Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Tue, Sept. 22

Legislative Summit deemed a Success

MOENKOPI , Ariz, - On Oct. 13, Lena Fowler Coconino County Supervisor hosted the Arizona Legislative Summit a gathering of elected officials and individuals involved in the legislative process. Many individuals from the Tuba City and Moenkopi communities were present such as Hopi Chairman Shingoitewa and Moenkopi Council Member Wayne Kuwanhoiyouma. Fowler was happy to see a good attendance and remarked that she had recently been chosen as the head of the Coconino County Supervisors.

Ron Lee from the Native Policy Group LLC, a Native American lobbyist, made a presentation on Arizona's Legislative process by pointing out some of the highlights of how a law is made in the Arizona Legislature. He pointed out some of the factors that contribute to the process is the Arizona economy, budget, political landscape, legislative process and working with the legislature. The Arizona economy depends on the housing market, construction, retail sales. Some things that are challenges are the state workforce which is down fifteen percent, state unemployment which is at 9.3 percent with other factors such as the US economy and the recession that is being experienced.

An interesting fact pointed out was that since fiscal year 2008 there has been $3.4 billion in permanent cuts in the budget. The FY 2012 budget is $8.5 billion 20 percent smaller that FY '08 of which $1 billion came from cuts in education and healthcare. Most recently $5 million was cut by freezing enrollment in health insurance programs for childless adults. Lee pointed out that the state's in an $8.5 billion deficit currently and the one cent hike in sales tax is due to expire in FY' 14. So these budget issues are of great concern to the current legislature.

Another facet of the legislature is the political landscape of Arizona. Based on the 2010 Census the Arizona population is currently 6.4 million of which 296,596 are Native American approximately 4.6 percent of the population. An interesting fact was that Arizona reservations constitute 28 percent of the land base in Arizona. Currently there is a redistricting of the Arizona government bodies where Arizona will gain one congressional seat as well as a redistricting of the congressional and legislative maps which can be viewed at www.azredistricting.org.

Lee noted that the current legislature is controlled by the Republicans who have a two-thirds majority in both Senate and House. He noted it will take 16 votes to pass the budget out of the Senate and 31 votes to pass out of the House. Legislative sessions convene on the second Monday in January and last 100 days with the Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day held in January. Lee commented that based on the current makeup of the legislature "it is challenging to get bills passed by a majority and there is a lot of talk with the majority Republican Party," said Lee. Once a bill is introduced to a committee Lee stressed "it is important to work with committee and chair to work out different issues. Lobby or touch base with members of the committee, make sure you touch base with all members."

Lee concluded with advice to start early and stay connected; be informed; be persuasive and courteous; communicate regularly; invite legislators to your community and develop open friendly and honest relationships.

Supervisor Fowler commented, "The Navajo Nation needs to get organized and learn how to work through the legislature. If it is our bill or someone else's bill we have to voice our opinions. I worked with John McCain and he said that he can't make things happen by himself. He needs support such as emails and letters from supporters to make things happen."

Arizona Legislator Tom Chabin made a presentation about the current legislature and redistricting. He remarked, "This is the best attended event so far," stating he was happy to see the turnout. Chabin remarked that some politicians in Utah have formed a negative opinion of Arizona because of SB 1050 that "Arizona is angry, ugly and mean spirited' because of SB 1050. The opinion of the Republican Party is that Native Americans are on an entitlement and receives privileges," which reflects some of that mean spiritedness.

"When the budget was cut 1500 educators lost their jobs, that is why classrooms are overcrowded and also DPS no longer patrols certain highways because of budget cuts," stated Chabin. He commented that Republicans should be talking about approving extension of the one cent sales tax that is due to expire but instead lay off people.

He pointed out a recall election regarding Representative Pearce who accepted tickets from the Fiesta Bowl and that the opponent is Jerry Lewis, a religiously affiliated individual that helped a failing charter school for homeless students succeed. He commented that the Lewis has overwhelming support from his religious organization in his district so he sees that the upstanding religious Republican may prevail against the Democrat Pearce.

Another issue is that with the redistricting of northern Arizona there can be a Native American put into the legislature or an Anglo person. This will be the largest district in Arizona with a 51 percent native population. He currently resides in Flagstaff and the redistricting will have him in a tight competition with Republican candidates

"It could be a tie or pretty close to a tie," Chabin commented. "To make it a more competitive election if some areas could be swapped to include parts of the reservation and Flagstaff that would give the election a more competitive advantage instead of having largely Republican districts where it will be difficult for Democrats to have a fair advantage."

Chabin has lived in Tuba City for 20 years. He started out on the school boar, then Coconino supervisors, then he was elected to the Legislature for two terms. He pointed out five years ago tuition was $1,500 a semester in the universities. Now it is $10,000 a year.

"Who can send their children to school without debt," said Chabin.

Some things he wants to see changes on are a tax on alcohol so there is money for treatment for individuals as well as no guns in parks or schools.

"Republicans think it's alright he would like to be able to call police to feel safe with his family in a park if there is someone with a gun but Republicans want it another way," said Chabin. "We need to think beyond ourselves and ask the redistricting commission to make districts as competitive as possible. It's not like John Wayne who can take on five people he wants a one on one fight."

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