begun), and my seat in the Legislature will be challenged.  If like me, you believe that our government’s attention should be focused on pressing issues that benefit our state, rather than serve to divide our electorate and Party, discriminate against any person or group, and blemish our reputation and brand, then I ask for your support.  I want to hear from you – visit my website at VOTEHeatherCarter.com and send me an email. I encourage you to write to the Governor and encourage her to veto this SB1062, write letters-to-the-editor for your local newspapers, call-in to radio and television programs and voice your opinions.

We’ve worked diligently over the last few years since the economic downturn to restore the image of Arizona and put us on the road to recovery. I believe Arizona’s best days are ahead of her, and I will work tirelessly to position our state to be the best place to live and prosper for years to come.

Together, we will stand against discrimination of any kind, and together we can restore the image of our state.

 

This is why I love serving…

By Karina Bland
The Republic | azcentral.com
Fri Aug 30, 2013 6:54 PM

Jill Hogan snapped Bentley into his chest harness and leash and rubbed the old English springer spaniel’s head.

She walked him slowly down his owner’s sloping driveway, a little way down the street and then back up the driveway, talking the whole way.

“All right, all right. There you go, buddy!”

Bentley is 12 years old, a bit arthritic, blind and hard of hearing.

“Just a little bit farther — you can do it!”

Up and down the driveway, up and down the street.

It is a challenge that Bentley’s pet-sitter understands. Living with a mental illness is like that, too. Up and down, up and down.
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