Arizona now prohibits health care providers from using an individual’s disability as a disqualification from an organ transplant. The sole exception would be in the case that a patient’s disability poses a medical problem when receiving an organ transplant, excluding that patient’s ability to comply independently with the procedure.
The legislation also requires health care facilities to accommodate their organ transplant-related services for disabled patients, such as communications and counseling. It included specific provisions for patients with hearing and visual impairments, as well as cognitive, neurological, developmental, or intellectual disabilities.
Comprehensive information on all organ transplant centers’ policies regarding patients with disabilities doesn’t exist — only studies exist. A 2019 study from the National Council of Disability, a federal agency, confirmed that to be the case, observing a lack of transparency and consistency concerning organ transplant policies. What’s more, the council reported that individuals with disabilities and their families actually face pressure to donate organs. One of the most comprehensive studies, conducted in 2008, estimated that 43 percent of organ transplant centers “always” or “usually” deny children with a neurodevelopmental disability, while about 39 percent “rarely” or “never” do.
One Arizona mother, Felicia (Josie) White testified to the House Health & Human Services Committee that she supported this bill because Phoenix Children’s Hospital policy didn’t confirm that they would approve her daughter for a heart transplant, due to her having Down Syndrome. The White family felt compelled to seek treatment across the country, 3,000 miles away, in Boston, Massachusetts.
“We know individuals with Down Syndrome live full and fruitful lives well into adulthood. If transplant centers can teach illiterate, non-English speaking parents to dose meds, there’s no reason someone with Down Syndrome could not be taught,” said White. “I understand that organ allocation is a limited resource, but I also know that labeling anyone with cognitive delays ‘unable to transplant’ is a slippery slope that could include everything from ADHD to who knows what.”
Another mother, Andrea Temarantz, shared that her son also has Down Syndrome and would be jeopardized if he needed an emergency organ transplant. Temarantz informed the legislators of the studies on organ transplant discrimination. She insisted that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) already prohibited such discrimination, but that there weren’t any enforcement mechanisms to protect patients with disabilities from ADA violations in Arizona.
“Every life is precious, and no one should be blocked from a transplant because of stereotypes about persons with disabilities,” said Temarantz.
Governor Doug Ducey signed that anti-discrimination bill, HB2659, into law in March.
The bill received no opposition in the state legislature. Both the House and Senate, as well as their respective committees, passed it unanimously.
State Representative Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix) sponsored the bill. It received an endorsement from the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP).
AZ Free News sampled 46 legislators’ latest campaign finance reports of the state legislature and found that 22 of 47 legislators sampled received 50 percent or more of their campaign contributions from either lobbyists or PACs.
PACs and lobbyists have significant footing in the legislature. That would explain why the first week of January is known as “hell week” within the legislature — not because they’re in preparation for the new session kicking off, but because lobbyists are scrambling to fundraise for legislators. Arizona law prohibits legislators from receiving lobbyist campaign contributions while in regular session.
The following are state legislators that receive 50 percent or more of their campaign funds from PACs and lobbyists combined:
In the House, Richard Andrade (D-Glendale), about 51 percent; Ben Toma (R-Peoria), about 56 percent; Lorenzo Sierra (D-Avondale), about 62 percent; Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), about 64 percent; John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), about 64 percent; Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa), about 64 percent; Diego Espinoza (D-Tolleson), about 66 percent; Joanne Osborne (R-Goodyear), about 74 percent; David Cook (R-Globe), about 75 percent; Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix), about 79 percent; John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), about 83 percent; Tim Dunn (R-Yuma), about 87 percent; and Kelli Butler (D-Paradise Valley), about 96 percent.
In the Senate, Vince Leach (R-Tucson), about 53 percent; T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge), about 56 percent; David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista), about 71 percent; Rosanna Gabaldon (D-Sahuarita), about 73 percent; Lupe Contreras (D-Avondale), about 75 percent; Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City), about 79 percent; Tyler Pace (R-Mesa), about 82 percent; Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), about 90 percent; and David Livingston (R-Peoria), about 91 percent.
Of note, all of Gowan’s 32 contributions came from outside of his district — 28 came from Maricopa County. Additionally, $5,000 of Gowan’s $8,950 non-lobbyist contributions came from Phoenix Coyotes owner Alex Merulo.
Butler received over $10,000 from the Tucson branch of one of the largest labor unions in the country: the United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW). Her PAC contributions totaled $13,000, and $150 of her individual contributions were from lobbyists. There were several inactive lobbyist donors among the individual contributions totaling $250. In all, Butler’s total contributions were over $13,700.
Wilmeth’s ten non-lobbyist donors included three inactive lobbyists and one wife of an inactive lobbyist.
