Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grijalva fights for stronger House healthcare bill

Rep. Grijalva stands strong for the common good.

TUCSON -- In a curt, terse letter delivered yesterday, public option champion, and progressive caucus co-chair US Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ7) says he wants to see some major changes to the House's health care bill--reflected in a so-called manager's amendment--before it comes to the floor.
  • Americans in every state in the nation must be able to take advantage of the benefits of the bill; thus the bill shall explicitly state that the public option must be available without any triggers or opt-out provisions.
  • If the Secretary is forced to negotiate provider reimbursement rates in the public plan, a ceiling shall be determined and set for such rates.
  • The bill shall fully repeal the McCarran Ferguson Act for health and medical malpractice insurance, as oppose to merely amending the Act.

Included with the letter is bill text for a stronger public option than the one in the bill that was unveiled yesterday. Grijalva is asking for a floor vote on that amendment, but Pelosi has been pretty clear that she doesn't want to bring it up.

Go, Raul!

- adapted from TPM

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lawmakers want Grand Canyon U mining withdrawl

Protect the Grand Canyon and Colorado River.

FLAGSTAFF AZ -- I and many other Arizona legislators sent this comment letter to BLM and other federal officials this week about the uranium mining controversy near the Grand Canyon. Read it here.

To: Jim Kenna, BLM AZ State Director, Phoenix; Scott Florence, BLM AZ Strip District Manager, St. George UT

We are writing to support the withdrawal of approximately one million acres of public lands near the Grand Canyon from mining activities, including both Bureau of Land Management lands and national forests.

The Grand Canyon National Park is one of America’s most precious and amazing parks. We want to ensure that this breathtaking park is preserved in pristine condition and are concerned that uranium mining in the area may significantly degrade the park’s natural state. There could be potential contamination of water in the Grand Canyon region, including Grand Canyon seeps, springs and the Colorado River, which supplies water to tens of millions of people throughout the southwest. We would appreciate a thorough analysis of impacts on all waters in the region when you evaluate this proposed withdrawal in an Environmental Impact Statement.

An analysis of potential short-term, long-term and cumulative environmental impacts of uranium exploration and mining on groundwater and the connections to surface water in and around the Grand Canyon could provide not only the environmental community, but also the Native American communities, answers to many of their concerns. This would be especially important to the various hydrologists and hydrogeologists who have expressed concerns about uranium mining and its potential impact on area water resources.

Thank you for carefully considering our comments as you move forward with developing the Environmental Impact Statement. We strongly support protecting these lands from mining activities.

Sincerely,

Arizona State Representative Daniel Patterson, District 29; Arizona State Representative Tom Chabin, District 2; Arizona State Representative Christopher Clark Deschene, District 2; Arizona State Representative Rae Waters, District 20; Arizona State Representative Patricia Fleming, District 25; Arizona State Representative Nancy Young Wright, District 26; Arizona State Representative Phil Lopes, District 27; Arizona State Representative Steve Farley, District 28; Arizona State Senator Albert Hale, District 2; Arizona State Senator Meg Burton Cahill, District 17

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

EPA hiding protests of radiation exposure plan

Obama's EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not come clean on its plan to dramatically raise permissible radioactive release levels, according to a lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The new draft standards have been promulgated in secrecy despite sharp controversy about allowing public exposure to radiation levels vastly higher than those EPA had previously deemed unacceptably dangerous.

The plan to markedly relax radiation standards was signed off on in the final days of the Bush administration, suspended by the new Obama administration prior to its publication. Obama EPA appointees are now weighing its fate. On June 11, 2009, PEER submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act for all of the comments submitted by EPA and other federal and state agency officials to the EPA Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (ORIA) as it prepared its updated Protective Action Guides, which govern radiation protection decisions following releases from accidents or attacks. PEER had received verbal reports that both internal and external reviewers registered grave concerns about the radical relaxation of radiation exposure limits being proposed.

ORIA has yet to produce a single document requested by PEER, months beyond the response deadlines mandated under the Freedom of Information Act. On October 16, 2009, EPA’s Office of General Counsel directed ORIA to comply but conceded that the only way to enforce its order would be in court. ORIA had not met previous self-announced timelines for delivery of documents or promises to provide records on a rolling basis, as they had been cleared for release. Today, PEER filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, D.C. to compel production.

