Week 5: 55th Legislature, 1st Session

Updates from LD28’s Legislative Watchdogs

 

Week #5: 55th Legislature, 1st Session

 

Senate Education Committee -- Marilyn Duerbeck

 

Feb. 9, 2021:  Twelve bills were considered during this marathon session (the meeting adjourned at 8:26!) and the majority passed 8-0.  SB1301 established an additional Health Center on Native American tribal land, SB1303 provided funds for some reimbursement to counties that provide educational opportunities (GED) for young adults who are in prisons, SB1403 implements dyslexia screening and teacher training, SCR1022 and SCR1021 fix school expenditure limits, SB1453 modifies base expenditure limits and will need a constitutional amendment to pass, and SCR1020 repeals the English only requirements in schools.  This will be referred to the ballot, as the original bill was an initiative and voters need to approve repeal.  SB1294 increases community college expenditure limitations, providing an immediate fix for students and passed 6-2 (Gray and Barto were nay votes).  Other bills, seen as chipping away at public schools, had lengthy discussions and were divided votes, usually on party lines;  SB1401 continues the current programs of alternative teacher development (i.e. Teach for America).  It was passed 5-2 with 1 not voting.  Marsh and Gonzalez voted No.

 

The final 3 bills were pushed as a package and to “honor choice”-Senator Boyer.  SB1400 directs schools to accept for elective credit educational “experiences” that take place outside of the school (i.e. club sports, music lessons, community theater etc.) The Democrats’ concern is that not all students have access to these types of programs and they may cause the shrinking or elimination of similar programs in their public schools. This can be true especially in the rural areas of the state. Also, determining which outside classes count and how they align to state standards etc. puts a burden on school districts. The better idea would be to fully fund public schools so all children have access to a variety of quality programs in their public school. Peshlakai reminded everyone that “education is the great equalizer,” but the bill passed 5-3 along party lines.  SB1683 would provide transportation grants to parents so their children could attend the school of their choice. The concern of “double dipping” was expressed as well as the metrics that would be used (there are none at this time) and oversight concerns.  The people who testified against the bill agreed that the bill was in need of amendments in order for it to be a good bill. It was again brought up that the money ($10 million) would be better spent on improving all public schools. The bill passed 5-3 along party lines. Pace (R) acknowledged that the bill needed work before it would earn a yes vote on the floor.  The final bill, SB1685, expanded open enrollment. One concern was the stipulation that taxpayer money would be used to provide parents information about available school choices on the schools’ websites.  Christine was concerned about unintended consequences with the bill.  Chris Kotterman, Director of Government Relations-Arizona School Boards, said Arizona already has open enrollment and questioned the necessity of this bill. It passed 5-3 along party lines.

Senate Transportation and Technology -- Laura Terech

 

Feb. 8, 2021:  Eight bills were discussed:  five passed unanimously or with one no vote; one, SB1009, was discussion only, but would move the state towards electric vehicles with the retirement of gas-powered vehicles; and two passed party-line.  SB1127 concerned vehicle speed limits and SB1406 would repeal taxation on aircraft registration fees.  

 

House Health and Human Services --  Jane McNamara

 

Feb. 8, 2021:  Nine bills on the agenda. All passed, most without LD23’s Rep. Chaplik’s vote as he doesn’t like to spend money. He voted no on HB2533, to authorize $100,000 to hire a statewide ADA coordinator to help businesses with compliance questions; no on HB2565, to provide funding for area agencies on aging that would keep people living independently in their homes; no on HB2640 appropriating funds for a cost study to determine what AHCCCS should pay for behavioral health services; and present on HB2668, to provide up to $20 per week to SNAP participants to buy local produce from local stores/markets. LD16’s Rep. Parker usually joins him. On HB2565, she said, “I’m interested in the appropriation, and looking for more information, and with that, I vote NO.” What??? (Rep. Friese voted yes, after saying, “There’s no place like home.”   

