by Jim Nintzel
As we note in this feature story, our state legislators have filed more than 1,200 bills and a bunch more resolutions and memorials, ranging from a bill that provides new ways to hassle anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant to a resolution praising the Chicago Cubs for continuing to hold spring training games in Mesa.
How can you, as a good citizen, keep track of all of this? Well, we’re going to make it easy by highlighting some of the most interesting bills and following them at the Arizona Blogislature, a brand-new feature here on The Range. We’ll also be bringing you update in our dead-tree edition as space and circumstances warrant.
Between now and Sine Die, we’ll follow these key bills as they fight for survival through the perilous committee process, battling everything from strikers to the COW challenge in their race for the governor’s desk.
The NRA got most of its agenda through the Legislature last year—reforms like allowing guns into bars, for example, or allowing you to brandish your weapon if you felt threatened in some way.
But there are still some things that stand between you and total gun freedom. One of them is Arizona’s law regarding concealed weapons, which requires you to take an eight-hour class on gun safety to get a permit to carry a hidden gun. (You can carry a gun openly in Arizona without a permit.)
Evidently, requiring any sort of gun-safety training is a terrible infringement on our God-given rights. Senate Bill 1108 and House Bill 2347, identical bills which are both up for a vote of the House and Senate on Monday, March 29, eliminate any kind of criminal penalty for carry a concealed weapon.
• HB 2148 puts married couples ahead of single persons and gay couples when it comes to legally adopting children in Arizona. The bill, sponsored by a crew of Republican lawmakers, passed the House passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Feb. 23 and passed the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee on March 17. It's headed for the full Senate.
SB 1070: Sen. Russell Pearce is famous for his relentless efforts to make life difficult for illegal immigrants and their families, legal or otherwise. This year, the Mesa Republican is sponsoring SB 1070, which contains a number of provisions that, overall, requires police officers and various state employees to hassle people if there’s “reasonable suspicion” they’re in the country illegally. Cops would get the green light to run “sting operations” on businesses they suspect might be hiring illegal immigrants, which will certainly help recruit new companies to Arizona. It would be a crime to pick up someone in the country illegally as a day laborer. Citizens would have new right to sue any government agency to ensure it was slacking on the immigration-enforcement front.
The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 15 and is scheduled for a hearing the the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, March 31.
HB 2338: Rep. Frank Antenori says cities should provide motorists with a one-second grace period when they get nabbed running a red light by an enforcement camera. The bill has passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Jan. 28 and passed the full House of Representatives on March. 3. It's scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, March 31.
SB 1266: In an effort to find a way to charge juveniles with a crime other than child pornography when they send dirty pics of themselves to their friends, Sen. Jonathan Paton has sponsored SB 1266. The bill would allow prosecutors to charge sexting teens with a misdemeanor that could include up to four months, although teens could also e sent to a diversion program or put on probation. The bill passed the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee on Feb. 3 and passed the full Senate on March 3. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, April 1.
HB 2246: The fireworks lobby persuaded lawmakers to legalize sparklers last year, but Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill. Now Sen. Jack Harper and Rep. Andy Biggs have co-sponsored legislation to once again give Arizonans a chance to celebrate with fire hazards, despite the drought conditions that have left much of Arizona a tinderbox. HB 2246 passed the House on Feb. 23 and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Public Safety and Human Services committee on Wednesday, March 31
HB 2337: Frank Antenori's legislation which would allow companies to set up shop in Arizona to manufacture traditional incandescent light bulbs after 2012, when federal regulations will ban incandescent bulbs that range from 40 to 100 watts, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday, March 30.
In testimony before the House Commerce Committee, Antenori explained that U.S. companies that make the light bulbs might move to Arizona if the bill passes.
Antenori told the committee that some female constituents have told him that the new bulbs cause migraine headaches. Other concerned Arizonans don't like the light provided by the new bulbs which meet the energy-efficiency standards of the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was signed into law by then-President George W. Bush in 2007.
But Antenori's real goal is to set up a showdown with the federal government over the limits of its powers under the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause. He says the feds have no business telling Arizona residents what kind of light bulbs to use.
"That's a bill gift-wrapped for someone like the Goldwater Institute to challenge the commerce clause," Antenori says. "It's just to say, 'Hey, the federal government needs to stick to the basics of what it was chartered to do in the Constitution, and not regulate light bulbs and flush toilets and health care and all that stuff.'"
The bill passed the House Commerce Committee on Feb. 10 on a 5-1 vote. Among those voting in favor: Rep. Olivia Cajero Bedford, a Democrat who represents Tucson's westside.