Five legislators sampled reportedly received less than 10 percent of funds from PACs and lobbyists: Morgan Abraham, about 4 percent; Quang Nguyen, about 7 percent; Judy Burges, about 7 percent; Amish Shah, about 7 percent; and Joseph Chaplik, about 8 percent.
There were several legislators sampled that we couldn’t review because their reports haven’t been filed yet — even though they were due well over two months ago.
State Representative Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) still hasn’t filed her campaign finance report due April 15. Hernandez has been late consistently since her first year in office (2018), accruing $3,500 in fines altogether. Her latest campaign finance report, which she has yet to file, is 76 days late and she owed $1,675 currently — her highest single fine to date. It took Hernandez 69 extra days to file her 2021 cumulative finance report: it was due January 15, but she filed it March 25.
Just over half of Hernandez’s individual donors from her last report, the cumulative one for 2021, were from out of state and made up the majority of those contributions: $5,980 versus the $3,920 from Arizona. Among them were several prominent figures in the Jewish community including acclaimed author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s son, Elisha Wiesel, as well as Broadway star Jonah Platt.
State Senator Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson) did file her report on time — but like Hernandez, over half of the individual contributors on her latest campaign finance report were from out of state.
It appears that the Hernandez siblings are alike when it comes to campaign finance reports. Since the year his sister took office, Hernandez grew increasingly tardy with filing the reports. For two separate 2020 reports, he accrued over $5,100 in fines. His 2021 cumulative report was filed late by 67 days, and he was fined $1,450 for that. Both the Hernandez siblings are 76 days late on their first quarter report.
Another perennially tardy filer is State Representative César Chávez (D-Maryvale). Like Hernandez, he is 76 dates late and owes $1,675, but for his senate campaign’s first quarter report. Chávez was also late by 58 days to file his senate campaign’s 2021 cumulative report, owing $1,225.
Similarly to Hernandez, Chávez has a history of late filings, the highest of which were 121 days late to file his 2020 pre-general election filing, 163 days late to file his 2016 pre-general election report, and 953 days late to file his 2016 first report for the fourth quarter and post-general election report.
One interesting campaign finance report came from State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff). The report totaled nearly 600 pages, with 586 dedicated to individual contributions alone that totaled nearly $360,000. No lobbyists could be discerned among the over 7,000 contributors, and over 1,600 of them were Arizonans. A vast majority were retired, nearly 4,500 of them, bolstered by the self-employed and small business owners.
Only one PAC donated to Rogers: the Save America PAC gave one contribution of $5,000 in January.
SB1211, which would require schools to publish curriculum lists on their websites, failed in the House 28-30 on Monday.
The votes weren’t panning out in the way Republicans hoped, so several legislators voted to kill the bill in order to salvage it for later discussions. State Representatives Joel John (R-Buckeye), Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), and Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix) voted with Democrats to kill the bill. Kaiser explained during the floor vote that he and Wilmeth did so in order to keep it active and open for discussion.
John, however, argued as a former teacher that the bill was too much of a burden for educators. He characterized the transparency bill as an “unfunded mandate” foisted on those in a “low-paying, thankless job.” John issued the false claim that he was only one of two other educators in the House. Other past and present educators include State Representatives Neal Carter (R-Queen Creek), Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix), Michelle Udall (R-Mesa), and Jennifer Pawlik (D-Chandler).
“The laws are quite robust already. I think this bill frankly goes too far and puts too many extra burdens [on teachers], as some of our colleagues have already pointed out,” said John.
Kaiser responded that the laws clearly don’t go far enough because K-12 schools are rampant with transparency issues.
“The reason we need to have a bill about this is because there’s problems happening in schools across Arizona,” said Kaiser. “If you don’t think this is a problem, look at the board [of votes]. This is a direct reflection of what’s happening to parents in schools. ‘There’s not a problem,’ they say. ‘Go home,’ they say. ‘We gave you a thumbnail sketch of what we’re talking about, go home.’ I’m so disappointed in how these votes are turning out.”
Apart from John, teacher perspectives on the bill differed along party lines.
Udall, a current teacher, supported the bill. She suggested that additional funding should be established to help ease the additional burdens of the bill. Udall noted the importance of proactive forms of transparency, rather than retroactive.
Conversely, Pawlik, also a teacher, asserted that educators shouldn’t have to be concerned about posting last-minute tweaks to curriculum or learning materials. Pawlik argued that it would not only inhibit teachers’ flexibility, but ultimately stunt students’ education.
The Senate passed the bill along party lines last month. Left-wing activist organizations celebrated the bill’s rejection.
