by Jim Nintzel
This week at the Capitol…
Rules, Rules, Rules… Monday marked the first meeting of both the House and Senate Rules Committees. The House handled six bills and the Senate handled 18. The Senate committee passed controversial SB 1062 despite unanimous opposition from committee Democrats. The bill would allow business owners to turn people away if they believe that serving them is against their religious beliefs. Opponents fear that the law would spread discrimination by gender, sexuality and religion. The rules committee deals only with legal ramifications of a bill, however; the real debate will occur on the Senate floor.
… Bills, bills, bills… A marijuana bill was held in the Committee on Judiciary, Monday. The bill would edit the definition of marijuana to exclude industrial hemp. The purpose is that industrial hemp, which is imported from China and Canada and can be purchased by anyone of any age, can be grown in Arizona. The exclusion would “hopefully pave the way down the road for the industrial production of such a crop in our great state,” said Sen. Kelli Ward (R-5).
Vince Figarelli, superintendent of the Department of Public Safety crime lab system talked about how changing the definition could cause difficulty for department crime labs and prosecutors. The bill “really doesn’t create a benefit for those who desire to manufacture or produce this, but it creates a burden for our law enforcement, and I’m just trying to weigh the cost-benefit analysis,” Sen. Adam Driggs (R-28) said, referring to the fact that growing industrial hemp is still federally banned …The bill was held so that the sponsors could rephrase.
On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee handled two bills that generate a fair amount of heat. Members spent an hour discussing whether they should fund a Senate bill to hire 192 new child-safety and family-services workers for $5.7 million. The committee unanimously gave the bill a do-pass recommendation, but Sen. Rick Murphy (R-21), a foster parent, invoked personal concerns: “The reason is CPS has a narrative. They go to court, they cherry-pick what they say, and they give the judge what they want the judge to have to get the outcome that they want. And they don’t want foster parents coming in there and saying something that’s not part of the narrative.”
…The committee also heard a bill to spend $100,000 in legal support for lawmakers being sued over SB1070. The vote was split on party lines, Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no, with a 5-3 vote in favor of passing the bill. The House Appropriations Committee also approved the bill along party lines the next day.
…The House floor bobbed with cowboy hats on Wednesday. Besides the hat on the head of Rep. Carl Seel (R-20), the Yuma Rodeo Queens were on site to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Another guest on the floor was Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, who lead the prayer. Arizona Catholic bishops were in town to meet with Gov. Jan Brewer, and there was a Catholic schools rally on the House lawn supporting private education tax credits for Catholic schools.
Things got heated in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The committee heard a bill to repeal HB 2305, an omnibus elections reform bill that would make it a crime for political operatives to collect and turn in early ballots, make it easier to remove voters from the early ballot list. Rep. Farnsworth (R-12) started the meeting saying he will not try to reintroduce the bill in parts. “I have no knowledge of any concerted effort to break this bill apart and start running them through,” Farnsworth said. However, his statement was hardly a pledge to let the bill die after it’s repealed. “It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, doesn’t mean individuals won’t sponsor pieces, I still believe very firmly that there are pieces in here that have to be addressed.”
That was a major issue for people who came to speak in opposition to the bill. While they supported the reform in principle, they said they couldn’t trust that the legislature still wouldn’t try to pass the bill. “While I do understand what your intent is, but you’re one vote,” Sandy Bahr, the chapter director for the Sierra Club in Arizona. Farnsworth’s reaction: “There is no nefarious intent that I’m aware of. There’s no concerted effort. There’s no scheming going on that I’m aware of, or that I’m a part of.”
Rep. Ethan Orr (R-9) was on the fence about the repeal when the bill was postponed last week so that Farnsworth could adjust the language. Orr spent the week getting assurances that the bill would not be reintroduced. “My concern has always been what comes afterwards,” Orr said, “What I told my leadership is, frankly, if we say we’re abiding by the will of the voters and then a week later do the exact opposite, then we’re lying to the voters.” The bill passed along party lines with 4-2, with two representatives absent
The House and Senate had its first Committee of the Whole session and third readings in the afternoon, passing its first laws of the legislative session. The most notable bill that was passed was SB1159, which appropriated $100,000 in legal support to the members of the legislature being sued over SB 1070. Rep. John Kavanagh (R-23): “Should I just absent myself for three weeks while I dig through my garage on the most ridiculous witch-hunt for stupid documents?” Kavanagh said. The vote was split along party lines, however, because Democrats indicated that the bill specifically pertained to SB 1070. “Why are we going to spend more money to deal with this law now? Why are we going to spend tax payer money on that?” Rep. Martin Quezada (D-29) said.
Nullification of federal law? A Senate resolution signed by 36 Republicans and 1 Democrat called for the nullification of all rules imposed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.