Dialysis Patients Are Counting on Congress to Pass the Bipartisan BETTER Kidney Care

By Brendan Flanagan

As the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated headlines and airwaves over the past year and a half, immunosuppressed Americans have received special attention in our conversations about public health and healthcare policy. Now, even as vaccination rates climb, we need to continue to find ways to care for some of the most vulnerable Americans, including those right here in Arizona.

One group of immunosuppressed patients that hasn’t received enough attention, though, is patients with kidney disease. In Arizona alone, there are over 14,000 kidney disease patients receiving dialysis treatments. That’s over 14,000 friends and neighbors who desperately need our help. At a moment when our world is increasingly aware of public health issues, it’s especially important that we continue to identify ways we can help kidney patients and improve the way End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) is treated in the U.S. 

Right now, there’s a bipartisan bill introduced by Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) called the BETTER Kidney Care Act which could help. This bill could streamline how we treat kidney patients while also offering some other vital services that make their life-saving treatments more accessible. For some patients, it can also help better prepare them to eventually receive a kidney transplant. 

One of the bill’s main goals is to make coordinated care services – which are severely needed – more broadly available for ESRD patients. It’s common for ESRD patients to also have diabetes, heart disease, or other conditions in addition to their kidney disease, meaning they need to see a range of different doctors and care providers who prescribe different treatments and medications that may interfere with one another. Without an easy way for doctors to stay in touch with each other, it falls on the patient to make sure each doctor knows what the others are doing. 

With the coordinated care provisions of the BETTER Kidney Care Act, it will be easier for those doctors to get on the same page, which will help to improve overall care and ensure that all of a patient’s needs are being fully addressed. In the end, they’ll have fewer appointments to attend and spend less on medical bills. 

This bill does more than simply make it easier for patients’ doctors to communicate treatments and prescriptions, though. It also offers transportation to and from a dialysis patient’s local clinic. Since it’s difficult for many patients to get to and from their clinic without someone being there to assist them, these services make it easier for patients to keep up with their appointments and stay healthy, which is a major benefit considering most dialysis patients need to go into their clinic three or four times each week for exhausting treatments that can take several hours. 

Beyond transportation, it also notably provides dental care, something a lot of ESRD patients don’t otherwise have access to. It’s hugely important, however, for patients who are trying to get a kidney transplant. Offering dental care means that patients can be sure they’re remaining on track to receive a kidney transplant, which is already a difficult enough process. 

The BETTER Kidney Care Act is a crucial step toward improving the way we treat kidney patients in the U.S., and it’s encouraging to see lawmakers like Senator Sinema leading the way on this issue. Kidney patients in Arizona are counting on them and this life-saving bill. 

Dialysis patients need more attention in our discussions about healthcare policy, and the BETTER Kidney Care Act is where lawmakers should start. It’s promising for Arizonans that Senator Sinema helped bring this bill forward, but it’s not enough. Dialysis patients across America need our help, and it starts with Congress passing this crucial legislation.  

Making Infrastructure Investments Last: Why Prescott Voted To Ban Plastic Drinking Water Pipes

By Cathey Rusing

There are few things in life that are certain, but one of them here in my hometown of Prescott, AZ is the fact that most of our buildings are built on hard rock like granite, making the resilience of our buried infrastructure even more important than it may be in other locations who don’t have to deal with such conditions.

I have become very knowledgeable about our topography because, as a member of the Prescott City Council, I have had to vote on projects that must work well in our conditions. In fact, the condition of our drinking water infrastructure is one of the reasons I actually decided to run for Council. A few weeks before declaring my candidacy, I visited a neighbor’s home that sustained significant damage from a ruptured plastic PVC water pipe. Despite past efforts to repair and preserve the pipe, it finally burst and led to substantial damage to their home.  However, they shouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place. At that point, I saw it as my duty to maintain and provide durable infrastructure for the public welfare of Prescott for generations to come.

After I was elected to the Council, I continued advocating for a better and more cost-effective solution to our water infrastructure problems. These kinds of projects can be very expensive – even with state and federal grants and low-interest loans available to municipalities and water system operators. Given the expense, and disruption that comes from upgrading our water infrastructure, it is really important that we plan for and make decisions for the long-term. 

Take my city as an example.  Today, there are more than 46,000 people living in Prescott, and we’ve grown by 16.28 percent since 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Given how great a place Prescott is to live, we should only expect future growth. That’s wonderful, but we must properly plan and think about where we might be in a generation or two to ensure that the infrastructure we invest in today will support and help us manage this future growth. 

