The big news this week is really about the changes to the voter initiative that were passed and signed last week. The reason why we consider these bills as laws that impact public health is that the voter initiative process is sometimes the only real vehicle to get through policy based public health interventions.
For example, the Smoke Free Arizona Act was passed by Initiative in 2006. Prior to that, there had been no traction in the legislature to pass a statewide smoke free law. Another really important voter initiative that had a big impact on public health (access to care) was Proposition 204 about a dozen years ago- which brought Arizona's Medicaid eligibility threshold up to 100% of federal poverty. Without that pre-existing intervention- it would have been much harder to expand Medicaid eligibility back in 2013.
Here's a summary of what's been happening to the voter initiative process lately:
- Last week, the Governor signed into law HB 2404 which will prevent signature gatherers from getting paid by the signature (for voter initiatives- not for candidate signatures). This will make it more difficult to get the large number of signatures that are needed to get citizens initiatives on the ballot in the future.
- The Governor also signed House Bill 2244 over the weekend, which will change the compliance standard for voter initiatives to "strict compliance" with standards from the previous (judicially determined) "substantial compliance". It also requires that the Secretary of State generate a rule handbook with the requirements. This new law will make it harder to get initiatives on the ballot (including future initiatives with public health policy implications).
- Senate Bill 1236 is almost completely through the legislative process but hasn't been totally signed off on yet as it hasn't had a final vote yet in the Senate (it passed the House last week). It's complicated- but it basically puts in a series of regulations regarding who can be a petition circulator (e.g. no felony convictions) and the regulates how they keep and submit their records plus alot more. Here's the latest Fact Sheet on the latest amended version.
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) came back to life last week! It had been looking good until it hit a roadblock in the House Rules Committee- as Rep. Phil Lovas had decided that he wasn't going to hear it in committe. But last week, he accepted a job in the Trump administration and the new Rules chair (Rep. Mesnard) put it on the agenda today (Monday 4/17) at 1 pm in HHR1.
We've signed in support and I've sent this NHTSA summary document to the members that shows that teens are the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes and have the highest prevalence of cell phone use while driving. One of the nice things about SB 1080 is that the bill hits the mark on the highest risk population - and at a time when their driving habits are developing.
HB 2082 is in trouble I think. It would have required that schools have some recess time to help them get some physical activity. To be honest, I'm a little worried about this one now because of a heated remark made by the sponsor on social media about the school voucher bill that the Governor signed. Here's the story about it in the AZ Republic. Sometimes things like this can derail bills. Lesson: relationships are important.
SB 1336 is waiting for the "Final Read" in the Senate. Still looking OK though. 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 still needs House Rules Committee approval, but isn't on the agenda again this week. We have no reason to believe that it's in trouble.
There are only 3 states left that don't test for it or don't have plans in place to test for it (including AZ), and with Arizona having so many high risk folks (American Indians of Askabathan descent) we clearly need to get this done. Like I said though, no signs of trouble.
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's basically in the process of getting concurrence between the Senate and House versions. 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). No signs of trouble, really.
Not much public news about the AZ budget this week.... but when the tumblers click - they click fast!
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);
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.