Voice Your Opinion this Legislative Session
As the leading public health professionals in the state, it’s important that you engage in public health policy development. After all, we’re the people that have first hand knowledge about the public health implications of the decisions that our elected officials make.
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to voice your opinion. Our state legislature has a transparent way to track bills through their www.azleg.gov website. The site allows you to track when bills are being heard in committee and provides an opportunity for you to express your support, opposition, or neutrality from your home or office.
The main URL to bookmark in your computer is http://www.azleg.gov – which is the State Legislature’s official website. It got an overhaul last year making it easier to work with.
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 including its recent status, committee assignments and the like.
The dark blue tabs provide more detailed info about the bill. For example, the “Documents” tab displays the actual language of the bill including the most recent versions.
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. Go to the “Committee Agenda” and pull up the agenda for the committee you’re interested in.
Most of the bills 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. This year the House Health Committee meets on Thursdays at 9 am. The Senate Health & Human Services Committee meets Wednesdays at 2 pm.
I’m encouraging all of you to weigh in for and against bills when you believe that it’s in the best interests of public health to do so. It’s straightforward.
First you need to create an account with an e-mail address and a password. You’ll need to go down to one of the kiosks in the House or Senate to set up your account and password- but after that you’ll be able to sign in for or against bills from your home or office. If you don’t want to use your work email address you can use a personal e-mail.
The Arizona Community Action Association (ACAA) has created an alternative way for you to create an account. You fill out this form granting the ACAA permission to create an RTS account on your behalf. ACAA will create a default password for your account, which will need to be changed when you gain access to your account.
Once your account is set up, you can sign in support or against any bill at the Azleg’s My Bill Positons site at https://apps.azleg.gov/RequestToSpeak/MyBillPositions
Even if you don’t have an account, you can click on each bill and find out who has signed in for or against or neutral on the bill. Just go to the tab over each bill that says “RTS Current Bill Positions” and you’ll see who has signed in support or against each bill. Sometimes you’ll see our name up there (AzPHA).
Public Health Bills So Far
The legislative session just started last week. We’re in the initial phases of digging into the bills that have been proposed so far. There are still a few weeks left for lawmakers to propose new bills- but here’s a summary of the ones we’re tracking so far:
HB 2324 Community health workers; voluntary certification
This Bill would charge the ADHS with developing a voluntary certification program for community health workers. The Department rulemaking would include certification standards including qualifications, core competencies, and continuing education requirements. We’ve signed up in support of this bill.
SB 1010 Tobacco possession; sale; age; signage
SPONSORS: FARNSWORTH D, BOYER
This Bill would prohibit furnishing a tobacco product to a person who is under 21 years of age. The definition of “tobacco product” is expanded to include “electronic smoking devices”. We’ve signed up in support of this bill.
HB 2071 Rear-facing car seats
This Bill would require kids under 2 years old to be in a rear-facing restraint system unless the child weights at least 40 pounds or is at least 40 inches tall. We’ve signed up in support of this bill. It’s being heard in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday.
HB 2127 Children’s health insurance program
This Bill removes the trigger that automatically freezes the KidsCare program if FMAP (the federal contribution) drops below 100%. It allows the state to freeze it if costs are more than the state or federal allotment. The bill does not require the state to appropriate any money for a state share.
We’ve signed up in support of this bill because it provides a pathway to keep Kids Care if the federal government drops its contribution level. This will be heard in House Health on Thursday.
HB 2389 Syringe access programs; authorization
Under this Bill, organizations in Arizona may establish and operate a needle exchange program. Persons, employees and volunteers operating within the scope of the law may not be charged or prosecuted for their activities. It’s currently a felony to distribute needles to illegal drug users.
We’ve signed up in support of this bill because this type of program is evidence-based and reduces the spread of bloodborne diseases as well as engaging in intravenous drug users into treatment.
SB 1083 Schools; recess periods
SPONSOR: ALLEN S
Under this Bill, district and charter schools would be required to provide at least 2 recess periods during the school day for pupils in grades K-5. We’ve signed in support of this bill.
SB 1022 DHS; homemade food products
SPONSORS: FARNSWORTH D, KAVANAGH
Under this Bill, ADHS would be required to establish an online registry of food preparers that are authorized to prepare “cottage food products” for commercial purposes. Registered food preparers would be required to renew the registration every three years.
