State Representative Charlene Fernandez currently serves Legislative District 4 -- which includes parts of Yuma, Maricopa, Pima, and Pinal Counties -- in the Arizona legislature, and is the Democratic Caucus Leader of the House of Representatives.
Charlene is one of the legislature's strongest advocates for public education, frequently pushing for more school funding from her position on the appropriations committee.
Prior to being elected to the legislature, Charlene worked in a variety of policy and constituent service roles for Congressman Ed Pastor, Governor Janet Napolitano and Congressman Raúl Grijalva. Charlene also served for more than 12 years on the Yuma Union High School Board.
Charlene was born and raised in Yuma, Arizona. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a degree in elementary education.
Charlene and her husband, Sergio live in Yuma and together raised three children Brian, Carlye, and Lisa.
Questions of the virility of the virus aside, House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez blasted Republican leadership for wanting to simply adopt a baseline budget and go home. She said lawmakers have an obligation to deal with the real effects of the outbreak -- and the fallout from shuttered businesses, reduced tourism and general weakening of the economy.
For example, she noted that the Republican-controlled Legislature added a requirement several years ago that adults receiving food stamps must go out and look for work and take any available job.
Fernandez said there are no jobs available.
“Our votes for the budget, well, they’re here today,” Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, said while voting yes on the budget, alluding to party-line votes on budget measures last week after Republicans rejected numerous Democratic amendments, most of which were aimed at addressing COVID-19.
Last week, Democratic members attempted to add amendments to the budget bills to include spending for coronavirus relief, but Republicans blocked them all. At the start of Monday’s session, House Democrats began to do the same.
Fernandez said she has wanted Native American leaders to have an opportunity “to engage with this council and a discussion of the state’s policies towards tribal water settlements.”
“I see several tribal leaders in the room with us, and they all traveled very far to be here today,” Fernandez said.
She pointed out leaders in the audience from the Navajo Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, the Tonto Apache Tribe, and the Yavapai-Apache Nation, all of which have unresolved water claims. Fernandez said she had the impression they would be able to speak.
Now, with the boost in incarcerated women, Shinn wants to reopen it. He figures the minimum security facility has the capacity for 250 permanent beds and 90 temporary beds.
The underlying cause -- more women being locked up -- left House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez with questions. The Yuma Democrat said lawmakers have been told by corrections officials that overall prison population is leveling off.
The letter, authored by Leader Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, and Reps. Randall Friese D-Tucson, Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, and Athena Salman, D-Tempe, states that party leaders were optimistic that a sea change would come after the retirement of former director Charles Ryan, who helmed DOC for 10 years, but stepped down in August following growing criticism and media reports that he was aware of the extent of the dysfunction in Lewis Prison. However, the letter says that optimism was “premature.”
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