Today, I thought I'd focus on the mechanics of how folks can track bills, get involved in the process, and sign in to support, oppose, or be neutral on bills. If I can do it, anybody can do it.
The main URL to bookmark in your computer is http://www.azleg.gov - which is the State Legislature's official website. It got a major overhaul this year and is a lot easier to work with (at least I think so, but I've heard some groaning from some folks).
If you have the number for a bill you're interested in following, simply go to the upper right corner of the http://www.azleg.gov website and punch in the numbers. Up pops the bill and including it's recent status, committee assignments and the like.
You'll see that bills have committee assignments on the Bill Status pages. You can easily check the committee agendas each week on the website too. Simply go to the "Committee Agenda" and pull up the agenda for the committee you"re interested in. Most of the bills that we've been following and advocating for or against have been assigned to either the House Health Committee or the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Committee assignments for the following week are usually posted on Friday afternoon.
You can click on each bill and find out who has signed in for or against or neutral too. Just go to the tab over each bill that says "RTS Current Bill Positions" and you can see who has signed in support or against each bill. Sometimes you'll see our name up there (AzPHA). You can even do it yourself from your home or office.
All you need to do is create an account with an email address and a password and you'll be able to sign in and support or oppose or be neutral on bills. If you plan to actually be down there and attend the committee hearing, you can request to speak once you sign in, too. You can create an account using the button at the top of screen where it says "Sign On".
It's fun and easy. Give it a try. Now for the committee assignments and hearings this week for the bills we're interested in:
Community Health Workers
HB 2426 which would set up a pathway for Community Health Workers in AZ to voluntarily become certified (a good thing) got assigned to the Commerce and Public Safety Committee (probably not a good thing). We thought it would go to Health and Human Services. Thus assignment will cause us to figure out a new strategy. So, committee hearing for the bill has not been scheduled yet.
HB 2208 which would (under certain circumstances) let school staff administer or help a student self-administer an inhaler for things like asthma episodes was assigned to Senate Health and Human Services and will be heard onWednesday, March 8 at 2 pm.
HB 2090 which would require hospitals to offer influenza vaccines to seniors during the cold and flu months was assigned to Senate Health and Human Services Committee. No hearing date is set yet.
Sunscreen & Tanning Beds
HB 2134 which would make it clear that kids can take sunscreen to school and camps... and that school and camp staff can help them put it on was assigned to the Senate Education Committee. No committee hearing set yet.
HB 2194 - which prohibits kids under 18 from using tanning beds and prevents studios from claiming that tanning beds are risk-free was assigned to the Commerce and Public Safety and Health and Human Services Committees. That's called being "dual assigned" and it's almost always a bad thing for a bill because it will need to pass through both committees unless we can convince the President of the Senate to withdraw it from one of the committees.
HB 2082 which would require all schools to have 50 minutes of unstructured recess per day from K through 5th grade was assigned to the Senate Education Committee. No hearing set for it yet.
Tribal Courts and Involuntary Commitment
HB2084 which would allow a mental treatment facility to admit a patient for involuntary treatment pending the filing of a tribal courts involuntary commitment order was assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee and was quickly approved by that committee last week. Looking good.
SB 1336 passed the Senate last week and was assigned to the House Health Committee. It would basically let nurse anesthetists issue a medication order in the scope of his or her practice. No committee hearing scheduled yet.
Drug Overdose Review Team
HB 2493 which would set up a drug overdose review team at the ADHS (much like the child fatality review team) was assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. No hearing date set yet.
Traffic Safety Cameras
HB2525 passed the House last week. It would ban traffic safety cameras in AZ. We're against this one. It was assigned to the Senate Transportation and Technology Committee. No hearing set yet.
Teenage Texting & Driving
SB 1080 which would ban brand-new teen drivers from using their smart phone (for the first 6 months of their license if they're under 18) passed on a Senate and was assigned to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. It was approved on Wednesday, March 1st.
SB 1368, which would authorize the ADHS to collect the newborn screening fees needed to add Severe Combined Immune Deficiency syndrome to the list of newborn screening tests passed through the Senate and has been assigned to the House Health Committee. It's on the House Health Committee agenda this Thursday morning. This one is looking good.
Voter Initiative Stuff
Perhaps some of the most troubling bills and resolutions in terms of public health have to do with the voter initiative process. Many of the real big achievements in public health have been voter initiatives (e.g. Smoke Free Arizona Act). A couple of the bills that would change how voter initiatives work would require voter approval, but a couple could be approved by the Legislature (with the Governor’s signature). We're not alone in our opposition to these proposals- lots of people are concerned about them. Here's a quick summary:
- HCR2002 & HCR2007 (which would need to be approved by voters to become effective) passed the House have been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. No hearing dates set yet.
- HCR2029 passed the house yet but would require signature gatherers to get a certain number of signatures in each of the 30 legislative districts. This one would ultimately need to be approved voters. Sent to the Senate but it's not assigned to a committee yet.
- HB 2404 passed through the House (as amended) and would prevent signature gatherers from getting paid by the signature (for voter initiatives- not for candidate signatures). This one could become law without voter approval nd was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If you’re interested in joining our Public Policy Committee, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get you on our list. We have a weekly call every Monday at 11 am and someone from the committee is always down at the Legislature for key hearings.