As I delved into infrastructure research, I learned about different kinds of pipe materials. One of the most important lessons is that not all pipes are created equally, and there are many variations based on how they’re made, what material is used, or even what the soil looks like where the pipe will be installed. The plastic pipes that we have running under much of Prescott may have been cheaper to initially purchase when past city leaders chose to use them, but they crack more easily, don’t last as long, and can actually lose some of their ability to handle pressure at higher temperatures in the soil or even melt if exposed to high temperatures from a fire. 

We’ve also seen pictures on social media of melted plastic trash cans and mailbox stands from the Arizona heat. Imagine the pipe carrying your drinking water melting or being deformed in that same way. A recent California wildfire melted a 7.5-mile stretch of plastic pipe that was a major conveyance for a drinking water system. We need pipes that will last for generations, be environmentally friendly, and resilient enough to handle both our rocky terrain and the challenges tossed at us from prolonged extreme drought and rising temperatures.

I know it sounds like we’re looking for a unicorn, but as I’ve learned, there a pipe material that can do just that: it’s made from a material called ductile iron. Through my research, I learned that water mains made from this material have a service life of 90 to 100 years – that’s nearly three times as long as PVC – is made from recycled steel and iron, and uses less energy to move water. 

Since I was elected, I’ve worked with my fellow Councilmembers to explore the cost benefits and return on investment we could realize as a city if we stopped using plastic pipes and switched to ductile iron. 

After a valuable Council study session, substantive discussions with my colleagues, and important input from our Public Works Director, we unanimously voted to update our General Engineering Standards in a way that will balance costs without compromising the integrity of project materials. This change will save our taxpayers millions of dollars over the long-term and give residents peace of mind that we’re using materials in infrastructure projects that are designed to last.  In fact, it also puts Prescott in good company with over two dozen communities in Arizona like Phoenix and Tempe that have made similar decisions to exclude plastic pipes from their drinking water systems. 

Infrastructure has always been vitally important to the success of Prescott. The process that we underwent to upgrade our engineering standards can be a model for other projects and even other cities in a similar situation. We did our research, put in the hard work to ensure that our drinking water will remain clean, affordable, and accessible for generations. We want Prescott to set the “gold standard” for infrastructure and hope to apply these lessons to other projects to aim for a bright future for generations to come! 

Cathey Rusing is a city councilmember in Prescott, AZ.

Arizona Republicans – Picking Winners and Losers?

Robert Graham

There seems to have been widespread complaints from experienced precinct committeemen, in specific districts, of a total disregard of statute and bylaws in their election of State Committeemen. AZGOP Chairman Robert Graham apparently believes there’s more than rumor and sent the following letter to all chairmen:

Dear GOP District and County Chairmen,

We’ve received numerous accounts from precinct committeemen throughout the state regarding the organizational meetings taking place. Based on what we’ve heard, we need to remind all chairmen about the guidance provided by the state party over the years to ensure all organizational meetings are conducted with the full participation and authority vested in the PCs and state committeemen.

As you know, these party committee organizational meetings are referred to as “statutory” meetings because they are governed by state statute and therefore differ from normal monthly business meetings typically held by party committees. Normally, district and county parties operate with a great deal of autonomy, but in the case of the statutory organizational meetings, the state party has an important stake in the outcome of the elections. Not only are most of the state party’s executive committee members being elected at the organizational meetings, but all of the state committeemen are as well.

Our party is only as legitimate as the claim we make to represent Republican voters and only if we do so according to the law. From the primary election where PCs are elected, to the organizational meetings and ultimately the state party organizational meetings, all of our credibility and authority depends on having a process according to the rule of law. For example, the organizational meetings are not private. A chairman may certainly limit the meeting activity to the elections themselves, and has no obligation to allow the public any role other than to observe. But the committee has no legal authority to exclude the public from the meeting if they simply wish to observe.

We’ve also received complaints from PCs who did not receive a call letter at least ten days before the meeting. Some have complained that proxies they were carrying were not accepted by the chairmen, and others that their proxy documents were not considered to have the full legal effect of a proxy. Others were concerned that “alternates” were elected, when there is no such office, and anyone not elected outright as a state committeeman has no standing or claim to be “next in line.” Still others complained that the committee leaders and nominating committees operated a “closed shop” and deliberately excluded many eligible PCs from having their names printed on the ballot to run for a state committeeman position. Lastly, some committees prohibited nominations from the floor.

Some of these are serious concerns. Committees which do not reasonably follow the legal process of electing state committeemen risk having them fail to be recognized by the state party for the January 2017 meeting. In fact, any election with serious enough violations could be completely disregarded, leaving all the county or district’s positions considered vacant.

