Week 11: 55th Legislature, 1st Session

Week #11: 55th Legislature, 1st Session

 

March 23, 2021: Senate Education Committee -- Marilyn Duerbeck

 

The Committee was pretty quiet this week since all the anti-public education bills are now in the House and most bills were passed easily. Rep Lieberman’s bill, HB2638, a strike everything bill providing funding for the Arizona Community College Scholarship Fund, the Promise Fund, passed unanimously. HB2123, another strike everything bill restricting public and charter schools from suspending students age 7 or younger passed 7-1-0.

Other bills passed: HB2017 (STEM Learning appropriates funding for workforce development.) 6-1-1, HB2863 (the ASDB-AZ School for the Deaf & Blind will become a district of responsibility, be treated as the student’s local school & will be able to receive federal funding) 7-0-1, HB2019 (Reduces membership in CTED school-boards from 5-3 which will help rural areas) and HB2403, (another striker, removes requirements for ADM instructional time) passed on a party-line vote 5-3-0.

 

The most interesting and heart-breaking bill was HB2494, another striker, sponsored by Sen Victoria Steele. It sought to include clergy and priests in the duty to report law regarding child abuse (right now they are exempt due to “clergy penitent privilege”).  Please read https://www.azmirror.com/2021/03/24/effort-to-eliminate-clergy-penitent-privilege-dies-amid-anti-catholic-fears/ for more details. The bill failed on a 4-4 vote.

 

March 22, 2021:  Senate Transportation and Technology -- Laura Terech

 

(Failed) HB2712: Highway alignments; environmental impact statements

Stipulates that if ADOT issues an environmental impact statement, ADOT must include at least one tier two alternative. Sen Steele brought up concerns that tribal communities were not part of the stakeholder process.

 

(Held) HB2375: Empowering today’s youth special plates

 

(Held) HB2262: Legacy plates, plate reissuance

 

Party line votes

HB2110: Civil penalties; traffic; mitigation; restitution

Allows a court to order community restitution in lieu of a monetary fine at a rate equal to Arizona’s minimum wage rounded up to the nearest dollar. 

 

Unanimous Votes

HB2131: S/E, Congenital heart defect special plates

Establishes the license plate standardization committee, consisting of two members of the Senate (appointment by the Senate President, belonging to different parties), two members of the House (same process), one Sheriff (appointment by the Governor), one member who represents a police union in AZ (appointed by the Governor), the Director of the Department Public Safety or a deputy, ADOT Director, three members who represent special plate organization. This will be a stakeholder group to try and develop a design consensus.

 

HB2027: Leaving accident scene; private property

Specifies that requirements to stay at a scene are applicable to private property as well.

 

HB2296: Restricted license; DUI; suspension report

If a person is convicted of a 2nd or subsequent offense, they are subject to having their driving privileges revoked (or suspended as per the amendment). Allows a restricted DL after 45 days. Modifies procedures of how reporting goes to ADOT. ADOT and the Association of Counties were both neutral.

 

HB2692: Driving on right; education (now: right-hand driving: transfer notice; education)

Requires ADOT to include information in their educational materials about driving on the right as well as vehicle transfers. 

 

HB2769: Transportation funding task force

Establishes the transportation funding task force required to study funding options for AZ and report to the Leg and the Governor. Amendment adds two members who represent public airports.

 

HB2876: Government contracts; public-private partnerships

Requires a public-private partnership agreement to contain a provision that allows for private partners to recover damages incurred via unreasonable delays from ADOT not covered in the contract. 

 

License Plate Bills

HB2472: Special license plates; veterans; design

 

HB2473: Veterans; special license plates; design

 

HB2031: Education and community enrichment plates

 

HB2129: Rodeo special plates

 

HB2816: Children and families special plates

 

HB2883: Empowering charitable organizations special plates

 

Monday, March 22, 2021:  House Health and Human Services - Jane McNamara

 

Agenda included 21 bills.  The meeting began at 10 am, not 2 pm!  There were a number of bills passed unanimously as continuations of regulatory health boards.  Rep Butler asked questions of the sponsors as to the number of vacancies on the boards.  This has been an issue of importance to her for some years -- the governor appoints people to advisory boards, but many boards can’t function currently because they lack quorums due to lack of members.

 

Sen Marsh’s bill, SB1486, legalizing fentanyl test strips, passed unanimously with Cobb and Osborne thanking Christine for her work on the bill.

 

The contentious bills were as follows: 

 

SB1022 - replaces the scientific words "product of human conception" with "unborn child" in statutes related to disposition of remains. Planned Parenthood speaker was shut out of the meeting and we had to make multiple objections to have another speaker from the Secular Coalition be allowed to speak. Cobb was preventing testimony against the bill.

