Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Return to Sense and Semantics

In reviewing the output of this blog, one could -- and probably would -- assume I have little to say. For those who know me, you know I rarely say "little." I try not to ramble, but I also try to be as informational as possible; being succinct is not my superpower. I also write constantly (professionally) and make my views known consistently in other formats (personally).

But as I am again a candidate to serve the Paradise Valley Unified School District as a member of its governing board, I am asked questions about the district and my role in it and vision for it. So in that light, I will endeavor to reincorporate this blog into one of those outlets and revel in the freedom of length it provides beyond 140 characters or page posts....  Thanks for listening!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Talking and Taking Back

Arizona operates with a "part-time" legislature: every year, members shoot for a 100-day session and then go back to their day jobs. Having lived in Arizona nearly 20 years, I can't remember when they last met that 100-day goal.

This year will likely be no exception: both chambers have filled up their floor agendas with myriad bills but none feature the main event, the budget bills. And it appears that when they finally get to doling out funding, we may see an extended rematch of last year's budget battle thanks to fault lines that have already cracked open with the first bill passed this session.

That would be the now infamous SB1062. Yes, the first bill sent to the Governor by our majority-conservative, "pro-business" legislature was not a job creation package or even ways to fund our schools or fix our child welfare crisis. Instead, though billed as a correction to existing law, SB1062 rode into town a Trojan horse that could have unleashed rampant discrimination in the name of the "free exercise of religion."

Arizona spent a week in the nation's spotlight, the butt of many jokes, a dark stain on graphics mapping anti-discrimination laws. But Arizonans grew vocal about not wanting this preemptive piece of legislation that created rather than "solved" problems. In the end, SB1062 was vetoed, but its malice echoes in bills awaiting votes.

So we need to keep talking and make sure we are heard, whether for or against bills. And then we need to keep talking all the way to November with our votes. Because the only way we can see an end to bills like SB1062 is by ending the tenure of legislators who support them.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fast Forward

I am more than a bit surprised to find how long it has been since I last posted anything to this blog -- nearly four years, or a generation in dog years and two in Internet time....

Since then, one son has graduated college, established himself in his field, and become a homeowner, while our other son graduated high school and is now ensconced in university life. The business my husband and I established more than two decades ago has gone into hyper drive since the recession -- probably one of the reasons my writing has been on other pages and not here.

In reviewing some of my previous posts, however, I didn't actually feel stuck in the past. Discussions of what was -- or, more accurately, was not happening -- in the Arizona legislature felt like they could have been written nearly any time during the past four years, with only names and time references requiring updates.

Until the end of last session, that is, when a number of concerned elected officials disregarded political party and coalesced around ideas to expand health care coverage and add at least some funds to areas that have been cut for years, such as education. In other words, govern for the people as opposed to ideology.

The new session begins this coming Monday. Much ink has been spilled about the bad blood that remains from the end of last session and how that will play out with bills buried and rhetoric ratcheted up once legislators take their seats as well as hopes and expectations for the new session in this election year. I hope to be more conscientious in adding to those discussions on this page as we see how some of the predictions play out....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Not All Cuts Are Created Equal

In Arizona, the legislature is currently in its seventh special session of the 2009-10 cycle. More than eight months after the current fiscal year began, legislators are finally trying to balance the budget for the year, something they were constitutionally required to do eight months ago. And, for good measure, they are tackling the FY11 budget as well.

And when I say they, I mean the majority party, because once again, the minority party was locked out of all discussions. Even after some "renegade" (i.e., moderate) members of both parties apparently sat down and worked out a budget proposal that balanced the budget without drastic cuts to services. That budget is nowhere to be seen in the bills being considered as I write.

What is in the budget, however, is a lot of wordplay that still adds up to disaster for the state. When the budget first was circulated, for example, one of the big-ticket items was "Elimination of full-day kindergarten" to the tune of $218 million. In the bill presented today, that became "Restoration of half-day kindergarten."

Emotions aside, that is fallacious, as half-day kindergarten was not eliminated. First of all, kindergarten itself is not mandatory in Arizona. But for thousands of parents who choose to send their children to kindergarten, the half-day option still exists and districts are required to offer it.

Nothing is being restored and quite a bit is being taken away. Full-day kindergarten is not babysitting, as many have declared: it is a full day of age-appropriate schooling for children who throughout their school years are going to have to tackle increasingly difficult curricula in order to be college or career ready when they graduate high school. Many children who have attended preschool are more than ready for academics in kindergarten. And for many others, who did not have the benefit of learning their socialization skills and ABCs in preschool, full-day kindergarten helps them catch up.

This is just one instance where balancing the budget is shortchanging Arizonans -- in this case, our children. There are other cuts to education as well, cuts to health care, cuts to state employee pay, and more and more cuts. Many of these cuts will result in loss of federal dollars, so that we lose more by cutting than keeping certain programs.

