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A complaint by an employee of sexual and racial harassment preceded by one day the Oct. 17 decision by Gov. Jan Brewer to fire the head of state agency that oversees virtually all state workers.
PHOENIX -- A complaint by an employee claiming sexual and racial harassment preceded by one day the Oct. 17 decision by Gov. Jan Brewer to fire the head of state agency that oversees virtually all state workers.
Documents obtained by Capitol Media Services show the Governor's Office was given copies of a filing by the worker with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Oct. 16. The worker, whose identity was not disclosed, said in her filing with the EEOC that Brian McNeil, director of the state Department of Administration, made comments to her last year with "sexual connotations.''
"He also mentioned that although I was an 'attractive women' and a good speaker, he wanted more from my job performance,'' the complaint states. The woman also said that McNeil repeatedly referred to her as being in a "protected class,'' that others would not criticize her work performance "based on racial issues,'' and she needed to "woman up.''
While the EEOC filing was in February, gubernatorial spokesman Andrew Wilder said his boss did not become aware of the issue until Oct. 16. It was that day the woman gave a copy of the filing to Kathy Peckardt, a deputy chief of staff to Brewer, with a sticky note to Peckardt saying "this is what was turned into the federal EEOC office, and the investigator interviewed me on 2/14/14.''
But what may have precipitated the woman to take that action is her allegation that problems with McNeil continued right through the day she informed the Governor's Office.
The woman furnished Peckardt with a statement saying she had met that day with McNeil, saying there were "some positives mentioned about growth opportunities.'' But she said there were other comments.
For example, she said McNeil mentioned the possibility of working with the Government Transformation Office, saying she could bring good qualities to the group. "But I had an upside because I am a member of the protected class, and others might be afraid to say things to me that might make me mad.''
She also reported that McNeil asked her age "because one of his buddies was impressed with me at a work function but only wanted to date someone that had to be 40 years old.''
McNeil was fired the following day.
In a prepared statement, McNeil said he has never discriminated against anyone based on race or gender and believes he was treated unfairly.
"I believe had this matter been researched and investigated fairly, properly and objectively, it would have already been found to be something other than what is characterized,'' he said.
McNeil also said he was never given the specifics of the accusation, interviewed about it or provided an opportunity to review and respond before being told to resign or be fired.
"I (saw) the media received the documents in surprisingly quick fashion, but I had no chance to review them although I am the one accused,'' he said.
The story does not end with McNeil's firing.
On Tuesday, the woman told Peckardt in a memo that she received five phone calls from McNeil earlier that day in less than three hours on her personal cell phone, with him leaving a voice message on one and a text message with another.
"Because this was after his termination, it left me feeling very uneasy and a bit concerned,'' the woman wrote. "I decided to not stay at my home on this particular night due to the uneasiness.''
"I wish things would have gone better,'' McNeil says in an audio of the voice message obtained by Capitol Media Services. "I wish I would have been more sensitive, you know, about how I was coming across early on,'' the message continues. And he said the meeting Oct. 16 -- the one that apparently precipitated the woman giving all the information to the state -- "was intended to try to help promote, you know, better, clear dialog between you and I about professional matters.''
For the moment, McNeil remains on the state payroll.
Scott Smith, the governor's chief of staff, agreed to a request by McNeil, who is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, that he be placed on paid military leave through Nov. 7. And he is being allowed to use annual leave from Nov. 10 through Dec. 19.
McNeil was executive director of the Arizona Corporation Commission from 1999 to 2009. That year, he joined the Brewer administration as a deputy chief of staff. He left to become a lobbyist but was rehired by the governor two years ago to head the Department of Administration. That agency has purview over human resources and personnel issues as well as everything from state buildings to fleet management.
A family of four entered a local shelter with tattered clothes and tired eyes, carrying three old garbage bags holding their only belongings. A wave of relief washed over the family as they cautiously walked into the shelter, greeted by barking dogs, a clean playground and an onslaught of accommodating volunteers.
Facing a lawsuit they appeared to be losing, state prison officials have agreed to improve health care for the more than 34,000 inmates in their custody.
