by Jim Nintzel
From this week's bulletin from state Rep. Steve Farley:
At last the Legislature has adjourned, with no special sessions on the horizon (for now, anyway). Adjournment Sine Die was declared at 11:07pm last Thursday, April 29.
Every year, the House runs a Sine Die pool, where a few hundred Capitol denizens pay a buck each to guess the date and time that the Legislature officially adjourns. The winner this year was a true legislative hero, Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr.
From her perspective as Arizona's strongest watchdog for the environment, her victory may be the only good thing that happened in the Legislature this session, given the flurry of bills to block the state from regulating greenhouse gases, allow more dust pollution, shut down state parks, and endanger state rivers.
So many bills — so little time. Over the last couple of days, most legislators were
running back and father from the House to the Senate and back in an attempt to push through live bills and resurrect dead ones by amending them onto live ones through floor action or conference committees.
The ensuing chaos left lawmakers in many cases unsure of what the amended bills actually did once they were put to a vote. Our Democratic policy staff was working overtime to make sure we Dems knew what was happening, so for the most part we knew what we were voting for or against.
In those final days there was also a last-ditch effort to bring back the Speaker's corporate bailout bill (HB2250), which thankfully failed, along with a bill to refer all voter-approved initiatives since 1990 back to the ballot for re-approval (and inevitable death) in 2012, and a bill to ask voters to kill Clean Elections. The Birther Bill also met its demise as a majority of Senators realized that accusing President Obama of fabricating his U.S. citizenship just wasn't worth the national shame the issue was bringing upon us.
Other good stuff that happened was the restoration of KidsCare health insurance for kids in poverty and the re-funding of AHCCCS health coverage for those who earn between 33% and 100% of the poverty line. This means that we will not lose out on the $7 billion we get annually from the federal government.
My bill (HB2300) to ban trucks from driving in the left lane of I-10 between Tucson and Phoenix is now sitting on the Governor's desk, awaiting her signature, having been approved in the Senate 21-8 and gaining final passage in the House 46-12. ADOT was very helpful in the process, and I have high hopes that the Governor will sign it in the next few days.
Once that happens, ADOT will begin a one-year study to determine how the lane restrictions can best be implemented, followed by a two-year pilot program that will put those implementations into place by June 2011. We can all look forward to fewer dangerous accidents, injuries and fatalities — this simple idea makes our roadways safer and more efficient.
HB2300's passage from a bill to a law will clearly not make up for the new law allowing anyone to carry concealed weapons without training or testing, the legalization of racial profiling, the elimination of full-day Kindergarten, the wholesale slashing of the safety net for our most vulnerable citizens, or the Republican failure to deal with the budget in a way that doesn't destroy our state — but at least some lives will be saved.