The Republic’s political team on April 18, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including 2018 candidates, Sen. Jeff Flake’s town hall and how a bill to require child-welfare officials to get warrants fell apart.
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The Republic’s political team on April 11, 2017, talks about “zombie” health care reform in Congress, and the expansion of the school voucher program headed by Gov. Doug Ducey.
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The Republic’s political team on April 4, 2017, talks about the state of the filibuster and the latest on Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s “Show Me the Money” campaign.
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The Republic’s political team on March 28, 2017, talks about funding for teacher raises in the state budget, what comes next after the non-vote on the ‘Obamacare’ repeal bill in Congress and proposed restrictions on citizen initiatives in Arizona.
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The Republic’s political team on March 21, 2017, talks about the possible impact on the president’s blueprint for a budget, and the lack of female representation in Arizona’s legislative leadership.
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The Republic’s political team on March 14, 2017, talks about how much of Arizona’s delegation has been quiet about the “Obamacare” replacement, but even Republicans don’t seem to like it.
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The Republic’s political team on March 8, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including a failed tax-cut bill, a congressman’s tweets and how a former state senator isn’t working at the White House after all.
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The Republic’s political team on March 1, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including the state of Senate Bill 1142 and the rowdy crowds at U.S. Rep. Martha McSally’s Town Hall.
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The Republic’s political team on Feb. 21, 2017, talks about recent political news, including Trump’s Arizona announcement about Intel, McCain and Obamacare, and House Bill 2404 targeting voter initiatives.
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The Republic’s political team on Feb. 6, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including how much debt is too much for the state and which lawmaker wants to be shot.
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The Gaggle: DCS warrants and Flake gets scorched
The Gaggle: Health care in Congress and school voucher expansion
The Gaggle: Is the filibuster busted and will Michele Reagan show us the money?
The Gaggle: Teacher raises, ACA repeal and ballot initiatives
The Gaggle: Federal budget and few women in the Legislature
The Gaggle: Obamacare replacement, George W. in town and TANF benefits
The Gaggle: Tax that did not get cut, tweets from Gosar and a non-job
The Gaggle: SB 1142 is dead and town halls get rowdy
The Gaggle: Bigfooted, McCain and HB 2404
The Gaggle: How much debt is too much?
State lawmakers decided to go slow on a plan to require warrants before DCS removes children from their homes.
A plan to move toward requiring a judge’s review before the state removes children from their homes has died.
Lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives this week nixed what Rep. John Allen had called a “half step” toward a warrant program for child removals in cases of child abuse and neglect.
“The half step made both sides uncomfortable,” said Allen, R-Scottsdale, after a tense showdown on the House floor over the issue Monday.
The debate highlighted the polarized positions of lawmakers: Some wanted to move slowly on this change in child-welfare practices; others wanted a warrant program to go further than what Allen was proposing.
He had hoped to carve out certain cases of alleged child abuse and neglect for which a Department of Child Safety caseworker would have to first seek permission from a Juvenile Court judge before removing a child. There would be an exception for “exigent” circumstances, meaning when a child is in imminent danger of abuse.
But constitutional questions swirled around his proposal: Would it be legal to limit the practice to certain circumstances? Would that violate equal-protection provisions?
Amid these questions, Allen last week pulled back a proposed amendment to Senate Bill 1003, which seeks to establish a legislative committee to oversee DCS by adding a pilot program on warrants.
Seeking more DCS oversight
On Monday, as the oversight bill came up for a vote, Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, added a series of amendments to tighten oversight of DCS.
Her amendments included:
- A prohibition on DCS using any tools that analyze voice stress when conducting child-neglect investigations. This addresses a practice the agency appeared ready to embark upon until it drew media attention.
- A stipulation that the agency make quarterly reports on the number of court orders it obtained prior to taking a child.
- A prohibition on DCS staffers lying, withholding critical information, making up evidence or not disclosing evidence that would point to someone’s guilt when dealing with their supervisors or the Juvenile Court.
“Which one of you is going to vote that it’s OK for social workers to lie in order to remove a child?” Townsend asked her colleagues. “This needs to be done. Our DCS needs to be held accountable.”
Her proposals showed the deep suspicion with which some lawmakers view the agency, which removed 5,669 children from their homes in the six-month period that ended Sept. 30. That is the most recent data available.
Townsend argues the agency, in theory, does not need a warrant program because the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars warrantless removal. But since that is not heeded, she said, the agency needs to account for what she views are overreaching policies.
Democrats and a handful of Republicans backed her amendments.
Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, said constituents have complained that children were wrongly taken from their homes, allegedly because of something as trivial as dirty dishes in a sink. More oversight is needed, he said.
“We wanted to support her in her effort to have more accountability,” said Tucson Rep. Randy Friese, the assistant Democratic leader. But he said the pilot program needed more study.
A majority of the lawmakers present agreed, and using a procedural tactic, stripped the bill of its amendments. That leaves the House free to still consider the underlying bill, which establishes the oversight committee.
Reporter Bob Ortega outlines The Republic’s series examining the Arizona Department of Child Safety, the issues with the state’s child-welfare system and how to improve it. David Wallace/azcentral.com
Warrant requirement a goal
Townsend said she’s dismayed that this attempt to establish a warrant requirement failed. Arizona, she said, is overdue for such a requirement, something that exists in other states, such as Utah, New York and Illinois. Several California counties pursue a similar practice. She introduced her own bill earlier this session to require warrants, but it did not advance.
Allen said he also wants a warrant program, something he started looking into last year. But, he said Tuesday, he overestimated lawmakers’ grasp of the concept as there were too many questions about how even a limited program would work.
“I’ve gotten too far ahead of the body politic,” Allen said. He said he will continue to meet with lawmakers over the summer to further study the issue, as well as practices in other states, and hopefully introduce a warrant bill next year.
DCS Director Greg McKay, who earlier this year said the agency would move ahead on its own with a warrant program, indicated on Tuesday the agency will do just that. But it’s unclear how that can happen until the Juvenile Courts in all 15 counties are capable of having a judge on call around the clock. That would require extra funding.
Meanwhile, one component of Townsend’s proposals might yet happen: to require the quarterly reports on court orders.
Sen. Nancy Barto, of Phoenix, the sponsor of SB 1003, said she would consider adding the reporting requirement to her oversight bill, calling it “fairly innocuous.”
“We know they’re not using them (court orders) very often because they treat every removal as an exigent circumstance, as I understand,” Barto said.
Reach the reporter at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.
DCS could get law requiring warrant for removal
DCS drops policy on ‘covert’ lie detection
Why DCS takes kids away is too often unknown
DCS to seek court orders before taking kids
Real progress at DCS, but ‘a long way to go’
The Arizona Department of Child Safety got kudos from lawmakers for progress in three key areas.
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