Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Live Blogging the AZ Senate Appropriations Hearing!

Thank you for following our adventures in live blogging during today's committee hearing. We will be writing up summaries and updates as these bills continue through the legislative process.

It isn't too late to contact your senator and urge them to vote "NO" to this budget package.

If you are feeling social, check out "Can't Survive 235" on Facebook!

And a big "thank you" to Daisy, who sends encouragement from the fine state of Wisconsin.

Your AEN Live Blogging Team

4:15 p.m. The Senate Appropriations Committee has adjourned, passing the last of the thirteen budget bills, SB 1624.

Our apologies for the gap in posting. The only education related bill remaining on today's agenda was SB 1618; FY 2011-2012 Higher Education Budget Reconciliation. We missed committee discussion on this particular bill. However, we will post a link to today's entire committee hearing, once the video has been published on the Arizona legislative website.

The vote detail for SB 1618 is below:

Member Name  Vote  Member Name Vote             Member Name           Vote

Paula Aboud     N       Sylvia Allen        Y                Olivia Cajero Bedford N

Rich Crandall   Y        Lori Klein           Y                Al Melvin                    Y

Rick Murphy   NV      David Schapira   N               Don Shooter               Y

Kyrsten Sinema N    Steve Smith        Y                 Ron Gould                   Y

Andy Biggs       Y


1:35 p.m. SB 1615 passes. On to SB 1619.

1:27 p.m. SB 1615 bill is up now. Just so you don't have to scroll to the bottom of this long post, you can find the link to live feed here.

1:22 p.m. Discussion on SB 1614 and comment from public right now. Up next: SB 1615. Live blogging might hit the "pause" while kiddo is collected from school. :)

SB 1614 passes along party lines. On to SB 1615.

1:15 p.m. SB 1617 passes 9 - 4. On to SB 1614.

12:50 p.m. SB 1617 voting underway:

Sen. Aboud: Can make all the cuts we want, but if we don't have a trained work force, we won't be able to attract businesses to our state. We talk about wanting to create an economy, having jobs, and then we cut education. Votes no.

Sen. Allen votes aye.

Sen. Cajero Bedford votes no.

Sen. Klien votes aye.

Sen. Shooter votes aye.

Sen. Melvin votes aye.

Sen. Sinema votes no.

Sen. Crandall: Making comments on his vote re: to education reform. "We have ways to make education work with the budget we have. Difficult to initiate any kind of educational reform if we don't have people making an effort to learn more." Votes aye.

Sen. Murphy dittos Sen. Crandall's comments. "Education spending has tripled after being adjusted for inflation, and the results have been stagnant at best. The problem is we aren't innovating in our education system nearly enough. I'm glad that this bill is innovating in this state. This country wants the status quo and wants more money for the status quo. They care more about the money....The bottom line is I had a blended education, public and private. And if I hadn't been in those private schools, I wouldn't have been ready." And so on and so forth. Votes aye.

Sen. Schapira wonders what the end result, when have cut too much? When have we sacrificed the core mission of education before funding matter? How big do our class sizes have to get? "At the end of the day, all we're doing is increasing the disparity between 'the haves' and 'the have nots.'" Votes no.

Sen. Sinema thinks the verbal amendment with kindergarten issue is a good thing, but there are a number of things in the bill that cause her great concern. Votes no.

Sen. Gould votes aye.

Sen. Biggs votes aye.

12:47 p.m. SB 1617 being voted on, with both a Biggs amendment and a verbal amendment.

Note: Many organizations have signed in against this bill, however none of them are being read allowed, into the record. This may be a time saving issue, but for those watching, know that the education community put out an all-call last night to those who can sign in, to do so.

12:45 p.m. Sen. Gould acknowledges feeling gamed by Prop. 100, like many voters and those in the education community might. [Albeit for different ideological reasons. Of course.]

12:38 p.m. Jennifer Loredo with Arizona Education Association speaking against SB 1617. Reminded committee about the AEA's support of Prop. 100, the message that we all understood that if we passed Prop. 100 our schools would be spared cuts.

Larger class sizes, reduction in librarians, vital staff. Schools are trying to reduce the impact in the classroom as much as possible, but the reduction in staff is leading many districts to see a rise in class size.

Sen. Aboud asking Ms. Loredo about class size, number of desks available for desks. "We're hearing from teachers, 'We're literally at capacity in our classroom. So when we get another student, and we have nowhere for them to sit, then yes, they are sitting on the floor.'"

12:34 p.m. On to SB 1617 K-12 portion of the budget. Kindergarten portion, requiring all districts that offer full-day kindergarten to charge tuition will be amended on the floor, as it was poorly written and shouldn't have been included in the bill, per Sen. Crandall. That was as much explanation as was offered. We'll post once we learn further details.

12:28 p.m. After 24 minutes of explanation of votes, Senate Committee passes SB 1612, 9-4.
On to SB 1613.

SB 1613 passes 9-4 with no debate.

12:04 p.m. While updating the vote detail, we inserted the votes of some senators out of order. :)

Sen. Cajero Bedford: "With respect to transparency, the state Democrats have had less than 24 hours to go through this budget." Votes no.

Sen. Allen: Constituents are asking her to cut spending. Votes aye.

Sen. Crandall votes aye.

Sen. Klien votes aye.

Sen. Sinema votes no.

Sen. Smith says number of people signed in against SB 1612 is irrelevant, as there have been other bills that haven't turned out as much public input. Asks rhetorical question, "If we don't cut you, who?" paraphrasing, of course. Votes aye.

*Editor's note to Sen. Smith: Maybe the number of folks who have signed in is a testament to the outpouring of support for our state, our state's economic future? Just a thought.

