I warned you the other day that you will have to watch the Arizona Legislature like a hawk during “Hell Week” as they ram bills through to get to sine die. What you need to be watching for are the “strikers,” the strike everything amendment that inserts a new bill into the hollowed-out host carcass of an old bill. This is how we got HB 2305, the GOP Voter Suppression Act, in the late hours of the night just before sine die last year.
Robbie Sherwood from ProgressNow Arizona and Protect Your Right To Vote Committee e-mails this Action Alert notice:
Rep. JD Mesnard is playing hardball, and we believe he’s threatening to pass partisan anti-voter laws if his colleagues don’t vote for House Bill 2665.
As he explains below, HB2665 will help candidates like presumed gubernatorial front-runner Doug Ducey avoid getting into trouble with election officials for not keeping separate campaign committees for the primary and general election.
Mesnard needs an emergency clause in order to get Ducey and other impacted off the hook. If Mesnard doesn’t get his way, he will “regrettably, be forced to treat it as a partisan bill. As such, I will no longer be concerned about keeping it clean of other partisan policies that some may be interested in adding to the bill. The choice is yours.”
Mesnard issued the threat in an email on Monday sent to all legislative members and staff (see entire email below).
Democratic members we have talked to believe Mesnard is referring to elements of the now-repealed House Bill 2305, the multi-pronged attack on voting rights that Republican legislators passed last session, and then repealed this year after our successful Protect Your Right to Vote Committee referendum put it on ice and qualified it for the November ballot.
Several members — including HB2305 sponsor Senator Michelle Reagan and Rep. Ethan Orr — have pledged not to pull an end-run on voters by trying to piece-meal HB2305 into law.
However Mesnard, House Speaker Andy Tobin and Senate President Andy Biggs have made no such pledge. All Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said when the repeal of HB2305 was debated was a highly parsed statement indicating that he did not know of any efforts to pass the get-tough-on-voters measures individually. But that was several weeks ago.
Readers (and the media) need to contact J.D. Mesnard to ask him what “partisan” measures he and his colleagues intend to tack onto HB2665 if he does not get his way. If he was — as we must presume — talking about the elements of HB2305, that would obviously be hugely controversial and a cynical and partisan declaration of war on the 146,000 Arizona voters who signed the Protect Your Right to Vote petitions.
Here is the e-mail sent by J.D. Mesnard referenced above:
Date: April 14, 2014 at 7:30:16 PM MST
To: “.All House Users” <AllHouseUsers@azleg.gov>, “.ALLSUSER” <ALLSUSER@azleg.gov>
Subject: RE: HB 2665 – two-committees issue / emergency clause
As you know HB 2593 from last session was interpreted to require separate committees for the Primary and General elections. While that was never the intent of the bill (a point that is not really in dispute), we have nevertheless been dealing with that hassle ever since. Subsequently many of you have come to me, from both chambers and both sides of the political aisle, asking me to move a clarification/fix bill through this body as quickly as possible. I have done my best to oblige. After soliciting input from many of you and incorporating feedback from earlier drafts of the bill from anyone who wished to provide it, I introduced HB 2665.
The bill resolves the two-committee issue moving forward while addressing the various scenarios that different people face because of the two-committee requirement we’ve had since last September. At the same time, I have done my best to keep the “politics” out of the bill. My goal was to have a clean bill that was bi-partisan or, really, non-partisan in nature. After all, we all benefit from having this issue resolved as quickly as possible. To that end, I included an emergency clause in the bill so that we would not have to continue dealing with two committees once the bill is (presumably) signed. As you are probably well aware, there were not enough votes to preserve the emergency clause during the House vote. Sadly, the bill passed largely along party line for reasons that I still don’t understand to this day. It subsequently moved over to the Senate where an emergency clause was added back on in committee. I am hopeful that the emergency clause stays on there as I would very much like to put this hassle behind us. This is a sentiment that many of you have shared and expressed for the last several months (and I am certainly looking forward to the end of some of your pestering…er, I mean, pushing for this fix!). If the emergency clause gets on the bill then we will have immediate closure. If it does not, then we will continue to deal with this hassle for a few more months. I do not see why we would choose the second option for ourselves. The bill is good policy; it should not be controversial. It is about one issue and one issue only: one committee or two. The emergency clause is about whether we all want to continue dealing with the two-committee headache for months longer or to end it now. I prefer the latter. But it’s up to you.
I am sending this email because there have been a variety of rumors floating around about what is or isn’t happening with my bill. Some even seem to think I have some sort of “nefarious” motives. I find this perplexing given my openness and best efforts to be as fair as possible with what should be a non-controversial bill that we all want to see pass. In addition, some outside entities have encouraged some of you to try to leverage the bill for something else. As I have said from the beginning that I want this bill to be clean, and have tried to keep partisan issues out of it, I will, likewise, not allow it to be leveraged for something else. HB 2665 will stand on its own merits. I simply want to resolve the two-committee issue as quickly as possible, as I know you all do.
So it comes down to this: If the emergency clause gets on in the Senate, and I have enough commitments on the House side to preserve it, you have my word that I will not allow anything else to be included/attached to the bill. This has been my promise from the beginning and has not changed but I am reiterating it now so that it is crystal clear. If, however, the bill moves forward as a “partisan” bill, with insufficient support in the Senate/House to preserve the emergency, then I will, regrettably, be forced to treat it as a partisan bill. As such, I will no longer be concerned about keeping it clean of other partisan policies that some may be interested in adding to the bill. The choice is yours.
Thank you for your time and consideration! Please let me know if you have any questions…