“President Obama directed all agencies to act in a transparent way by placing important documents in the public domain in a timely fashion,”
said PEER Counsel Christine Erickson who drafted the complaint. “Avoiding embarrassment is not a legal basis for deception or delay.”

The radiation guides are protocols for responding to radiological incidents ranging from nuclear power-plant accidents to transportation spills to “dirty” bombs. They would significantly increase allowable public exposure to radioactivity in drinking water, including a nearly 1000-fold increase in strontium-90, a 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for iodine-131, and an almost 25,000 increase for nickel-63. The new radiation guidance would also allow long-term cleanup standards thousands of times more lax than anything EPA has ever before accepted, permitting doses to the public that EPA itself estimates would cause a cancer in as much as every fourth person exposed. These relaxations of radiation protection requirements are favored by the nuclear industry and allies in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Energy Department.

“EPA has bypassed open dialogue on how much radiation the public will be allowed to receive in the event of a release, and is now suppressing evidence of internal dissent on these controversial proposals,”
stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that congressional leaders, such as Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), have been expressing concerns about EPA’s intentions. “Who knew that EPA had a Doctor Strangelove wing?”

View other supporting documents...

- from PEER

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Senior US official former Marine quits Afghanistan

Children in war-torn Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON -- Matthew Hoh, the senior state department official in Afghanistan's Zabul province, said in a resignation letter just released that he had "lost understanding of, and confidence in, the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan".

Hoh, a former Marine Corps captain who fought in Iraq, also turned down a senior staff-level job at the US embassy in Kabul after he gave in his resignation.

He was then called to Washington to meet Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"We took his letter very seriously, because he was a good officer," Holbrooke said.

Read more...

- adapted from Al Jazeera

Monday, October 26, 2009

Davis-Monthan AFB AZ going solar in a big way

Soaring Heights Community on DMAFB, Tucson.

TUCSON -- Good news. Utilities, developers, the US Air Force and others are working to create the largest distributed, community-wide solar power system in the lower 48 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, within my district 29.

The 81,000 solar panel system will help our economy, environment and energy security.

Read more (news release)...

Friday, October 23, 2009

AZ budget gap at $2B, need fair creative deal

5-way bipartisan AZ budget deal needed at Capitol.

PHOENIX -- The state's deficit for the current fiscal year 2010 has grown to at least $2B, due to the failure of the legislative majority and governor to reach a budget agreement. This is reckless and unacceptable.

I remain ready to help solve it, but are Gov. Brewer & the GOP majority? Arizona needs new revenue, but it should be fair to middle/working class and poor people, and more sales tax hikes are not. We cannot afford more tax cuts right now. Maybe prison spending should be cut more? How about legalizing and taxing cannabis through a secure permit system? This would likely raise hundreds of millions annually from willing taxpayers.

One indicator of the problem is out-of-touch House Republicans increased the legislative budget this year, while forcing massive harmful cuts to everyone else. I and other House Democrats objected to this.

I await credible word and details on a likely deal between legislative leadership, including Dems, and the Gov. Until then the needed worthwhile special session seems distant.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Join health insurance reform town hall Oct 29

Will Congress get it done right?

TUCSON -- Please join me and Reps Sinema & Fleming on a Tele-Town Hall for an update on health insurance reform efforts, Oct 29, 5-6p.

RSVP by noon Oct 28 to azhealthreform@gmail.com

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shakeup in AZ Gov's office may help budget deal

Will Eileen Klein help AZ get a fair budget deal?

PHOENIX -- In a long-overdue staff shakeup, Governor Jan Brewer today announced the promotion of Eileen Klein to Chief of Staff, replacing Kevin Tyne, seen by many at the Capitol as ineffective. Klein currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for Finance and Director of the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

This change could help jump start the failed Arizona budget process, especially if Klein is willing to truly listen and work with Democrats for a fair budget, which Tyne largely refused. I hope she does, for the good of the state, but it remains to be seen.