Of particular concern is the denial of a PC’s rights to participate by proxy. A lawful proxy carrier, with a completed form signed and dated and witnessed, is considered the legal representative of the proxy giver and the giver’s “attorney-in-fact.” That entitles the carrier to act on the proxy’s behalf, which includes voting, nominating and even being nominated for election to office. Any rule, bylaw or act that suppresses the proxy rights of a PC is not just violating the PC’s rights, but is offensive to an open and fair election process.

I will be working with our legal counsel to address the concerns presented to us to date. In the meantime, if your organizational meeting is yet to occur, please ensure your committee is following the rules and the law.

AZGOP Chairman Robert Graham

 

Winkle for Mesa … In Tempe?

You would think that when you’re running for a local office that you would hold your events in the district, right? Apparently, Ryan Winkle who is running for Mesa City Council in District 3 would disagree!

Winkle is hosting an event that he’s calling a “Community Celebration,” in Tempe. Is that a slap in the face to the voters in Mesa’s 3rd District? We think so… That is the equivalent of someone running for the Phoenix City Council who campaigns in San Tan Valley. It just does not make sense!

Maybe he’s confused about what district and city he is actually going to represent?

Winkle, we know you’re young and naive, but if you’re running to represent people then please run in the district you’re aiming to represent. You are not running for Tempe City Council. The people of Mesa deserve better and deserve to know that you care about them and the issues facing the community. Evidently, you do not.

Solar Money Buying the Election for Bob Burns?

The past few years have seen an explosion of outside money to aid campaigns. Outside money is not new to politics and has been around since the dawn of democracy. What is new, however, is that much of it can be spent without knowing who is funding it. In the fights over election spending in Arizona, a lot has been made of outside money that the utilities may have given to aid Corporation Commission candidates. The Commission regulates utilities, so it seems to be a fair question. In the newspapers’ zeal to find out everybody’s sources except their own, (which they conveniently feel a 1st amendment right to do) they have launched some serious charges against local utility companies. What they haven’t done is given the same level of scrutiny to solar companies who have used outside money to aid pro-solar commission candidates.

Recently, Chris Mayes, Janet Napolitano’s spokeswoman and a Napolitano appointee to the Corporation Commission, has been leading efforts by solar companies to spend millions of dollars to aid the already largely subsidized solar industry. Voters should be wary when they see mail and hear calls from Mayes and solar dark money so that they don’t fall for the attacks on the current commission or commissioners. The current commission supports Arizona’s renewable energy mandate, which requires the utilities to use a mix of renewable energy already for distribution to Arizona homes. However that does not seem to be enough for the solar industry that wants to make profits off of government tax credits and federal dollars. Conservatives shouldn’t be deceived by claims made by solar alleging that those who want the market to decide the best energy sources are somehow anti-solar. Solar is already a part of the energy mix and will continue to be prevalent for quite some time. How much it should be subsidized by other rate payers is the real question before voters this November. Should a small percentage of solar users get tax credits and raise the cost for other energy users? Voters will weigh in August and November on these critical issues.

The Jana Jackson Saga Continues

This past week Sonoran Alliance reported that Janifer “Jana” Jackson, a candidate for the Superintendent of Maricopa County schools, has a serious ghost in her closet that voters deserve to know about. Years ago, when she was living in Indiana, she was taken to court over “check deception.” The plot twist? She failed to appear in court and subsequently had a warrant out for her arrest (see case number 53C06-9309-CM-04018).

Today, however, we are ready to divulge that this was actually neither the first nor the last time Jackson was charged with a crime, taken to court, and failed to show up. To be exact, while she was living in Indiana, she failed to appear in court on six other occasions. See the end of the article for the case numbers for further information.  

These cases range from Jackson being taken to court by her former home-county, the Monroe County Bank, the Bloomington Herald Times, all the way to being sued by the State of Indiana. Ladies and gentlemen, this may be the year of the outsider to run for office, but it is not the year of the criminal. We must hold our elected officials to a higher standard, especially those who influence our children, their education, and their subsequent futures. Jana Jackson is absolutely unqualified to be the next Superintendent of Public Instruction for Maricopa County.

 

Case numbers: 53C05-5903-SC-00591, 53C05-9408-CP-00841,  53C01-9405-CP-00556,  53C02-9311-SC-03072, 53C06-9311-CP-01378, and 53C03-9308-CP-00940.