PHOENIX -- Facing a lawsuit they appeared to be losing, state prison officials have agreed to improve health care for the more than 34,000 inmates in their custody.
The stipulation filed Tuesday in federal court here requires the Department of Corrections to live up to more than 80 specific performance standards for how it handles medical issues. These range from staffing requirements and emergency response times to ensuring that inmates get their medications in a timely fashion.
Potentially more significant for those affected, the stipulation also requires the state to revamp its rules on solitary confinement of inmates -- the department calls it "isolation'' -- with serious mental illness.
Where current regulations keep those prisoners in their cells all but six hours a week, they will now have at least 19 hours a week elsewhere. And that time also must include mental health treatment and other programs.
And the Department has also agreed to use chemical agents like pepper spray on inmates classified as seriously mentally ill "only in case of imminent threat.''
That is defined as situations that jeopardize safety or security like an attempt to escape or active physical resistance. But it specifically precludes pepper spray for things like "passive resistance to placement in restraints or refusal to follow orders.''
Don Specter, an attorney with the Prison Law Office, said this deal, which must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa, is more than just his organization and the American Civil Liberties Union accepting on faith that things will get better.
"We will be able to tour the prisons to check ourselves to see whether they're providing adequate care,'' he said. "And we will also get a lot of documentation.''
The deal comes four months after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the go-ahead for the case, alleging inadequate health care, to be handled as a class-action lawsuit.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the appellate court, said the attorneys for the inmates provided detailed allegations of everything from "outright denials of health care'' to improper isolation policies. And they also had information on how spending on certain services dropped by more than a third over a two-year period even as inmate population did not.
But Reinhardt, in refusing to require each inmate to prove his or her rights were violated, said the claims alleged "systemic failures'' in the prison's health care system "that expose all inmates to a substantial risk of serious harm.'' And if that is the case, Reinhardt said that would require a wholesale revamp of the agency's policies -- and not simply correcting the problems of the 13 inmates who filed the original 2012 lawsuit.
That paved the way for a trial to begin Monday.
No one from the Department of Corrections would agree to be interviewed about the decision to settle after two years of disputing the allegations. Instead, the agency issued a prepared statement from Director Charles Ryan calling the deal "positive news'' for his agency -- and essentially claiming victory.
"On the eve of trial, the plaintiffs in this case have essentially agreed that the department's current policies and practices, along with recent enhancements to programming opportunities, adequately addresses the plaintiffs' concerns relating to constitutional healthcare and conditions of confinement for maximum custody mentally ill inmates,'' the statement read.
But agency spokesman Doug Nick refused to detail what changes the department has made since the lawsuit was filed and why, if there were no problems, it took two years to settle.
The department's statement, however, suggests that money was a consideration in opting not to go to trial where a judge might have ordered some more extensive -- and expensive -- changes in inmate health care.
It says that California is spending nearly $18,000 per inmate for health care following two decades of litigation brought by the same organizations who are representing inmates here. "By contrast, Arizona spends nearly $3,800 per inmate in health care costs,'' the statement says.
The allegations made -- ones that Nick will not address -- were serious.
They include "lengthy and dangerous delays'' and "outright denials of health care,'' failure to provide necessary medication, a practice of "`employing insufficient health care staff,'' substandard dental care and denial of basic mental health care to suicidal and self-harming prisoners. The lawsuit also said that inmates in isolation units were denied adequate recreation and nutrition, constant cell illumination and inadequate mental health care staffing and treatment.
To prove their case, the inmates presented evidence of the agency's policies, internal communications and reports from four experts in prison medical care and conditions of confinement. And they provided specific incidents.
One involves an inmate who collapsed in his cell from a heart attack but where the lawsuit says officers told prisoners who asked for help to "wait and see what happens.'' While the inmate was taken, eventually, to the medical unit, he was told he had a medical appointment in a few days.
But the inmate, according to the lawsuit, had another heart attack the next day and died.
The legal papers also cite a prisoner, four months pregnant who experienced painful contractions and spotting blood. But a staffer at the medical unit told her it was nothing serious and "all in her head,'' refusing to allow her to see someone for evaluation.