 

Just an observation: the Health Committee is more reasonable this year, under Chair Osborne, than last year, under Chair Bartos, who has moved to the Senate, and chairs Heath in that chamber.  Yet, Osborne and vice-chair, Virginia Cobb, both voted NO on HB2440 that would provide benefits for developmental disabilities for children with spina bifida past the age of 6. The vote followed heartfelt remarks from a mother, whose three children were all doing online school as she spoke of her 7-year-old’s needs for occupational therapy. He is able to walk but needs help learning how to carry a backpack and manage a food tray in the cafeteria, once he is back in school, she said, by way of an example of their needs. He wears braces that surely need to be replaced as he grows. The estimated cost of the bill is between $2.5 and $45 million, because the Dept. of Developmental Disabilities has no idea how many families need and will use these additional proposed benefits. The bill passed 5-4 with LD15’s GOP Rep Wilmeth providing the needed, passing vote.    

 

House Government and Elections - Laura Terech

 

Feb. 10, 2021:  Tough  committee hearing, with 21 bills on the agenda and just two passing unanimously.  Rep. Butler is very concerned that the Republicans are pushing through extreme bills on guns, voting rights and LGBTQ issues and that Democrats have no ability to stop them.  One observer remarked that every gun bill defeated by Democrats in recent years is back, and that this year, with this legislature, these bills are passing on straight party-line votes.  Here are some of the highlights, or lowlights:

 

NinHCR2021: Electoral college; supporting

This bill states that the Legislature supports the electoral college and opposes efforts to repeal or abolish the electoral college such as the National Popular Vote Interstate Impact. All of the RTS speakers were from out of state, and the bill passed on party lines. 

7 yeas, 6 nays

 

HB2111: 2nd amendment; unenforceable federal laws

This law stipulates that any federal law that violates the 2nd amendment would not be upheld in Arizona. I spoke against this bill as a Moms Demand Action volunteer.

7 yeas, 6 nays

 

HB2551: Misconduct involving weapons; public places

This bill would allow concealed weapons in public places and events including libraries, government buildings, and street fairs unless metal detectors and security are in place. The league of cities and towns spoke out against this bill due to insurance and liability concerns. 

7 yeas, 6 nays

 

HB2481: Short-term rentals; enforcement; penalties

Attempting to curb the proliferation of short-term rentals (like AirBnB). Issues with affordability, availability of long-term rentals, noise and other disruption complaints. Kavanaugh said he would add a COW amendment to allow personal owners to continue this practice (as opposed to investors). There was a lot of discussion about this bill. Some speakers had concerns this would harm people who use short-term rental income to support their families. 

8 yeas, 5 nays

 

HB2373: Strike everything; voter registration groups; forms; identifiers

This would require any individual requesting 10 or more voter forms to track identifiers. This creates undue bureaucracy. The League of Women Voters spoke out against, out of concern it will discourage citizens from registering voters. 

6 yeas, 6 nays, 1 not present (there was some confusion about the vote count, as a result this may return to committee)

 

HB2378: Ranked choice voting; presidential preference

Association of Counties opposes this bill due to implementation concerns. Cost of the change as well as voter education issues. The system couldn’t handle it now as they would have to change software and potentially some hardware. 

Bill was held

 

HB2725: State documents; sex identification

Dictates that people have to identify as either male or female on state documents. Democrats tried to get this bill held out of concern that public testimony was limited due to time. Rep Fillmore did not agree. Concerns this bill is overly simplistic, wouldn’t represent intersex or non-binary people. Concerns that school, sports, clubs, and medical settings are not accurate or inclusive.

7 yeas, 6 nays

House Natural Resources -- Larry Berle

 

Feb 9, 2021:  Meeting opened with a presentation by the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, tasked with the prevention, control and clean-up of the state’s air, water and land.  Interestingly, the Dept’s budget is still 15 percent less than it was in 2008, though the director said, “We’re not whining,” insisting that they run a model department and that other states and countries have visited to see how they do it.

