Weekly AzPHA Public Health Policy Committee Update

Teen 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).  It passed the Senate and passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on March 1 but has been stuck in the House Rules Committee ever since.  There was a public statement in the Capitol Times by the Committee Chair (Rep. Phil Lovas) that he doesn't intend to hear the bill in the House Rules Committee (which would kill the bill).  

Through my years in public health I've always been sensitive to make sure that our policies and interventions are careful not to infringe on civil liberties.  It's pretty clear to me that this proposal would improve public safety by imposing a reasonable behavior expectation for new drivers. The only other limitation in AZ to this kind of distraction is for school bus drivers- this seems like a modest bill that will help set a good expectation for new drivers.  We're encouraging AzPHA members that live in Rep. Lovas' district to reach out and encourage him to hear the bill in the House Rules committee.  I sent a note to him and other committee members last week and will do another one this week. 

Physical Activity

HB 2082 which would enhance recess time in Arizona is looking good but still has a ways to go.  It passed its hearing in the Senate Education Committee (but was amended to eliminate the 50 minute per day requirement).  The Bill was heard in Senate Rules on 3/27 but still needs to go back to the House since it was amended to just require the recess period without the 50 minute time requirement.

Nurse Anesthetists  

SB 1336 passed the Senate last week and, after a compromise amendment, passed through the House Health and Rules Committee but still awaits a floor vote in the House.  AzPHA is in support and submitted information to the committee talking about how this bill would be good for access to care in rural AZ.

Newborn Screening for SCID

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 the was unanimously approved by the House Health Committee.  It still needs House Rules Committee approval and then would go to a house floor vote.  It wasn't on the Agenda for today's House Rules Committee.  We haven't heard that there is any trouble with the bill, but we're keeping our ears to the ground.  

Sunscreen Use

HB 2134 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.  It passed the full Senate last week but was transmitted back to the house on 4/4/17 because it was amended in the Senate.  No sign of trouble really.

Drug Overdose Review Team

HB 2493 would set up a drug overdose review team at the ADHS (much like the child fatality review team).  It  passed the Senate Health & Human Services Committee last week but still needs to get through the Committee as a Whole and then the full Senate, but it will need to go back to the House because it was amended slightly to clarify an issue related to naloxone administration (a rescue drug for opioid poisoning).

Arizona Budget

Not much public news about the AZ budget this week.  Much of the work happens behind closed doors in meetings among folks that are appointed to important positions in the Executive Branch and members of the legislature- especially those in the Appropriations Committees.

We're in support of proposals in the (executive) budget to: 1) fund adult emergency dental services for all Medicaid (AHCCCS) members - up to $1,000 annually (this had been a benefit prior to the Great Recession); 2) add Severe Combined Immune Deficiency (SCID) to Arizona’s Newborn Screening Panel;  and 3) increase funding to the state’s loan repayment program by $350K (potentially allowing the state to qualify for a full $1M in matching funds from HRSA).   

We believe that these are all important proposals that will improve public health in Arizona. Our Public Policy Committee will be paying close attention to the budget process and will advocate for these important initiatives.

Trump Administration Budget Proposal & Call to Action

A few weeks ago the President submitted his FY 2018 budget blueprint.  If the proposal were approved as-is, it would have a significant impact on public health resources in Arizona.  The proposal calls for cutting more than $15 billion from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which is an 18% decrease from 2017 levels.  Many of the Agencies that provide grant funds to Arizona's public health system are located in HHS.

While the budget doesn't provide specific funding levels for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), spending reductions of this magnitude would certainly force significant cuts to many if not all public health programs if the proposal moves forward as it stands.  The proposed budget also would cut 31% from the Environmental Protection Agency's current budget- which could have implications for clean air/water/waste assurance.

The APHA issued a statement opposing the budget proposal and also issued a statement opposing proposed cuts to FY 2017 public health and prevention programs.  APHA-led coalitions, the Friends of HRSA and the CDC Coalition, sent letters to House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee leaders urging support for adequate funding for HRSA and CDC in the FY 2018 appropriations process. 

We're encouraging AzPHA members to send a message to their members of Congress opposing the proposed budget cuts by visiting APHA’s action alerts page.