Lawmakers carved out a new path for Arizona on everything from immigration enforcement to health care, making this year’s session one of the most significant in state history.
But the bills that failed are just as important, in some ways, as the ones that were signed into law. H2250, for instance, was an attempt to overhaul the state’s tax system and accelerate business growth, and its failure will maintain the status quo for businesses that were counting on tax breaks to ease the pain of a cantankerous economy.
That bill’s failure was bemoaned by a broad section of Arizona’s business interests, but the rejection of other, more narrowly tailored bills had a larger effect on particular industries or subsets of the Arizona population.
George Weisz, a partner in a multi-million-dollar film studio project in Mesa, said Arizona risks losing even more jobs because the Legislature failed to pass a bill, S1409, which would have allowed film production companies to continue claiming tax credits for money spent on productions in the state. The state’s existing film tax credit program will expire in December.
“Arizona has a heritage of film making and now that industry is devastated,” Weisz said, adding 43 other states, including New Mexico, offer some type of incentive program to attract production companies.
Lawmakers’ failure to pass the bill may have put an end to plans by two movie companies to build studio facilities in the state – the $100-million Avondale Live and the $70-million Gateway Studios in Mesa. Gateway Studios had planned to break ground in the fall, but the company is now re-evaluating that decision, Weisz said.
Filmmakers weren’t the only business interests that walked away disappointed after this year’s session. The payday loan industry is facing extinction after lawmakers rejected three proposals that would have allowed them to continue operating in Arizona after this summer.
As a result, the payday loan shops will have to shut down or establish a new business structure that doesn’t rely on the special authority granted by the Legislature in 2000 that allowed them to offer high-interest consumer loans.
“Arizona voters have a long memory and Arizona voters really stood up and made sure their legislators understood once again exactly how they feel on the issue,” said David Higuera of Arizonans for Responsible Lending. “Unfortunately this is an industry that doesn’t just go away.”
Several measures that would have put new limits on residents themselves also failed to pass.
S1334, a bill to ban texting while driving sailed through the Senate early in the session, but it stalled in the House and never received a hearing. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Al Melvin, a Tucson Republican, and it’s likely to come back again next year.
Also dead is Melvin’s S1125, which would have made it illegal to sell animals alongside highways and streets and in parks. Those types of animal sales already were banned in Maricopa and Pima counties, but the bill would have applied the ban statewide.
Sen. Amanda Aguirre, a Democrat from Yuma, fought hard to pass S1292, which would have allowed child victims of sexual abuse to bring civil actions against their alleged perpetrators years after the incident had occurred.
The bill received overwhelming support in committee, but Senate leadership refused to bring it to a vote on the floor. So Aguirre successfully offered the provisions of S1292 as an amendment to H2699, which was designed to crack down on child prostitution.
But lawmakers shelved H2699 after Phoenix Republican Rep. Adam Driggs, the bill’s sponsor, decided against moving the amended bill forward. Instead, he tacked the original provisions of his bill onto a different bill, H2238, leaving behind Aquirre’s proposal.
“Killing this bill only protects pedophiles and insurance companies,” Aguirre said, referring to H2699. “That is not who we should be fighting for as legislators. Childhood sexual abuse victims should have their day in court and the abusers should be held accountable.”
Here are a few attention-grabbing measures that failed to pass this year:
*SCR1026, authored by Senate President Bob Burns, would have raised the constitutional debt limit to no more than 5 percent of the net assessed property value in the state. The existing cap, which goes back to Statehood, is $350,000. The measure also would have required the Legislature, beginning in 2012, to identify a revenue source other than the state’s general fund to pay for the debt and for debt servicing. The approach was similar to requiring a dedicated revenue stream for voter-approved spending. The Senate approved the referral, but it didn’t make it to the House floor.
*S1094, authored by Glendale Republican Sen. Linda Gray, failed in the Senate by a vote of 15-12. The bill would have allowed the courts to extend, in certain cases, the waiting period for people seeking a divorce. The bill would have given a spouse up to four months to try to reconcile the marriage> The law currently allows 60 days.
*HCR2041, which was sponsored by Sierra Vista Republican Rep. David Stevens, failed in the Senate by a vote of 14-11. The ballot measure would have asked voters to reauthorize voter-approved spending every 8 years. This was one of several proposals aimed at giving lawmakers more flexibility to balance the state budget.
*S1288, sponsored by Litchfield Park Republican Sen. John Nelson, aimed to prohibit “balloon” mortgage loan payments that are twice as large as the previous monthly payments, with specific exemptions. As passed by the Senate, the measure also would have prohibited loans with repayment schedules that cause the principal balance to increase. The bill was never put to a vote in the House. It was among a slew of measures aimed at curbing the state’s foreclosure problem and at helping homeowners caught in the housing slump.
*1165, which sponsored by Glendale Republican Sen. Linda Gray, failed by a vote of 14-12 on reconsideration. The bill would have required the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System to contract with a private firm to identify fraudulent claims.
*H2736, which was authored by House Majority Leader John McComish, would have levied a surcharge on all spring training games tickets to help finance a new stadium for the Chicago Cubs in Mesa. Passed by the House, the measure never made it to the Senate floor.
*SCR1009, which was amended to ask voters to eliminate the Clean Elections Commission and Arizona’s system of publicly funded campaigns, was passed by the Senate but later stalled in the House. The measure was a priority for former Sen. Jonathan Paton, who resigned mid-session to run for Congress. Paton had drafted a proposal to eliminate the use of government money to pay for political campaigns, which would have essentially gutted the Clean Elections system without repealing it. Lawmakers later amended the measure to reflect a more accurate description of its intent.
*This year, school-choice advocates pushed to amend the state Constitution to allow students enrolled in failing public schools to use scholarship vouchers to attend private schools. But HCR2057, which was sponsored by Rep. Rick Murphy of Glendale, never reached the House floor. Critics said the proposal would open the door for public money to flow to private and religious schools. John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association, said, “It would tear down the fairly sacred separation of church and state that most citizens think is really important.”
*House Speaker Kirk Adams’ H2250, the so-called jobs bill, also failed to make the cut in the Senate. Indeed, the bill’s passage had been iffy ever since it was passed by the House early in the session. Senators had opposed various portions of the bill, and their differences seemed irreconcilable. Adams still tried to get the bill moving, sending an emissary to the Governor’s Office for a potential last-minute compromise. But Senate President Bob Burns would have none of it, arguing that he and Adams already agreed that the speaker would let his measure die and that the Legislature would adjourn sine die on April 29.