The Arizona legislature adjourned around 12:26 a.m. Friday morning. This farce is finally over.
The AP reports, Arizona Legislature closes session with big issues undone:
The Arizona Legislature adjourned its 2018 session early Friday, leaving without taking action on two of Gov. Doug Ducey’s biggest initiatives of the year, a water policy overhaul and an ambitious school safety proposal (called it!) that fell victim to concerns about the civil rights of gun owners.
The March for Our Lives student led movement for gun safety can now turn its organizational skills and energy to defeating the legislators who thwarted their efforts to save students lives in the election this November.
The Republican-controlled Legislature also failed to repeal a contentious school voucher expansion law that is set to be on the November ballot after opponents of the 2017 measure gathered enough signatures last summer to block its implementation. The fate of the voucher expansion was caught up in a momentous push by public school teachers who rose up in early March and eventually went on strike, forcing the Republican governor and lawmakers to award them with big raises and more school funding in the budget, although not enough to meet the demands of teachers who are ending a six-day strike and heading back to class on Friday.
Republican Sens. Kate Brophy McGee and Bob Worsley both went on record Thursday opposing any repeal, with Worsley calling the issue “kryptonite” and Brophy McGee simply saying “it needs to go to the ballot.” With all Democrats opposed, there was no way it could pass the Senate.
“The huge grassroots group, and I’ve talked to them multiple times, checked with them multiple tomes, they’re willing to take it to the ballot,” Brophy McGee said. “That’s where they want it to go.”
“It’s honoring the people who got it to the ballot,” Brophy McGee said, noting that opponents of expansion of the voucher program gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
Teachers and other education advocates banded together as Save Our Schools Arizona and gathered more than 100,000 signatures to block the universal voucher bill last summer, a move that kept it from taking effect until voters statewide could weigh in.
They argued that private school vouchers siphoned money from the state’s cash-strapped public schools, while backers said they give parents a choice about where their children attend school.
There has been talk all session of majority Republicans repealing or replacing it to negate the ballot measure.
The organizational skills and energy of the #RedforEd movement of the past few weeks can now turn to the campaign for the Prop. 305 referendum and defeating all of those legislators who voted for this “vouchers on steroids” bill and the governor who signed it. You will be needed to offset the massive dark money campaign coming from the “Kochtopus” school privatization forces, and the Center for Arizona Policy and the American Federation for Children.
Senate President Steve Yarbrough and House Speaker J.D. Mesnard presided over their final sessions Thursday afternoon and evening, after shepherding a $10.4 billion budget through the Legislature in a marathon session that began Wednesday night and ended after daybreak. The budget provides $300 million teachers for 9 percent teacher raises in the fall, with a promise of 5 percent raises in each of the next two years. [And it’s only a promise that can be reneged on.]
The school safety proposal died because of a provision that would allow family members to obtain a court order to remove guns from a person at risk of committing a shooting, and allowing them to be ordered held for a mental evaluation. Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said that was a bridge too far because it essentially could incarcerate someone without adequate [due process].
“The members in the House were just concerned with the due process,” Farnsworth said. “One of the real challenges we had is that it was a civil action but it looked very much like a criminal action in its consequences.
Democrats also opposed the [weak] measure because it didn’t contain universal background checks and other provisions they wanted.
“We don’t have any support at all,” Farnsworth said. “The Democrats are off, probably most of the Republicans are concerned and off, so…”
Lawmakers made final decisions on several hot-button pieces of legislation Thursday evening, including changes to the state’ redistricting and clean election commissions.
The changes to the redistricting commission approved by voters in 2000 failed in the Senate late Thursday. SCR 1034 would have asked voters to boost membership to nine from five and require that all legislative districts are within 2 percent population differences.
Lawmakers did pass a measure that will ask voters to make major changes in the state’s public elections financing system. House Concurrent Resolution 2007 would allow a committee appointed by the governor review rules adopted by the Citizens Clean Election Commission. It also would bar candidates running using public financing from using any of that money for services provided by political parties.
The commission opposes the measure’s provision requiring rule reviews by the governor’s regulatory review commission. Democrats opposed to the measure say that puts a politically-appointed agency in charge of the independent commission’s authority, while Republicans said it prevents gaming of the system and adds oversight other state offices must follow. The bipartisan five-member commission was created by voters in 1998, and the measure will be on the November ballot.
The Arizona Republic adds, Arizona Legislature adjourns, ends work for 2018:
The House rejected Senate Bill 1420 in a 33-27 vote. The bill would have registered marijuana as an agricultural commodity and required dispensaries to submit their products for quality-assurance testing by the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health.
Labeling marijuana as an agricultural commodity would have subjected it to the same standards as other crops, including testing for mold, disclosing which chemicals were used during cultivation and confirming the accuracy of labels. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu, touted it as a necessary measure to give the state oversight and to ensure safety for users.
Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, echoed Borrelli’s concerns, saying that the provision was needed to “make sure that the product that they (users) buy isn’t going to … harm their health.”
But Democrats, and a handful of Republicans, voted against it, saying while the idea may be well-intended, more consideration should be given before passing it.
Randy Friese, D-Tucson, said the chamber needs, “more agreement where this is going,” and that the bill isn’t “quite ready for prime time.”
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MEDICAL MARIJUANA TESTING: SB 1420 would have required medical marijuana dispensaries to submit their products for quality-assurance testing by the Agriculture Department and the Department of Health Services.
The bill passed the House, as amended, but died in the Senate without a vote.
On the Senate side, the GOP caucus was passing the hostage bills previously vetoed by Gov. Doug Ducey in an effort to urge lawmakers to adopt the governor’s teacher pay plan.
Before a gallery packed with #RedForEd organizers, the Senate approved House Bills 2522 and 2383, among others, that were previously discussed and passed before being vetoed by Ducey.
HB 2522, sponsored by Rep. Maria Syms, R-Paradise Valley, passed 23-5. The bill puts in place stricter traffic-violation penalties for people who drive under a suspended license.
HB 2383, sponsored by Todd Clodfelter, R-Tucson, passed unanimously. It allows any authorized “emergency vehicle” to use an HOV lane with only one person in the vehicle, without penalty.
Senate Bill 1444, would create a new American Civics Education pilot program for public schools, passed with broad bipartisan support.
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RENTER SECURITY DEPOSITS: House Bill 2651 (previously HB 2263) would give apartment dwellers 60 days, or less, to challenge a landlord withholding a security deposit for damages. Currently, there is no specific time limit in state law.
The bill was passed in the House but was not considered in the Senate.
There may be other bills that snuck through before sine die. Watch for updates.