By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings
The 2014 session of the Arizona Legislature starts Monday with the Governor's State of the State Address to a joint session of the AZ House and AZ Senate (and a slew of media types, lobbyists, staffers, and well-connected lookie-loos).
Time for a preview of, and a few predictions for, the new session:
Membership/personnel changes at the lege for 2014, all in the Senate:
Out: Sen. Jack Jackson Jr. (D-LD7)
In: Sen Carlyle Begay (D-LD7)
Jackson resigned from the Senate to accept a position with the Obama administration. Begay is "officially" a Democrat from LD7, but there are concerns/rumors that he his neither a Democrat nor a resident of LD7.
Out: Sen. Rich Crandall (R-LD16)
In: Sen. David Farnsworth (R-LD16)
Crandall resigned from the Senate to accept the top education job in Wyoming. Don't know much about Farnsworth.
Out: Sen. Linda Lopez (D-LD2)
Lopez has resigned from the Senate in order to focus on a new job. No replacement has been selected as of this writing.
Out, as Senate Democratic leader: Sen. Leah Landrum-Taylor (D-LD27)
In: Sen. Anna Tovar (D-LD19)
The most surprising news emanating from the lege between the sessions was the unexpected change in the leadership of the Senate Democratic caucus. There were some hard feelings at the time, but like the Rs with their rift over AHCCCS restoration, most of the focus this session is expected to be on finishing as quickly as possible so that all members can focus on campaign activity.
My predictions and expectations for the session (minimal wiseass-ery involved) –
– Addressing the CPS scandal will be a priority, but since actually "fixing" the agency's problems will require addressing the root cause, chronic underfunding, don't expect much here. If any real work on CPS happens, it will be because Jan Brewer decides that her political career will expire when her term as governor does and she wants to burnish her "legacy".
– The state's budget/revenue situation is loosening, so the Rs will look for ways to worsen the state's structural deficit, probably with permanent tax cuts in response to temporary revenue increases.
– Some crazy bills will be proposed, considered, and passed. Rep. Steve Montenegro has promised submission of a bill proposal that would exempt religious officials (rabbis, priests, ministers, etc.) from having to perform ceremonies for same-sex marriages. The facts that same sex marriages are illegal in AZ, and there is no talk (that I've heard, anyway) of compelling such officials to perform such ceremonies. However, those are apparently minor details to Montenegro.
Montenegro's proposal isn't in bill form yet, but another crazy one is –
HB2030, where the Republicans from LD22, Reps. Phil Lovas and David Livingston and Sen. Judy Burges, propose requiring that most people who receive unemployment benefits pass a drug test.
– Democrats will propose some "good governance" proposals (Sen. Ed Ableser has a bunch of them in already). None of them will go anywhere unless an R decides to steal an idea and put his/her name on it.
– There will be some intra-caucus scuffles over past controversies (AHCCCS restoration for the Rs, Senate leadership changes for the Ds), but most real tiffs will be about two members going for the same office (i.e. – House Speaker Andy Tobin and Rep. Adam Kwasman going after the R nomination in CD1.)
– None of this stretching the session into June stuff this year; look for the lege to wrap things up by the end of April. They've got campaigning to do this year.
From the Arizona Republic –
– Fix CPS.
– Efficient passage of the state's budget.
– Quick session.
– Fix CPS.
– Adequately funding education in the state budget.
– Improving cross-border trade and commerce with Mexico.
– Attracting business to AZ.
– Ethics reform.
– Fix CPS.
– HURF funding restoration (Highway User Revenue Fund). Much of its funds are currently "swept" by the lege into the state's General Fund to pay for non-road items. The state's roads, particularly those in rural areas, are starting to show the effects of reduced maintenance.
– Education funding.
– Fix CPS.
– Education funding.
– Close some tax loopholes.
From Channel 3's Politics Unplugged –
– The big issues, at least early in the session, will be the state's budget (which is always an issue) and addressing the CPS scandal.
– While the issue of "dark money" in campaigns may be addressed, expect any measures approved by the Republicans to be less about fixing the campaign finance system and more about making sure more money goes directly to underprivileged politicians.
– Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana: supported by some Democrats in the lege, but not going to happen unless approved by a referendum; legislative Rs will never go for it.
– Education funding increase: Democrats want it, but while legislative Rs "prioritize" education, their priorities don't include actually *paying* for it. They would much rather direct public resources to…
– Private prisons. Expect proposals from legislative Democrats to rein in private prisons a little; expect those measures to be thoroughly ignored by legislative Republicans.
From Channel 12's Sunday Square Off –
– GOP State Rep. Adam Kwasman and House Speaker Andy Tobin will be attacking each other hard this session – both are candidates for the GOP nomination for the CD1 seat.
– GOP State Sen. Michele Reagan and State Rep. Justin Pierce are both running for AZSOS. While their race may not be as rugged as the Tobin/Kwasman race, there will be a lot of "dark money" in the race. Expect a proposal from Reagan to bring some light into the dark money world, but not because she thinks dark money is bad.
Apparently, the expectation is that Pierce is going to be the bigger beneficiary of the dark money in the race.