Legislative Update

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Join a reporter from the Arizona Capitol Times for a weekly update on the legislature.

Ted Simons: Four Arizona counties are now supporting the governor's call to expand Medicaid. Here to talk about that and More in our weekly legislative update is Luige de Puerto of The "Arizona Capitol Times." Good to see you again. Before we get to the counties, the department of veteran services director resigned today, but there is much more to the story. Tell us.

Luige del Puerto: There is much more to the story. Joey Strickland who has been appointed to this position since 2008, resigned today, following comments by somebody that he was hiring a former lawmaker from Tucson named Terry proud, that she -- that Ms. Proud had made to the Arizona daily star, and essentially what she said she is not certain whether a woman should be in the front lines, because of what they would -- what they have -- what they have to deal with physiologically on a monthly basis. In addition to that, governor's office warned the director specifically not to hire Ms. Proud about a year ago. When he -- when the remarks came out -- eventually he resigned.

Ted Simons: She makes these statement at best here, governor's office says let's not use this person, thank you. He uses this person, thank you, and all of the sudden he has resigned.

Luige del Puerto: Yes, you know, sometimes when there is so much pressure, you are given a choice of just handing over your resignation letter, and I'm assuming that is what happened here.

Ted Simons: Ms. Proud, was she hired or in the process of being hired?

Luige del Puerto: She said they offered her the job already and the department had rescinded the offer as well.

Ted Simons: Interesting stuff there. I'm sure there is more to be found here as we go on. Interesting as well that these four counties in Arizona, boards of supervisors getting together saying we want Medicaid expansion.

Luige del Puerto: The governor has been trying to reach out to as many folks as she can to get them to rally behind a proposal to expand Medicaid. She was not very successful when it came to the grass roots of the party. When it came to county government, it seems like she is encountering a lot of success there. Four Board supervisors, in rural Arizona, have in the last few days come up with a resolution essentially supporting the governor's expansion proposal. From their point of view, the expansion is a good thing because they, the counties, have been suffering as a result of increasing their costs to provide mental health services. This is a bit technical. But they have been taking on prisoners that have mental health problems and they have had to provide for them. Now, they are assuming that these folks were among those who were let go or could not enroll in Medicaid as a result of the enrollment that happened two years ago. They are saying maybe we would not be seeing them in our criminal justice system if we had Medicaid -- if the freeze didn't happen and if we are going to expand Medicaid, probably we wouldn't see these people committing these crimes.

Ted Simons: I thought it was interesting. I think Yavapai county -- the criminal justice system flooded by folks not being covered for mental health services.

Luige del Puerto: I just spoke to her. To her this is not a -- this is a public safety issue, an issue for her community. She said her office has been seeing criminal cases involving adults, single individuals who are committing erratic, violent behavior, and now that they have come on to the system, they are finding out that they have mental health problems.

Ted Simons: I notice that speaker Tobin's district is among the counties where this was passed. Is that going to have any influence there?

Luige del Puerto: I have no doubt that this effort is being undertaken by the governor's office. Specifically to try and encourage pressure, lawmakers to support the governor's plan. Also one of the counties that did, in fact, approve this resolution, Mohave county -- Which as you know is probably the most conservative enclave in the state.

Ted Simons: I think the others were unanimous, this one was not.

Luige del Puerto: This one was not unanimous.

Ted Simons: We will see where that goes as well. There was a gun bill that was passed, and democrats tried to use the opportunity to get issues heard regarding high capacity magazines and universal background checks. What happened here?

Luige del Puerto: As you know, democrats had proposed a series of bills that deal with school safety and gun control. Those bills have not gotten anywhere. Senator, democrat from Phoenix, had proposed a host of measures, and the proposal were all -- never heard. I think it is very clear to them that none of them would pass, but they wanted to talk about the proposal. And the debate.

Ted Simons: Did they have a debate? Were they talked about or -- it sounded to me like nothing much was debated and then the whole thing was shut down.

Luige del Puerto: He was able to roughly offer his amendments. But at the end of the debate, a procedural stage where they would have to adopt what is called a committee of the whole report and they were shut down at that point, but they were able to present their ideas.

Ted Simons: Is that an indication, one way or the other, how things are going, are folks getting testy down there? Is everyone still waiting for big shoes to drop?

Luige del Puerto: Right now, things have really slowed down. Not necessarily trickle, but not a lot of things are going on. This is the one thing that I think will come up at one point during the session. Democrats want this debate. I think Senator Gallardo is prepared, if not, this week, then at some point in the future, when he sees a gun bill that he can amend, he is going to try to amend it. But it would not -- you know, in this next few days when we're not seeing too much debate, when we're not -- they're not passing too many bills for example, I would not -- I would say we would probably see a whole lot of bills getting revised, a whole lot of shenanigans going on and people getting bored that they are not doing a lot of things.

Ted Simons: The governor can afford to sit there and wait until they get that in line. We will keep an eye on the department of veteran services as well. Good to have you here.
Luige del Puerto: That's the big stick that she has

Ted Simons: Indeed. Thank you.

Congressman Ed Pastor

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