Health funding: Arizona will continue to fund its health-care programs for the poor at current levels, at least for the time being.
Without comment, Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday signed legislation restoring funds that had been taken from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state's Medicaid program. The move, designed to save money, would have dropped more than 310,000 people from the program effective Jan. 1.
The new law also reauthorizes and finances the KidsCare program. That provides nearly free health insurance to children of families who earn too much to qualify for AHCCCS but still less than twice the federal poverty level, or $36,620 for a family of three.
Brewer insisted on the move after President Obama signed new federal health-care legislation. One provision of that measure requires states to continue funding health-care programs at current levels or forfeit all future health aid. That would have totaled about $7.8 billion a year, far more than the savings by scaling back both programs.
Parks operation: State parks officials now have the authority to contract with public or private groups to operate some of the facilities.
Brewer on Thursday signed emergency legislation that allows the parks board to enter into deals with cities, private groups and Indian tribes to assist in the operation, management or maintenance of parks. The same law, which takes effect immediately, also permits contracts for outside groups to completely operate parks.
The change comes after state lawmakers took cash away from the parks board that the board had used to keep facilities operating, including money from admission fees. Lawmakers balked at alternative sources of revenue to run the parks, including a mandatory surcharge on vehicle registration fees or borrowing money from a special voter-approved fund to buy and maintain open space.
In the interim, parks officials have been negotiating with some communities to pick up all or part of the operating costs. Several cities have shown particular interest because the expenditure would be far less than the tourism revenues lost.
Course numbers: Life could soon get easier for community college students hoping to complete their education at one of the state's three universities.
Legislation signed Thursday by Brewer requires the schools to develop a shared numbering system that identifies courses that transfer from community colleges to public universities by students in pursuit of a bachelor's degree.
The move is part of an ongoing effort by lawmakers to force greater cooperation between the two levels of publicly funded schools. The effort has gained additional traction with rising tuition costs at universities and the desire of some students to save money by starting their course work at more affordable community colleges.