What a Rush!

Time's running out for the Arizona Legislature to restrict abortions, lock up illegal immigrants and loosen gun laws

A flood of bills is moving quickly through the Arizona Legislature now that Senate President Bob Burns has lifted a blockade on legislation not related to the budget.

"There's a tidal wave of stuff moving," says Rep. Steve Farley, a Democrat who represents central Tucson. "They're going back to what they call the majority program, which is all the wedge issues. They're putting more restrictions on abortions. They're hammering immigrants again and scapegoating them for all of our problems. (A move to allow) guns in bars and restaurants is sailing right through."

Lawmakers were so excited by the thought of passing legislation that they were even working on Friday last week—without even a lunch break!—as the Senate pushed bills through committees and past the various parliamentary hoops necessary for final approval.

What's the rush? While lawmakers have no firm deadline to finish their work, tensions have been running high as this year's session drags on, and lawmakers grow tired of being at the Capitol. Because most of the legislation has been stalled so long, a process that normally takes months is being compressed into weeks.

Among the bills on the move:

• Senate Bill 1123 would eliminate partisan city elections and create an election-by-ward system in all Arizona cities. Sponsored by Sen. Jonathan Paton, SB 1123 is aimed directly at the city of Tucson, the only city in the state that still has partisan elections. This was the first bill Paton heard last Monday, June 8, in the Judiciary Committee he chairs, after the bill blockade was lifted. It passed the full Senate on a 17-11 vote on Monday, June 15, and is awaiting action in the House.

• SCR 1025 would ask voters to ban the use of public funds for political campaigns. The legislation, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, June 15, on a 4-3 vote, would essentially gut the Clean Elections program, which provides money for qualifying candidates for state office.

• SB 1113, once known as "guns in bars," has been scaled back to allow guns in restaurants that sell liquor, although anyone carrying a firearm would be prohibited from drinking. The bill sailed through committee last week, but ran into some trouble on the Senate floor earlier this week before passing 18-10 on Tuesday, June 16.

• SB 1243, which allows citizens to brandish a firearm if they feel threatened, passed the Senate on a 21-7 vote on Monday, June 15, and awaits action in the House.

• SB 1069 would prohibit school districts from offering ethnic-studies courses such as the African-American and Chicano programs taught in the Tucson Unified School District. Districts that continue to offer the courses would lose 10 percent of their funding every month. Once the courses were cancelled, the districts would get their funding back. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-3 vote on Monday, June 15.

• SB 1175 would give state and local law-enforcement officers the power to arrest illegal immigrants for the crime of trespassing, with a second offense punishable by up to 2 1/2 years in prison. The bill passed the Senate with a 16-12 vote on Monday, June 15, and is awaiting action in the House.

• SB 1280 would ban concealing, harboring or shielding illegal immigrants, with exceptions for family members, domestic-violence shelters and other victim services. Punishment would include up to five years in prison for a simple violation, 10 years for a violation that involved financial gain, 20 years for a violation involving serious bodily injury, and death or life in prison for a violation that results in someone getting killed. It passed the Senate on a 17-11 vote on Monday, June 15, and is awaiting action in the House.

• SB 1162 would allow public employees to contact federal officials if they believe someone who is in the country illegally has requested state benefits or applied for a license or permit. It would also allow citizens to sue agencies if they believe that employees aren't doing enough to root out people who are not in the country legally. The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on an 8-3 vote on Tuesday, June 9.

• HB 2331 prevents cities and counties from having policies that block enforcement of federal immigration law. It passed the House on a 38-21 vote on Tuesday, June 9, and is awaiting action in the Senate.

• House Concurrent Resolution 2014 would ask Arizona voters to approve an amendment to the Arizona Constitution that would prohibit any requirement that they purchase health insurance. A similar measure was narrowly rejected by Arizona voters last year. HCR 2014 passed the House on a 34-19 vote last Thursday, June 11, and is awaiting action in the Senate.

• SB 1206 would place new restrictions on judges who grant minors permission to obtain abortions without parental permission, and creates new guidelines for information that must be given to adult women who seek abortions. The bill passed the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee on a 4-3 vote on Thursday, June 11.

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