She eventually miscarried.
It is exciting to experience. No, it is not a Cardinals football game, though it does get a little noisy. No, it is not the latest movie. Neither is it a trip to Disneyland, though it does involve a lot of creativity and imagination. It does have something in common with sporting events, movie theaters and Disneyland.
Their plans to fix Arizona's economy may be hard to decipher, and neither Democrat Fred DuVal nor Republican Doug Ducey is precise on exactly how they think the state will permanently come up with more money for schools.
PHOENIX -- Their plans to fix Arizona's economy may be hard to decipher.
And neither Democrat Fred DuVal nor Republican Doug Ducey is precise on exactly how they think the state will permanently come up with more money for schools.
But anyone seeking clear distinctions between the major candidates for governor need look only at their positions on what might be called "morality'' issues to find some stark contrasts.
And given how often these issues translate into legislation, what the next governor believes could be the difference between when some measures become law and others are vetoed.
Consider of gay rights.
DuVal has come out forthright in favor of the ability of gays to wed.
Ducey, by contrast, wants to limit marriage to one man and one woman, as approved by voters in 2008, though he did say after Tuesday's ruling by the 9th Circuit overturning laws in Nevada and Idaho he will "follow the law.''
But he also opposes granting health insurance and other benefits to the domestic partners of gay state and university employees. And that's an issue where the views of the governor matter.
Jan Brewer is currently in federal court fighting a bid to permanently void a provision in a 2009 law which she signed that limits benefits solely to those who are married. That action overturned a rule adopted just a year earlier to the contrary.
Brewer has said this was a question not of bias but of saving state finances. But a federal judge already has issued a preliminary injunction, saying it appears to be a clear case of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Whoever is the next governor could decide to keep the issue alive or simply drop the defense.
There are other issues of gay rights that divide the pair.
For example, existing Arizona law makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender, age, race, religion or national origin. Ducey said he opposes expanding that list to include sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
"I'm for equal protection under the law for everyone,'' he said. "But I don't want to continue to divide people up through these protected classes.''
Ducey said, though, he would not turn back the clock and try remove things like race or religion from that special "protected class'' status that gives victims of discrimination the right to sue.
DuVal conceded that new rights for gays may result in new litigation.
"But we need to constantly expand rights and opportunities in ways that broaden success and participation,'' he said. DuVal said the country, having provided legal protections to other groups, now needs to extend that to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals.
Along the same lines, the pair parts ways about whether Arizona should protect businesses and individuals from being required to provide services in a way that runs counter to their own moral or religious beliefs.
This became an issue following the decision earlier this year by Gov. Jan Brewer to veto SB 1062. It would have expanded existing laws on religious freedom to provide an absolute right of businesses to cite their "sincerely held religious beliefs'' as a reason to refuse service to someone.
Brewer said it was a solution in search of a problem. And both Ducey and DuVal have said they back her veto.
But Ducey said he does support providing some protections for religious beliefs from government intrusion, citing the case of Hobby Lobby which fought for and got the right to refuse to include contraceptive coverage for their workers.
"Private employers should be able to make a decision on which benefits are provided to employees,'' he said.
DuVal, however, said he sees the issue from a different perspective.
"You should not be allowed to discriminate,'' he said.
"I recognize that runs into conflict with folks' private businesses,'' he continued. But DuVal said those same arguments were made over passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which forbade businesses from discriminating against African Americans.
"We've been through these issues before,'' DuVal said. "And we now must face them on gays and lesbians.''
The other perennial hot-button issue at the Legislature has been abortion.
Arizona lawmakers have in the last six years imposed impose new limits on what the U.S. Supreme Court has said is the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy. That includes waiting periods, clinic inspection rules and restrictions on the use of RU-486 for medication abortions.
Ducey has made no secret he supports additional restrictions. In fact, he said that he is in favor of prohibiting all abortions except in certain narrow circumstances like preventing the death of the mother or in cases of rape and incest.
DuVal said the right to abortion is "established federal law'' and should remain. He also is opposed to new limits.