Cajero Bedford told committee members that she has found that the illumination from the new light bulbs "really disturbs the ambience of putting on makeup."
As she cast her "aye" vote, Cajero Bedford explained: "It comes down to aesthetics versus the environment, and speaking for women, I think there are going to be a lot of unhappy women with these light bulbs."
HB 2337 passed the House of Representatives on March 3.
SCR 1013: Sen. Jonathan Paton has sponsored SCR 1013, which would ask voters to change the title of Arizona’s secretary of state to lieutenant governor in the hopes of reminding the electorate that the secretary of state takes over if the governor, says, runs off to Washington, D.C., in the middle of her term. SCR 1013 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 19 and passed the full Senate on March 1. It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, April 1.
SCR 1009: Before he resigned earlier this year to challenge Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Sen. Jonathan Paton took another shot at crippling Clean Elections, the voter-approved program that provides public funds to candidates for state office. SCR 1009 would ask voters to amend the state constitution to prohibit the use of any public funds for political campaigns. The bill passed the Senate on March 1 and is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, April 1.
• SCR 1002, sponsored by Sen. Jack Harper, would require state judges to be confirmed by the Arizona Senate. Under the current system, which former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor holds up as an example for the rest of the nation, potential justices are screened by an appointed committee and then appointed by the governor. Harper's legislation, which would require approval of voters in November, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 15. It was retained before a vote in Committee of the Whole on March 18.
HB 2250: House Speaker Kirk Adams has assembled a package of future tax cuts he calls Arizona’s Job Recovery Act. The bills would cut income taxes by 10 percent, with most of the tax relief going to Arizona’s wealthiest residents. It would also cut corporate income taxes, shift property taxes from businesses onto homeowners and provide tax breaks to companies that hire new workers.
Adams argues that the bill will make encourage new companies to relocate to Arizona and encourage existing companies to expand. But critics of the bill say that it add to Arizona’s budget troubles by increasing the structural deficit and force counties, school districts and other jurisdictions to tax hikes on homeowners as businesses get breaks.
The package passed the House on Jan. 28. Senate President Bob Burns has said HB 2250 was “on hold” while the state dealt with the FY 2011 budget, adding that House members “weren’t overjoyed by that position.” Burns says he expects the package will change before it makes it out of the Senate.
SCR 1007: Part of an overall government reform package backed by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, SCR 1007 would ask voters to scrap term limits for state lawmakers. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 19 and passed the full Senate on March 1. It is now under consideration by the House.
SB 1334: Sen. Al Melvin and Rep. Steve Farley of Southern Arizona have teamed up to offer SB 1334, which would ban texting while driving. Violators would face a $50 fine unless they were involved in an accident, in which case the fine would climb to $200. SB 1334 passed out of the Natural Resources, Infrastructure and Public Debt Committee on Monday, Feb. 15, failed in an initial vote by the full Senate on March 2 and then, miraculously, came back to life and passed the Senate on March 22. It has yet to get a hearing in the House.
HB 2161: Even though voters overwhelmingly shot down a 2008 ballot proposition to save the payday-lending industry in Arizona, Rep. Andy Tobin introduced HB 2161, which has many of the same provisions of the failed initiative. Tobin pulled the legislation from a hearing on Jan. 25 rather than see it killed in committee. It was almost resurrected on another bill in the Senate, but that effort failed as well. If payday lenders can’t get the bill passed this session, they will be legally banned from operating in Arizona later this year.
HB 2085: Rep. Lucy Mason’s bill would require that a police officer immediately issue a ticket for any citation recorded by a photo-radar camera, which would render any electronic system unworkable. The bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Jan. 21, but later stalled in the House.
HB 2213: Arguing that nabbing lawbreakers with a camera is a violation of human rights, Rep Andy Biggs has introduced legislation that would require the Arizona Legislature’s approval of any contract that a state agency signed with a photo-radar company. The bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Jan. 21 but later stalled in the House.
SB 1262: Sen. Jack Harper has sponsored the Retired Lawmaker Relief Act, which repeals the existing restriction that lawmakers wait at least one year before lobbying former colleagues. Harper says the law restricts the “equality and economic liberty” of lawmakers. The bill passed the Senate Committee on Government Institutions on Feb. 4, but was shot down by the full Senate on March 3.
SB 1126: Sen. Al Melvin has sponsored SB 1126, which states that the mining and production of uranium or other “nuclear reactor fuel” in Arizona for use in the state is not subject to federal regulation. SB 1126 never got a committee hearing.