Pass: 5-4  

 

SB1048 - health care ministry, exemption; definition - removes restrictions on HCSM's in Arizona, allowing any new company to offer these largely unregulated health sharing products which are not required to cover health claims and put patients at risk.  The bill sponsor, Sen Livingston, said this is “a simple bill, just giving people options,” and Cobb said in defending her support, that this will provide supplemental coverage, and is not insurance.  Rep Butler worked hard to convince supporters -- to no avail -- that unsuspecting families will sign up for these healthcare ministries and not understand that when their family is in an accident or someone has cancer that there is no money for coverage of their claims.

Pass: 5-3-1-0-0 (Alma Hernandez inexplicably votes present) 

 

SB1254 - website; adoption information; task force - would require ADHS to create a webpage to promote adoption only, including links to crisis pregnancy centers that are unlicensed, unregulated and often geotrack women who click on links. Once tracked, women considering adoption or other pregnancy options will be targeted with online ads. Using state money to provide inaccurate medical information. 

Pass: 5-4

March 24, 2021: House Government & Elections -- Laura Terech and Devin Bansal

Here are notes from the first day.

 

The legislative session got heated during the discussion of SB1010 and election recounts as female legislators brought up legitimate questions and concerns but were dismissed by male legislators as simply being argumentative and even having ulterior motives pertaining to election recounts.

 

In addition, public testimony was severely limited during the discussion of SB1713, an obvious voter suppression bill. To make matters worse, Chairman Kavanagh appallingly cut off Rep. Salman while explaining her vote and attempted to vote for her, which as Rep. Butler quickly pointed out, is a crime.

Party Line Votes

SCR1003: Executive orders; emergencies; reauthorization; termination

Amends the constitutional powers of the Arizona governor to include proclaiming a state of emergency (excepting war emergency) and using emergency powers until the emergency is resolved or for at least 14 days if the emergency is ongoing. Allows the governor to convene a special session to assemble the legislature by the 10th day of the emergency to determine whether to extend. The state of emergency could be extended as many times as needed, but not for more than 30 days at a time. Salman questioned what would happen if the legislature has to meet in a special session (which must be physically in-person) yet conditions are unsafe to do so (due to future possible pandemics or any events that would prevent legislators from coming into work). Petersen dismisses these concerns saying legislators have never not been able to meet. RTS Speaker points out the difference between acute and sustained emergencies and emphasizes the folly of turning decision-making power over to a single individual and forgoing the wisdom of the masses in times of emergency.

7 yeas, 6 nays

 

SB1010: Recount requests; amount; bond; procedure (now: recounts; requests; procedures; audits)

Ostensibly establishes greater integrity of Arizona’s ballot auditing process by giving individuals the power of oversight over our election recounts. Allows a five-day window for recounts not triggered by the automatic recount threshold, but by the demand of whoever can afford to fund it. Kavanagh amendment specifies this is for a general election. Salman pointed out that public money currently funds recounts and expressed concern that this bill would allow a private, wealthy individual (e.g. Mark Zuckerberg) to fund an election recount (which we saw being used in an effort to undermine election results in the 2020 presidential election). Butler echoed Salmans concerns and questioned the broadness of the definition of a person (e.g. does this include a corporation, an LLC, a foreign politician?). Fernandez spiritedly questioned the cost of a recount to draw attention to the possibility that only wealthy individuals could fund a recount. Mesnard maintained that the number [of votes] is the number, so recounting them shouldn’t be a problem and dismissed concerns over wasted time, money, and chaos this would cause in the election process. RTS Speaker (neutral on the bill) points out that this bill would delay a hand count because statistical math couldn’t be done until after the election. AZLWV speaker (in opposition to bill) stresses that election protocols should not be open to the highest bidder and expresses concern that on-demand recounts could needlessly delay election certification.

7 yeas, 6 nays

 

SB1713: S/E early ballots; identification; mailing 

Requires voters to mail back their early ballots with an early ballot affidavit that includes their date of birth and either their voter registration number or driver’s license number. This bill is a clear attempt to suppress voters and create more obstacles for voters to cast their ballots. As Joel Edman of the Arizona Advocacy Network explained during his testimony, over 66,000 registered voters in Arizona don’t have a driver’s license, and seniors are more likely than other groups to not drive. This means that in order to vote, they would have to provide their voter registration number, which would need to be found online. However, if you live outside of Maricopa County, the only way to look up your voter registration number is to first provide your driver’s license number. So, as Edman pointed out, if you didn’t have a driver’s license in the first place, you would be “out of luck” and unable to vote by mail. Edman went on to say that the bill would actually reduce security (which it claims to promote), because it would be advertising to identity thieves that there will be personal identifying information in ballot envelopes around election time. Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, the Pima County Recorder, also testified against the bill. She brought up the added costs this bill would create and stated that according to estimates, the bill would have added over 2500 hours of work for her county during the 2020 election. This shows how the bill is not only very costly, but it also would make the process by which votes are counted much less efficient and would delay election results. Cázares-Kelly went on to state that these added security measures to the election don’t improve upon the current process, which has already been proven to be secure. 

