Letter To The Editor: Senators Mark Kelly And Kyrsten Sinema Must Hold Big Pharma Accountable

Letter To The Editor: Senators Mark Kelly And Kyrsten Sinema Must Hold Big Pharma Accountable

In Scottsdale – and communities like ours all over the country – rising prescription drug prices are causing tremendous financial hardship.

It’s impacting patients struggling to afford health care. It’s affecting small business owners who would like to provide affordable health care for their employees. It’s impacting families faced with the unbearable choice between paying for critical medications and other basic necessities. All the while Big Pharma continues to see profits increase.

This January drug companies increased prices on more than 800 brand name drugs rise and already in July we are seeing another batch of price hikes under way, surpassing 65 increases in just a few weeks.

While price hikes disproportionately affect senior citizens and individuals with chronic conditions, more than two-thirds of all American adults use prescription drugs. This is an issue that affects us all.

So, it’s time for our legislators in Washington to pass solutions with bipartisan support.

It’s time to advance  market-based reforms with support from Republicans and Democrats to increase competition and transparency, stop taxpayer subsidies for price hikes higher than inflation, cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors, and hold Big Pharma accountable by giving the drug industry responsibility for significant Medicare Part D cost-sharing.

As a former US Air Force Captain, I know what it means to be a leader and step up when faced with adversity. It’s time for Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema to step up too and deliver solutions to lower drug prices and hold Big Pharma accountable.

Bruce Weber
Scottsdale, Arizona

Sinema, Kelly Vote In Favor Of Failed “Federal Power Grab” Election Bill

Sinema, Kelly Vote In Favor Of Failed “Federal Power Grab” Election Bill

On Tuesday, Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema, and Mark Kelly voted in favor of a piece of legislation, S.1, which would have grabbed power over elections away from the states. S.1 would have banned requiring photo I.D. to vote, expanded ballot harvesting, and require taxpayers to fund political campaigns.

The duo joined the other Democrats in support of the bill. However, all Republicans voted to filibuster the bill, effectively killing it.

It was Sinema and fellow Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin that preserved the filibuster for just such an occasion.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) also slammed S1 as an “unprecedented partisan power grab.”

“The Democrats’ S. 1 is an unprecedented partisan power grab that seeks to undermine the sanctity of the ballot by codifying a federal takeover of local elections. The Democrat politicians act seeks to eviscerate widely supported voter ID requirements and use taxpayer dollars to bankroll political campaigns,” GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a release. “Americans understand states should run their own elections — not unelected bureaucrats in Washington, DC. As Democrats continue their assault on election integrity, the Republican Party remains committed to making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.”

Arizona Senators Sinema, Kelly Voted Against Continuation Of Border Wall

Arizona Senators Sinema, Kelly Voted Against Continuation Of Border Wall

By Corinne Murdock |

Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) both voted against an amendment prohibiting the cancellation of the border wall contracts back in February. Yet, both senators have since lamented President Joe Biden’s policymaking for initiating the border crisis and promptly neglecting it. They went so far as to say that the federal government failed Arizona. Sinema even urged the Biden Administration to take “bold action.”

Not only would the amendment have prohibited the cancellation of contracts – it would have prevented the Biden Administration from assuming the penalties for cancelling the contracts, and repurpose the wall-building funds for paying off the penalties. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced the amendment, numbered 542. The Senate split on the vote, 50-50.

“To establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to protecting American taxpayers and the border, which may include prohibiting the cancellation of contracts for physical barriers and other border security measures for which funds already have been obligated and for which penalties will be incurred in the case of such cancellation and prohibiting the use of funds for payment of such penalties,” reads the amendment’s summary.

In total, the legislation saw nearly 900 amendments introduced.

Kelly has consistently been against a border wall since his campaign. In a debate last October with former Republican Senator Martha McSally, Kelly called border walls “17th-century solutions for 21st-century problems.” Kelly instead called for an investment into more technology and border patrol agents.

Although Kelly didn’t specify what he meant by technology, it is likely he was referring to an expansion of current technologies – such as cameras, radars, imagers, and sensors.

Similarly to Kelly, Sinema has said that increasing the amount of border patrol agents was a more “practical, realistic solution.” In the same interview, Sinema acknowledged the importance of border walls, but said they weren’t enough.

During her campaign trail, Sinema said that immigration and securing the border were her top priorities. She repeatedly called the border wall a “waste of taxpayer money.”

Not long after she was elected, Sinema abstained her vote when it came to Trump’s proposed spending plan totaling $5 billion for a wall.

As of April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has tracked nearly 180,000 enforcement encounters. Those numbers mark an unprecedented surge in illegal border crossings over the last few administrations.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.

Sinema And Kelly Hold The Key To Preserving Arizona’s Right To Work Laws

Sinema And Kelly Hold The Key To Preserving Arizona’s Right To Work Laws

By Terri Jo Neff |

As the finger-pointing continues as to why April’s job growth fell far below expectation, business organizations in Arizona are drawing attention once again to what they see as a worrisome obstacle to pro-growth — whether the U.S. Senate will approve the H.R. 842, also known as the PRO Act.

The PRO Act, which stands for Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021, passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March but has not yet had a committee debate in the Senate.  Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly are among only three Democrats who did not co-sponsor the bill, which would enact sweeping changes to the National Labor Relations Act and other labor laws, including an override to Arizona’s longstanding “right-to-work” laws.

Arizona is one of 27 states governed by labor laws which ensure workers can choose whether or not to join a union and pay for representation. Employees in states without right-to-work laws can be required to pay union dues and fees in order to secure employment.