In other issues which have moral or ethical considerations, Ducey said he is opposed to legalizing marijuana for recreational use. DuVal said he thinks Arizona should take a wait-and-see attitude, watching how such laws are playing out in Colorado and Washington.
Ducey also said he opposes legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Oregon has such a law which permits a doctor to help someone who has a terminal illness.
DuVal said he has not really thought about the matter.
And Ducey said he wants Arizona to scrap its 40-year-old system of merit selection of judges for the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and trial courts in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties. That system requires the governor to make selections from a list of recommendations by a special screening committee.
Ducey said he favors allowing the governor to pick whoever he or she wants, subject only to Senate confirmation similar to the federal system. DuVal said the current system works to take much of the politics out of the process.
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia.
PHOENIX -- A federal appeals court on Tuesday voided bans on same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada, paving the way for gays to marry here.
In a unanimous ruling, the judges rejected arguments by officials in both states that there are legitimate -- and legal -- reasons to let heterosexual couples marry but not extend that right to same-sex couples. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the panel, said whatever the justification, it amounts to illegal discrimination.
"Classifying some families, and especially their children, as of lesser value should be repugnant to all those in this nation who profess to believe in 'family values,' '' the judge wrote. And the court said that what the states were doing comes down to a "message of disfavor'' toward same-sex couples and their children.
"This is a message that Idaho and Nevada simply may not send,'' Reinhardt wrote.
Attorney Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said she will "imminently'' ask U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick, handling a similar challenge to Arizona law, to summarily overturn Arizona's own ban and allow gay weddings to happen here.
That may not come without a fight.
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Tom Horne, said he and the lawyers are still studying Tuesday's ruling. She also said the 9th Circuit ruling is not final, as appeals can be filed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Tuesday's ruling comes just a day after the high court refused to delay the effects of similar findings by other appellate courts, an action that has paved the way for gays to now marry in more than half the states.
Pizer said there is no reason to believe that Sedwick would reach some different conclusion than the appellate judges.
"There is nothing being argued in our case, the state is not offering any arguments, that are different, that would require additional arguments,'' Pizer said, including that the state should reserve marriage for those who can procreate.
"These arguments were before the 9th Circuit,'' she continued. "They were rejected by the 9th Circuit, and rightly so.''
More to the legal point is that Tuesday's ruling, unless overturned, sets precedent for all the states in the region.
"That rule of law is binding on Arizona,'' she said.
The governor's office had no comment. But Tuesday's ruling was greeting with anger by Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, who spearheaded a successful 2008 ballot measure banning same-sex marriage.
"By fundamentally undermining the right of the people to vote to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, the 9th Circuit court has not only usurped their authority but has taken another step to deny every child the best opportunity to have a mother and a father,'' she said in a prepared statement.
But Herrod's arguments and those by the state about the benefits of restricting marriage to heterosexuals are virtually identical to those advanced by attorneys from Idaho and Nevada. And in each and every case, the 9th Circuit rejected them.
One of the prime arguments by the states is that the bans on same sex marriage do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation but on the basis of ``procreative capacity.'' Put simply, defenders of the disparity note that straight couples can do something that gays cannot: Produce a child without a third party.
Reinhardt said that might represent "a justification for the discrimination worked by the laws.'' But he said "it cannot overcome the inescapable conclusion that Idaho and Nevada do discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.''
The appellate judges were no more kind to arguments that allowing gays to wed will somehow make the institution of marriage less attractive to heterosexuals. Reinhardt said the experience in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2004, shows no decrease in marriage rates or an increase in divorce rates in that time.
"It would seem that allowing couples that want to marry so badly that they have endured years of litigation to win the right to do so would reaffirm the state's endorsement, without reservation, of spousal and parental commitment,'' he wrote.
Nor were the judges they swayed by contentions that children raised by two parents of the opposite sex are more likely to thrive, what Reinhardt referred to as an argument that those children "receive a better upbringing.'' The court said that was not supported by any actual evidence.
Reinhardt judge acknowledged there may be some merit to arguments that because opposite-sex couples can accidentally conceive, marriage is important because it binds such couples together and to their children.