There also was a separate bill in the regular session that offered cuts of a different sort: tax cuts to corporations and individuals as a way to lure business. So while we don't have the money to support proven programs that earn more than their weight in federal and other funding, we do have the mindset to continue to cut revenues via tax cuts.

But when so many services and systems are cut, when cuts to education make companies wonder why they would bring employees to a state that will not adequately educate their children, when cuts run so deep that state parks are closed and tourists go elsewhere -- businesses won't care about tax cuts. They won't come -- and that will be an unkind cut that more tax cuts won't heal.

Friday, October 9, 2009

To Life

My siblings and I had the honor of having our parents in our lives for a very, very long time. They truly were always there for us, and in particular, for my two sons, who always knew a life with their grandparents around. My parents revered education, vowing that we all would go to college, which neither of them ever did but we all were privileged to complete. They were loving, supportive, and completely family oriented. The memories of family trips and gatherings and celebrations burn quite vividly, infused with laughter and smiles and love.

But now they are both gone. My dad died in 2005, less than two months before his 93rd birthday, and thankfully, his time in the hospital was brief and his passing peaceful. I wish my mom had had the same. But her recent time in the hospital, following complications of surgery, stretched for weeks, accompanied by a bevy of procedures to help with infections and more. In the end, the infections and age proved too much even for a fighter like my mom. She passed away September 20, three weeks before her 93rd birthday.

They did not go too soon, for which I am thankful, but their being gone leaves a hole that echoes with sadness. Parents are "supposed" to go first, and so we prepare ourselves for that, but none of us can really be prepared for the finality of their leaving. Since my mom was alive when my dad died, the circle was not closed, the generation above was still here. But now that my mom has passed, there is a layer to our lives that is gone as well.

I am grateful that the love always stays.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Still Waiting

When last we left the Arizona legislature, negotiations were in full bloom. The majority party wanted numerous tax cuts -- a measure supported by the Governor but one that would cause a shrinking pool of revenue to shrivel further -- and the Governor wanted a temporary sales tax hike sent to the ballot. However, too few Senate Republicans were willing to forgo their "no tax increase" pledge to give voters the option to vote it in or not. The Democrats were treated as superfluous since the goal stated by the majority leadership was that this would be a "Republican-only budget." In the end, the Republicans could not muster the votes to present the Governor with everything on her wish list.

What she got was the same lump of coal of a set of bills she had vetoed July 1. At that time she called them "fatally flawed" and "devastating" to education and more. Lately, her rhetoric has been more toned down as she attempts to get a budget she will approve.

So what's different this time (since it's not the budget)? In the past few days, the negotiating table grew with the addition of the leaders of the minority party. Minority leaders managed to get invites to this dance and presented ideas that they have been talking about for months via web sites and public forums statewide. Furthermore, the Governor is more actively participating in the talks. At this point, the parties know what each wants to bring the votes of their caucus members into the yes column.

But what about those budget bills that were finally transmitted to the Governor? She signed one last week (to ensure that federal stimulus funds going to the Department of Environmental Quality would not be lost) and did nothing with the rest. Had she continued to do nothing through Wednesday, August 26, they would have become law without her signature. However, both chambers ended the latest special session on Tuesday, August 25 -- giving her 10 more days to deal with the bills.

What this maneuver really did was acknowledge the possibility that the current bipartisan talks may produce a balanced budget that a majority of House and Senate members -- irregardless of political persuasion -- will support along with Governor. And then, perhaps, the rest of the state can stop waiting to exhale and know how much money will be expended to educate students, support seniors, pay state personnel, and more. Even when we have to do it all with less.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Life -- and Death -- Matters

Lost among the lies about government "death panels" -- beyond the fact no bills contained any such thing and no one advocated any such thing -- seems to be the point that many people truly want to be able to openly discuss their thoughts about what they want to happen when their quality of life wanes or the quality of their thought processes grows suspect. They want to remain in control of the decision-making process, providing directives to those they entrust with their care when the time comes.

So the thought was to include the possibility of payment to have that discussion with one's doctor. Some people -- including those who formerly showed support for such an idea with their votes -- resorted to demagoguery against such a provision. And it appears others are now backing off from including such a provision in reform bills.

Why is it suddenly a bad thing to have more information? That seems to be the argument most often used when politicians want to tighten restrictions on abortion and add waiting periods and parental consent and the such. But when it comes to end-of-life issues when people do need to know what "heroic efforts" might mean -- and cost -- or what the consequences of having a "do not resuscitate" order are, apparently that is a meeting of far less importance and undeserving of underwriting according to these folks.

Doctors take an oath to "do no harm" and that includes not subjecting an individual to mounting medical care when the hope for survival is slim and a person has indicated he or she wants no part of it. But first they have to know what the patient wants. It's too bad that payment for such a discussion has become one more victim of politics and appears to have a DNR attached to it. Here's hoping someone puts this provision on life support so that more people can have the ability to have that discussion. Sometimes it is a matter of life and death.