By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings
As usual, all committee agendas, floor calendars, and event schedules are subject to change without notice. Call ahead to confirm plans before travelling to the Capitol based on an agenda, calendar, or schedule cited here.
If an agenda is summarized with "looks harmless so far" that only means that nothing on the agenda set of bat-shit crazy alarm bells; if the committee in question covers an area of interest to you, check out the full agenda yourself. And if I missed something significant, please leave a comment letting me know.
A hearing room designation of "SHR" means it is a hearing room in the Senate building; "HHR" means that the hearing room is in the House building.
Lastly, this summary is not, nor is it intended to be, comprehensive. Many bills have been covered, but not all of them. Again, if a committee covers an area of interest to you, check out the full agenda yourself.
…As of this writing, no floor calendars have been posted, but those are usually posted the day before, or on the actual day of, floor activity.
Senate side of the Capitol –
Rules, Monday, 1 p.m., Caucus Room 1. This is a exercise in rubberstamping; the entire meeting should take less than 10 minutes, but the agenda will serve as a preview of floor activity later in the week.
Judiciary, Monday, upon adjournment of the floor, SHR1. Looks harmless enough, but SB1234 may bear watching. If enacted, it would allow the use of monies in the County Attorney Victim Compensation Fund for purposes other than the current requirement of "medical, counseling and funeral expenses and lost wages of crime victims." What concerns me is the vagueness of the change. There isn't anything in the measure that could prevent or even slow down a corrupt county attorney turning the Victim Compensation Fund into a personal slush fund. [Begin sarcasm] Not that we've *ever* had a corrupt county attorney in Arizona. [End sarcasm]
Government and Environment, Monday, upon adjournment of the floor, SHR3. Not so harmless.
First up, something that in and of itself is harmless, but speaks of a "priorities" problem: a striker to SB1139 that would declare the third Saturday in July to be the "State Day of the Cowboy". Not a legal holiday, so it would have no practical effect in the real world, but not something that needs to be done, either.
After that relatively innocuous measure, things go downhill rapidly – SB1182, attacking public employee unions by making payroll deductions for things like payment of union dues more difficult; SB1210, penalizing a city or town some of its funds from state-shared revenue if the city or town is found to be in violation of one of its own personnel or purchasing policies; SB1288, barring federal agencies from eligibility for funds from the Arizona Water Protection Fund. Seems more like a neo-secessionist attempt to thumb their noses at the feds than anything substantive, since even the legislative staff summary of this bill states that the Fund receives no legislative appropriations and hasn't disbursed funds recently; SB1321, an anti-sustainability measure that would supplant municipal building codes in favor of arbitrary legislative standards, in regard to energy use/conservation; SB1322, extending an exemption from assured water supply requirements for certain subdivisions; SB1349, another payroll deduction bill aimed directly at public employees; and SCR1015, a resolution expressing blind and rabid support for a minimal or no regulation interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. Their bill subject/working title is "support; second amendment"; mine is "dancing on graves; Newtown victims".
Transportation, Tuesday, 2 p.m., SHR3. Looks harmless so far.
Elections, Tuesday, 2 p.m., SHR1. The first meeting of the year for this committee. Three bills on the agenda, all that would impact the political process (duhhh….the committee is called "Elections" for a reason. 🙂 ). Lowlight: SB1261, allowing the AZ Secretary of State to make it more difficult to sign up of the Permanent Early Voting List and easier for the SOS to remove voters from the PEVL. A direct attack on Democrats, as PEVL voting turnout numbers are widely considered to favor Democrats. Note: the committee chair, Sen. Michele Reagan (R), is running for the SOS job in 2014. And wants to make voting more difficult.
Appropriations, Tuesday, 2 p.m., SHR109. Looks harmless so far.
Commerce, Energy, and Military, Wednesday, 9 a.m. Looks fairly harmless so far, but the nature of many of the bills means that I don't completely understand the impact of the proposed changes to state law.
Public Safety, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR109. One bill on the agenda: SB1086, Sen. Judy "Birther" Burges' measure to have police officers trained not to profile people based on their choice to ride a motorcycle or possess motorcycle-related paraphernalia (like leather vests with gang colors, chains, etc.)
Health and Human Services, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR1. On the agenda: SB1115 and SCR1002, mandating that health care providers provide to the public the direct pay prices for the most common procedures performed by the health care providers. That doesn't sound so bad, until you read the punchline – a clause that bars any sort of "punishment" for persons or employers who choose to directly pay medical costs or for health care providers who choose to accept such direct payments. The clause uses the phrase "an adverse consequence" and cites specific examples without any language limiting the definition of adverse consquences to those specific examples. The SCR proposes to make the new requirements a voter-protected change, meaning that it could not be changed in any significant way by future legislatures. It looks like the intent here is to undermine health care reform – the language is so broad that a rule stating that a health care provider that chooses to accept direct payments cannot benefit from a health care exchange could be considered an "adverse consequence" and thus illegal. This is "sneaky bad", but without much emphasis on the "sneaky" part.
