Friday, March 7, 2014

The Week (At the Arizona Capitol) March 3-7

Posted By on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 11:26 AM

In the week after the drama over SB1062, the legislature turned back to the usual routine. The deadline to file bills has already passed, so now the committees in the House and Senate are in the process of going through the bills that have passed through the other. In that spirit the House has been spending long hours on the floor debating and voting on bills to get them over to the Senate.

But first the toy race cars. On Monday, all members of the House were greeted by toy race cars on their desks from Phoenix International Raceway … but that would only be a minor distraction from the long list of bills that were to be heard during the week by the Committee of the Whole….

A bill that would make it illegal for teens to use phones while driving passed through the committee without any debate. The bill makes says that that those with Class G licenses (the licenses given to teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 18) could be fined for using cellular devices while driving. However, the police would be unable to pull over someone suspected of using a cellphone unless they were violating another motor vehicle law. The bill is unlikely to make it through the Senate, however, because Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) has consistently let laws addressing texting while driving die.

A ballot measure that would put funded measures up for a vote every 8th year passed through the Committee of the Whole after some debate. Democrats feared that the bill was an attempt to discourage voters from approving funding-based measures. “If we think there are some voter-approved measures that are problematic and obviously, there are some, let’s refer those individual ones back to the voters.” Rep. Martin Quezada (D-Phoenix) said.

Majority Leader Chad Campbell agreed. “We can already do this. If the voters feel that something is not working they can send it to the ballot any time,” he said. “This is simply another, what I think, backdoor way to oppress voters.”

Republicans disagreed. They felt that asking voters to re-approve measures was reasonable because it would enable new voters to have a say on legislation. “The voters would have to pass this. That’s why it’s beyond me if we don’t even want to ask the voters,” Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) said. “I don’t see the harm in that.” If the bill passes through the Senate it will be on the ballot in November.

A bill increasing safety measures for trampoline courts passed through Committee of the Whole without debate. The bill was brought forward by the family of 30-year-old Ty Thomasson, who died after breaking his neck while jumping into a ball pit at a trampoline park. The tightened regulations would force the trampoline courts to have insurance, which would result in more frequent inspections and stricter safety standards. The bill passed through the House on Thursday.

A bill that would provide protections for companies that market outer-space flights against liability from passengers passed through the Committee of the Whole. The bill is an attempt to get companies promoting commercial space flights to move to Arizona and to help out World View Enterprises and Paragon Space Development, both of which are based in Tucson.

Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) sponsored the bill and he said that he feels that Arizona can become a major player in space activities with the help of this bill. It passed unanimously, without discussion. The bill passed through the House on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the House canceled all the committee meetings and went through a large thirdread calendar to address most of the bills from the Committee of the Whole that were heard last Thursday.

On the list was a bill that would make it legal for the Department of Health Services to do spot checks on abortion clinics. The abortion-clinic bill would allow for the Department of Health Services to randomly check abortion clinics without a warrant. To do an inspection, there would have to be reasonable cause, as determined by the director of the department.

Democrats pointed to the last time that a state law allowed unannounced checks, in 1999, when that law was overturned by the 9th Circuit Court. “We’re wasting money; we’re wasting time on an issue that was already decided,” said Rep. Stefanie Mach (D-Tucson). “This is something that we all need to accept, that it’s unconstitutional.” The Republicans disagreed because of new regulations on the abortion clinics that went into place in 2010.

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale) went on to argue that this bill should be a non-partisan issue about safety for women. “This is not a pro-life vs. pro-choice issue.” she said, “This is about the healthiness of a facility where a woman goes to get a procedure done. That is what this bill is about.”

The Republicans had the final say. The bill narrowly passed 34-22, with four people not voting.

The House narrowly passed through a resolution to let voters decide whether to give terminally ill patients access to investigational drugs. Opponents said they feared that the bill would give terminally ill patients false hope, especially because the Food and drug Administration already has a process that would allow patients access to investigative drugs. However, the supporters of the bill argued that the F.D.A. process is flawed and doesn’t give patients the best possible care. The bill narrowly scraped up enough voters, passing 31-23 with 6 people not voting.

The House also shot down a resolution to get a term extension for legislators to four from two years on the ballot. The bill was mostly non-partisan, but many felt that, while well intentioned, this bill wouldn’t succeed on the ballot.

Speaking of the term limits for U.S. representatives in Congress, Rep. Adam Kwasman (R-Oro Valley) said, “I, for one, trust my framers that they knew what they were talking about, that our U.S. House members have a two-year term.” … However, Rep. Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix) disagreed. “I do think that this is a very well-intentioned bill and if we could split this up so that the Senate has four years and House gets two years I think the voters would actually go for it too,” he said.

On Wednesday a bill to eliminate the common core was voted down in the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin (R-Tucson), would prohibit school boards from enacting the common-core curriculum in Arizona schools. Melvin said he felt that the standards constitute overreaching by the federal government, and in committee he compared them to Obamacare. Five Republicans joined the Democrats to vote down the bill: Sen. Michele Reagan (R-Scottsdale), Sen. Steve Pierce (R-Prescott), Sen. Bob Worsley (R-Mesa), Sen. John McComish (R- Ahwatukee) and Sen. Adam Driggs (R-Phoenix).

In the House on Wednesday, a bill sponsored by Rep. John Kavanagh that would make it a class-one misdemeanor to solicit for money within 15 feet of an ATM, on public transportation, or in an aggressive manner. The bill narrowly passed through the House with a 35-23 vote.

A bill being called the Super Bowl bill narrowly passed through the House, 33-25. The bill would provide reimbursement for public safety costs to any city in Arizona that hosted a major event, but opponents claim that the intention of the bill is to help pick up the tab for Glendale, which is to host the Super Bowl next year. Supporters claim that these events raise money for the entire state, so it’s only fitting that the state help with the costs. The Senate will debate the bill next.

On Thursday, a Sitting as in the Committee of the Whole, a special committee of the session to address a particular amendment, was called for an amendment on Rep. Andy Tobin (R-Prescott Valley)’s bill that would call for the federal government to provide a waiver for Arizona on Medicaid. The Democrats were worried that the amendment would cut people off of Medicaid because of the narrow wording on who qualified for an exemption. Eventually Tobin became unhappy with the Democrats’ attempts to get him to admit that people would lose coverage and stopped answering questions. The bill passed through the Committee of the Whole and then was third-read and passed along party-line vote.

Bills that would require more debate were retained in the committee for the sake of time. A bill that would provide sanctions so-called revenge porn was retained along with a bill that deals with animal cruelty.
Rep. J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) got a bill calling for an Article V convention passed. His version of the bill, lobbied for by the conservative/libertarian Goldwater Institute, wants a convention so that the states can create a balanced budget amendment. This is the third Article V convention bill that has been heard in the House this session. Two of the three have been sent to the Senate; Rep. Kelly Townsend’s version of the bill was voted down on Wednesday.

A bill that would force the joint legislative budget committee to produce a truth in spending estimate to the Speaker of the House so the speaker could release it to the public failed in the House. The truth in spending estimate would attempt to calculate the government funding appropriations with the total funding for the fiscal year and adjust for personal income estimates. … “We’re telling the people how much of their money we’re spending if we decide to spend more than the economy is growing,” Rep. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) said, “You’re voting against a press release.” Smith’s arguments were to no avail; the bill failed 29-29.

—Courtesy of the Arizona Sonora News Service—

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