Prior to joining the Brewer Administration, Eileen Klein was Chief Operating Officer for Arizona Physicians IPA by UnitedHealthcare, a $1 billion health insurance corporation. Ms. Klein also served for three years as Vice President of State Affairs, representing all UnitedHealthcare lines of business in government relations and public policy in Arizona, Utah and Idaho. During that time, Ms. Klein served as an executive committee member of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Eileen Klein spent over twelve years in state government in Arizona and Florida. She was the Director of Policy for the Arizona House of Representatives, where she served as chief adviser to the majority leadership. In that role, she oversaw the development of the state’s $10 billion budget and was responsible for directing policy staff in advancing major legislative initiatives and state government reforms. During her tenure, Ms. Klein served four House Speakers. Klein’s legislative experience also includes work at the Office of the Auditor General, where she performed audits to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of state programs.

The transition process will begin immediately, and Mr. Tyne and Ms. Klein will work closely over the next three weeks in transition.

- adapted from AZ Gov office

Monday, October 19, 2009

US Education Sec. Duncan visits S. Tucson school

Secretary Duncan with the President.

SOUTH TUCSON -- I spoke today with Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, at an event hosted by US Rep. Raul Grijalva at TUSD's Ochoa School in my LD29. I and other community leaders worked hard last year just to keep Ochoa open.

I told Secretary Duncan that Arizona is having big struggles with education and proper funding and we welcome any support the US government can provide. He said "I know and that's why we are here." We'll see what may come out of this. As a State Representative with a daughter and thousands of constituent students in public schools I am concerned and doing all I can to help education in Arizona.

“I am pleased to welcome Secretary Duncan to Tucson to discuss the many important education issues facing the Southern Arizona community,” said Rep. Grijalva. “This is a key opportunity for us to discuss our thoughts with him on going forward with elementary and secondary education reauthorization. Here in Southern Arizona, we are particularly interested in English language learners and teacher quality, among other issues. The people of the Seventh District have a lot to say about quality education, and this is an important chance to have their voices heard.”

The meeting also included the superintendents of Amphi, Flowing Wells, Sunnyside and Tucson Unified school districts, and more than 10 other officials from elementary through higher education institutions.

Thanks, Rep. Grijalva, for bringing key decision-makers to Tucson to listen, learn and help.

Vote YES on Props. 401 & 402 for stronger education funding in Tucson.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rs plan 15% more AZ cuts, ignore high foreclosures

Still bad and Republican lawmakers haven't helped at the Capitol.

BREAKING: State of Arizona details proposed new 15% cuts to departments, universities, etc. due to Gov. Brewer & Republicans failure to pass fair budget. See also: AZRepublic; AZDailyStar Better budget options at StrongerArizona.com.

TUCSON -- Pima County continues to be hit hard by home foreclosures with 1480 last month.

It's unacceptable out-of-touch GOP state legislators haven't cooperated to hear or help pass my HB2601, and other Democratic sponsored bills that would offer people relief.

HB2601, which will be re-introduced in January 2010, would:

· Grant immediate (60 day) relief to residential homeowners, who are in foreclosure and in danger of losing their home.

· The bill requires the owner to submit a signed, sworn and notarized affidavit to the trustee in order to postpone a sale.

· During the postponement period, the owner is granted the opportunity to negotiate a revised payment of the loan.

· Additionally, it encourages the lender and owner to make efforts to arrive at revised loan terms.

· If the owner makes timely monthly payments under this scenario, the sale may be postponed for up to one year; otherwise the sale can be rescheduled by the trustee.

The act is temporary.

More on Arizona's foreclosure crisis.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Excelling Tucson school kids open garden market

Borton kids grow in the school garden.

TUCSON -- TUSD’s Borton Primary Magnet Elementary School (PreK-2nd grade), on the south side in LD29, is proud to open the student-run A Fine, Fine Market today in the Bicycle Room at 10am. I'll be there.

This unique program recently garnered national attention on the Rachel Ray Show because the first and second graders plant, grow, and harvest the organic produce they sell. The elementary students compost matter that would otherwise be trash and they use it to improve the soil quality in their gardens. The students also care for the school’s egg-laying chickens. At the beginning of the year, the students apply for jobs at the market and they practice their math skills while selling their healthy produce. Borton students also recognize the importance of the larger community so they donate produce to the local food bank. The school garden was funded in large part by a grant from the Western Growers Association in association with the University of Arizona.

