By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings
Note: Apologies to BfA readers. I completed this post too late Sunday night to cross-post it at that time. Next week, the next legislative schedule post will be completed and posted before the start of the Super Bowl.
On the plus side for this week's post, I have updated the post a little…
As usual, all schedules and agendas subject to change at any time and without notice; call ahead to the Legislature before travelling to the Capitol for a committee meeting or any other event to verify that it is still scheduled to take place and that your item of interest is still on the agenda.
Well, this is the week that the nitty-gritty work of pushing bad bills begins. Not the crazy stuff (loyalty oaths, neo-secessionist stuff, anti-science measures, etc.), just the bills that are lower-profile and more insidious because of that.
Committee activity ("HHR" refers to a hearing room in the House of Representatives building; "SHR" refers to one in the Senate building) –
House side of the Capitol:
Rules, Monday 1 p.m., HHR4. The first House Rules meeting of the year; this will serve as a preview of one or more future floor calendars as all measures that have been passed by another committee must go through the Rules Committee before proceeding to floor activity. Officially, this is to ensure that all of the bills are "constitutional and proper" (basically, in a form that is acceptable in technical and legal terms). However, the reality is that all bills that receive Rules Committee consideration are rubberstamped, regardless of their adherence to the constitutions of the US and Arizona (witness the number of successful lawsuits challenging measures passed by the lege). This committee serves as the gatekeeper for the Speaker of the House (or for the President of the Senate, in the case of the Senate Rules Committee), who can use it to quietly kill any measure that he doesn't like – he simply makes sure that such measures are never agendized.
Ways and Means, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR1. A bunch of bills that reduce revenue for the state, cities, towns, counties, and school districts.
Financial Institutions, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR5. On the agenda: three bills affecting "loan originators" that would serve to reduce the already minimal oversight of the mortgage "industry". Former legislator Jack Harper (R-Surprise!), a long-time part of that business, ran similar bills before he left the legislature.
Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR4. Looks harmless so far.
Education, Monday, 2 p.m., HHR3. Looks pretty harmless so far, but I'm a cynic – when this bunch starts tinkering with the state's education system, their ultimate goal is to weaken that system, not strengthen it. And they *never* stop tinkering. One item on the agenda: HB2458, which purports to address fraud in the use of "empowerment scholarship accounts", or ESAs. Biggest clue that this is a meaningless bill: one of the cosponsors is Sen. Steve Yarbrough, who isn't known for supporting any measure that could possibly increase independent oversight of the process of diverting public education funds into private hands. A process that he finds *very* profitable.
Insurance and Retirement, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR3. Three measures on the agenda, but I don't know enough about the nuances of insurance law to even speculate as to their level of badness (for the people of AZ; the bills look great for insurance companies/sellers looking to squeeze ever more money from the public).
Government, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR4. This one has some obvious nuggets of ugly on it, such as HB2026, Rep. Michelle Ugenti's attack on unions by forcing the governing bodies of political subdivisions (non-school district) to specifically vote to allow payroll deduction for payment of their employees' union dues, otherwise such deductions would be forbidden; HB2330, requiring that any meetings with representatives of public employee unions are open to the public and subject to the state's open meeting requirements (contract negotiations are normally done in executive session, whether for rank-and-file employees or for management-level employees); HB2343, barring compensation of employees for union activity, even when such compensation is part of a negotiated contract.
Federalism and Fiscal Responsibility. Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR1. One item on the agenda thus far: HB2328, a dog-whistle measure concerning an interstate compact and a balanced federal budget. And a requirement that any raises to the federal debt limit be referred to all of the states' legislatures for prior approval.
Agriculture and Water, Tuesday, 2 p.m., HHR5. Looks harmless so far.
Public Safety, Military, and Regulatory Affairs, Wednesday, 9 a.m., HHR3. Looks harmless so far.
Health, Wednesday, 9 a.m., HHR4. A number of AHCCCS and healthcare profession-related measures that are too technical for me to understand clearly in the time available to me for this post. A couple of the bill subjects include the word "omnibus", which mean that a lot of changes are included in the measures.
Higher Education and Workforce Development, Wednesday, 10 a.m., HHR1. One bill: HB2203, creating a tax credit for contributions to a state university foundation. Update on Monday evening: An amended agenda has been posted removing this measure.
Commerce, Wednesday, 10 a.m., HHR5. A big bunch of ugly here: In addition to the ones that I just don't understand (HB2166, HB2276) but expect are bad because they are sponsored by the "next time we propose a good government measure will be the very first time" crowd, there's HB2280 (prohibiting any regulation of "employee benefits" (compensation, time off, meal breaks, etc.) by any political subdivision below the state level; and the first striker of the 2013 session, a same-subject
amendment to HB2147. If enacted, it apparently would make it more difficult for an unemployed person to collect unemployment insurance benefits, but would balance that by making it easier for employers to undermine the UI claims of former employees. Monday update: an amended agenda has been posted removing HB2166 and changing the meeting time to 11 a.m.
Appropriations, Wednesday, 2 p.m., HHR1. Looks harmless so far.
Transportation, Thursday, 9 a.m., HHR3. Looks mostly harmless, but one measure worries me – HB2180. It looks like it will make it easier to repossess vehicles on the basis of faulty paperwork. Monday update: An amended agenda has been posted, adding two bills to the agenda. One, HB2182, essentially finishes killing off the requirements for the use of ignition interlock devices by those convicted of DUIs.
Technology and Infrastruction, Thursday, 9 a.m., HHR5. Presentation only, so far.
Judiciary, Thursday, 10 a.m., HHR4. Apparently, Thursday is "Farnsworthpalooza Day" at the Capitol – there are five bills on the agenda. Four are the product of committee chair Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (the fifth is a sop to Rep. Justin Pierce, the committee's vice chair). They include HB2305, addingrestrictions on petitions and petition circulators for potential ballot questions; HB2306, doubling the total limit on campaign contributions that can be collected by candidates for office.
Health, Friday, 1 p.m., offsite. The committee will be hold a special meeting for a tour of the AZ State Laboratory and Office of Vital Records.
Senate side of the Capitol:
Rules, Monday, 1 p.m., Caucus Room 1. Again, this committee is a rubberstamp and best serves as a preview of upcoming floor action.
Judiciary, Monday, upon adjournment of the floor session, SHR1. Doesn't look too bad, so far.
Government and Environment, Monday, upon adjournment of the floor session, SHR3. Doesn't look too bad, so far.
Transportation, Tuesday, 2 p.m., SHR3. Looks harmless so far.
Appropriations, Tuesday, 2 p.m., SHR109. Looks harmless so far.
Commerce, Energy, and Military, Wednesday, 9 a.m., SHR1. Looks harmless so far.
Public Safety, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR109. Not so harmless – SB1086, Sen. Judy "Birther" Burges proposal to require that police officers in AZ be trained not to "motorcycle profile" (OK, provide your own punch lines for this one), and SB1112, barring the enforcement of federal firearms laws in AZ In fact, it makes such enforcement a felony (a neo-secessionist "AZ as a national punchline" proposal).
Health and Human Services, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR1. Looks harmless so far.
Finance, Wednesday, 2 p.m., SHR3. A bunch of bills that I don't understand because they are very technical in nature, but since many affect the state's employee retirement system (ASRS), they are probably bad news for the state's employees.
Education, Thursday, 9:30 a.m., SHR1. A charter school cheerleading session, and three bills to make life easier for charter schools, because they've had it so hard in AZ (yes, that's sarcasm folks).
The lege's schedule of events at the Capitol for the week is here.