Sen. Melvin: "New class warfare is the public sector vs. private sector.  Concerned about generational theft. This process is working itself out in WI, IN, OH, in other states throughout the country and we have an obligation to make sure we don't spend what we don't have." Votes aye.

Sen. Murphy votes aye.

Sen. Schapira: "To the point of generational theft, we are stealing education away from our children." Votes no.

Sen. Shooter votes aye, after assuring audience that he welcomes public input and participation in process.

Sen. Gould votes aye after an explanation of his vote.

Sen. Biggs votes aye.

12:01 p.m. Sen. Aboud: Public is speaking and they do not want this bill. Votes no.

11:57 a.m. Committee is about to vote on SB 1612. Some discussion re: Sen. Biggs' amendment.

11:52 a.m. The loophole discussion continues. Sen. Sinema points out liposuction isn't taxed. Sen. Gould doesn't want his constituents to pay taxes on their haircuts.

11:45 a.m. Sen. Aboud reminds Sen. Smith that state can get $17 million right now by closing loophole for the 4 inch pipe. Sen. Smith: "Close loopholes for corps, you grow the unemployment line."

11:33 a.m. Mark Barnes with AZ Community Colleges Council up now, discussing cuts to community colleges. Barnes: "I read a study a while ago, that 61% of jobs in AZ in 2018 will require some level of post secondary of education, we hope to be provider of choice." Reminder: In Senate majority proposal, Arizona community colleges would be cut $72 million.

11:26 a.m. Stacy Morely (spelling of last name may be incorrect) with Arizona Department of Education agency speaking now against SB 1612. Concerned cuts to agency, though less than $1 million cut, will impact agency's School Finance and IT programs.

11:25 a.m.  David Martinez concludes testimony and discussion with committee. Outstanding voice for our state's university students!

Sen. Allen: "Do you encourage them to adjust their budget without putting it on the back of students?"

11:11 a.m. While we're listening to the comments re: university cuts/impacts, we're reminded of this March 13, 2011 AZ Republic article about the tax break for University of Phoenix's parent company, Apollo, a for-profit university. AZ lawmakers are considering a bill that, according to the AZ Dept. of Revenue, would cost the state $33.2 million annually in tax revenue.

10:57 a.m. David Martinez with the Arizona Students' Association speaking to committee re: the impact of current budget reductions, creating a 63% increase in student tuition to state universities. This increase to tuition, says Martinez, pushes more students to take out loans with large interest rates in order to complete their education. Further, this increase in student loans is adding to the over all national debt when they simply find they cannot repay the loans. Martinez points out that there already has been $230 million cut from higher education funding. Should the budget proposal being considered be adopted, it would equate to a 50% cut in funding to our universities. His testimony continues, as he answers questions from Sen. Schapira (LD17)  and Sen. Sinema (LD15).

Per Martinez's testimony, current university cuts have already impacted state universities the following ways:
Over 2,000 faculty/staff positions eliminated
180 colleges programs have merged/consolidated
8 extended campuses have closed
63% raise in state university tuition

10:47 a.m. On the social media front: A new Facebook page "Can't Survive $235!" has been created by university faculty and staff to raise awareness of the devastating cuts to higher education.

10:27 a.m. Posting delayed, as most of public comments continue to focused on (and rightfully so) county concerns re: cost shift. Sen. Al Melvin (LD26) explaining the cost savings of filling jobs once held by county employees with inmates to help counties with maintenance duties, etc.

10:26 a.m. While waiting for comments re: county/prison cost shift, take a look at the LUMP SUM reductions to our state universities, as stated in SB 1612:
ASU total cut: $107 million
UA total cut: $92 million
NAU total cut: $36 million
Arizona community colleges total cut: $72 million 

10:00 a.m. Off the education topic, but in way of explaining long pause in update: Comments are being heard on burden shift to counties. Specific concerns are being expressed regarding prisoners. "We're returning a prison population to the counties that we took when you [counties] were broke. We're broke. So we're returning them to you....We're going back to the way things were." Sen. Shooter

9:50 a.m. Public allowed to speak on bill. Given 3 minutes to speak. So far, public comments have urged the committee to avoid devastating cuts to our state's most vulnerable. A great deal of support for public education in the room today.

9:45 a.m. SB 1612 Senate Fact Sheet here. Friend to AEN submitted the following explanation on the difference between SB 1612 the General Appropriations FY 2011-2012 bill, and the rest of the bills listed below.
"[G]eneral appropriations" is for the actual numbers of appropriations, the rest are for 'budget reconciliation bills.' [or BRBs] Since the lege is forbidden by the AZ constitution from passing substantive changes to law in an appropriations bill, the annual budget is actually a package of bills.
One bill, the general appropriations bill, is the numbers bills, while the BRBs are for changes to law to make the budget work

The remaining bills are the BRBs, the bills that make the budget work."
We're grateful for our smart, wonky friends. :)

9:44 a.m. Senate Appropriations underway. Order of bills SB 1612, 1613, 1617, 1614, 1615, 1619, 1616, 1618, 1620, 1621, 1622, 1623, and 1624.

9:32 a.m. Hearing appears to getting a late start. Senators arriving. Feed is live here.

9:15 a.m. Good morning, folks!

Your AEN team will be live blogging the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing that is scheduled to get underway at 9:30 a.m.  Please have patience with us, as there may be typos, misspellings, and dangling participles.

Feel free to watch along with us by clicking here.

You can find the agenda here.

And to get caught up on the latest news about the thirteen budget bills proposed by the Senate majority party, visit our post by clicking here.

If you'd like to contact your legislator and express your concerns about the cuts to education, click here.


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The Arizona Education Network Blog Team