State Representatives Daniel Patterson and Matt Heinz will attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, as well as State Senator Linda Lopez. Congressman Grijalva’s Deputy District Director Clara Ortiz will also be in attendance. Other elected officials have been invited and may attend, including Governor Brewer's Southern Arizona Director Tim Bee and Mayor Bob Walkup.

Borton students will be on hand to answer any questions customers might have about their store and about food groups. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, market managers will gladly take customers and well-wishers on a tour of the school garden and chicken coop. Light refreshments will be served.

Features and Departments:
• Organic Market Produce
• Pint-sized Green Thumb Experts
• Sit-down eating area just west of the market
• Smiley Service; the typical market employee is missing a few front teeth.

Teacher Molly Reed applied for and received the Western Growers Association Grant. She built the chicken coop and garden with the help of Borton parents and other volunteers.

The Market philosophy is personal service. You will not see any automated grocery checkout aisles. Free smiles for the first 100,000 customers to come through the doors on October 15th!

View list of programs and awards received by Tucson's “Excelling” Borton Public School.

- adapted from Kristie Rabago.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brewer backs big coal utilities, using CAP for cover

Same old Brewer, same old pollution.

PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Glendale) is unwisely fighting against upgrading an old Salt River Project/Arizona Public Service/Tucson Electric Power coal plant near Page AZ. She is opposing pollution equipment upgrades to help improve air quality over the Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau.

Brewer, who is not known for being a friend to Arizona's environment, claims cleaning up the dirty old coal plant would harm the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which gets power from it to pump water from the lower Colorado River uphill to Phoenix, Pinal County and Tucson.

Her CAP worry claim is suspect because this summer Brewer signed legislation to raid $14M in CAP water banking funds, forcing CAP to sue her and State Treasurer Dean Martin (R-Phoenix).

Looks like Brewer is really fighting for dirty coal and big utility corporations then trying to allege CAP concerns as political cover. Her stated CAP concern rings hollow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

UA clean energy house aims to win solar decathlon

Building the 'seed pod' solar house at UA.

TUCSON -- The University of Arizona's solar house is included in a New York Times article on a clean energy housing effort being shown now on the National Mall in Washington DC.

Good job, UA students and AzRise. Hope we win the solar decathlon!

Monday, October 12, 2009

RIP Harriet Allen: desert defender, friend, veteran

Harriet's Desert Protective Council helps guard Anza Borrego and other desert gems.

SAN DIEGO -- A great leader has passed, Harriet Allen. She was a friend, desert defender and veteran. Over the years we worked together I learned a lot from her.

Harriet Allen will be missed by many and her spirit will live on in the desert wildlands she helped protect.

Read Harriet's obituary from the Los Angeles Times.

BLM should consider renaming a desert wilderness area after her in San Diego or Imperial County or anywhere in the California Desert Conservation Area.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama prize? New US wild horse & burro plan

Feral burros in Mojave Desert.

TUCSON -- We had a good trip to the US Air Force Goldwater Range. Nice days in the desert.

Congrats to President Obama on Nobel peace prize, but is he the most deserving person in world?

I'm quoted in the Arizona Daily Star today along with US Rep. Grijalva on a new fed wild horse & burro plan: A Tucson environmentalist who comes down in the middle on this question is state Rep. Daniel Patterson, a Democrat who is also Southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. "There are big problems that wild horses and burros can do to native wildlife, but the big question is how do you deal with them? On one side some people say gun them down, others say do nothing. I believe they should be humanely managed."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bombs away with Air Force; VOTE Tucson election

DM-based A-10 over Goldwater Range.

TUCSON -- As an Arizona State Representative serving on the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee, I'll be with US Air Force Thu & Fri touring the Goldwater Range and watching live fire training. Bombs away! My district 29 includes Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Early voting starts Thu Oct 8 in the local election. VOTE Fimbres, Uhlich and Trasoff for City Council. No on 200. Yes on 401 & 402 for kids and schools.

