Arizona State Legislature Week In Review – Week Ending March 17

Arizona capitol

The biggest news this week did not come from the Capitol but from the Phoenix City Hall, regarding the election of a new mayor. Normally this election would warrant little more than a yawn. After all, because of Phoenix’s jungle primary system, the top two vote getters that make it to the run off are always of the same political bend, with little if any difference between them.

What makes this election noteworthy is that it is the first off cycle election in a big city that may have had a voter turnout low enough to trigger the provisions of HB2604, enacted in 2018. HB2604 is a complicated bill, but basically it requires that any state subdivision must move its election to coincide with statewide elections if voter turnout falls below a certain level.

At the state capitol it is becoming harder to find interesting and exciting activity. Since we are now in the second half of the session, all bills that are being considered have already cleared the original chamber. Here are some of the more interesting ones.

HB1072 – UGENTI-RITA. Requires presentation of identification at early voting centers. This makes a lot of sense. ID is required for all transaction of any importance, and voting should not be the exception. It passed the House COW with a DP (do pass) recommendation.

HB2693 – PETERSEN. Allows people who carry weapons in their vehicles to leave those weapons undisturbed when they enter a school parking lot. It passed the House along partisan lines and is advancing in the Senate. It just cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee 4-3-0.

HB2320 – CAMPBELL.  Caps the highway safety fee at $18. This is a case of taking one step forward after taking two steps backwards. In 2018 the legislature gave the DOT the power to charge a highway safety fee. Naturally, the DOT made that fee as high as they could get away with. This bill is a partial correction to that problem. It passed 57-3 on a reconsideration vote.

But this is indicative of a much larger problem. A few years back, the voters in AZ amended the constitution to require tax increases to pass the legislature by a 2/3 super majority. Ever since that happened, legislators have been hard at work to find ways to get around that pesky requirement. One favorite scheme is to re-label taxes as fees. This is a clear violation of what the voters intended, and it must stop.

HB2186 – UDALL. Unpaid school meals. In its original form, this bill would not warrant much attention. It was a feel good bill aimed at not embarrassing children who received school meals and whose parents did not pay for the meals. What made it a bad bill was the amendment that removed the tax credit for people who contribute to a fund to pay for those otherwise unpaid meals. It passed 46-14 when 17 Republicans joined 29 Democrats voting YES. To their credit, 14 Republicans voted against this bill.

Readers who want to read the bills mentioned may do so by clicking on these links:

SB1072 – early voting centers; identification required

HB2693 – misconduct involving weapons; school grounds

HB2320 – highway safety fee; reduction

HB2186 – school meals; unpaid fees