 

During the discussion of this bill, public testimony was unfairly restricted by Chairman Kavanagh. After the Republican members spent almost 10 minutes asking irrelevant questions to Jeff Clark (the president of the Arizona State Association of Letter Carriers) about who he represents and whether or not his organization endorsed a candidate for the 2020 presidential election, Kavanagh got angry when the Democrats spent similar time asking legitimate questions to the Pima County Recorder about the costs of the bill and what barriers it would create for voters. In addition, Marilyn Rodriguez, representing the ACLU of Arizona, asked if she could hand her 1 minute of time over to Joel Edman, representing the Arizona Advocacy Network, due to the testimony being limited. However, once Edman hit one minute, Kavanagh unfairly cut him off, even though he should have been given two minutes. Due to this outrageous restriction of testimony by Kavanagh, many Democratic members explained their no votes by reading the testimony of other people who were not allowed to testify earlier in the committee. Other concerns mentioned were that the bill disproportionately impacts tribal communities, people who don’t have internet access, low-income people, and people of color. 

7 yeas, 6 nays

 

Bi-Partisan Votes

SB1105: ballot measures; 200-word description

Increases the length of an initiative or referendum description from 100 to 200 words. The supporters of the bill said that it would simply allow for there to be more clarity in the description of a ballot initiative or referendum. However, there were concerns brought up that this bill would make it harder for ballot initiatives and referendums to receive a sufficient amount of signatures, because of the added time it would take to read aloud longer descriptions. Rep. Hoffman was the only Republican member to vote no.

5 yeas, 7 nays, 0 present, 1 absent

Unanimous Votes

SB1645: Publication of Notice (Shope)

Adds flexibility for cities, towns, and newspapers to print legal notices to circulate to the people. RTS Speaker Tom Savage (purportedly involved in the newspaper industry?) on Zoom supports the bill. Fernandez asks whether there is one specific day when legal notices will be published so that people without newspaper subscriptions can know when to buy the paper to receive this information and, upon finding there is not, suggests that there should be. RTS Speaker replies that there is not a certain day of the week, but there is a required number of times that notices must be printed to increase the likelihood that people receive the needed information (5 times for daily newspapers and 2 for weekly newspapers).

13 yeas, 0 nays

 

SB1520: municipality; general plan; adoption; amendment

Requires all major amendments to a general plan to be proposed for adoption by the governing body of the municipality at a public hearing within 12 months of when the proposal is made rather than at a single public hearing during the calendar year

11 yeas, 0 nays, 0 present, 2 absent

 

SB1800: Fred Korematsu Day; observed

Establishes January 30th of each year as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

11 yeas, 0 nays, 0 present, 2 absent 

 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021:  Natural Resources Committee -- Larry Beryl

 

Report of Arizona Management Systems

 

5 active water management areas

10 Ariz tribes have rights to water under a congressional approved settlement

 

The CO river provides water to over 40 million people

He spoke of abandoned wells and they have capped 100% of them for safety of people and the safety of the water

Well drilling permits have doubled since the start of covid

Since 1957, population has grown 7 times and water use has stayed steady or declined slightly.  It seemed to be a very positive report

 

SB1147  Water banking and storage credits   This bill defines how  water is delivered to municipalities  and should make it much quicker  in an emergency basis— 

Rep. Lieberman not present.  Passed: 8 yes, 0 no, 2 absent

 

SB1366  This is a strike everything amendment will extend from 2025 to 2050, re remediated water

Passed:  9 yes, 0 no, 1 absent  (Aaron Lieberman)

 

SCR 1011 calls on the congress and president to complete the southern border wall

A young DACA person spoke against it

This was the most contested bill of the day. Every one agrees that there is a problem of immigration and border security but the Republicans say that border security comes first and immigration reform follows and the Democrats agreed that immigration reform in a comprehensive form is top priority

Passed: 6 yes, 3 no and 1 absent  (Aaron Lieberman) 

 

March 24, 2021: House Appropriations -- Charles Lucking  (Ann Wallack)

 

This was a pretty tame meeting that moved right along.  No tiffs.

