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click to enlarge The fun never stops at the pleasure palace of special interests.

Gage Skidmore

The fun never stops at the pleasure palace of special interests.

Bills To Watch

Meanwhile, up at the Arizona Legislature...

In a tragic turn of affairs, hundreds of bits of legislation came to a sad end last week when the deadline passed for bills to be heard in committee.

Any legislation that didn't get past a committee hearing is (most likely) kaput for the year, barring some legislative sleight of hand such as a strike-all amendment that gloms onto a bill that's still alive or some other legislative sleight of hand, such as we're seeing with Gov. Doug Ducey's new firearms package that was introduced earlier this week. Ducey's proposal to combat gun violence in schools, which may or may not drop this week. (It hadn't as of our print deadline.)

And there's still a budget to work out, although (as per usual), the entire thing will be worked out behind closed doors and then rolled through the House and Senate quick as can be to prevent any kind of real scrutiny between introduction and passage. We hear the governor's office and legislative leadership are mostly quibbling about the small stuff, so the budget could emerge soon.

Here's one bit of legislation to keep an eye on: HCR 2007 would ask voters to monkey with the state's Clean Elections program, which provides public dollars to political candidates who don't want to ask donors for big contributions. The legislation, which would go to the 2018 ballot for voters to approve, has two elements: One would ban candidates from giving their campaign dollars to political parties to coordinate their campaigns, which some Democratic candidates have recently been doing. The other provision is designed to strip the Clean Elections Commission of the power to investigate who exactly is giving the "dark money" that funds independent expenditure campaigns. At the moment, the Clean Elections Commission believes it does have the authority to dig into those anonymous contributions, while critics of the program say it does not. If voters approve the measure, then the question would be settled—in favor of anonymous contributions.

And here's something that may still emerge: Last year, lawmakers passed a massive expansion of the state's Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which are essentially vouchers by another name. The new law drains the public education coffers by giving parents who want to send their kids to public school a voucher worth, on average, around $5,700. (The amount could be higher or lower based on circumstances.) Since private school tuition can run quite a bit higher than that, critics of the legislation believe it will essentially be a way for well-off families to send their kids to private school, while less fortunate families won't have the dollars to make up the difference—or the resources to provide transportation to a private school, or any number of other barriers.

A group called Save Our Schools Arizona managed to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on the law, meaning that voters will have to approve it in November before it goes into effect. Supporters of the law tried to get the courts to toss the referendum off the ballot, but the Arizona Supreme Court ruled last month that Prop 305 should go before voters.

So now lawmakers may make one last stab at thwarting the referendum by changing some of the language in the bill, which would require Save Our Schools Arizona to hit the streets once again and collect another 75,321 valid signatures to force another referendum. It would be a dirty trick, but certainly not the worst we've seen from Arizona lawmakers.


See How They Run

Three Democrats seeking the governor's office set to debate this weekend

If you're interested in learning more about the three Democrats running for governor—state Sen. Steve Farley, ASU prof and former Department of Ed administrator David Garcia and YWCA CEO Kelly Fryer—you should pop by the UA Social Sciences Building from 6 to 8 p.m. this Saturday, April 7. The three candidate will throw down in room 100.

Correction: In "Downtown Dispute" (March 8), The Weekly wrote that Lori Hunnicutt, publisher of the Arizona Daily Independent, was fired from her public-relations gig with the Rio Nuevo District. Hunnicutt was not an employee of the district. She had a contract to handle public relations duties for the Rio Nuevo district. The contract with Rio Nuevo was terminated by Hunnicutt. The Weekly apologizes for the confusion.

The televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Creative Tucson network, Cox Channel 20 and Comcast Channel 74. This week's guests are legislative candidates Nikki Lee and JP Martin and Tucson High senior Colter Thomas, who helped organize the local March for Our Lives. The TV show repeats Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. and Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m. The radio edition of Zona Politics airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM. Nintzel also talks about what's happening in Tucson entertainment on The Frank Show at 9:30 Wednesday mornings on KLPX, 96.1 FM.


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