 

Just four un bills were considered.  The debate on HB2737, titled, “corporation commission actions: investigation,” was very contentious.  It is another attack on the permissive authority of the Arizona Corporation Commission which the Republicans do not like, and it passed 6-4, on a party-line vote.  It would allow any legislator to question any decision made by the CC, sending the question first to the AG, and then “fast track it” to the State Supreme Court.  Republicans did not agree that the CC has constitutional authority beyond rate-setting and health and safety issues.  Prime sponsor, Rep. Parker, a new legislator who spent three years working at the Commission, insisted that the bill is straight-forward and helpful.  She scoffed at the suggestion that the CC is the fourth branch of Arizona’s state government, though she did wither a bit during the debate and Chair Griffin helped her out from time to time.    

 

Seventeen speakers signed in, all in opposition to the bill.  Corporation Commissioner Anna Tovar, speaking for herself, said the ability of any single legislator to hold up a corp commission decision would throw decision-making and planning for utilities into a chaotic state. Other speakers said the bill would slow economic development, as it would add obstacles to the planning for utility infrastructure.  In his explanation for his no vote, Rep. Lieberman said this bill would “allow a single disgruntled legislator to question a decision made by the duly elected Corporation Commission, creating much uncertainty for Arizona businesses.” 

 

House Appropriations:  Charles Lucking with Ann Wallack

 

Feb 10, 2021:  Long agenda.  Here’s a summary of bills:  

 

HB2053 - increase salary of superior court clerks. Introduced by Kavanaugh, they haven’t gotten a raise in 16yrs. 2% annual raise - 15 clerks statewide, paid by county so it’s not from gen.fund.

    Passes: 12 ayes/0 nays

 

HB2068 - $35m from gen fund to Adot to construct an overpass on Riggs road. (SR347 in LD11) 9 deaths at this intersection over the last two years - it needs to be widened.  Taxes have already been collected on this.  It’s a state route this would be a cost-share for the project - amounts yet to be determined.  Overall project is widening but the HB would be strictly for the overpass part of the project.  

    Fernandez: no.  (Charlene dislikes doing transportation projects on a piecemeal basis. Legislature has been sweeping HURF, Highway Users Repair Fund, every session. She wants a comprehensive plan going forward.)

    Passes: 12 ayes/1 nay.

 

HB2072 - $20m from general fund - State route 95 repaving - includes Bullhead & lake Havasu - fix poor and fair sections.

    Fernandez - complained that coming from a rural area from a minority party her bills are ignored, and so she votes *no*

    Friese - no

    Passes: 11ayes/2 nays

 

HB2123 - requires creation of a list of programs for high school seniors - CTED/4th year funding for students in programs that lead to high-demand/high-income careers.

    Hoffman - no

    Passes: 12 ayes/1 nay

    

HB2156 - broadband grants: $5m from general fund to commerce authority

    3 out of 10 homes in AZ don’t have necessary connectivity

(Osborne has her own, similar bill and plans to work with sponsor to combine them. Also, Susan Bittersmith, of SW Cable Communications Bureau testified that there isn’t enough detail in bill and hopes it improves before going to the floor.)

    Hoffman: Nay

    Passes: 11 ayes/1 nay

 

HB2141 - (this was passed w/unanimous support last year) $9m from general fund to az criminal justice for alternative programs - monies to prosecute alternative prosecution and diversion programs.   Diversion out of the system: 15 county attorneys put this bill together. Meth use will get particular attention.  Reporting to ACJC, adopt the programs that proved successful.

    Hoffman: Nay

    Passes: 11 ayes/1 nay

    

HB2151 - 3 year experienced teacher program - experienced teachers (and family members) will receive a discount at u of a or asu.  $2m in 22, $2m in ’23, and $5m in ’24. (Kavanaugh mentions that the amount the state pays the Universities should be specifically stated in the bill.  Because, if given the chance, the Universities will ask for the maximum tuition rate possible, in a heartbeat.  Aaron said that there are 2,000 AZ classrooms without a permanent certified teacher. And students are not well served with a string of temps. Without raising salaries, this is a way to entice teachers to come/stay and teach in AZ. Melinda Iyer testified in support.)

