Arizona Legislators discussed a bill that would amend current Arizona law on child abuse reporting and jurisdiction but did not vote on it yet, while work on a budget continues.
Legislative leadership are meeting each day to develop a state budget, but they have yet to agree upon a plan to discuss with members, weeks after a skinny budget that would have continued this year’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year failed in the House Appropriations Committee.
At that time, House Appropriations Committee members Rep. Jake Hoffman and Rep. Michelle Udall joined Democratic committee members to vote against the continuation budget, with Rep. Udall saying the bills did not address several key issues and Rep. Hoffman saying the state government already spends too much.
Education advocates urged Legislators to develop a more robust budget that uses some of the $2.8 billion in one-time funding and $1.29 billion in ongoing funding forecast by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee for education funding and other key needs identified by state agencies.
What the amendment to child abuse reporting law will do
House Bill 2647 sponsored by Rep. Joanne Osborn and co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Dunn, would amend current Arizona law that requires the Arizona Department of Child Safety to operate and maintain a central intake hotline to receive information about suspected child abuse or neglect, provide information so law enforcement or DCS can investigate and complete a report on the allegation.
HB 2647 was requested by the Arizona Department of Child Safety and says that DCS is not required to prepare a report concerning alleged abuse or neglect if the alleged acts occurred in a foreign country and the child is the custody of the federal government.
Arizona Capitol Television: House Republican Caucus 5/9/22
Rep. John Kavanagh asked, “What exactly does that mean? Can you give me an example?”
“What we’re saying is that our state department doesn’t have to do a report on it,” Rep. Osborn said. “Because it’s out of their hands.”
“But wouldn’t it be interesting to know that outside of this country that a child under the authority of this country was abused?” Rep. Kavanagh asked.
“But that’s the point, it needs to be with the federal government who’s in control of these children, rather than the state,” Rep. Osborn said. “Our own state department is having enough trying to keep up with our own reporting, so I think it’s giving it back to where it properly needs to take place.”
Initially, the bill also let the Department of Child Safety transfer the jurisdiction of a child who lives on an Indian reservation to a tribal social services agency, but that provision was removed in the Senate engrossed version of HB 2647 said Rep. Osborn who concurred with the Senate amendment.
“Is this different? I notice it specifically says for the reservation or the native children. Are they treated differently?” asked Rep. Teresa Martinez.
“This is what was being removed being the reporting, because they’re their own sovereign governments so to speak and it was a matter of they were doing reports to an entity that they have no jurisdiction for, but because there was no consensus found that was why it’s being removed from this bill,” Rep. Osborn said.
If an allegation that a Native American child is abused comes into the hotline, that information will be forwarded to the appropriate tribal agency to be investigated.
“What were the tribes … were they neutral, were they for, were they against? And did you know which tribes did what?” asked Rep. Martinez.
“There weren’t specific tribes that signed in to speak on behalf of this bill,” said Aunjeunae, a House staff member. “There were no tribes that spoke against this bill.”
Arizona Capitol Television: House Democratic Caucus 5/9/22
Majority Whip Rep. Leo Biasiucci asked who would have jurisdiction if a child coming across the Arizona border says they were sexually assaulted before they entered the U.S.
Rep. Walter Blackman said, “I see it as the state only handles state cases and that’s it.”
“My concern with this is that if the federal government decides to do nothing, which they often do, that the State of Arizona has nowhere to start,” Rep. Martinez said. “If they’re in federal custody these children they will eventually be released somewhere in the United States.”
“The state deals with state cases. If the kid is in the State of Arizona and they’re living in Arizona and they are turned over to the state by DHS then it’s a state issue,” Rep. Blackman said. “If that’s the issue, then there should be a bill that addresses your issue. This bill only says the state will deal with state issues. You’re talking about bringing another bill and that’s fine. If that’s your concern, that’s fine, then do that.”
Other education bills’ progress
The Arizona House of Representatives and Arizona Senate remain adjourned until Monday, May 16, 2022, when a conference committee of legislators will meet at 3 p.m. to discuss Senate Bill 1630 on school buses and student transportation.
In addition, the House approved Senate Bill 1319 on school vision screening and sent it to Gov. Doug Ducey. SB 1319 would require the Arizona Department of Health Services when making rules about school vision screening to consult with “recognized nonprofit organizations that provide free vision screening services, eyeglasses or examinations and ophthalmologists, optometrists, school nurses, pediatricians and school administrators.”
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