Senator Shope Requesting Ethics Investigation on Senator Mendez for Months-Long Absence From Legislature

Senator Shope Requesting Ethics Investigation on Senator Mendez for Months-Long Absence From Legislature

By Corinne Murdock |

State Senator T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge) announced on Monday that he was filing an ethics complaint against Senator Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) for being absent for almost the entirety of this legislative session. Shope accused Mendez of abandoning his duties in the senate.

“I have informed the chair of the Senate Committee on Ethics that I will be filing an ethics complaint against the member from district 26 for essentially abandoning his position here in this body. I will be doing so over the next few days,” said Shope.

Shope made his announcement during a vote on whether to expel State Senator Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff) from the Senate. That measure failed along party lines.

Both Mendez and his wife, State Representative Athena Salman (D-Tempe), have stayed away from the State Capitol almost entirely, save for Mendez’s visit in February and Salman’s visit in April. They’ve done so with the blessing of Republican House and Senate leadership, who furnished them with excused absences for the last five months. 

House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) explained to The Arizona Republic that he gave Salman excused absences because he was “just trying to be nice.” Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott) explained that Mendez had a doctor’s note recommending against the legislator’s return to in-person work. 

The couple cited concerns about exposing their daughter to COVID-19, who was born in January. Salman requested to work remotely like the legislature had allowed during the last legislative session, but her request was denied.

Mendez and Salman argued to The Arizona Republic that they haven’t absconded from their responsibilities completely. Though they’re barred from voting remotely, the couple reported that they speak with the press and their constituents regularly as well as engage in the legislature by watching it virtually. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Proposed Emergency Law Gives Parents No Say In How Child’s Vaccination Data Is Used

Proposed Emergency Law Gives Parents No Say In How Child’s Vaccination Data Is Used

By Terri Jo Neff |

An effort to pass an emergency state law limiting what information can be disclosed about a child’s immunization records and to whom is expected to move forward in the State Senate this week.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has long utilized a Child Immunization Reporting System to collect, store, analyze, release and report immunization data. Identifying information in the system is confidential as per state law, while the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) also addresses privacy standards for the electronic exchange of medical  information. 

The State has also approved Health Current, a non-profit, to serve as the health information exchange organization that connects more than 500 Arizona healthcare entities, including first responders, hospitals, labs and providers of community behavioral health, physical health, post-acute care, and hospice providers.

Senate Bill 1167 was introduced by Sen. T.J. Shope in January to allow Health Connect to “receive, use and redisclose confidential information regarding child immunizations and communicable diseases.” The bill initially passed the Senate’s Health & Human Services Committed last month with bipartisan support, but has received recent pushback.

Critics of the bill argue Health Connect should not be allowed to receive data from the Child Immunization Reporting System unless a parent or guardian specifically opts-in.  There is also concern that the data could be used for inclusion in a federal vaccine database or to infringe upon the rights of individuals due to their vaccination status.

Senator Nancy Barto (R-LD15) proposed an amendment to Shope’s bill last Thursday to address those concerns. Her amendment failed, but Shope (R-LD8) then proposed his own amendment without a parental or guardian opt-in provision.

Shope’s amendment was adopted on the Senate Floor. The current language of SB1167 limits Health Connect’s use of confidential child immunization and communicable disease information “to only the purposes permitted by HIPAA privacy standards.”

In addition, the organization would be prohibited from “using or disclosing” identifying information from the childhood immunization reporting system for inclusion in a federal vaccine database. Health Connect would also be prohibited  using or disclosing data “for any purpose that serves to discriminate against individuals based on their vaccination status.”

SB1167 would become law effective immediately upon the governor’s signature due to the inclusion of an emergency provision that the legislation is necessary “to preserve the public peace, health or safety.” But to get there, SB1167 needs to clear the Senate and then the House by a two-thirds margin in both chambers.

Several healthcare organizations support SB1167, including Banner Health Arizona, United Healthcare Services, and the Arizona Hospital & Healthcare Association.