    Hoffman: “Well intentioned bad government - nay”

    Kaiser: No

    Nutt: No

    Passes: 10 ayes/3 nay

 

HB2189 - planning reentry programs in criminal justice program $8m ’22, $7m in ’23 and ’24 from general fund

    Passes: 11 ayes/0 nays

 

HB2394 - reduced to $750k from $5m from general fund ’22 north south corridor study/ADOT

    From Eloy (Picacho Peak) to the 60, so trucks who go through Casa Grande can bypass - Pinal County has already invested 9m, planning 21m, ADOT will have tier 1 study done this summer - the county will put up 1m to do the tier 2 to figure out exactly where the highway will go - end of 22.  This study will make it a loop - cost matching dollars.  Primary focus for east valley is this.  Fed money, city money, county money, private money.

    WITHOUT AMENDMENT FOR REDUCTION

    Passes: Unanimous

 

HB2404 - $.1.5m to DHS for health pilot - direct services to biological parents - reach out to women in crisis who are considering abortion - it’s an anti-choice bill.

    Aaron:  asks if there’s any requirement for evidence-based approaches to solutions     

    Fernandez: Does this duplicate first things first?   Yes.

    AZ211 provides assistance for anyone in this state, is it duplicative? Yes.

    Aaron: is the only entry point if I’m seeking abortion? No, anyone under 2 years of age

    Aaron: Does any state funding go to Planned Parenthood? No

    Friese: Do these centers provide scientific information or complete options? Answer: no

    

    Passes: SERIOUSLY?!: 8 ayes/5 nays

 

HB2409 -  300k from general fund to auditor general to engage expert in adult services: this stemmed from the woman in vegetative state was raped: more issues came up and the gov. Had a task force to explore management and this is one of the bills that came from that.  People who are falling through the cracks, how to we catch that?  

    Aaron: Core of this is helping individuals who are not getting adequate care? Yes.

    Passes: Unanimous

 

HB2461 - $1.5m from general fund for DPS to purchase/deploy body-camera equipment/storage for videos.

    Passes: 11 ayes/1 nay

 

HB2463 - School safety fund: $2m to school safety

    DPS - Panic buttons put on the phones of teachers/administrators, and officers assigned from different agencies to communicate on the same frequency - the video could be shared, a floorpan of the building shared, and plans/strategies shared.  4 vendors.

    Opposition: Maricopa county did not agree to endorse this pilot program (which the bill does not say) - pilot program should be regionalized rather than one sheriff that gets one windfall - sheriffs don’t like to be locked into a program which limits their ability to make decisions about how to spend the dollars.

    Aaron:  “God forbid if we’re ever in this moment we all want to make sure our DPS officers and everyone involved will have everything they need to keep our kids safe” - yes.

    Passes: 9 ayes/4 nays

 

HB2533- requires the gov. Office to hire full time Americans with disabilities coordinator.  100k from general fund for coordinator

    ADA coordinator to help with employers who need help with ADA services/facilities compliance

    Hoffman/Kaiser/Nguyen: Nay

    Passes: 10 ayes/3 nays

 

HB2555 - Department of Admin - $65m in ’22 - changes school facilities board into an oversight committee

    Nays: Hoffman

    Passes 12 ays 1 nay

 

HB 2565: $2.5m to DES to home and community based (vital) services for elderly - AZ receives far less than national average of similar funds.  This helps people stay in their homes as long as possible.

    Hoffman is a nay

    Passes w/12 ayes

 

HB2577 - to study water resources study - $9m price

    Passes: 13 ayes/0 nays

 

HB2668 - annually $1m from general fund for purchase nutrition assistance/nutrition matching - double up food bucks program to incentivize people to purchase more produce and encourage  them to buy locally grown produce and make healthier foods more accessible/affordable.  95% of people report buying more produce.

    Hoffman: nay

    Passes: 11 ayes/1 nay

 

HB2672 - AZ dept of corrections develop Braille program - 250k for the program.

    Hoffman: nay.

    Passes: 12 ayes/1 nay

 

HB2706 - 900k for veterans services/counselors - cash on cash return is 200 to 1 according to vet who spoke.

    Passes: unanimous

 

HB2755 - $5m from gen fund to Arizona Arts trust fund to assist arts industry to reopen

    one time to address Covid arts crisis - to all communities, students, veterans, all communities.  

    Hoffman: nay

    Nguyen: I’m an artist but no

    Passes: 11 ays 2 nays