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Right-Wing Rule 

One of the most conservative sessions in the Arizona Legislature's history is in the books

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Environment

The Sierra Club was a big loser this session.

• GOP lawmakers pushed through an environmental audit bill—dubbed the "Polluter Protection Act" by Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr—that will allow corporations that violate environmental regulations to avoid penalties if they report the violations to the state and promise to clean up their messes. Any reports regarding pollution can be kept secret, even in civil lawsuits that involve damages resulting from the pollution.

• Brewer also signed into law a bill that allows Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold to pump groundwater from the Tucson Active Management Area without penalty, as long as it accumulates credits for Central Arizona Project water.

• You'll soon be seeing more electronic billboards with changing messages along Arizona highways. After vetoing a broader measure earlier this year because of concerns that the billboards could damage the astronomy industry, Brewer signed a bill last week that amends state law to allow them in Phoenix and southwestern Arizona, although they are not allowed within 75 miles of observatories. (The law allows any existing electronic billboards within the prohibited areas to remain.)

• State Sen. Al Melvin tried to continue his revolt against the U.S. government with a bill that demanded that the federal government hand over all of the land it owns in Arizona to the state, with the exception of military bases and national parks. (National monuments and other federal holdings would have become the property of the state.) Melvin's plan included a provision that if the state sells any of the land, 95 percent of the proceeds go to the federal government, with 5 percent going to Arizona schools.

However, Brewer vetoed the bill, saying that Melvin's proposal violated the U.S. Constitution.

• An effort to roll back renewable-energy standards that promote the solar-energy industry in Arizona did not pass.

You Make the Call

Lawmakers have proposed several constitutional amendments that voters will decide on the November ballot.

• HCR 2004 is a companion piece to Melvin's aforementioned bill. It would ask voters to amend the Arizona Constitution to assert state sovereignty over federal lands in order to buttress Melvin's hoped-for lawsuit to force the feds to hand over their land in the state.

• HCR 2056 would increase the amount of money paid out of the state trusts to Arizona schools.

• SCR 1001 would allow the state to swap state-trust land to preserve military installations.

• SCR 1012 would increase the amount of a tax exemption available to businesses for their equipment.

• SCR 1025 would limit how much a property could increase in value for taxing purposes.

• Two controversial proposals did not make the ballot. One would have required that any proposed tax increases on the ballot get at least 60 percent of the vote, creating the possibility of minority rule in Arizona. Another would have required that successful initiatives involving spending and taxes be reapproved by voters every decade.

Odds and Ends

At Brewer's request, GOP lawmakers approved legislation stripping most future state workers of civil-service rights that protect them from being fired for political or other reasons. Current workers will have to surrender those protections if they accept a one-time 5 percent pay bonus or a promotion that includes a raise in salary.

• Dogs on ranches were exempted from city, town and county statutes related to animal cruelty if the dogs are being used to herd livestock.

• Pima County will face a special audit of its bond program.

• Public libraries will have to deploy software to prevent adults from viewing obscene material on computers accessible to the public.

• Arizona will have a poet laureate, thanks to legislation from Sen. Al Melvin that created the position.

• State lawmakers agreed to reauthorize the Arizona Commission for the Arts for another decade.

• A last-minute effort to create a special fund to reimburse elected officials for their campaign expenses if they were subject to a recall election did not pass. The legislation was aimed at providing a way to reimburse former state lawmaker Russell Pearce for the $260,000 in campaign contributions that he spent unsuccessfully trying to prevent voters from booting him from office last year.

• Don't look for more Hollywood stars around Tucson—a push to create tax incentives for movie and TV productions died in the Legislature.

• You'll now be able to celebrate the founding of the Girl Scouts as an official state holiday, albeit one that does not include a day off for state employees. Henceforth, March 12 is Girl Scouts of the United States of America Day.

More by Jim Nintzel

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