April 21st was the first day the temperature hit 100, the 100th day of the legislature at the State Capital, and a very busy day for Senator Rebecca Rios -- as usual. Geographically the second largest district, District 23 encompasses most of Pinal County plus portions of Goodyear, Gila River, Ft. McDowell, and Salt River. The Senator puts hundreds of miles on her car each month.
Senator Rios was born in Hayden, AZ and holds an AA from Central Arizona College, a BA from ASU in social work, and an MS in social work from ASU. Before becoming the Director of Children’s Behavioral Health Services through the Pinal Gila Behavioral Health Association from 1992 – 2005, she worked as a child and family counselor and children’s case manager. Rios started her political career in the AZ State House of Representatives as a Representative from 1994-2000. She has been an AZ Senator since 2004, following in her father’s (Pete Rios) footsteps. She is also Director of Community and Interagency Relations, Empowerment, incorporated in 2007.
Rebecca Rios’ bio states that she became interested in politics at a very young age, and the topics that concern her the most are education and health care. On the 21st, Rios asked her education experts on staff to brief her on the pending education cuts. As declining enrollment is plaguing many areas, cuts will be annualized to those school districts. It will be up to the school districts to decide where the cuts will be in their schools. She was told it will be a balancing act, since many areas are collecting $160 less per child in taxes and there will be no funds available for new schools at this time.
During Democratic Caucus, Chairperson Rios heard the Fiscal Alternative Choices Team (FACT) report. Senate President Burns and Speaker Adams requested this report. It was put together by experts from ASU, NAU, U of A, the Arizona Board of Regents, and QuadPro Consulting. Presented as options and recommendations, the report outlined a broad range of policies to deal with the current State budget deficit and to prevent such a large deficit from occurring in the future. It was made clear that in the future, tax cuts and spending reductions should go hand in hand; spending increases should correlate with tax increases. Expanding the sales tax base and simplifying the personal income tax were also suggested as options.
Senator Rios welcomed the finalists and winner of the State Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year Program. These students go through a series of interviews and speeches to get into this elite group. On April 21st they got to meet the Senator and sit in on sessions in both the Senate and the House. Winner Precious Wilson from Tempe was chosen to lead the Pledge of Allegiance before the Senate Session.
In support of the SR347 Grade Separation, Senator Rios sent a letter of support to Maricopa Mayor Smith. She said the biggest issue facing Maricopa is the lack of transportation money available. She commented on the education and skill levels of residents in Maricopa. With the mix of people, we should be attracting more commerce and jobs to our beautiful city.
Bill 1403 gives tax credits to businesses to invest in Arizona, and should bring in high paying jobs to communities and offer health benefits to employees. One of those taxes is a movie credit the City of Avondale is utilizing; a production facility has moved there.
Two bills were up for a vote on April 21st: one to extend unemployment benefits, and the other to get $1.6B of federal money to the State Access Programs. "The Access program benefits directly for people to be insured, and is there for the working poor," stated Senator Rios, who held a press conference the previous Thursday to make people aware, and drawing focus on the issues.
Other concerns of Senator Rios include the cuts to Child Protective Services (CPS) (she says one day the State may regret that move), and not securing the border and the violence that is spilling over it.
In her spare time, Ms. Rios loves to hang out with her son and daughter. She loves to watch 13-year-old Diego play baseball. 5-year-old Milan has enjoyed the parades they have been invited to be in and she loves to throw out candy to the children along the parade routes. As a family, they like to go out to the community farms and feed the goats and horses.