It will soon be safe in the great state of Arizona to breastfeed your child in public, shoot intruders in self-defense and speed around town on motorized bicycles.
These are just a few of the bills that have survived the brutal legislative process. Of the 1,424 bills that have been introduced, only 202 have made it to the promised land of the Arizona Revised Statutes as of Monday, April 24. Another 19 bills had been vetoed by Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Amid the flurry of lawmaking, the GOP caucus continues to struggle to come to an agreement on a budget package. Last week, the session passed the 100-day mark and went into overtime without lawmakers even producing a whackadoodle spending plan for Napolitano to veto.
With the state enjoying a surplus far beyond projected revenues for this year, lawmakers are bickering over how to spend the extra money. Some legislators want a large tax cut, while others want to spend the money on freeways, ongoing programs or other pet projects.
While the GOP leadership hunts for 31 votes in the House and 16 votes in the Senate on a budget plan, rank-and-file lawmakers are killing time by developing comprehensive immigration-reform packages that will be vetoed by the governor if they pass the legislature, investigating radical speeches at high schools, playing softball games and occasionally voting on bills.
Highlights of the recent activity:
· The House of Representatives passed a law outlawing bestiality. The measure, inspired by a recent incident in which a Mesa firefighter was caught allegedly having sex with a neighbor's sheep, was supported by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who told lawmakers that he has had to reject many would-be deputies who have admitted to having sex with animals on their job applications. Precise numbers were unavailable.
· Both chambers have approved legislation prohibiting adult-oriented businesses from opening within a quarter-mile of schools, homes, churches or day-care centers.
· Both chambers approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Paton, a Tucson Republican, that establishes new regulations regarding medical records when a doctor enters bankruptcy or otherwise goes out of business.
· Both chambers have approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Prezelski, a Tucson Democrat, that clarifies the law regarding bicycles that have been tricked out with gasoline and electric motors.
Among recent bills signed by Napolitano:
· A "castle" bill pushed by the National Rifle Association that forces prosecutors to prove an individual did not act in self-defense if a shooter raises that defense at trial. Prosecutors had argued against the bill, saying that gang members would use the law to get away with murder.
· A bill allowing women to breastfeed in public.
· A bill allowing border counties to prevent minors from entering Mexico without a permission slip from their parents or legal guardians.
· A three-strikes bill putting people who commit three violent felonies behind bars for 35 years to life.
Among Napolitano's recent vetoes:
· A bill that would have required teens who seek abortions to have their letters of parental consent notarized. "Girls and their families generally should not have to disclose their medical decisions to anyone other than medical professionals who are bound by the doctor-patient privilege," Napolitano wrote in a letter to House Speaker Jim Weiers.
· A bill that would have prevented state or local governments from providing health insurance that includes abortions.
· A bill that would have prohibited the sale of human eggs. "I am persuaded that this bill represents an unwarranted intrusion into the medical decisions of women--and only women," Napolitano wrote in her veto letter.
· A bill that would have made illegal immigrants guilty of criminal trespass. Napolitano said that "virtually every major law enforcement group and leader in the state opposes this bill."
· A bill that would have limited the ability of school districts to impose property taxes.
· A bill that would have required lawmakers to approve legal settlements of more than $50,000. Napolitano said the bill encroached on the legal authority of the attorney general.
· A bill that would have prevented local governments from forcing developers to set aside some homes for low-income residents.
· A bill that would have prevented the state from taking away firearms during a state of emergency.
"I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution and firmly believe in the rights of all Americans to bear arms," Napolitano wrote in a letter to Senate President Ken Bennett. "... (I)t is not my intent or goal ever to take away a law-abiding person's firearm during a state of emergency. But the proposed addition ... simply goes too far. It addresses a problem that does not and never has existed in Arizona."