Last week, the Arizona Legislature attended to some serious business: At long last, thanks to the passage of an emergency measure, Arizona can now celebrate Boys Scouts of America Day every year on Feb. 8.
It just goes to show you that even though the state is teetering on the edge of financial collapse, state lawmakers still have plenty of time to deal with the needs of freedom, liberty and firearms.
Our legislators have filed more than 1,100 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 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 on The Range, our daily dispatch, at blog.tucsonweekly.com. We'll also be bringing you updates in our dead-tree edition as space and circumstances warrant.
Between now and sine die, we'll follow key bills that catch our interest as they fight for survival through the perilous committee process, with irregular updates in our print edition.
This week, we've got our first collection of bills that we'll be following as they hatch from the committees and begin the race for the governor's desk.
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, require 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 illegally in the country as a day laborer. Citizens would have the right to sue any government agency to ensure it isn't slacking on the immigration-enforcement front.
The bill has passed the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Human Services and is headed to the full Senate.
SB 1102: The National Rifle Association got most of its agenda through the Legislature last year—including 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, so Pearce has sponsored SB 1102, which removes any Department of Public Safety oversight of the training classes. The bill also allows anyone with a concealed-weapons permit to carry their gun into any public establishment or public event, except for police stations and school campuses. It also requires the state to sell weapons that are forfeited by felons to firearms dealers so they can be resold.
SB 1102 cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 4-3 vote last week and is headed for the full Senate.
HB 2347: Also unhappy with the onerous requirements of gun-training courses, various Republicans have sponsored HB 2347, which basically eliminates the aforementioned concealed-weapons permit by making it an optional license. In a committee hearing last week, Rep. Jerry Weiers, a co-sponsor, dismissed the training classes as "a joke," because they focus more on legal liability issues than target practice. Despite opposition from law-enforcement officers, the bill passed the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee on Feb. 3. It has also been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.
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 encourage new companies to relocate to Arizona and encourage existing companies to expand. But critics say that it will add to Arizona's budget troubles by increasing the structural deficit and force counties, school districts and other jurisdictions to hike taxes on homeowners while businesses get breaks.
The package passed the House on Jan. 28. Last week, Senate President Bob Burns said HB 2250 was "on hold" while the state dealt with the fiscal year 2011 budget, adding that House members "weren't overjoyed by that position."
SCR 1009: Sen. Jonathan Paton is taking 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 has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but with Paton stepping down later this year to run for Congress against Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, he may not have the time to get it to the finish line.
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, but if payday lenders can't get the bill passed this session, they will be banned from operating in Arizona later this year.
HB 2338: Rep. Frank Antenori says cities should provide motorists with a one-second grace period when they get nabbed by a red-light-enforcement camera. The bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Jan. 28 and is headed for the full House.
HB 2085: Rep. Lucy Mason's bill would require a police officer to 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 and is headed for the full 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 has signed with a photo-radar company. The bill passed the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Jan. 21 and is headed for the full 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 and is headed for the full Senate.
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 has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
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 teens who are sexting with a misdemeanor that could include up to four months in jail, although teens could also be sent to a diversion program or put on probation. The bill passed the Senate Public Safety and Human Services Committee on Feb. 3 and is now headed for the full Senate.
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 has passed the House Commerce Committee and is headed for the full House.
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 States constitutional law that the federal mandate is a function of the federal government and will pass a constitutional challenge if contested in a court of law." HB 2538 was set for a hearing in the House Government Committee this week.
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 become president 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 is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary 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 some education spending. SCR 1033 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on Feb. 2 and is headed for the full Senate.
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 has been assigned to the Natural Resources, Infrastructure and Public Debt Committee but has not had a hearing.
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 has not yet had a hearing.
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 is headed to the full Senate.
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, say, runs off to Washington, D.C., in the middle of her term. SCR 1013 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 19 and is headed for the full Senate.
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 has not yet been assigned to a committee.
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 has not yet had 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 and is headed for the full House.
HCM 2003: Rep. Ed Ableser, a Tempe Democrat, wants to send a postcard to Washington, D.C., asking Congress "to design a single-elimination (college football) playoff system that would incorporate the five existing Bowl Championship Series bowls and culminate in the crowning of a true national champion." HCM 2003 has not had 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!