This week at the Capitol: school students from across the state gathered at the Capitol for Youth Action Day on Thursday, Mar. 29. Kids strolled the grounds and obtained information on tobacco and drug avoidance; advocacy groups like the American Cancer Society and Arizona Smokers’ Helpline handed out flyers, T-shirts, pens and pencils, and Frisbees with their messages.
Inside the Legislature, bills face another deadline. Friday, April 6 is the last day for bills to be heard in any committee, so the pace of committee hearings picked up again. On Mar. 27, the House Human Services gave a ‘do pass,’ the Legislature’s jargon for passage, to SB 1406, the Hopi TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) start-up bill.
Speaking in favor of the bill was Sen. John Verkamp, R-Flagstaff, the bill’s sponsor. Verkamp said, “[This is a] very important bill.” Verkamp spoke of his days as the Flagstaff city attorney, and said that he feels that child support enforcement (CSE) is a priority. “Hopi is a long, long way from the big bureaucracy down here…If you’ve been in Walmart or Kmart on the weekend, you’ll see that the myth that Indians don’t pay taxes is [not true].”
Hopi spokeswoman Monica Nuvamsa noted that the proposed Hopi TANF plan, which was approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in only two days, will serve more of the 2,715 children in the system than DES can now. DES can only serve half of Hopi CSE cases, said Nuvamsa.
The tribe “has developed a comprehensive, holistic program in accordance with cultural and religious beliefs,” Nuvamsa said. It seems that the matter will be taken up again next week in the House Appropriations Committee meeting.
There was some discussion among committee members over where the funds for Hopi’s TANF program would come from. Some members preferred that funds be transferred from the state’s TANF block grant, however, Brian Lockery, legislative analyst, said that TANF monies can’t be used for child support enforcement, which is one of the programs Hopi wants to start with SB 1406.
Other bills which got the thumbs-up from committees this week:
SB 1328, the Native American Cultural Center bill, passed handily in the House Native American Affairs Committee. Tandy Young, treasurer of the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association (AAITA), was happy with this next step, and is ready to face the next challenge, the House Appropriations Committee. AAITA executive director Joan Timeche also was on hand, and gave a presentation on Arizona Indian tourism to the committee.
SB 1538, the Navajo and Hopi senior center bill, was finally amended to put Hopi back into the bill after a previous amendment accidentally omitted the smaller tribe from the bill. Rep. Deb Gullett, R-Phoenix, and Rep. Sylvia Laughter, D-Kayenta, worked with bill sponsor Sen. Jack Jackson, D-Window Rock, to get the bill back on track with a verbal amendment.
HB 2440, the impact aid bond bill, passed its next barrier, the Senate Education Committee, and is headed to Finance next week. And SB 1003, which would require the National Guard to obtain permission from tribal governments to enter tribal lands for drug patrols, was approved by the House COW this week and will go to the full House next week.
SB 1109, the medical student loans bill, has passed the Legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature. This bill expands and clarifies student loan forgiveness for medical students intending to serve in underserved communities, including reservations. SB 1342, the Navajo Nation study committee bill, was signed by Gov. Hull this week. The committee will study relations between the tribe and state and make a report to the Governor.
House Resolution 2003, expressing support for federal funding of the Red Mesa Health Center, has also passed the full Legislature and awaits ratification by the Secretary of State.