African American Legislative Days

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State Senator Leah Landrum Taylor discusses the African American Legislative Days event which is focusing on education, economic development and the justice system.

Ted Simons: February is the month we commemorate and focus on the contributions of African-Americans. Here to talk about how black history month will be honored at the capitol is Senator Leah Landrum Taylor. Thanks for joining us. African-American legislative days, what are we talking about?

Leah Landrum Taylor: We have done this for nine years now. It's now actually in statute, on the second Thursday and Friday in February, we have a conference that takes place, a leadership conference that takes place where we have an opportunity for workshops, we also have an opportunity to be able to examine some of the key issues that are affecting the state. Around specifically the areas of education, justice, environment, economic development, health, a lot of different areas that we're looking at. This year we're taking a very strong focus on education, economic development, and justice. When we look at the issues that are going on here within our state, it certainly has a profound effect on African-Americans. You're looking at situation of education, where if a high percentage of African-Americans that are dropouts, not graduating, so we wanted to make sure we have more of a proactive way of going about helping with some of these ails that are occurring. All this being said, we want to come up whether it's with different policies or taking a look at the budget. Which is why this year we've done things a little differently. We have our opening session all the time at the legislature, which is wonderful, and then from there we do have committees. This year we normally have a banquet on Thursday evening, and we honor or unsung heroes. We're still doing that, but we're doing a town hall this year. The reason for that is because of the tenuous nature that's going on within our state, we have got to talk about the hard issues. And we've got to make sure that we have a strong discourse as it relates to these issues of concern. Education, our economic development, job creation, you look at the percentile range of individuals that are still unemployed in this state, and African-Americans certainly those numbers are even higher. So with that being said, what can be done in order to help make sure we do have a situation where job creation, what can be done to help in the justice area? So we have to have Tava Smiley who's going to moderating that, it's going on now, so with that being the case, we're really excited about moving in a good direction.

Ted Simons: Are there -- how specific can you get with recommendations, with policy ideas? Stick to education. You brought that up first. How specific can you get on this, is this one of these, we need to push in a certain direction, focus on a certain thing? Right now the legislature is all over the place, but the budget is the big deal, and education and the budget are hand in hand right now.

Leah Landrum Taylor: Right. When we look at areas, you look, for instance, even in my district, where we have a large amount of African-Americans, and you look at many of our school districts, and certainly there's issues that are going on there. It gets to be just irritating sometimes. When you see the same thing happening over and over again, but nothing is being done. We've got to take things a lot more serious. And when you're looking at situations of class rooms busting out of the seams, not having conducive environments for children to learn, we're just creating and spiraling into this situation of teachers becoming burnt out, and frustrated, I've even -- just recently -- we had a press conference down at the capitol and had a chance to talk with some instructors. They were saying they're at the point where they don't even hardly have time to take lunch. They're just there in the classroom because they're having to give the extra time to the students, when you have a situation of the specials, art, music, being taken away, that's the teacher not even able to have a lot of planning time or to get out of the classrooms. It makes it very difficult for the learning environment. So we want to make sure that as it relates to this budget, that there are some key concerns that -- out of the conference we're having this year, and we want to present that and make sure that the legislature knows what our concerns are.

Ted Simons: Regarding economic development issues, what are those concerns and again, how specific can you get? Lots of ideas, ideas for now coming out of the legislature regarding business tax cuts, on the converse side, a lot of folks are saying public jobs need to go, that's got to be a concern as well. How specific can you get?

Leah Landrum Taylor: We can get as specific as necessary. Because we're very much involved in what's going on. It hits -- it's hitting the African-American community very hard. And so people want to come up with viable solutions. I've heard a lot of different things even today. When had an opportunity to sit in the committee that was focusing on the economic development, but a lot of the questions were what do we do now? We want to make sure there are jobs and things are being created. Are you taking a look at what can happen with renewable energy sources? Is there something that can be done in order to have it where we're a haven in Arizona to create more jobs? It's just the bottom line. It's a necessity for us to grow.

Ted Simons: We only have 30 seconds left. What again do you want people to take from tonight's town hall meeting?

Leah Landrum Taylor: What I want folks to understand is now is not the time for complacency. We've got to be here and we have to be proactive. The message has to be clear. That's happening even now with our budget is going to come the time we're going to have to have some revenue generators and we're going to have to look in that direction and I think we have to hear it from more than just us.

Ted Simons: It's good to see you again. Thanks for joining us.

Leah Landrum Taylor: Thank you.

Leah Landrum Taylor:Arizona State Senator;

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