Left to right: Reps. Kirsten Engel, Pam Powers Hannley, and Domingo DeGrazia

“There is a huge amount of frustration that our bills are not getting heard,” said state Rep. Kirsten Engel (D-LD10). “Republicans are not having their bills heard either. We have a speaker of the house who has the control, but he is a bottleneck. We’re going to have a session where we won’t have a lot of action on house priorities.”

Old man Rusty Bowers is a bottleneck in the Legislature.

She was referring to doddering Rep. Rusty Bowers (R-LD25) who has failed to give most of the 1,800 bills a first reading, and has been causing delays by assigning bills to be reviewed by two committees. “We’ve voted on only 10 bills this session,” Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley (D-LD9) said.

House committees have just two weeks more to consider bills originating in the House before legislators switch over to considering Senate bills. The Legislature used up most of the session dealing with the drought contingency plan and conforming the federal and state tax laws.

DeGrazia, Hannley, and Engel spoke at a recent forum by the Tanque Verde Democratic Club.

Many criminal reform bills have been introduced, but Rep. Domingo DeGrazia (D-LD10) said, “I don’t know that any of them have a good chance of being first-read or even getting into committee. It’s a pretty sad state. Many folks in prison are there for possessing a small amount of marijuana.”

Engel said, “We’ve been working on several bipartisan criminal justice reform bills for months, but none put on agenda, and they are now assigned to the judiciary committee. We’re working really hard to get them on the final agendas.”

  • HB 2270: Revise truth in sentencing law, requires offenders to serve 85% of the sentence.
  • HB 2362: Allowing expunging criminal records.
  • Decriminalization of marijuana.

“Right now there is a power struggle in the Republican party that is stopping us. Were being held hostage by the Republican party,” Hannley said. Gov. Ducey, Senator JD Mesnard (R-LD11) and Rep. Ben Toma (R-LD22) are feuding with each other. 

How to tell the Legislature

“In the meantime, there are some bad bills that are speeding along and we need to kill them before they become law,” Engel said. For a list of pending bills and how progressives should vote on them, visit Melinda Iyer‘s Legislature Weekly for the week of February 11. Democrats should use the Request to Speak online system to register their views on specific bills.

To show people how to use the Request to Speak system, Civic Engagement Beyond Voting is hosting numerous in-person “office hours” where citizens can drop in and get a little help from a pro. See their Facebook Page for locations and times.

The most dangerous bills concern voter suppression, sponsored by Senator Ugenti-Rita (LD23). One measure, SB 1046, which would have prohibited voters from dropping off mail-in ballots at polling places was defeated in the Senate last week but there are three poisonous bills remaining: SB1090, SB1072, SB1188.

Republicans are also introducing “striker” bills. Using this deceptive method, a legislator introduces a fake bill, like the legalization of nunchucks. A committee hears it and puts it to a floor vote. Another legislator scheming with the first has the entire text of the bill stricken, and substitutes new right-wing language, such as making it harder to vote.

“Arizona has the least transparent legislature in the US,” Hannley said, citing the Center for Public Integrity State Integrity Investigation.