Finance, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR3. On the agenda: SB1028, exempting self-dealing businesses from sales tax liability (aka "transaction privilege tax", or "TPT") for transactions between two related entities involving leases…however, they'll still get to write off the "expense" related to the paper transaction as an expense; SB1173 and SB1174 making changes to two state employee pension plans (I don't understand the details of the state's pension plans well enough to evaluate these measures; I presume that since the measures were proposed by Republicans, state employees will be screwed over by their (potential) enactment; and SB1176, nearly tripling the tax deduction allowed for contributions to "529" college savings plans.
Education, Thursday, 9:30 a.m., SHR1. The agenda is shallow on bills, but deep on ugly. Festivities start with a presentation from John Huppenthal, Arizona's State Superintendent of (anti-) Public Instruction then move on to consideration of SB1239, a $30,000,000 appropriation to the Department of Education for some "reading intervention" software that meets some *very* specific requirements. I'm not saying the two items are related (and if, as of this writing, I had anything more to base my suspicions on than the cynicism borne of years of experience watching this bunch in action, I would say so, and say so loudly), but the measure is proposed by Sen. Al Melvin of Tucson, and there is a company in Tucson that offers a product that seems to meet all of those very specific requirements; and SB1285, mandating that the Department of Education create and distribute a "handbook" publicizing the non-public education options that are available to parents, and requiring the Department to pay for the handbook out of federal monies disbursed to the state to help pay for the education of students from low-income families.
House side of the Capitol –
Rules, Monday, 1 p.m., HHR4. This is a exercise in rubberstamping; the entire meeting should take less than 10 minutes, but the agenda will serve as a preview of floor activity later in the week (yes, I copied and pasted this bit from the section regarding the meeting of the Senate Rules Committee)
Ways and Means, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR1. Presentation only, at this time.
Financial Institutions, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR5. Most of the proposed changes are too technical for my knowledge, but HB2428 is worrisome – if enacted, it removes a requirement that licensed investment advisers who have custody of client monies or securities file an audited balance sheet at the end of each fiscal year.
Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR4. Interesting in a head-scratching sort of way: HB2301, expanding the carryover time limit for the renewable energy tax credit from five years to twenty. I thought this bunch hated everything about renewable energy?
Education, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR3. On the agenda: HB2494, expanding the current enrollment preference allowed to charter schools for the children of people associated with the charter school to
include the grandchildren of people associated with the charter. Seems like a measure targeted to benefit a small group or even just a single person; HB2495, mandating that a school district that receives a refund or rebate related to energy-saving devices use the funds received in a certain way. Not sure that this is a bad bill, but I am always skeptical when this bunch starts tinkering with schools and they way that they spend money.
Insurance and Retirement, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR3. On the agenda: HB2056, making amendments to a state employee pension plan; and HB2279, specifying that sporting event officials are not considered employees of the organization or entity that sponsors or oversees sporting event (unless the officials are otherwise employed by the organization or entity).
Government, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR4. Lowlight: HB2283, Rep. Steve "Russell Pearce Jr." Smith's bill that would mandate that any government publications, other than voting materials, that are published in languages other than English, be published only on the internet, except for a copy that would be available only at the office of the publishing agency.
Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR1. One bill on the agenda thus far: HB2285, trying to sneak some of the fiscal limitations of the already thoroughly discredited TABOR movement through the backdoor.
Public Safety, Military, and Regulatory Affairs, Wednesday, 9 a.m., HHR3. On the agenda: HB2485, relating to the creation of a "Health and Safety Audit Privilege" in Title 12 of ARS, "Courts and Civil Proceedings".
Commerce, Wednesday, 10 a.m., HHR5. On the agenda: HB2280, declaring that the state has supreme and overriding authority over employee benefits and barring any political subdivisions from enacting any further regulation of employee benefits.
Appropriations, Wednesday, 2 p.m., HHR1. One item on the agenda: HB2396, a measure from Rep. John Kavanagh that requires that monies from "compromises or settlements by or against the state go to the state's General Fund" and that no new funds can be created by court order under such is approved by the lege first. I almost want to see this one pass, just so I can write about the lawsuits. I'm guessing here, but this seems to be related to the flak related to the lege's appropriation of mortgage assistance funds that were accrued to the state to aid homeowners hurt by the mortgage fraud scandal late last decade.
Transportation, Thursday, 9 a.m., HHR3. Looks harmless so far.
Technology and Infrastructure, Thursday, 9 a.m., HHR5. Some sneaky bad here: HB2141, allowing "public service corporations" to conduct many of their operations related to telecommunications behind a cloak of secrecy. Specifically, the bill would exempt "proceedings, applications and permits relating to telecommunications services provided by a public service corporation and the construction and location of lines, equipment and plants used for telecommunications services on or along public streets or highways or on private property" from public records disclosure. Also on the agenda: HB2483, the annual proposal to end the requirement that things like legal notices and public meeting notices be published in a newspaper. This year's proposal would change the language in the law to "a public medium". Look for the publisher to make the annual trek over to the Capitol complex, testify at the hearing, the bill to pass the committee and then to never hear of the bill again…unless the the Cap Times pisses off a member of the Republican leadership at the Capitol. The bottom line is that this measure and the ones like it in previous sessions of the lege are less about good public policy than about "cracking the whip" and reminding the Cap Times that the lege is in a
position to mess with a huge part of the newspaper's revenue stream. It's an effective way to stop investigative reporting of legislators and their activities even before it starts.