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Arizona Legislature’s special session will determine fate of child welfare agency

PHOENIX — Just days after adjourning the legislative session, Arizona lawmakers will return to the State Capitol for a special session. They just don’t know when.

When the regular session, ended April 14, Gov. Jan Brewer told they’d be back to deal with the state’s child welfare agency.

Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin said he believed the callback would happen within the next month. Tobin wants the agency to be separated from the Department of Economic Security and that isn’t a simple task.

“How many personnel would the stand-alone agency need, how to make that efficient and then we’ll need to deal with a budget,” Tobin said. “In theory, a special session takes about three days. The final report hasn’t been completed and we want to make sure legislative members read the report and hopefully before we come into a special session.”

Since Brewer made her announcement in her State of the State speech that she would seek to make the child-welfare office a stand-alone agency, House staff and several legislators have been meeting with her on a weekly basis.

According to Tobin’s office, the group’s goal has been to draft legislation that will create a stand-alone agency and lay the groundwork for reforms that will lead to greater transparency and accountability, and guarantee that every report of child abuse is investigated.

Before the governor calls all legislators back for the special session, House leaders have been soliciting members for feedback so that the draft legislation will have the highest chance of success when it is presented to the entire chamber.

Lawmakers were also called into a special session last year over Medicaid expansion.