HB 2538: Rep. David Gowan, a Sierra Vista Republican, has co-sponsored HB 2538, which blocks the Legislature from spending state tax dollars on federal mandates “unless the federal mandate contains a report … prescribing reasonable and logical arguments based on United State constitutional law that the federal mandate is function of the federal government and will pass a constitutional challenge if contested in a court of law." HB 2538 passed the House Government Committee but was killed in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
HB 2441: A large group of Republican lawmakers have signed on in support of HB 2441, which would require presidential candidates to provide copies of their birth certificates to prove they are eligible to hold the White House and are not foreign-born secret Muslims. If the Arizona secretary of state determines the documents don’t measure up, the candidate cannot be on the ballot in Arizona. HB 2441 passed the House Government Committee on Feb. 23 but stalled before getting a vote in the Rules Committee.
SCR 1033: Sen. Russell Pearce is gunning for the Voter Protection Act, a voter-approved measure passed in 1998 that prevents tampering with new voter-approved measures. Pearce argues that the measure has led to the budget crisis because lawmakers can’t take away health insurance for Arizonans at or below the federal poverty line or reduce education spending. SCR 1033 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on Feb. 2 and but stalled before getting a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee. Meanwhile, lawmakers have simply decided they can cut the voter-mandated coverage, but that plan puts the state at risk of losing close to $7 billion as a result of the new federal health-care reform package passed Congress. Meanwhile, more federal money could be coming to Arizona to help cover some of the costs.
HB 2339: Rep. Frank Antenori has sponsored HB 2339, which allows members of the state militia to deduct sales taxes paid on their ammunition from their income tax bills. HB 2339 never got a hearing.
HB 2650: A large group of GOP lawmakers have sponsored HB 2650, which would lengthen the amount of time it takes to get a divorce from 60 days to six months. It would also require courts to provide courses that explain alternatives to divorce and resources that can strengthen marriages. The bill passed the House Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 10 but has stalled before getting a vote in the full House.
HB 2637: A bipartisan group of Southern Arizona lawmakers have teamed up to sponsor HB 2637, which makes it a misdemeanor to inject racing greyhounds with anabolic steroids. Dogs would have to be tested if they won races. The bill never got a hearing.
HB 2447: A bipartisan group of lawmakers want to formally declare Arizona to be “The Grand Canyon State.” The nickname bill passed the House Government Committee on Jan. 26.
HCM 2003: Rep. Ed Ableser, a Tempe Democrat, wants to send a postcard to Washington asking Congress “to design a single elimination playoff system that would incorporate the five existing Bowl Championship Series bowls and culminate in the crowning of a true national champion.” HCM 2003 never got had a hearing.
• HB 2770, which would force any Arizona citizen receiving public benefits—such as state-subsidized health insurance through AHCCCS, daycare assistance or food stamps—to sign an affidavit swearing that they will not purchase alcohol or cigarettes, subscribe to premium cable channels such as HBO, or have cell-phone service if they also have a land line, never got a hearing in the House.
"I owe it to the taxpayers," sponsor Frank Antenori, a Republican who represents Tucson's east side, Green Valley and Sierra Vista, told us when he introduced the bill.
Antenori boasts that he got hundreds of e-mails in support of the legislation. "There are a lot of angry people out there."
While he normally opposes big-government intrusion into people's lives, Antenori says that people can avoid scrutiny if they simply don't apply for government benefits.
"There's a simple solution," he says. "Just say: 'I don't want the government sticking its nose in my business, so I'm not going to take any money from the government.' Then you don't have to worry about it."
Antenori didn't expect the bill to pass this session. "It's a start," he says.
• HB 2276: Not to be outdone by Antenori, State Rep. David Stevens, a Republican from Sierra Vista, sponsored legislation that would make the name of anyone who seeks state-subsidized health insurance a public record. The legislation would also put the names on a Web site for lawmakers to peruse, treating those who seek state-subsidized health insurance sort of like sex offenders, who are required to register for an online database.
HB 2276 passed the House Government Committee on Feb. 16, but appears dead after not getting a hearing in the House Rules Committee.
• HCR 2046, also sponsored by Stevens, would allow state lawmakers to pick candidates for the U.S. Senate, rather than have voters decide nominees in partisan primaries. The bill never got a hearing.
SR 1001: A bipartisan group of lawmakers sponsored Senate Resolution 1001, which declares: “Members of the Senate recognize the tremendous economic and cultural benefits the Chicago Cubs bring to the entire state of Arizona.” The resolution passed unanimously out of the Senate on Jan. 26 and was forwarded to the Arizona Secretary of State. Go Cubbies!