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Guest-worker bill goes to back burner

There is still no definite schedule for Arizona's guest-worker bill to be brought to the floor for debate, one week after it was scurried off the Legislature's agenda as it came under attack from Republican senators.

Senate Minority Leader Marsha Arzberger, the primary sponsor of bill that would create The Arizona Temporary Workers Program, said scheduling deliberations has become a problem because lawmakers are spending more time working on the budget for fiscal year 2009. Last week, both the House and the Senate skipped regular work on May 8 to concentrate on hammering out a deal to balance a budget deficit estimated at $2 billion.

Arzberger said she will have to be very careful when she brings the S1508 to the floor for a Committee of the Whole (COW) deliberation by making sure enough members who support the bill are present.

The legislation would allow businesses experiencing a labor shortage to import temporary workers from Mexico if they met certain guidelines.

But the bill faces a barrage of amendments from Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City and at least three other lawmakers. Nineteen amendments were set to be introduced earlier this month when the bill was originally scheduled for a hearing in COW.

The amendments seek to add more protections to keep low-level criminals out, to ensure all workers meet health standards and to keep pregnant women from participation, among other provisions.

Arzberger has countered that some of the amendments would conflict with federal laws.

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