Sen. Jeff Flake

Ariz. Sen. Jeff Flake was the guest speaker during the annual awards banquet hosted by the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce on Aug. 15.

Flake, who is back in Arizona while Congress is in recess, said he expects more bills to start passing through the legislature in the coming session.

Flake, in his first term as a senator, said he has learned the Senate is a lot different than the House of Representatives. The house just needed a majority to push bills through, while the Senate has filibuster rules and requires a true consensus before a bill makes it to the floor.

With some talk of changing filibuster rules over the last year, Flake said he’s glad both Democrats and Republicans have backed away from making major changes.

“I hope to keep the rules as they are,” he said. “The problems in the Senate are with behavior, not the rules.”

Flake is a part of major legislation currently moving through the House of Representatives in his first term. After being elected, Flake was asked to become  a member of what is commonly known as the Gang of eight. The eight lawmakers were charged with coming up with immigration overhaul.

With the major bill passing the Senate, Flake said he is optimistic it will move through the House, and will eventually be signed into law by President Obama.

In outlining some of what Flake considers the bill’s highlights, the first-term senator said the immigration overhaul would take steps to secure the border by doubling the number of border patrol agents.

Flake said the bill would also give employers the tools needed to really determine if someone is properly in the U.S.

The immigration overhaul is also expected to relieve some of the costly burden on public schools and hospitals, as well as create a fast-track system for children who were brought here at young ages.

Looking specifically at Arizona, Flake said Congress must start managing forests, which would require more funding to address the beetle problem, cut and remove brush and smaller trees and work harder to prevent the forest fires that have been costly to many states across the nation.

When it comes to the country’s current fiscal crisis, Flake said when Congress returns from recess more effort needs to be put into tax reform and changing the entitlement system to put the U.S. on a sustainable path.

Finally, before closing, Flake addressed the controversial Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare, that continues to move forward as parts of the health care overhaul are implemented.

“We’ve got to reform the way we deliver health care,” he said. “I would love to see (Obamacare) repealed and replaced with something more business friendly.”

Proponents of Obamacare say the health care overhaul will allow all citizens to have access to medical insurance, especially those with preexisting conditions.

However, critics warn of the costly consequences of the bill, especially for businesses that may be less likely to hire new employees in order to stay under the cap, which then requires employers to provide health insurance.

Flake said the debate over the controversial legislation is likely to continue.

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