PHOENIX — The Arizona Legislature on Thursday approved millions of dollars
in extra funding that will allow the state’s child welfare agency to hire 192
new workers right away, giving Gov. Jan Brewer cash she wanted as a down-payment
on a revamping of the department.
The Senate and House of Representatives voted Thursday on identical bills
authorizing $6.8 million in spending. The proposal shifts $1.1 million in the
current budget and gives the agency another $5.7 million.
The proposal triggered some grumbling from members, with a handful of House
Democrats noting that the proposal did nothing to fund prevention programs that
have been cut in recent years. Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, said the
ongoing problems at the agency seemed to be handled with a “reshuffling of the
chairs on the Titanic.”
House Speaker Andy Tobin objected.
“You don’t ask the passengers to do that,” Tobin said. “We’re the passengers
The Senate approved the extra funding in Senate Bill 1224 on a 29-0 vote, and
the House also approved the spending without a no vote.
Brewer pulled Child Protective Services from its parent agency on Jan. 13 and
made it a stand-alone department reporting to her. The action was triggered by
revelations that more than 6,500 child-abuse and neglect reports had
intentionally not been investigated in recent years.
Brewer renamed the agency the Division of Child Safety and Family Services, and
she named the head of the state’s Juvenile Corrections department, Charles
Flanagan, to lead the agency.
She asked for more than $15 million in extra money for this budget year, but
the Legislature has put off giving her $4.2 million for emergency child
placement in group homes and other settings and $5.4 million for family support
services such as parenting skill training and foster-care recruitment this
The extra funding is in addition to a $74 million request for the budget year
that starts July 1. That request will pay for a plan to remake Child Protective
Services and beef up its resources to deal with growing caseloads, an obsolete
computer system and understaffing.
_ Also winning approval Thursday was a $1.46 million request for the
Independent Redistricting Commission, which is fighting lawsuits contesting
Legislative and congressional maps it approved in 2012.
One of those cases, a challenge by the Republican-controlled Legislature of the
commission’s right to draw state district maps, was argued in federal court last
week. Another, brought by citizens including by Senate President Andy Biggs’
wife, challenges the congressional maps. A full trial on that case was held last
March by a three-judge panel, but the federal judges have yet to rule. One
Republican senator, Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, voted against the
appropriation Thursday, and 18 Republicans in the House also voted against SB
_ The Legislature also approved a $100,000 appropriation to fight subpoenas
issued to current and former lawmakers about their communications concerning
2010’s Senate Bill 1070. Tobin called the subpoenas “an attack on the
legislative process” because they targeted communications lawmakers received
and sent while doing their jobs. Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said an easier
and cheaper way to deal with the subpoenas would be to repeal SB1070. That
remark prompted the chamber to erupt into laughter.
Thursday’s actions sent the bills to Gov. Jan Brewer for her signature.