Jana Jackson: The Wrong Choice for Superintendent of Maricopa County Schools

Amidst this year’s biggest political races ranging from Arizona’s heated U.S. Senate race to different Congressional races, we often overlook other, important elections. For example, the election for Maricopa County Schools’ next superintendent is absolutely critical to the county and all of our children. According to Wikipedia, Maricopa county is the “most populous county in the state, and the fourth-most populous in the United States. It is more populous than 23 states.” These statistics only add to the increasing importance of electing the right person for the job, which in our opinion is not Jana Jackson.

Why, you ask? Because as an education leader for this nation’s 4th largest county and someone who will influence our children’s’ futures, we expect nothing short of complete honesty and integrity. Let’s start off with this simple requirement: we expect the Superintendent to never have a warrant out for his or her arrest due to failing to appear in court for charges of any kind. Janifer “Jana” Jackson, previously Janifer Mayden, would not fulfil such a requirement back when she lived in Indiana (click link to see more). Besides, “check deception” is not exactly a speeding ticket or two… this is a serious charge. A charge which Jackson evidently avoided and ran from seeing as she never appeared in court.

We all make mistakes, yes. However, what sort of example would Jackson be setting for our children and for the county if she is elected? This is not a record suitable for a public official in charge of our schools.

Andy Tobin, Al Melvin & Rick Gray Form Team To Run For Corporation Commission


July 20 – (Phoenix, AZ) Republican Corporation Commission candidates Andy TobinAl Melvin and Rick Gray announced that they are running as a team for the three Arizona Corporation Commission seats that are up for election.

“Already being on the Commission I appreciate the importance of quality commissioners who are working together to provide stability to both providers and ratepayers, and that’s what I believe this team will do,” said current Commissioner Andy Tobin.
“As three conservative Republicans who are equally committed to ensuring a plentiful supply of clean and safe water and electricity to our great state, the team approach just made sense,” said former State Senator Al Melvin.

State Representative Rick Gray said, “With our team of Tobin, Melvin and Gray the people of Arizona will have strong leadership that will work to protect the ratepayers while providing affordable, reliable utilities.”

Collectively, Tobin, Melvin, and Gray have all been awarded Friend of the Taxpayer and Friend of the Family awards, and have extensive private and public sector expertise.

Arizona Republic: Poll shows Arizona marijuana-legalization campaign could fail if voted on today

Arizona Republic: Poll shows Arizona marijuana-legalization campaign could fail if voted on today

As seen on AZCentral.com

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez
April 20, 2016

If a vote were taken today, Arizonans could reject an initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana by adults, according to a poll released by the campaign opposing the plan.

The survey shows 43 percent of likely voters support legalizing marijuana for recreational use while 49 percent would vote against it. About 8 percent of likely voters were undecided. The telephone survey has a margin of error of about 4 percent.

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy released the poll on the eve of 4/20, a day on which the drug culture celebrates and consumes cannabis.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is gathering signatures to put an initiative on the November ballot that would allow people age 21 and older to carry up to 1 ounce of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants in a home occupied by at least two people, without obtaining licenses. It would also create a distribution system similar to Colorado’s, where licensed businesses produce and sell marijuana, which would be taxed.

Barrett Marson, spokesman for the legalization campaign, said of the poll results: “We look forward to a vigorous campaign informing voters of the benefits of ending the failed policy of prohibition. By regulating and taxing marijuana, we benefit our schools and keep it out of the hands of teens.”

The poll, released to The Arizona Republic on Tuesday, shows voters could narrowly oppose the measure. According to the survey of 500 likely voters conducted April 11 through April 14:

  • When asked if they would be more or less likely to support the ballot measure if they knew recreational marijuana would be taxed at 15 percent and the funds would go to public health and education, 50 percent said they would be more likely to support the measure, while 29 percent said they would be less likely to support it. Eighteen percent said the tax would not really change their decision, while 4 percent were undecided and 1 percent wouldn’t answer the question.
  • About 19 percent said they would be more likely to support legalization in Arizona after being told teen use of the drug here is 70 percent higher than the national average. About 53 percent said they would be less likely to vote for the measure, 21 percent said they still held the same view, 6 percent were undecided and 1 percent wouldn’t answer the question.
  • Asked if they knew the measure would allow growth of up to 12 plants in their homes and allow them to smoke in their backyard, 31 percent said they would be more likely to vote for it, 52 percent would be less likely, 13 percent said their opinion remained about the same, 3 percent were undecided and 1 percent refused to answer.

Of those who responded, 39 percent were Republican, 33 percent were Democrat, 28 percent were independent, and 1 percent didn’t know their affiliation. About 36 percent were 65 or older, 21 percent were 55-64 years old, 17 percent were 45-54 years old, 13 percent were 35-44 years old and 13 percent were 18-34 years old.

