Friday, February 26, 2010

Sierra Club Legislative Update: "A Dreadful Week at the Arizona Capitol"

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 8:43 AM

Sandy Bahr, legislative lobbyist for the Sierra Club, has sent out her weekly bulletin:

Hi everyone! This week was a dreadful week at the Arizona Capitol, but there was some end-of-the-week redemption. First of all, after passing HB2701 electric utilities; renewable energy standards (Lesko, Antenori, Barnes, et al) in the Government Committee on Tuesday evening with a 5-2-0-2 vote, on Thursday, Representative Lesko announced that she was withdrawing the bill. This is the bill that would have established a renewable energy standard of 15 percent renewable by 2025, but define renewable as including nuclear power as well as large hydro power, creating a conflicting standard with

the one passed by the Arizona Corporation Commission. Both the Governor and Speaker Adams issued statements in support of the bill withdrawal. While they mentioned support for solar, neither actually mentioned the Renewable Energy Standard or any support of it. That is unfortunate. This was a quick turn of events after the solar industry representatives told them quite clearly that the bill would jeopardize solar businesses (especially rooftop solar) in Arizona. The issue is hardly settled, but this bill will go away for this year and we can all live to fight another day—and to fight the other objectionable bills the legislature is promoting.

One other piece of good news, HCR2040 sustainable state parks fund (Jones, Brown, Ch. Campbell, et al) passed out of the House Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee 5-1-0-2. Thanks to everyone who signed in via the Request to Speak system, to everyone who emailed their legislators, and to those who showed up at the hearing. It did make a difference! This bill refers to the ballot a measure to allow free day use of all of our State Parks for a fee on every motor vehicle registration. The one lone no vote— Representative Jerry Weiers—wants the measure to affect only one vehicle per household, but that would make administering it totally unworkable. The bill was amended to raise the fee from $9 to $12 and have $3 go to the Department of Transportation for rest areas and other transportation-related purposes. While we would rather have a clean bill that is just focused on parks, this measure is pretty solid overall and, if passed in November, can keep the parks open and protected as well as ensure a few open rest areas along the freeways. Please thank the members of the committee who supported the bill. They include the following representatives: Konopnicki (Chair) (602) 926-5409, bkonopnicki@azleg.gov; Jones (Vice-Chair) (602) 926-3002, rjones@azleg.gov; Deschene (602) 926-5862, cdeschene@azleg.gov; Pancrazi (602) 926-3004, lpancrazi@azleg.gov ; and Pratt (602) 926-5761, fpratt@azleg.gov . (Note, representatives Fleming and McComish had to leave as the bill was heard late in the day, but both had indicated their support for it.) The next stop is the House Appropriations Committee. Winning passage there will be an uphill climb. We will need to keep up the pressure on lawmakers.

This week, please contact your senator and ask him or her to oppose two bills that weaken air quality protections. They include:

SB1193 agricultural best management practices; enforcement (S. Pierce), which states that the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has exclusive jurisdiction over the enforcement of dust control regulations for agricultural activities in current and future PM-10 non-attainment areas. There are several problems with this. First of all, it removes enforcement authority for these limited dust control best management practices from the counties. Counties usually have more inspectors and are better positioned to address these. Next, these dust control provisions need to be enforceable under the Clean Air Act which includes the federal government and citizens. This bill sprung out of an enforcement action by Maricopa County. The agricultural interests want no enforcement and will likely get it, if this bill passes.

SB1408 agricultural best management; dust; districts (Melvin, S. Allen, Pierce, et al) expands the activities that are subject to the Best Management Practices (BMP) general permit to include irrigation districts, but only irrigation districts in nonattainment areas formed after 2009. It would make the irrigation districts in Pinal County subject to the BMP general permit requirements, but is written so that it doesn't make any other irrigation districts subject to the general permit requirements. These BMPs are a bit of a joke and very weak, so having them apply to more entities will not get us cleaner air, but only serves to weaken the counties’ ability to implement measures to protect public health.

