(Updated 10/21/22 – See footnotes)
David often shares that he was motivated to run for this office because his opponent, who has served in the State House for six years, has never had a bill passed—essentially wasting our district’s voice in the legislature. (Note: Many other Democratic state legislators, including the other LD12 legislators, have successfully sponsored and passed bills in the Republican-controlled legislature during this same time period.)
In response to this, David’s opponent frequently claims to be the driving force behind. The real sponsor of Jake’s Law, retired Arizona Senator Kate Brophy McGee (pictured), sent David a letter detailing the truth. Read the full letter below:
Hope you are doing well, know you are working super hard on your campaign.
It has come to my attention that your opponent is making false claims about SB1523, formally known as “Jake’s Law”, which passed in 2020 and was signed into law. Your opponent claims to be the sponsor of Jake’s Law. That is false. I was the sponsor of Jake’s Law, SB1523. Rep. Jeff Wenninger introduced a mirror of my legislation in the House.
The following is an overview of the circumstances leading up to SB1523’s passage.
On August 8, 2019, I met with Denice and Ben Denslow, who had established the JEM Foundation in honor of their son, who took his life in January 2016. They recounted Jake’s tragic story and their difficulty accessing appropriate care for their son’s mental illness. They had enormous difficulties navigating the health insurance system on Jake’s behalf and ultimately, they were not successful. To derive meaning from their son’s death, they resolved to fix the system by bringing the Federal Parity Law into Arizona statute. In our meeting, the Denslows presented multiple system problems with proposed solutions. They offered a Colorado parity law as potential draft legislation. They asked for my help making parity an Arizona priority and I agreed.
In the 2020 legislative session, just as I prepared to introduce SB1523, I first learned that the Denslows had previously worked with Rep. Mitzi Epstein, and that she might be preparing a bill on their behalf. They had not disclosed this to me in our meeting of 8/8/2019, so I immediately requested a follow up meeting with the Denslows. They said that they had, in fact, been meeting with Rep. Epstein for the past 3 years with nothing to show for it and they were no longer working with her. They felt they could not wait any longer for action. So, on the advice of many others, they reached out to me alone for help.
Jake’s Law was incredibly complicated legislation – multiple stakeholder meetings, subgroup meetings, and ultimately the involvement of the Governor’s office and their policy experts. While I appreciated the Denslow’s efforts to provide solutions, the Colorado parity law was discarded early on – it was not a good fit for Arizona statutes and it was not the approach that we wanted to take. I used the stakeholder groups to build an Arizona Parity Law from scratch. This delayed the initial introduction of the bill, until early February. Virtually the entire Senate, including Democrats, cosponsored the bill. I also decided to have Rep. Weninger introduce a mirror bill in the House carried out at the same time. There were many sponsors for Weninger’s mirror bill, including Democrats.
I was surprised to learn that, a week after our two bills were introduced, Rep. Epstein introduced a bill which copied(pretty much unheard of), word for word, the first half of Jake’s Law. I am dismayed to learn that she is now trying to take credit for it, particularly given the fact that she had three years to figure out something and got nothing done.
I have also heard that Ms. Epstein is claiming she “wasn’t allowed to sign on to the bill.” While I cannot speak to House dynamics, I can tell you that everyone was on board to get Jake’s Law passed, Republicans and Democrats. We fast tracked the bill ahead of the budget, which produced enormous complications. The bill had an emergency appropriation of $8 million, as we had identified students with ongoing behavioral health issues, and I wanted to immediately provide funding for those students and families. We had to build massive support in both chambers and with leadership. We needed every vote. Why in the world would we exclude ANY legislator?
Rep. Epstein is making false claims and attempting to build credibility using the terrible tragedy of youth suicide. That is not what the Arizona Senate wants nor needs. Your district can do much better.
Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Kate Brophy McGee
Arizona State Senator, retired
Click here for more facts about Rep. Epstein’s record.
In response, Kate Brophy McGee shared a second letter, included below:
A couple of follow up observations:
- I won Best Elected Official – Capitol Times – for my sponsorship of Jake’s Law. As a matter of fact, MHA (Mental Health America) awarded me their 2020 legislative award and MIKID presented me with the 2020 Sue Gilbertson Leadership Award, both for Jake’s Law.
- Following my retirement from the Legislature, I testified at the GRCC hearings for Jake’s Law. Did Ms. Epstein do that? The answer is no.
- I note there is a House Teen Mental Health Ad Hoc Committee. Is Ms. Epstein a member? The answer is no.
- Is there a single bill in Ms. Epstein’s name on this or any other issue that has successfully made it to the finish line? The answer is no.
Ms. Epstein appears to be claiming credit for sponsoring Jake’s Law, and, if so, that is simply not factually correct. It appears that she wants to leave that impression, however. As I said in my original letter to you, the Denslows approached me to take this on of their own volition. They did not tell me they were working with Ms. Epstein. And Ms. Epstein did not reach out to me and ask my assistance before, during or after the process of introducing, amending and passing Jake’s Law.
As I stated in my previous email to you, the Denslows brought the Colorado statute as a potential solution. We quickly discarded it as not suitable for Arizona’s path forward. The work the stakeholders did on the insurance piece was unique and original to my bill. It was that piece that (perhaps magically) appeared, word for word, one week after Jake’s Law was introduced, in a bill sponsored by Ms. Epstein.
In any legislative undertaking there are key people who are working their hearts out to get the bill across the finish line. The bill’s sponsor is, in effect, the team captain, working with all the different groups to ensure all concerns are addressed and every great idea is captured in the bill. That was my role, and I was honored and humbled to serve in that capacity.
Please let me know if you have any questions.