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy argues legalization could upend decades of policies surrounding substance-abuse prevention, law-enforcement and health. They argue legalization could lead to the abuse of marijuana and negatively impact the workplace.

The group’s leaders, Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and radio host Seth Leibsohn, say legalization could lead to increased incidents of impaired driving and lead to accidental ingestion by youth who may find marijuana-laced cookies and candies enticing without knowing they contain the drug.

“Advocates for recreational marijuana argue that legalization is inevitable, but this poll shows it’s just not true,” Leibsohn said in a statement. “Arizonans are beginning to understand that today’s marijuana is not the marijuana of the past. It’s a great deal more potent — practically a different drug — and is made attractive to youth in seemingly innocuous candies like gummy bears.”

Campaign officials argue prohibition of the drug has been a failure, and it’s in the public’s best interest to try to regulate and tax it.

Taxation of the proposed program would pay the state’s cost of implementing and enforcing the initiative. Forty percent of the taxes on marijuana would be directed to the Department of Education for construction, maintenance and operation costs, including salaries of K-12 teachers. Another 40 percent would be set aside for full-day kindergarten programs. Twenty percent would go to the state Department of Health Services for unspecified uses.

A state Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control would regulate the “cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation and sale of marijuana” and would give local governments the authority to regulate and ban marijuana stores. Current medical-marijuana dispensary owners would get first dibs on licenses for the stores.

Senate President Andy Biggs Announces Bid for Arizona’s 5th Congressional District

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Senate President Andy Biggs Announces Bid for Arizona’s 5th Congressional District

Seeks to replace Rep. Matt Salmon, who will serve as campaign chairman

PHOENIX (February 25) – Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs today announced he will run for Arizona’s 5th Congressional District. Biggs, a 25-year Gilbert resident, made the announcement following U.S. Representative Matt Salmon’s announcement earlier today that he is retiring from the office.

“I never envisioned running for Congress, but Matt’s decision to return home leaves a void that must be filled by the kind of strong, conservative voice that the people of Arizona’s 5th District have come to expect and that they deserve,” President Biggs said. “As a state legislator, and as Senate President, I have consistently demonstrated my ability to be a conservative leader who can build the necessary coalitions to pass meaningful reforms. I am ready to take my proven 14-year record to Washington and be that strong conservative voice for the East Valley.”

“My decision to leave Congress and return home was one of the hardest of my career. But I couldn’t be more pleased that Andy has decided to run for my seat and continue the fight to return our nation to the values that made it great,” Rep. Salmon said. “Andy’s record as a public servant is impeccably conservative. As a state legislator, he’s proven himself to be a tireless advocate for lower taxes and less regulation. As Senate President, he has proven his commitment to advancing legislation that will make government smaller, more efficient and more accountable to the people.”

President Biggs campaign for Arizona’s 5th Congressional District will focus on the following principles:

  • Fighting day and night to restore limited government, fiscal responsibility and pro-growth economic policies to the nation’s capitol;
  • Protecting the nation’s porous borders and working to solve the illegal immigration crisis;
  • Pledging to be a passionate advocate for the heroes who made enormous sacrifices while serving our nation proudly, as well as the men and women who wear a uniform today and defend our homeland.

“I am excited and grateful to kick-off my campaign with Matt as my Chairman. As a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, he is a true champion for the conservative movement and has served his constituents with the highest esteem,” Biggs continued. “His leadership will be sorely missed, and I am honored to have his full support for my campaign.

“I look forward to meeting the voters of Arizona’s 5th Congressional district in the coming months, and continuing in Matt’s footsteps of fighting for conservative principles in Washington.”

“I’ve known Andy and his family for more than two decades, and his character is one of integrity and devotion,” Congressman Salmon concluded. “I am thrilled to chair his campaign and I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure he is successful in representing the wonderful people of Arizona’s 5th Congressional District.”

# # #

About Andy Biggs
Senator Andy Biggs is an Arizona native and has lived in Gilbert with his family for the past 25 years. He is married to Cindy and they have six children. He is a retired attorney and is licensed to practice in Arizona, Washington, and New Mexico. The Senator has a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from BYU and a J.D. degree from the University of Arizona. He earned a M.A. in Political Science from ASU and has done additional graduate work there. Senator Biggs served Legislative District 22 in the State House of Representatives for eight years before being elected to the State Senate in November of 2010. Andy has earned the designation “Champion of the Taxpayer” from Americans for Prosperity for his cumulative service in the state legislature and has been honored numerous times by the Goldwater Institute as a “Friend of Liberty.”

 

View the original press release here.