This is a sensible addition to the current cottage industry food law and we’ve signed up in support.
HB 2040 Pharmacy board; definitions; reporting
This Bill proposes various changes to the Board of Pharmacy functioning including requiring a medical practitioner, pharmacy or health care facility that dispenses a controlled substance to submit the required informational report to the Board once each day. We’ve signed up in support.
HB 2038 Drug overdose review teams; records
Under this proposed Bill, law enforcement agencies would be required to provide unredacted reports to the chairperson of a local Drug Overdose Fatality Review Team on request. All information and records acquired by a Team are confidential and not subject to subpoena, discovery or introduction into evidence in a civil or criminal proceeding or disciplinary action. We’re signed up in support of this one.
HB 2084 Indoor tanning; minors; restricted use
Under this proposal, tanning facility operators would be prohibited from allowing a person under 18 years of age to use a “tanning device”. Tanning facilities are prohibited from advertising or distributing promotional materials that claim that using a tanning device is free from risk or will result in medical or health benefits. We’ve signed on in support of this.
SB 1007 Motorcycle operation; riding between lanes
SPONSOR: FARNSWORTH D
Under this proposal,motorcycle operators would no longer be prohibited from passing in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken and from operating a motorcycle between the lanes of traffic as long as they’re wearing a helmet.
We haven’t taken a position on this yet. Interesting that lane splitting would only be lawful if wearing a helmet. Right now, only people under 18 are required to wear a helmet. We’ll talk about this one in our public policy committee next week.
HB 2064 Medical marijuana; packaging; labeling
This Bill proposes that medical marijuana dispensaries be prohibited from selling a marijuana product that’s packaged or labeled in a manner that’s “attractive to minors”. Due to voter protection, this legislation requires the affirmative vote of at least 3/4 of the members of each house of the Legislature for passage. We’ll talk about this one in our public policy committee next week.
HB 2014 Marijuana; civil penalty
Under this proposal, possession, use, production, or transporting for sale an amount of marijuana weighing less than one ounce is subject to a civil penalty of up to $100, instead of being classified as a class 6 felony. We’ll talk about this one in our public policy committee next week.
HB 2030 Pain treatment; dosage limit; prohibition
Under this proposal, state or any other political subdivision would be prohibited from limiting the morphine milligram equivalents per day of a schedule II controlled substance that may be prescribed for pain management by a licensed health professional. We’re likely to oppose this on (but we haven’t done so yet).
We’ll take a position once we know the content of the upcoming opioid special session.
HB 2033 Drug overdose; good samaritan; evidence
Under this proposal, a person who seeks medical assistance for someone (or themselves) experiencing a drug-related overdose and who needs medical assistance can’t be charged with possession or use of a controlled substance as a result of seeking medical assistance.
We will likely support this bill- but like 2033, we’ll wait for the special session.
SB 1016 Duty to report; life-threatening emergency
Under this proposed Bill, a person who knows that another person is exposed to or has suffered a life-threatening emergency is required to report the emergency and its location to a peace officer, fire department or other governmental entity responsible for public safety. Violations are a class 1 (highest) misdemeanor.
This bill isn’t what appears to be on it’s surface because it’s effect would be to penalize those that do not call for medical assistance rather that providing an incentive to ask for assistance like HB 2033 would do. We will likely oppose this bill.
Opioid Special Session?
There are rumors circulating about the Capitol that the Governor will call a Special Session next week to tackle bills related to the opioid epidemic. The Special Session would be triggered by an Executive Order that would call for the session. We’ll continue to track this and weigh in on the policy proposals that come out of the session.
Federal Budget Update
Last night, Rep. Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, released the text of a Continuing Appropriations Act (H.J. Res 125). Fortunately, in this proposal, the Prevention and Public Health Fund isn’t used as an offset in this legislation. The bill includes the following provisions relevant to public health:
- Federal Funding: The current continuing resolution expires this Friday, Jan. 19. This bill extends funding for the federal government through Feb. 16.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Extends funding for the CHIP program through FY23, provides a 11.5% Federal Matching Assistance Percentage (E-FMAP) in FY20, and returns to the traditional pre-Affordable Care Act matching rate in FY21, FY22, and FY23.
There are many people that follow the federal budget process closely that believe it’s likely that there will be a temporary federal government shutdown because of complex issues like immigration reform and a border wall.