Friday, January 24, 2014

AZ Legislature: Highlights From Week 2

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM

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Daniel Desrochers of the Arizona-Sonora New Service rounds up highlights from the second week at the Arizona Legislature:

On Tuesday morning, John Arnold, director of the Governor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting, presented Brewer’s budget to a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee. Rep. Chad Campbell [D-24] grilled Arnold about a provision to have K-12 public-school students pay a $15 fee to get a broadband connection, whether or not their school already has one. Sen. Rick Murphy, [R-21st], of Peoria, also demurred: “Why should the taxpayers in Peoria have to pay twice, when they already, on their own, brought their schools up to this level?”

Tuesday also was “Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day.” Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache tribe, spoke about the environment and the looming water crisis: “I am left asking, how come water is not a priority for this legislature and for Gov. Brewer?”

Meanwhile, in the House, Rep. Victoria Steele [D-9th] introduced a bill to ban texting while driving. The fine: $50 for a driver texting; $200 if a driver gets in an accident while texting. “They’re behind the wheel of a two-ton machine going 45 to 75 miles an hour and they’re texting. Their eyes are not on the road; their mind is not on the road,” Steele said. The Governors Highway Safety Association says that 41 states and the District of Columbia have already banned texting while driving.

…Tucson Sen. Steve Farley [D-9th] introduced the same version of the bill in the Senate. On Wednesday his bill was triple-assigned to committee, which elicited laughs from the floor. Triple assignment usually means that the bill isn’t going to be heard this year, but Farley says he is determined that his eighth time proposing this legislation will be the charm. “All this does is force us to be creative — and we Democrats are creative,” said Farley, who says he was the first legislator in the country to introduce a bill to ban texting and driving. “If there is no law, it doesn’t get into the driver-education curriculum. If there is no law, it doesn’t make it clear that it’s something that you should not be doing in any circumstances — anywhere, ever,” Farley said.

In the meantime, the Department of Public Safety is going to start enforcing a texting ban through the existing speeding law. Starting next month, there will be stings throughout the state to catch people texting and driving, charging them under the “speed not reasonable and prudent” law.

…Newly appointed Green Valley Sen. Andrea Dalessandro [D-2nd] was sworn in on Wednesday by Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch. Dalessandro said that she felt like a bride on her wedding day. “You feel like you’re getting married, but then you didn’t know where you’re supposed to walk afterward,” Dalessandro laughed.

Legislative District 2 chose Dalessandro to fill the vacant seat in the Senate, after Linda Lopez resigned on opening day. The appointment leaves a vacancy in the house, starting the replacement process anew. Dalessandro is endorsing Annabelle Nunez, a librarian at the University of Arizona Medical School in Tucson.

‘Bills, Bills’ — A bill allowing chickens in the backyard of every home was sent to the Senate Government and Environment Committee. The bill won’t be heard in committee yet, but 21 out of the 90 lawmakers at the Capitol signed onto the bill. … The House Transportation Committee passed a bill allowing golf carts to drive on the shoulder of the road in Sun City … The much-anticipated election bill HB 2196 was held in the Judiciary Committee for language issues. It’s a repeal of last year’s controversial election reform bill, which was passed in the last minute of last spring’s session. Democrats gathered 110,000 signatures to freeze the bill last year, and Republicans are now looking to repeal it so that they can break the omnibus bill into smaller pieces. … The Senate Government and Environment Committee heard a bill that aims to ban lobbyists from giving sports and special-events tickets to lawmakers. The argument turned from exceptions to the law to either disclosing everything or banning everything. Sen. Michelle Reagan [R-23rd] from Scottsdale favored quick disclosure, but said that they didn’t have the technology available to make it happen. “I tried to do a disclosure bill last year, and there’s no way that anyone wanted any extra reporting to do because it’s not easy,” Reagan said. The bill was passed because the committee determined that they wanted the discussion to continue on the floor.

… This week, a total of 16 Senate bills passed through their respective committees and will be heard by Rules. Three of the 16 bills passed with amendments, and there was one strike-everything bill. In the House, 19 bills passed through committee. Only four out of the 19 were amended.

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