"Defendants' argument runs off the rails, however, when they suggest that marriage's stabilizing and unifying force is unnecessary for same-sex couples, because they always choose to conceive or adopt a child,'' he continued. Reinhardt said the issue is that there is a child, not how it was conceived.
"Raising children is hard; marriage supports same-sex couples in parenting their children, just as it does opposite-sex couples,'' he wrote.
And Reinhardt said the procreation-as-justification defense for why only heterosexual couples should marry falls apart for several reasons
One is that both Idaho and Nevada -- as well as Arizona -- allow people who cannot have children because they are infertile or too old to marry. And he said if states are particularly interested in increasing the number of children raised by married biological parents, there are other options, like rescinding the right to no-fault divorce -- or eliminating divorce entirely.
"Neither has done so,'' Reinhardt wrote. "Such reforms might face constitutional difficulties of their own, but they would at least further the states' asserted interest in solidifying marriage.''
And the judge said if biological parentage is so crucial, states could ban assisted reproduction using donor sperm or eggs, gestational surrogacy -- and, for that matter, adoption by both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, all of which also are legal in Arizona.
"To allow same-sex couples to adopt children and then to label their families as second-class because the adoptive parents are of the same sex is cruel as well as unconstitutional,'' Reinhardt wrote.
The court also brushed aside arguments that allowing gays to wed would threaten religious liberty of institutions and people in both states. Reinhardt said this isn't some law on public accommodations about having to bake a cake for a gay wedding.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday voided bans on same-sex marriage in Idaho and Nevada, paving the way for gays to marry here.
PHOENIX -- Having won benefits for current of gay state and university employees, attorneys are back in court demanding the same for everyone hired in the future. And if they win, count on them to start going after cities, counties, school districts and all government employers in Arizona.
Tara Borelli of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund wants U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick to permanently void a 2009 Arizona law that says benefits like health insurance are available only to those who are married. Borelli, the lead counsel on the case, said gay employees need benefits for their partners and children just the same as those who are married.
But Assistant Attorney General Charles Grube, in his own legal filings, effectively is urging Sedwick to butt out.
"Domestic-partner health coverage is not a fundamental right,'' he told the judge.
He said that means state lawmakers were free to decide to pass a law saying that benefits are limited to those who are wed. Grube said that is a financial decision well within the powers of legislators.
Grube said because the state provides no benefits for any unmarried partners, gay and straight, there is no discrimination against anyone because of sexual orientation.
But Borelli said that ignores one key fact: Straight couples have the option to get those benefits by marrying; a 2008 voter-approved state constitutional amendment denies that same right to gays, thereby making those same benefits inaccessible.
And that remains the case in Arizona unless and until federal courts rule gays can wed.
Gov. Jan Brewer is defending the law as one based not on sexual orientation but on budget considerations. She told Capitol Media Services the state needed the money it was spending providing benefits to the partners of its gay workers -- benefits Sedwick blocked her from cutting.
Borelli, however, said the effects are minimal, saying gays make up just 0.2 percent of all state employees getting benefits.
Arizona first provided domestic-partner benefits in 2008 when then-Gov. Janet Napolitano ordered state personnel rules rewritten to expand the definition of who is a "dependent'' for purposes of getting benefits. Those rules, which did not specify the gender of the partner, required a showing of financial interdependence and an affidavit by the worker affirming there is a domestic partnership.
But in 2009, after Napolitano resigned to take a post in the Obama administration, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved, and Brewer signed, a state law narrowing the definition -- and specifically excluding unmarried couples.
Sedwick issued a preliminary injunction blocking the change, at least as it applies to gay employees.
The judge acknowledged the change in law, tucked into a provision of the state budget, is not discriminatory on its face. But he said the denial has to be examined in light of the ban on same-sex marriage.
"As a result, (the law) denies lesbian and gay state employees in qualifying domestic partnership a valuable form of compensation on the basis of sexual orientation,'' he wrote in 2010.
Sedwick has since given the case class-action status. That sets the stage for the fight over whether the law should be permanently blocked.
