By Erik Kolsrud
PHOENIX — The Legislature inched toward closing this week, as the threat of a teacher walk-out dominated the news landscape, in the newest development in the fight over teacher pay. In the House, tempers flared over several instances of the Rules of the House of Representatives invoked to shut down a speaker. Reps. Tony Navarrete (D-Phoenix) and Isela Blanc (D-Tempe) were both subject to points of order over Article 19, which covers impermissible debate.
Both Navarrete and Blanc were called out by Republican representatives and warned by the speaker — though Navarrete was subject to a second point of order and forced to sit. This represents a break from the more relaxed enforcement of the rules that has so far been the case this session.
Despite that, legislative action moved forward — albeit much more slowly than in the past. Here are a few examples:
Gifts Must Keep on Giving
The Senate joined the House on Wednesday in voting unanimously in favor of a bill that would preserve the value of gift cards, prohibiting expiration dates on value as well as fees associated with gift cards. Senate President Steve Yarbrough (R-Gilbert) introduced SB 1264 as a piece of legislation targeting bank deposits,
but a “Strike Everything” amendment made by Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa) in the Senate Finance Committee transformed the bill into its current iteration.
Adding on to that, Rep. Jeff Weninger (R-Chandler) offered an amendment on the House floor to exempt re-loadable or prepaid cards from the fee-charging ban of the bill.
The bill was transmitted to the Senate, where the changes made by the House had to be found in concurrence due to the drastic nature of the changes. Now, the final step for this piece of legislation is a signature from Gov. Doug Ducey, which will put it on the books as law.
Arizona Says No to Equal Rights Amendment… Yet Again
Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley (D-Tucson) derailed the House session on Tuesday with a motion to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment — a move that was immediately countered with a motion to adjourn by House Majority Leader John Allen (R-Cave Creek).
This was an almost exact repeat of a similar episode last year, with the Powers Hannley motion quashed by a recess instead of a substitute motion to adjourn.
With a vote of 32-25 along party lines in favor of the adjourn, the House yet again avoided having to take a vote on the ERA.
The ERA proposal was first approved by the U.S. Congress in 1972 and proposed that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.” The amendment was first introduced in 1921, reintroduced in 1972, and the transmitted to the states for ratification after it passed through Congress.
The deadline for ratification passed in 1982, but that hasn’t stopped these symbolic votes — the Nevada Legislature voted to ratify the ERA in 2017, and Illinois is considering ratification as well.
Fake Service Animals Face Fine
The House voted 32-26 to send a bill to Ducey’s desk that would make misrepresenting a service animal a fine-able offense. The bill, HB 2588, isn’t the first service animal misrepresentation bill this session and it took several iterations to get there. That’s because the bill was first introduced by David Cook (R-Globe) as a bill dealing with appropriations for county services. It underwent a “strike everything” amendment that reorganized the text, then another striker to get to its current form.
The crime of misrepresenting a service animal would be a civil penalty that leads to a fine of not more than $250. The bill is the latest incarnation in the quest to legislate fake service animals at the state level. It has succeeded where SB 1040 and HB 2276 failed, as well as being related to another bill that has lost traction called HB 2395.
SB1040 and HB 2276 are very similar to the passed bill, in that they create a civil fine for misrepresenting a service animal — the Senate Bill is identical in language to Cook’s bill, where HB 2276 sets a fine for $50 instead of $250. HB 2395 allows for the creation of service animal ID cards, however business owners would be prohibited from asking to see a card to prove a need for the service animal.
This vote was the last step for this piece of legislation — it will now go to Ducey to be signed into law.
Breaking NDAs in the Name of the Law
The Senate voted 29-0 in favor of a bill that would weaken the power of non-disclosure agreements both in and out of the courtroom. HB 2020 was first introduced by Rep. Maria Syms (R-Paradise Valley) and makes NDAs unenforceable in cases involving sexual offenses. According to the bill:
“A NDA is unenforceable if the person party to a NDA related to allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment “responds to an inquiry from a peace officer or prosecutor, or makes a statement in a criminal proceeding not initiated by the party.”
Additionally, the bill prohibits the use of public funds to secure a NDA for the purpose of allegations of those sexual offenses. The bill underwent amendments for clarifying changes and a “Strike Everything”that reordered the bill and put greater emphasis on NDAs in addition to the confidentiality agreements.
The bill will now go back to the House for concurrence, due to the changes made in the Senate. If it’s found to be in concurrence, then it will finally go to Ducey to be signed into law.
ABOR Gets a Lumberjack
The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously on Thursday in favor confirming Gov. Doug Ducey’s pick for the student regent of the Arizona Board of Regents.
Lauren L’Ecuyer is a senior studying hospitality and political science at Northern Arizona University, and has served in the Association Students of Northern Arizona University for four years including one year as president. She will be representing more than 180,000 university students in her new position on the board that sets policy for the Arizona university system.
L’Ecuyer’s no stranger to state politics — her mother Jeanine L’Ecuyer, an award-winning media relations expert, was communications director for former governor Janet Napolitano. Lauren L’Ecuyer has also held an internship with Sen. John McCain’s (R-Arizona) reelection campaign, according to her testimony in the Education Committee.
The new student regent will begin her tenure in July, though will not be able to vote in ABOR meetings for the first year of her two-year term. ABOR voted last week to approve tuition increases for Arizona universities — ASU students won’t have a tuition increase, while incoming UA and NAU students can expect 2 percent and 3.5 percent increases, respectively.