BLM staff conspired with DC lobbyists on land deal

Caught! BLM's Elena Daly in DC (left).

TUCSON -- In a national update from the New York Times on an issue long-ago covered by this blog, the US Interior Department Inspector General has found that US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff in Washington conspired with lobbyists during the final months of the Bush administration.

As an ecologist who formerly worked with BLM, I always supported making the NLCS permanent, but the slimy way it was pushed by some BLM staff and DC-insider lobbyists was wrong.

"Our investigative efforts revealed that communication between NLCS and certain NGOs in these circumstances gave the appearance of federal employees being less than objective and created the potential for conflicts of interest or violations of law," the IG report states. "We also uncovered a general disregard for establishing and maintaining boundaries among the various entities."

A disturbing part of the inappropriate relationship between the bureaucrats and lobbyists was their efforts to remove 7 million acres of Sonoran and Mojave Deserts habitat in the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) from the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). This fed-lobbyist anti-conservation push was very likely part of a bad political deal with Interior/BLM political appointees and US Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA).

President Obama's BLM Director Bob Abbey should make sure this doesn't happen again and take a hard look at making sure NLCS has the right leadership.

Director Abbey should personally also investigate California BLM to ensure the CDCA is being managed as NLCS, consistent with the direction of the US Senate. Long-time BLM mismanagement of the scenic and fragile CDCA remains a big problem today.

Not named in the Times article, but in my view also problem lobbyists here are Kevin Mack of the Wilderness Society, who still works with BLM on NLCS issues, and Chris Soderstrom of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The offending parties here with BLM and the DC groups should apologize, try to make amends, and focus on working with all conservation interests toward full support of the entire NLCS.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

State leaders push DC for health insurance reform

In control: President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker Pelosi.

WASHINGTON -- A group representing state legislators across the country announced today that 1057 state legislators from all fifty states, including me as an Arizona State Representative from Tucson, have signed letters to Congress asking for real health reform, including a public health insurance option, strong affordability protections, and shared responsibility among individuals, employers and government for health care costs.

State legislative leaders, along with mayors from around the country, will be coming to Washington next week to bring this message of state support for reform to Capitol Hill and the White House.

“State legislators have been on the front lines of health care reform for decades,” said Texas Representative Garnet Coleman, co-chair of Progressive States Network, “Most proposed elements of federal reform are based on ideas already debated and in many cases enacted in the states. So state legislators know what is needed to make reform work.”

In addition to these letters showing broad-based state legislator support for reform, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in August voted to support federal health care reform, including a public health insurance option. The vote at the annual NCSL conference was overwhelming, with representatives of 38 states supporting the resolution. As Iowa State Senator Jack Hatch (Des Moines), who introduced the amendment, said at the time, “We sent a very clear message to people dragging their feet in Washington: the time to act on health reform is now. We need a public health insurance option to make sure working families and small businesses are free to choose the best health care available at a price they can afford.”

“Talk radio and television may generate a lot of noise,”
said Nathan Newman, PSN’s executive director, “but the over 1000 legislators in all fifty states supporting affordable, quality health care for all Americans, including a public insurance option, reflects the voices of communities across our nation. These legislators are asking to fix a broken health care system and improve both individual lives and the economic competitiveness of our nation.”

The list of 1057 legislators supporting reform reflects 943 legislators signing a letter to Congress and President Obama sponsored by Progressive States Network itself, along with two separate letters from legislators in the states of Connecticut (92 additional names) and New Mexico (25 additional names) reflecting advocacy of similar reforms.

Read the letter with all signers, along with links to the New Mexico and Connecticut letters.

- adapted from PSN

Friday, October 02, 2009

Northern Arizona fall family weekend of bliss

It doesn't get much better than fall at Grand Canyon AZ.

TUCSON -- Looks like we're headed to the Grand Canyon for the weekend. The PBS National Parks series is getting to me. Should be wonderful there in October.

I will also be speaking Monday in Flagstaff at the 10th Biennial Conference of Research on the Colorado Plateau.

Follow me at RepPatterson on twitter for other news & views updates.