Grube told the judge there's no basis for such an order. He said any disparate impact on gays is the result not of this law but of the other statutes and constitutional provisions which bar gays from marrying.
On a more practical level, Brewer said there's the question of cost.
"I think we all know that Arizona was in dire shape financially,'' she said of her 2009 decision to sign the law voiding the change in rules.
"We had to make some tough choices,'' the governor continued. "I believe that was one area we could cut costs, just like we had to do in behavioral health or education.''
Borelli, however, gave Sedwick figures -- produced by the state -- that show the cost of benefits for the partners of gay workers now covered is less than 0.3 percent of the total program, with the cost of claims for children at about 0.01 percent.
Brewer also brushed aside questions of whether the state should reconsider now that its finances are vastly improved from 2009.
"I would tell you that, almost today, no one can afford insurance,'' saying that is a question that can be taken up by the next governor and the next crop of legislators.
Finances aside, Grube said there's a rational reason for lawmakers providing benefits to those who are married versus those who are not.
"Under Arizona law, married persons have a legal duty to supply support to their spouses,'' he told the judge.
"A married person who fails to provide a spouse with necessary medical attendance actually commits a crime,'' Grube continued. "There is no such criminal statute for unmarried persons.''
But Borelli noted it is the state itself that prohibits gays from marrying in the first place and being subject to laws governing marriage. Beyond that, she said this is not a matter of criminal law.
"Plaintiffs rely on family coverage as an important part of their compensation for the same reason as their heterosexual colleagues: to provide shelter and protection to their families from the potential extreme stress of untreated illnesses and attendant financial burdens,'' she wrote.
And that, she said, goes to the other part of her discrimination argument. She said the gay workers are doing the same job as their heterosexual counterparts.
Brewer had one more reason to justify the Arizona law.
"The federal government also does not provide insurance to domestic partners,'' she said.
Borelli said that's true. But she also said it's unnecessary since the federal government recognizes the marriages performed in states where that is legal, allowing gay employees to get benefits for their partners.
It is only in states like Arizona, she said, where that is an issue.
Having won benefits for current gay state and university employees, attorneys are back in court demanding the same for everyone hired in the future. And if they win, count on them to start going after cities, counties, school districts and all government employers in Arizona.
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>> This information is provided in community partnership with Harkins Theatres. For showtimes, theater locations and tickets, go to HarkinsTheatres.com.
Like many middle-class parents, we promised our kids that we would pay for their college education, a reasonable promise in the 1980s from two parents who were teachers. We are still paying off their college loans in 2014, yet we feel lucky compared to students and families who are paying off college loans accrued between 2008 and 2014.
Let’s face it, America and the West are failing now on the world stage. Particularly in the Middle East, fanatical Islamists are riding a huge wave of success. The convert-or-die crowd seems close to establishing the long-desired caliphate of regional Islamic hegemony.
Conservative Republicans furious with some members of their own party for supporting Gov. Jan Brewer's Medicaid expansion plan are targeting a half-dozen lawmakers in next week's primary in a nasty intra-party battle.
Talking with John Giles and Danny Ray, it is immediately obvious that neither man previously saw himself where the two find themselves now, campaigning for the office of mayor in Mesa. And yet, in a few short weeks, the residents of Mesa must choose between the two of them to replace interim Mayor Alex Finter and lead the City Council.
It might come in a flash or happen over the course of the season, but by the end of the year, there are going to be a handful of football players from the Southeast Valley who are going to have breakout seasons in 2014.
The state is asking federal judge to throw out a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 34,000 inmates, saying there's no evidence each and every prisoner is at risk.
Friday marks the deadline that an activist group has asked the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools to revoke the charter of a local charter school if it does not agree to stop its usage of two controversial textbooks.
The Arizona Court of Appeals late Wednesday trimmed the ability of state lawmakers to create special laws that are clearly designed to affect only one county or city.
One young man from Mesa who grew up in the foster care system is in Washington, D.C., learning about the political process and help change the way the Capitol makes policy regarding foster kids. Craig Stuart is interning in the office of Rep. Trent Franks with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Foster Youth Internship (FYI) program.