Ask your Arizona Representatives to oppose HB2337 Arizona manufactured incandescent lightbulbs; regulation (Antenori, Biggs, Gowan, et al). We don’t need any more ridiculous lawsuits—the prime sponsor indicated he was hoping for a lawsuit on it—or any more embarrassment for our state. The bill says that incandescent lightbulbs that are manufactured and sold in Arizona are not subject to federal law. This is an anti-energy efficiency bill that is probably unconstitutional and is reminiscent of the bill passed by the legislature that made it okay to manufacture and chlorofluorocarbons despite federal law and international treaties. Federal law requires that more efficient lightbulbs be manufactured over time.

To email your legislators or find their direct phone numbers, click on Legislators or paste http://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster.asp into your browser. If you're outside the Phoenix area, you can call your legislators’ offices toll free at 1-800-352-8404. In the Phoenix area call (602) 926-3559 (Senate) or (602) 926-4221 (House) and ask them to connect you with your legislators.

There are no committee hearings this week as they work on moving bills through the process and on the budget. We will be working to keep them from totally sweeping the Heritage Fund, to promote funding for Parks to keep them going over the short-term, and to overall promote a budget that does not risk our resources, the public health, or our future.

And now for the bad news . . . .

On the Voter Protection Act

HCR2039 temporary suspension; voter protected funding (Kavanagh: Antenori, Biggs, et al) passed out of the House Government Committee on Tuesday 6-2-0-1. It refers to the ballot a measure which allows the legislature to appropriate or divert funding from ballot measures passed by the voters. This is to nip away at the voter protection act provisions in the Arizona Constitution. OPPOSE.

HCR2041 funding ballot measures; reauthorization (Stevens, Ash, Gowan, et al) also passed out of the House Government Committee 6-2-0-1. It refers to the ballot a measure that states that if an initiative or referendum authorizes or requires the expenditure of state monies, that authorization or requirement is valid only for eight fiscal years. At the end of this authorization period, a reauthorization measure has to be referred to the ballot. An automatic referral is unnecessary and unwise as it would mean we would spend all of our time just trying to maintain rather than improve. The Legislature, through a majority vote, can refer any of these measures at any time. OPPOSE.

More on undermining the Arizona Corporation Commission and violating the Constitution

SB1198 line extensions; utility infrastructure; charges (S. Allen, Aguirre, Miranda, et al) passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Infrastructure, and Public Debt Committee 5-1-1-0. Its companion in the House, HB2451 line extensions; utility infrastructure, charges (Antenori; Crump, Gowan, et al), passed out of House Government on February 9 with a 6-2-0-1-0 vote. These bills prohibit a public service corporation from charging a customer for the first five hundred feet of a line to extend electric service. They are both unconstitutional as the provisions infringe on the constitutional rate-making authority of the Arizona Corporation Commission. The bills also shift one of the costs of sprawl development from the developers back to the ratepayers. The reason the Arizona Corporation Commission discontinued this policy of free extensions was the Commission determined it was unfair to burden ratepayers with these costs. Growth and development should pay for itself. OPPOSE.

HB2676 energy park authority (Nichols, Meza, Pancrazi, et al) establishes the energy park authority as a corporate and political body separate from the State. It has a board that is made up of legislators and people representing utilities and other industries. Its purpose is to support, diversify and expand Arizona’s energy resources through the development of electric generation facilities and the improvement and expansion of transmission facilities and related supporting infrastructure. It provides for adopting a procedure for approving and executing the financing of projects. While it says there is no conflict with the powers of the Arizona Corporation Commission, it most certainly seems there is. The people who crafted it either have no idea how the current system works or are deliberately trying to create a big mess or both. OPPOSE.

Amending the Constitution to keep out science and promoting a bill to keep out the larger public

HCR2008 constitutional rights; hunting and fishing (JP Weiers, Gowan, Crump, et al) passed out of the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee 6-1-1-0-0. It refers to the ballot a constitutional amendment that, if passed, will have a significant and negative impact on wildlife and wildlife management in Arizona. The measure effectively limits the authority of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to regulate and manage wildlife consistent with its duties and the rights of citizens to enact legislation by initiative. Furthermore, it makes science take a back seat on decisions relative to bag limits, whether or not there is hunting in a particular area, or whether hunting must be suspended in order to facilitate species recovery. OPPOSE.

