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State Senate Gives Nod to New Department of Child Safety

Charlie Leight/The Republic

State senators voted Wednesday to create and fund a new Department of Child Safety. But, Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer reports there was some debate about the details.

One point of contention is whether to simply hand over $60 million in new cash to Charles Flanagan who was tapped by Gov. Jan Brewer to head the new agency. Senate President Andy Biggs wanted to withhold about $12 million of that until October and make it conditional on two things — hiring the new caseworkers promised — and Flanagan coming up with a plan to address that backlog of nearly 15,000 cases that have not been touched in at least two months.

“What it does is it provides a measure of transparency and accountability which the director says he supports. He supports being transparent and open. But he also said he can accomplish certain things and certain benchmarks. But apparently he’s not so confident that he can accomplish them that we can hold this,” Biggs said.

But, Sen. Don Shooter pointed out to colleagues that Gov. Jan Brewer demanded the measure be approved as introduced.

“As a practical matter, the governor has threatened to veto the bill. And I don’t really want to be here next week,” Shooter said.

But, that did not stop senators — with Brewer’s blessing — from adding another $3 million to the package, including an extra $1 million for subsidized care for the children of the working poor. The House takes up the plan later today after a final Senate roll-call vote.

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