 

SB1408 - Strike Everything - DHS to provide grant monies from Med Marijuana fund to research marijuana use/mental illness - $1.25m for suicide prevention, $1.25m to access for suicide prevention, 2m to research, and $2m to DHS for primary provider care,  $2m to board of student loans, $5m to county mental health, $1m for healthcare directives registry, and $2m for mental health research grants.  Current balance is $95m, $45m will be transferred out for prop 207 requirements. if this bill is enacted there is $29m left. There are other bills in process utilizing these funds.  FY2020 $41m in new revenue, and $24m projected in 2021.  Primary source of revenue is number of dispensaries, not based on sales.   

    Fernandez. - no

    Friese - no

    Hoffman - Yes

    Lieberman - Yes

    Schweibert - No

    Chavez - No

Pass: 9 ayes 4 nays

 

SB1112 - Leg retains authority to appropriate noncustodial federal monies (designated as block grants, general revenue sharing monies, or match program, or state has significant authority to determine use.) This probably applies to Ducey accepting Covid relief funds and then saving the money rather than spending it.  It allowed him to build up a surplus and then plan for a tax cut.  Brnovich recently filed suit against the Feds, saying it is okay to accept Fed money and then give a tax break. 

This would affect discretionary funds.  

    Fernandez - no

    Friese - no

    Lieberman - no

    Hoffman - yes

    Schweibert - no

Pass: 8 ayes, 4 nays

 

SB 1319 - $1m to agencies on aging - DES Ombudsman, to meet needs of residents in long term care facilities.  Allow agencies to hire 13 long term care professionals. Sen. Lela Alston sponsored and presented to the committee.  This is one of the recommendations from the LTC advisory committee that was formed during the pandemic. 

Pass: 12 ayes, 1 nay (Hoffman)

 

SB1321 - $3m to DES for adult protective services, to employ 43 full time employees for adult protective services. This is another bill from Lela.  Brendan Blake from AARP states that this bill will help the oversight situation in the LTC system and it was needed even before the Hacienda tragedy brought all of it to light. 

Pass: 11 ayes, 2 nays (Hoffman, Nguyen) Cobb states that she is a “yes” for today.  But she considers it a “lofty” request.  

 

SB1539 - kinship foster care stipend of $150 for kids placed with relatives. Non-relatives would receive $642/month, but currently relatives only get $75/month.  There are 13,600+ kids in AZ foster care.  It used to be that 42% were cared for by relatives:  grandparents or aunts/uncles.  Since the pandemic it is at 50%.  While family-fosters get $75/month, a regular licensed foster parent receives $642/month per child.  Lela Alston, sponsor, explains that she originally asked for the family fosters to receive $250/month but the Senate Republicans advised her that that was too much.  Incredibly, Kaiser suggests that it would be better to make both the regular foster parents and family-fosters receive the same rate of $300/child. Aaron mentions that that is not possible because some of the money is from the federal government and the formula can’t be altered.  Nevertheless, Kavanagh and someone else says that is a good idea and they would have supported it.  

Pass: 13 ayes, 0 nays

 

SB1369 - $1m to DES for coordinated hunger services - Food Bank bill

Pass: 11 ayes, 2 nays (Hoffman, Kaiser)

 

SB1512 - Developmental disability service providers required to develop policies and procedures for incidents involving vulnerable persons & report within 24 hours and annual inspection by the ombudsman of long-term facilities.

Pass: 12 ayes, 1 nay (Hoffman)

 

SB 1603 - $16.1m from gen fund to Dept of Administration to disperse monies to political subdivisions that paid monies in the Transwestern Pipeline litigation.   One time payment. This was a legal case, Transwestern won the case but there are schools, fire districts, other subdivisions that cannot afford such a big hit to their budgets. This bill refunds their money. Barry Aarons presented.

Pass: 13 ayes,  0 nays

 

SB 1786 - prisoners - mental health transition (from prison) pilot program $1.3m to ADC for program/3 years. This program will target the seriously mentally ill and provide them with funds from Medicaid once they leave prison.  Jeff Taylor from Sage Counseling testifies that he ran a similar program for 2 years, 8 years ago and it was very successful.  “This is an expensive population that responds very well to a little bit of help. If they are recommitted to prison because of felony sentencing laws they can cost the system $200,000/year.”  He thinks it could target as many as 500 prisoners.  It would safely reduce the prison population. 

Pass: 11 ayes, 1 nay (Hoffman)

 

SB 1788 - $4 million to UofA to establish a school of mining.  $6.5m from donors & philanthropy.  5-6 new faculty members, infrastructure - 50% expansion of what’s currently happening in the school of engineering.

Pass: 12 ayes, 1 nay (Hoffman)