SB1200 state land department; procedural corrections (Nelson) had a strike everything amendment on the game and fish commission; board and passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Infrastructure, and Public Debt Committee 5-1-1-0. There was an identical strike everything amendment in the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee. HB2189 technical correction; nonprobate transfers (JP Weirs, Gowan, Crump) had a strike everything on game and fish commission; recommendation board. It passed out of that committee 6-1-0-1-0. These bills set up the Arizona Game and Fish Commission appointment recommendation board, which is made up of hunting organizations and one rancher. The purpose is to interview Game and Fish Commission candidates and make 2-5 recommendations to the Governor and she is to pick from among them. This is just another ridiculous bill from the group Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife, who are anything but for wildlife and certainly don’t represent the hunters and anglers we know. The bill ignores the other constituents who care about wildlife. OPPOSE.
Weakening Water Protections

HB2617 mining amendments; water; permits; rules (Jones, Gowan, Mason et al) is a very long and extremely troubling piece of legislation. No one from the environmental community was included in discussions regarding the legislation and from what I have been able to discern, many other interests were left out of the mix as well. This bill will result in less protection for Arizona’s waters. It gives mining interests even more exemptions and sacrifices protection of our water for their profits, which is totally unnecessary. Arizona does not even come close to “over-regulating” mines. HB2617 is short-sighted as it restricts rule adoption in a way that limits any rule that exceeds or conflicts with any relevant or applicable federal requirement, standard or permit condition, unless specifically authorized by law. Why does the Arizona Legislature have so little regard for the resources of this state that it would not want to allow for the strongest protections possible at the state and local level? What if local conditions warranted stronger protections? And why does the legislature want to cede the regulation to the federal government in this area. There is a lot more in here including interbasin transfers of water, which mines can already do—this opens up that exemption further, which is the last thing we need. OPPOSE.

More special deals for agriculture

HB2146 trust lands; loss of lease (Konopnicki) creates another and significant obstacle to any competition relative to State Trust Land grazing leases. It requires that anyone, with the exception of the existing lessee, who wants to apply for a grazing lease get a list and an appraisal of all nonremovable “improvements” on the lands. This includes fences, water tanks, and such. Applicants must already pay for the improvements if they are awarded the lease, but this requires significant expenditure of dollars before even applying. This bill is clearly intended to bar any competition for grazing leases and continue to keep them in the hands of existing lessees. OPPOSE.

HB2449 pest management; department of agriculture (Crandall) had a strike everything amendment in the House Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee which transfers the Office of Pest Management to the Department of Agriculture. It passed out of Committee 7-0-0-1-0. We are concerned that this will mean the structural pest issues are not enforced, particularly the school and daycare programs, which require notice on use of pesticides. OPPOSE.

Note there was a bill introduced to limit the open-range the law—the law that allows cattle wander wherever and requires you to pay for the animal if you hit one that is standing in the road. If you want to keep the animals off your property, you must fence, not the rancher. This bill was never heard and was left in the dust with many other bills.

One more thing, but back on the good news front, SCR1047 state lands; military installation; preservation (Nelson) passed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Infrastructure, and Public Debt Committee 5-0-2. It refers to the ballot a constitutional amendment that would authorize land exchanges, but also require that each individual exchange be approved by the voters. It includes appraisal requirements, public meetings and review, and full disclosure of the parcels involved. We think this is a workable mechanism for land exchanges as it has adequate checks in place to ensure accountability, especially the provision that requires each exchange to go to the voters. SUPPORT.

If you are not sure who your legislators are, please go to http://azredistricting.org/mapping/default2.asp?tname=Interim.2009.Legislative.Map&service=ircmaps&Layer4=on&Layer1=on&action=zoomin&ActiveLayer=16 or call the House or Senate information desks. For more information on bills we are tracking, go to http://arizona.sierraclub.org/political_action/tracker/ Thank you!

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