Millions of workers in Arizona and 26 other states would lose their right to work legal protections if Congress passes the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021.

“Senators Sinema and Kelly have not co-sponsored this bill,” Glenn Spencer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said last week in an interview with Chamber Business News.. “That’s a good thing. People in Arizona should thank them for standing up for workers and right-to-work and employers.”

Major labor unions such as the AFL-CIO back the Pro Act, which President Joe Biden has already signaled he will sign. The possibility of severe changes to labor laws if the Pro Act is enacted is a cause of uncertainty for owners of all sizes of businesses at a time when the Biden Administration is desperate to follow through on promises of new jobs.

“The PRO Act would, for all practical purposes, eviscerate Arizona’s right-to-work law, which would mean that workers in the state who happen to be in a union work setting would have to pay dues or they would be at risk of losing their jobs,” Spencer said. “Their employers may well be forced to terminate them if they don’t wish to pay dues in that setting.”

And according to Spencer, research by the U.S. Chamber demonstrates that states with right-to-work laws usually have higher rates of economic growth, along with higher rates of job creation and lower rates of unemployment.

But concerns about Arizona’s right-to-work laws being tossed aside is not the only provision of the Pro Act many opponents, including workers, find objectionable.

As written, the PRO Act redefines the long-used criteria to determine who is an independent contractor. It will also restrict the ability of freelancers to have autonomy over their business activities. This could force many workers to be classified as employees, and in many instances those workers would be obligated to choose between paying for union representation or looking for another job.

In addition, the Pro Act’s language does not allow Arizona employees to opt out of having their personal information provided to unions.  And the bill will prohibit employee / employer disputes from being addressed via cost-effective arbitration programs. Instead, time-consuming and lengthy litigation, often in the form of class action lawsuits, would be an employee’s only option.

“Employers have concerns about this move, because it is likely to increase the number of class action lawsuits, which are expensive and time consuming for employers and employees alike,” according to a review of the bill by the Snell & Wilmer Law Firm. “Employers with questions or concerns about the effects of the PRO Act should consult with legal counsel for a fuller understanding of its potential impact on their organization.”

On March 5, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and 19 local chambers issued a letter to Arizona’s Congressional delegation explaining why H.R. 842 would not be good for Arizona. The same concerns were shared by Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, Debbie Lesko, and David Schweikert who voted no.

The bill is currently assigned to the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. There has been no activity reported by the committee since March 11.

Letter To The Editor: Senators Mark Kelly And Kyrsten Sinema Must Hold Big Pharma Accountable

Senators Kelly, Sinema Vote Down Amendment Prohibiting Discrimination Against Asians in College Admissions

By Corinne Murdock |

Both Arizona Senators voted down an amendment to prohibit discrimination against Asian Americans in higher education.

The amendment was introduced by U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Kennedy (R-LA) under Senate bill 937, the “COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.”

Specifically, the amendment would prohibit federal funding for any college or university that discriminates against Asian-Americans during recruitment, applicant review, or admissions. The act itself seeks to prosecute hate crimes against Asians motivated by COVID-19. It proposes to implement an online hate crime reporting database and expand “culturally competent” education campaigns.

A study on universities and colleges from the 1990s to 2015 found that those who banned affirmative action programs saw their numbers of Black, Hispanic, and Native American minorities decline significantly. The findings implied that race heavily impacted admissions.

On the U.S. Senate floor, Cruz asserted that universities are actively discriminating against Asian Americans currently. He explained that the DOJ’s decision to drop the lawsuit against Yale University for discrimination against Asian Americans spurred this amendment.

“[T]his amendment is straightforward. It targets the ongoing discrimination that is being directed against Asian Americans by colleges and universities across the country, including preeminent institutions such as Yale and Harvard, which are denying admission to qualified Asian-American applicants in favor of underrepresented minority groups,” said Cruz. “The U.S. Department of Justice was suing Yale for its discrimination against Asian Americans until the Biden Administration dismissed that lawsuit.”

In follow-up remarks, Kennedy concurred with Cruz’s assessment. He said this was one baby step in the right direction, but that Congress needs to go further.

“Now, I know [these major universities] think they know how to discriminate in the right way, but discrimination is discrimination,” asserted Kennedy. “At one of these universities in 2013, Harvard admitted that if it admitted Asian Americans purely on the basis of academic achievement, it would have doubled the number of Asian Americans. Now, this is wrong; it is contemptible, it is odious.”

In opposition to the amendment, the sponsor of the bill – Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) – claimed that federal law already prohibits discrimination. She said that turning away Asian American applicants based on the number of Asian American students already at an institution of higher education was a longstanding, integral component of diversity initiatives within admissions policies.

“This amendment is a transparent and cynical attack on longstanding admission policies that serve to increase diversity and provide opportunity to students of color in our institutions of higher learning,” said Hirono. “This amendment also threatens colleges and universities with the loss of federal funding for pursuing or using policies that our courts have upheld repeatedly.”

The amendment to the bill failed, with 49 yeas and 48 yeas – 11 under the required minimum of 60 yeas for adoption.

Both Kelly and Sinema are in support of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act as a whole.

Kelly condemned the surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans, or Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI), in February.

“As folks virtually gather to celebrate the #ChineseNewYear, let’s remember that, for some, this joyous celebration for Chinese Americans is being marred by the rise in hate crimes against our AAPI communities. We can’t let it go unanswered,” wrote Kelly.

Sinema hasn’t addressed the Asian hate crimes on her accounts.

The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act passed the Senate earlier this week. It now heads to the House for consideration.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.