The Arizona legislature set a deadline that any bills that did not receive an initial committee hearing by the end of last week cannot advance this session. Committee chairs wield a lot of power in deciding which bills receive consideration or not and with 1,823 bills introduced this session, we understand there simply is not enough time to hear every bill. But there were several good ideas that would improve the lives of Arizona’s children and families introduced this year that never had the opportunity to be considered in committee. Even though time has run out this year for those bills, we want to take a moment to highlight a few of those good ideas that merit stronger consideration in the future:
- HB 2416: Sponsored by Representative Pawlik to appropriate $13 million for child care to raise reimbursement rates. Arizona’s child care assistance program continues to reimburse providers for care at rates that are far below what it costs to actually provide that care. Parents often have to pay the difference between the reimbursement rate and the cost, making accessing child care too expensive even for many low-income families who are eligible for the program.
- HB 2291: Sponsored by Representative Osborne to provide comprehensive dental care to eligible pregnant women. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to developing oral health problems, which if left untreated are associated with adverse birth outcomes and increased risk of dental disease in early childhood.
- HB 2273: Sponsored by Representative Butler to increase income eligibility for KidsCare, Arizona’s health insurance program for low-income children, from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Arizona currently has one of the lowest income eligibility thresholds for its children’s health insurance program in the nation. After years of progress toward reducing the rate of uninsured children, Arizona has taken an unfortunate turn. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of uninsured children grew by roughly 22%. In 2019, 161,000 Arizona children were uninsured – the fourth highest rate of uninsured children in the United States.
- HB 2659: Sponsored by Senator Marsh to establish an annual conference on children and youth to identify and recommend policy solutions to the legislature that will improve the lives of children in Arizona.
- HB 2146, HB 2147, HB 2148, HB 2283, HB 2566, SB 1098, SB 1736, SB 1737: Sponsored by Representatives Friese, Lieberman, and Bolding; and Senators Alston and Bowie. Several bills were introduced this session to provide much-needed reform to the private school tuition tax credit program which diverts public tax dollars to private schools. These bills would restrict use of these tax credits to low-income families and would limit the amount which can be used for administrative costs. The expansion of private school tuition tax credits has had a significant impact on reducing state revenues growing from a cost of $14 million in 1999 to $177 million in 2019.
- HB 2728: Sponsored by Representative Sierra to make participation in extended foster care until the age of 21 an opt-out rather than opt-in program for youth aging out of foster care when they turn 18. Extended foster care can provide a better bridge to adulthood especially during the current health and economic crisis.
- SCR 1017: Sponsored by Senator Quezada. A legislative proclamation identifying racism as a public health crisis affecting our entire society and avowing to support policies that reduce racial and ethnic health inequities and promote social justice.
The list above is not an exhaustive list. We are glad to see so many lawmakers introducing bills this session that will benefit Arizona’s children, and we hope many of those bills become law in the future.
Image source: ABC's Schoolhouse Rock