John McComish

Sen. John McComish, R-Phoenix, explains Monday why he believes the U.S. Supreme Court decided correctly that the state should not be allowed to give matching dollars to publicly financed candidates when their privately funded foes spend more. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

In the state Legislature, Sen. John McComish said the bills he usually works to pass are big-picture items that affect Arizona residents in indirect ways. So it was a nice change of pace he said to work on a bill that would have an immediate impact on a nonprofit that does a great service for the Ahwatukee Foothills community.

The YMCA’s Outreach Program for Ahwatukee Seniors (YOPAS) is a local nonprofit with volunteers that provide non-medical assistance to Ahwatukee seniors. The biggest service provided is transportation. Volunteers drive seniors to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, or even to hair appointments.

But in more than 10 years YOPAS has been operating, they’ve run into one big problem. Most volunteers do not have direct access to a disabled parking placard. The seniors who need placards may get one for themselves from a doctor, but they often forget to bring them when a volunteer picks them up. When they reach their destination some volunteers have complained they have to drop disabled seniors off near the door and then leave them while they search for a legal parking space.

After hearing the stories from drivers, Charlene Redpath, a volunteer in the YOPAS office, decided to see if a solution could be found. If the nonprofit had access to its own placards they could loan them to volunteers who needed them.

Redpath found no success when she went to the city, so she sent an email to Karen McComish, who has volunteered for YOPAS in the past, to see if she might mention it to her husband.

Sen. McComish took it from there. He invited representatives from the Department of Motor Vehicles to his office to discuss the problem. According to Arizona law, those who need a disabled placard are only allowed one for themselves. The only solution would be to change the law.

McComish helped draft Senate Bill 1093, which would allow a volunteer organization to receive up to three placards and requires them to keep track of their use. YOPAS volunteers testified of the need for the placards during the Senate Transportation Committee on Jan. 29. The bill passed the committee unanimously. It has now passed the Senate and will go on to be heard in the House.

“It’s a bill that is going to help local people.” McComish said. “They’re volunteers and trying to do good work so it makes me feel good being able to help them.

“What we normally do is bigger picture. The connection to the people they help isn’t quite so obvious and apparent and right in front of you. Being able to help a local organization really feels good. I’m excited about that more than I am about some bigger picture bills.”

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