Four Senate Republicans Join Dems To Kill Ban On Local Government Lobbyist Reliance

Four Senate Republicans Join Dems To Kill Ban On Local Government Lobbyist Reliance

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona Senate kicked off their Monday with a show of bipartisanship. Four Senate Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in voting against a bill to prohibit local governments from using lobbyists: State Senators Paul Boyer (R-Glendale), Tyler Pace (R-Mesa), T.J. Shope (R-Phoenix), and Senate President Karen Fann (R-Prescott). The bill from State Senator Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), SB1198, failed 12-17. 

The four senators didn’t explain their “no” vote; neither did the Democrats. The bill would’ve prevented counties, cities, towns, school districts, and any other political subdivisions from contracting with or spending money on lobbying services, with exemptions for employees of that local government entity, cities or towns with less than 75,000 citizens, or counties with less than 250,000 citizens.

Peterson explained during the Senate Government Committee that the end of lobbying at the state level several years ago allowed for a “greater balance” between citizens and the state government. 

A spokesman for Apache County, Greenlee County, Scottsdale, and Prescott said that the bill was a good idea philosophically but would result in higher costs for the cities and counties. He said that the local governments would have to hire full-time employees to fulfill duties normally filled by lobbyists contracted at lower costs. 

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns also opposed the bill. Their spokesman explained that their lobbyists alleviated the burdens of keeping up with the legislature for elected officials.

The Goldwater Institute National Litigation Director Jon Riches said the bill prevented taxpayer dollars from being spent on services that further government interests while ignoring the taxpayer.

“Tax dollars should not go to support status quo special interests at the expense of taxpayers, small businesses, and citizens who might not be able to afford a team of well-funded lobbyists, including lobbyists who often advocate against those taxpayers’ interests,” said Riches.

Arizona Free Enterprise Club Vice President Aimee Yentes concurred with Riches’ statement, insisting that it’s elected officials’ duty to take on the responsibilities that they pass on to lobbyists. Yentes is also a member of the Gilbert Town Council.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Shope Opposition Stalls Bill Requiring Voter Approval To Rein In Governor’s Executive Powers

Shope Opposition Stalls Bill Requiring Voter Approval To Rein In Governor’s Executive Powers

On Tuesday, Republicans were stunned to discover that a popular bill, SCR 1003, had opposition in the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sen Warren Petersen, passed with the support of all Republican legislators through the Senate earlier in the session.

The bill was amended in the House and needed the nod of the Senate before heading to the governor. However, Sen. TJ Shope, who had previously supported the bill, is now saying he is opposed.

Because the bill deals with reining in the governor’s executive powers, Capitol insiders believe Shope’s opposition stems from his allegiance to the governor.

As amended the bill:

1. Authorizes the Governor to proclaim a state of emergency as provided by law.
2. Stipulates that a state of emergency, except for a state of war emergency, terminates by proclamation of the Governor or by concurrent resolution of the Legislature.
3. Directs the Governor to call a special session to assemble the Legislature within 10 days to determine whether to terminate or modify the state of emergency and to address matters by enacting laws or issuing legislative orders.
4. Asserts that legislative orders have the same authority as executive orders.
5. Outlines the powers, processes and procedures of the Legislature when called into a special session during a state of emergency.
6. Specifies that a special session may not adjourn until the state of emergency that caused the special session is terminated.
7. Provides requirements for when the Governor protests any actions due to the issuance of a legislative order or terminations or modifications of an executive order.
8. Prohibits the Governor, if the Legislature terminates a state of emergency, from proclaiming a new state of emergency arising out of the same conditions.
9. Stipulates that if the proclaimed state of emergency is terminated by the Legislature, the Governor may not proclaim a new state of emergency arising out of the same conditions for which the terminated state of emergency was proclaimed.
10. Directs the Secretary of State to submit this proposition to the voters at the next general election