Sen. Yee Introduces Bills to Reform Industrial Commission

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Senator Yee

Delivering on her promise last fall to introduce legislation to address reforms and heightened accountability, Senator Kimberly Yee is introducing SB 1420 and SB 1500. These bills will be considered today in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Workforce Development at 2 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room 1.

The bills follow the Senator’s discovery of abuse of per diem reimbursements by commissioners at the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA). In August, Senator Yee met with representatives of the ICA, asking questions in advance of a Sunset Review Hearing. She learned commissioners receive $50 per day in unlimited per diem payments. In her research, she found one commissioner requested 292 days of per diem at a cost of $14,600. Another requested 253 days of per diem at a cost of $12,650. Senator Yee uncovered some of the $50 requests were for responding to a single email or reading a news article.

SB 1420 and SB 1500 would end these abusive practices through greater accountability and transparency. Commissioners would be required to submit documentation of their duties performed for each day that per diem is requested. The legislation authorizes the ICA Director to deny per diem requests for insufficient documentation or ineligible activity.

SB 1421, scheduled to be considered in the Senate Committee on Government later this week, has also been introduced by Senator Yee to require the Auditor General to review the use of administrative funds and per diem compensation of all agencies, boards, commissions, councils and advisory committees when conducting a performance or financial audit.

“This package of bills is the first step in calling for greater accountability and transparency to ensure that Arizona’s tax dollars are being spent wisely. Board members and commissioners are public servants and should not be using the state’s per diem policy to supplement their incomes,” said Senator Yee. “We must bring proper accountability to all areas of government. The taxpayers deserve it.”

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Senator Smith works to help military members earn college credit for their service to country

Sen. Smith 2015

Senator Smith

Senator Steve Smith is working to make sure current and former members of the United States military earn credit at colleges and universities in Arizona for their service to the country. He has introduced Senate Bill 1267, requiring schools to set up policies to award academic credit for those military members pursuing associate and baccalaureate degrees.

“While defending our freedoms here in the U.S. and across the world, these men and women are learning skills that will be used in their future employment in our state. It makes sense to me that we should see the benefit of that education in the military, and be able to transfer that education to our community colleges and universities in Arizona,” said Senator Smith, a Republican from Maricopa.

Reports show a higher unemployment rate for separating service members, and they often see a delay in post-Service employment even though they have applicable military education, training and experience. Increased academic credit recognition can help alleviate this problem.

The Department of Defense (DoD) strongly supports SB 1267 and sees this as an important piece of DoD’s overall effort to assist Service members with their professional development and with their transition to civilian jobs.

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Arizona Senator Begay To Hold First Native American Youth Summit

From poverty to high dropout rates, Native American kids and teens on and off reservations in Arizona often face incredible challenges, according to State Senator Carlyle Begay.

Begay, senator of District 7, grew up on the Navajo Nation and recently announced he’ll be organizing the first ever statewide Native American Youth Summit this April to address some of those issues and empower a new generation of Native Americans.

“We have the largest high school dropout rate of any racial or ethnic group; we have the lowest high school graduation rate,” Begay said. “It should be alarming.”

To listen to the KJZZ report, click here


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Sen. Lesko: Eliminate speed cameras on state highways

PHOENIX – A west Valley lawmaker wants to eliminate the few remaining speed cameras on state highways.

Only one such camera remains in the Valley: at the intersection of Grand Avenue and North Primrose Street in El Mirage.

“I have heard overwhelmingly from my constituents that they do not want that photo radar camera on a state highway,” said Arizona Senator Debbie Lesko, the Peoria Republican who sponsored a bill that would ban the speed cameras on state highways


To watch the ABC15 report, click here


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Senator Kavanagh preps for busy session

Sen. Kavanagh 2015The Arizona State Legislature is getting back down to business for a new session and, as always, the primary objective will be putting together a budget for operating the state, according to Senator John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills representing District 23.

Kavanagh notes that the budget picture has a rather large bright spot this year with a $500-million carry over. However, he wants to be very cautious about how this money is handled.

“This is one-time revenue and should not be committed to on-going programs,” Kavanagh said. “We need to be on guard against the recession returning in a year or two and use restraint.”
For the rest of the article, click here:
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President Biggs appears on Arizona Horizon

President Biggs


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K-12 scholarship opportunity for Native American children

2015-02-05 13.07.43Tribal families have the opportunity, now through April 1, to apply for state-funded K-12 scholarships. In 2015, the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program was expanded, making Native American children living within the boundaries of a reservation community eligible for the program. ESAs can be used to pay for education expenses like private school tuition, online curriculum, tutoring and books. A portion of the funds can also be saved for college. The program gives Native American parents the option and funding to choose the best education for their child within their own communities.

“Because of the ESA program, children have been moved by their parents from low-performing neighborhood schools to quality private schools such as St. Michael School and Holbrook Indian School,” said Sen. Carlyle Begay, R-LD7. “It’s amazing to see how these families are finding their own way, the way that is best for their family and their child when it comes to K-12 education.”

Sen. Begay championed the expansion of the ESA program to Arizona’s reservation communities to help address disparities in tribal education. Native American students have the highest dropout rate in the state and are last across all education matrices, including math and reading proficiency.

“Education on tribal lands is in crisis and has been for many, many years,” added Sen. Begay. “We cannot wait any longer to address this critical issue. We have to find solutions that work for tribal families and empower parents and children to learn on their terms.”

The state-funded ESA program allows parents to use 90% of the funds that would normally go to their child’s public school. The parent gets a private bank account with the funds and a debit card. They can swipe their debit card to pay for the education curriculum of their choice including private school tuition.

Any child living within the boundaries of an Arizona reservation community is eligible for an ESA. They have to be currently attending a public school and will need to fill out the attached application. For more information or to apply online, parents and schools can visit the Arizona Department of Education ESA website at

The deadline to apply for the 2016-2017 school year is April 1.


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