Written by Jason Snead, Research and Communication Specialist
One of the things that comes to mind in the month of July is baseball, with the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby coming up. The 2023 festivities will kick off on July 7 and culminate in the Home Run Derby on July 10 and the 93rd edition of the All-Star Game on July 11, at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Washington. If you think about it, the Arizona legislative process is like a baseball game, where the individual Senators and Representatives are the players, the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives are the pitchers and defense, and the Governor represents the umpire. The Senators and Representatives try to get base hits – or even home runs – as they sponsor bills and shepherd them through the Senate or House, with the hope that the bill ends up being signed by the Governor.
In an unusual turn, the 2023 legislative session has gone into extra innings (it currently stands at 173 days and counting, while a typical session lasts approximately 100 days). Governor Hobbs has signed more than 200 bills, some of which were disability-related, and vetoed more than 140.
First, let’s talk about a bill that scored on a wild pitch. Senate Bill (SB) 1291, as introduced, made various changes to a statute related to guardianship and conservatorship, but ultimately became a bill that made Supported Decision-Making (SDM) a law. How did this happen? Well, Senator John Kavanagh basically hit a double by getting it through the Senate but needed help from Representatives Alexander Kolodin and Jennifer Longdon in order to score the run.
Once SB 1291 arrived in the House, Rep. Kolodin introduced a “strike everything” amendment, which proposes to delete the entire text of the existing bill and substitute new language, essentially making it a completely different bill. This striker included language from Representative Longdon’s past and current (HB) 2174) bills regarding Supported Decision-Making. This provided the bunt single and wild pitch needed to get SB 1291 – and SDM – passed. It was signed by Governor Hobbs on June 20, 2023.
It’s also worth noting the strikeout that was SB 1411. This bill required a parent/caregiver of a minor child receiving Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) services to “automatically and immediately” become the guardian of the minor child when he or she turns 18 – whether the guardianship was deemed necessary by a court of law or not. The bill was publicly opposed by a large number of disability advocates and, trying to avoid a shutout, the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Justine Wadsack, called a stakeholder meeting with representatives of the disability community to try persuading them to help move the bill. In the end, SB 1411 made it through the Senate but stalled in the House.
(As a note in the Box Score, more than 30 disability advocates showed up at the stakeholders meeting, using that discussion to increase awareness of Supported Decision-Making as well as the need for guardianship reform. Way to go advocates!)
Next up to bat was SB 1710, a bill that made various changes to the oversight and management of the Arizona State Hospital (ASH). SB 1710 would establish a 5-member Arizona State Hospital Governing Board and transfer responsibility for administering the Hospital to the Board, from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). Most of the disability community opposed the bill, agreeing there are problems with ASH but finding no meaningful solutions in this legislation. One of the main concerns with the original bill was the addition of I/DD beds at ASH, meaning greater occupancy at an already troubled facility. Through the amendment process, this provision as well as others were eventually taken out. A significantly amended version of the bill was eventually signed by the Governor on June 20.
Now let’s discuss some home runs in the 2023 legislative session (just like in the 2001 baseball season when the Diamondbacks’ Luis Gonzalez hit 57 home runs, third in the National League behind Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds).
HB 2559 directs the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) to determine eligibility for benefits administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for all children in DCS care and apply for those federal benefits on the children's behalf if they are deemed eligible. One of the options DCS must consider for the child is an Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) account, or any other trust account determined not to interfere with social security or the asset limitations for any other benefit program. ABLE accounts are investment programs that offer persons with disabilities, their families, and friends, the option to contribute to a tax-exempt savings account for disability-related expenses. HB 2559 will help ensure youth moving from foster care into adulthood will have some level of personal assets available to assist them in this transition. The bill was signed by the Governor on June 19, 2023.
Lastly, let’s not forget SB 1315, which passed unanimously through the House and Senate – a Grand Slam! SB 1315 requires that emergency response plans developed by school district governing boards are required to address how the school and emergency responders will communicate with and help students with disabilities. This is first-of-its-kind legislation in Arizona, taking into account the unique needs of students with disabilities during emergency situations. It was signed by the Governor on May 8, 2023.
Other disability-related bills from the 2023 session (all signed into law by Governor Hobbs):
HB2064 - Property tax exemption; disability; qualifications
HB2166 - DHS; licensure; group homes
HB2198 - Claimant; guardian ad litem; procedure
Don’t forget to watch the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 11th!