AZ Legislature Week In Review – Week Ending March 20, 2020

Arizona capitol

At the state legislature, this has been the strangest week this session, and quite likely the strangest week ever. Predictions of apocalyptic disaster have resulted in governmental actions that are very close to causing a total shutdown of the state.

As always happens in these situations, there are conflicting opinions. Some folks take the position that these actions are saving us from sure disaster. Others think that it is merely exercising the Emanuelian principle of not allowing a crisis to be wasted. Looking at the numbers one thing is for sure. If the seasonal flu numbers were as low as those for the corona virus, people would be dancing in the streets.

Among all the chaos, two events took place at the legislature this week.

First, all standing committee hearings were cancelled, leaving in limbo all the bills that had been scheduled for hearings. When those bills will be heard is anyone’s guess. If the legislative leadership has any plans to resume normal functions, they are not sharing them with the general public. A prudent guess is that once the budget is out of the way, they will adjourn and leave all other pending business to wither on the vine.

Second, they began serious work on the state budget. We are being told that this is a bare bones budget, but it is running about 11.8 billion dollars. This is not an austere budget by any reasonable measure.

It is customary for budget bills to be introduced in both chambers. In other words, every house budget bill has an identical counterpart in the senate. This year the bills moving are those from the senate, except for three. The three that advanced in the house have been approved by both chambers. They dealt with K-12 education, higher education, and general appropriations. All the other budget bills advanced in the senate and are awaiting votes in the house. Presumably that will happen Monday.

So far, all the house votes went strictly along party lines and all the senate bills had substantial bipartisan support. The only exception was the bill dealing with healthcare. This bill, SB1688 receives a 16-14 vote as the result of CARTER (LD15) joining the democrats in voting against it. So far, CARTER is the only republican that broke ranks and joined the democrats.

The biggest winner so far has been education, because almost every item experienced an increase in funding. Most significant gain was in the area of the District Additional Assistance (DAA) and the Charter Additional Assistance (CAA). These are funds that had been reduced during the last recession and have been steadily restored. This budget substantially restores funding this year and calls for full restoration of funding for next year.

The following chart is a report on the votes that have taken place so far. Those folks who are inclined to read the bills and obtain more information, may do so by clicking on the bill numbers.

BILL
NUMBER
SHORT TITLEHOW THE VOTE WENT
H = HOUSE   S = SENATE
HB2902K-12 education; budget reconciliation; 2020-2021H-31-29-0  S-24-6-0
HB2903higher education; budget reconciliation; 2020-2021H-31-29-0  S-28-2-0
SB1683criminal justice; budget reconciliation; 2020-2021.S-28-2-0
SB1684revenue; budget reconciliation; 2020-2021.S-28-2-0
SB1687human services; budget reconciliation; 2020-2021.S-28-2-0
SB1688health; budget reconciliation; 2020-2021.S-16-14-0
SB1689environment; budget reconciliation; 2020-2021.S-28-2-0
SB1690budget procedures; budget reconciliation; 2020-2021.S-27-3-0
SB1691capital outlay; appropriations; 2020-2021.S-29-1-0
SB1692general appropriations act; 2020-2021.S-28-2-0     H-31-29-0

The following two bills are not part of the budget but nevertheless saw action this week. They are aimed at providing some measure of relief to offset the major disruption being caused by recent decrees in connection with the corona virus.

HB2910public school closures; coronavirus disease.H-60-0-0    S-30-0-0
SB1694unemployment compensation; coronavirus diseaseS-30-0-0

We now have a companion video outlet to compliment this Week in Review report, entitled AZ Bill Watch 2020. In this program we report and comment on legislative activity in much greater detail, using a panel discussion. To access, go to https://www.facebook.com/AZRRT/ Then scroll down to the desired edition of AZ Bill Watch 2020.

For information on all the bills we are tracking, check out our weekly Calls to Action and legislative report, found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AZRRT/

Folks who do not use Facebook can receive those alerts via e-mail by subscribing to our distribution list at joseb85@hotmail.com

For general information on the workings of our state legislature, go to our website at https://azpeopleslobbyist.com/

As usual, all the information found herein may be fact checked and verified by going to the legislature website, at https://www.azleg.gov/