SB1211 would enable parents access to all curriculum, learning materials, and teacher training at their school, organized by subject, grade, and teacher. Democratic legislators argued that parents should switch schools if they weren’t happy with the transparency at their current schools. They contended further that the legislation would create more red tape and punishment for educators. One legislator went so far as to argue that the bill constituted an effort to control speech.
If the Republican representatives hold to their promise, SB1211 may be resurrected this session in one form or another. As of press time, no exact solution was made apparent.
On Monday, the Arizona Senate passed HB2161, a bill prohibiting state employees, political subdivisions, governmental entities, or any other institution from withholding a minor’s records from parents. Parents may sue any entity or institution that withholds their child’s records in violation of the legislation. It’s likely that HB2161 will most heavily impact school districts.
The bill passed along party lines. State Representative Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), the bill sponsor, explained that the legislation would ensure recourse for parents whose rights had been violated.
The bill was transmitted to the State House for review of the amendments made in the Senate. If approved, the version passed on Monday will head to Governor Doug Ducey for his signature.
Democrats’ opposition to the bill focused on the impact on educators. One of the main arguments concerned the fact that educators wouldn’t be able to withhold the sexuality or gender identity of LGBTQ+ minors from their parents.
Those arguments echo incidents making headlines nationally, in which parents discover that educators or school counselors coached their children into adopting a deviant sexuality or gender identity. Just this past week, it was discovered that a Massachusetts public middle school promoted the gender transitions of a pair of siblings without their parents’ knowledge.
A transgender woman testifed to the Arizona House Education Committee that he opposed a bill to expand parental rights, HB2161. The Arizona Daily Independent identified the individual as Liberty Elementary School District Governing Board Member Paul Bixler. The bill that Bixler opposed would prohibit government employees from withholding information from parents concerning their children, or interfering in any capacity unless there’s a compelling interest. The bill also included provisions specific to schools, such as prohibiting school districts or their employees from withholding information from parents related to purported gender identity or requested gender transitions. It also required schools to obtain written informed consent from parents prior to administering any survey soliciting personal information, as well as share a copy of the survey in question seven days prior to administering it. Violations of the bill could result in disciplinary action to the offending employee, a $500 fine for school districts, and lawsuits against the governmental entity or official from the parents.
During Monday’s House Education Committee hearing, Bixler asserted that the legislation would cause harm to befall teens: drug use, depression, dropping out of school, homelessness, depression, and even suicide. Bixler contended that the protections for parents already exist in legislation and no additional ones are necessary.
Bixler also recalled his personal experience with attempting to transition his gender, referencing the difficulty of it. He insinuated that the legislators were handling the topic of transgenderism lightly by approving the bill. Bixler asserted that the bill would put health care practitioners at “personal physical risk” while eliminating much-needed help for children.
“When you threaten a child’s disclosure with exposure, those children will continue to question but will not seek the highly qualified individuals that could assist them. Threatening dedicated, trained caregivers with litigation also threatens the welfare of the children within that same population,” stated Bixler. “By pursuing this legislation, you risk the life that already is fragile of these children. If you pursue this, expect a rise of teen and pretend drug use, drop-out[s], depression, homelessness, and suicide. How do we know this? We know this because we see it over and over and over again. When you marginalize this student population and force them to go into hiding, they won’t stop questioning. They simply will not receive the help that they need. But I believe there’s a bigger question here. This is not only personal proposed legislation targeted on a specific membership within Arizona’s community. It does not appear coincidental that so much proposed legislation is focused on transgender members of Arizona. I have one question for you: what are you afraid of?”
Bixler was elected to his school district in 2020, and will serve until 2024. According to his governing board member profile, Bixler would describe his educational philosophy as “free appropriate education.”
“Sound familiar? I hope so. The words free and appropriate are a promise. A promise rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment and guaranteed in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All this promise asks is to attend. I believe that this is every child’s constitutional, more importantly, human right. I believe in public education,” stated Bixler. “I am a fiscal realist. This belief is honed from more than 30 years of public school experience. As a 20-year public school administrator, I have served as both member and leader of teams that made tough implementation decisions. I would now like to work cooperatively to make tough policy decisions.”
On another profile, this time with Arizona List, a pro-choice Democratic women’s commitee, Bixler revealed that he spent four years in the Navy and Marine Corps after two years at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in the late 1960s. After that, Bixler received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Arizona State University (ASU), then spent over 30 years in public schools as a teacher, guidance counselor, coach, and administrator. Bixler revealed that he’s married to a woman.
According to Arizona List, Bixler qualified as the first transgender woman to be elected in Arizona. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA) endorsed Bixler in his campaign.