Not every bill signed into law in 2010 was deemed worthy of the international attention that followed S1070, but many others were significant in their own right. Through the regular session and three special sessions, lawmakers introduced more than 1,200 bills, 355 of which were signed.
Arizona took unprecedented steps in fighting illegal immigration, drafted some of loosest firearms laws in the country and set the stage for a number of battles with the federal government. The state addressed the long-running debate over whether Arizonans should be able to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks of their own – although the law won’t go into effect in time for this year’s Fourth of July.
When compiling a list of the 10 most significant bills of 2010, the ~Arizona Capitol Times~ considered the intended and unintended effects of each bill, whether the bills will lead to widespread changes in the way Arizonans carry out their daily lives, and the long-term impacts the bills will have on Arizona government.
The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, widely regarded as the toughest illegal immigration law in the U.S., drew international attention, condemnation and praise while sparking waves of protests at the Capitol.
The law requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they come into contact with if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally, and allows law enforcement officers to charge illegal immigrants under state trespassing law.
Supporters of the bill say it mirrors federal law and is a tool that will “take off the handcuffs” from law enforcement, while opponents say it encourages racial profiling against Hispanics.
Several people and organizations have already filed lawsuits to challenge the law, claiming it unconstitutionally usurps federal authority, and numerous cities and organizations across the country have boycotted Arizona as a sort of economic protest. In the meantime, at least nine states are considering similar measures.
Pushed by state Superintendant of Public Instruction Tom Horne, the bill bans courses in public schools that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, advocate resentment against other races and teach ethnic solidarity.
The bill was aimed primary at the La Raza Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, which was criticized by officials across the state in 2006 after civil rights activist Dolores Huerta told a student assembly that “Republicans hate Latinos.”
The bill allows ethnic studies in public schools as long as the classes are open to all students and do not promote racial divisiveness or anti-U.S. sentiment. Many Democrats, however, viewed the bill as racist and an attack on ethnic studies programs.
H2281 would have been controversial in any legislative session – Horne and other Republicans had targeted the La Raza Studies program for years – but with Brewer signing it just weeks after signing S1070, the bill added fuel to the fire started by the strict illegal immigration bill.
The Wild West got a little wilder with S1108, which allows anyone over the age of 21 to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Arizona followed Alaska and Vermont to become the third state in the U.S. to allow concealed carry without a permit.
Prior to S1108, gun owners had to take a state-certified, eight-hour class in order to qualify for a concealed-carry permit. Courses are no longer mandatory.
Gun-rights groups praised Arizona lawmakers for passing the law, which, along with other laws already on the books, gives Arizona some of the loosest firearms restrictions in the nation. The legislation came on the heels of several high-profile gun bills in 2009, including one that allowed people to carry loaded weapons in businesses that serve alcohol.
Arizona continued its tradition of thumbing its nose at the federal government by passing H2307, which lifts all federal regulations on firearms manufacturers in Arizona as long as they are not transported or sold outside of the state.
The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Nancy McLain, was intended to spark a legal battle with the federal government over Arizona’s 10th Amendment rights. A similar bill, H2337, would have asserted Arizona’s right to manufacture incandescent light bulbs that are to be banned by the federal government.
Brewer vetoed the light-bulb bill, saying a legal challenge based on light bulbs would have taken too long because no one in Arizona has the capability to manufacture the type of bulbs the bill would have allowed because tungsten, a key component of the light bulbs, is not mined in Arizona. But guns can be manufactured locally in a much quicker timeframe, and some lawmakers are eager to pick that fight with the feds.
Arizona’s straightest jab at the federal government came when Brewer joined a multi-state lawsuit against the health care bill passed by Congress in March. With Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard refusing to file suit on the state’s behalf, Brewer took the lead, calling the Legislature into special session to approve Arizona’s participation in a lawsuit that includes 18 other states.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the health care law just two days after the Legislature approved a budget for fiscal 2011 and the remainder of fiscal 2010. The congressional bill prevented the state from following through on health care cuts of about $400 million.
Brewer and the Legislature agreed to restore funding for KidsCare and the state’s Medicaid program – on the condition that Congress approves more federal funding.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in ~Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission~ left a gaping hole in Arizona’s campaign finance laws.
The ruling lifted a ban on direct campaign spending by corporations and labor unions, but because Arizona was one of 23 states that didn’t already allow that practice, it had no laws regulating that kind of spending.
To remedy the situation, Secretary of State Ken Bennett urged passage of H2788, which created reporting requirements for independent expenditures by corporations and unions. Bennett said Arizona needed the reporting regulations so that direct campaign spending by corporations and unions would be as open to the public as other campaign spending.
The bill requires corporations and unions to report all independent expenditure advertising and make it clear who paid for the ads. The new campaign committees will have to file their reports when they hit the $5,000 mark for statewide races or $2,500 in legislative races, instead of adhering to the preset filing deadlines for other campaign committees.
Fireworks and Fourth of July go hand-in-hand, but not in the dry heat of Arizona where fireworks have been banned for decades.
H2246, however, legalized the sale of small consumer fireworks like sparklers, spinners, smoke devices and fountains. The bill will not take effect until late July though, and fireworks still will be banned during the Fourth of July celebration this year.
The fireworks bill was perennial fixture in the Legislature. Brewer vetoed a similar bill in 2009, saying the bill did not adequately address fire risks. And former Gov. Fife Symington vetoed a fireworks bill in 1996.
But Rep. Andy Biggs tried again this year with H2246, which directs the state fire marshal to adopt rules on the enforcement of fireworks laws, and levies a $1,000 fine for the use of fireworks on state land. The bill passed both chambers with overwhelming support.
With S1266, Arizona became one of many states to address the growing trend of teenagers who use cell phones to send nude or sexually explicit photos to each other, known as “sexting.” The trend has grown popular in recent years, but has opened up teens in Arizona to felony charges of child pornography.
The sexting bill, which was pushed by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council, was intended to curb the practice without exposing minors to felony charges that can bring serious penalties. Prosecutors testified that they had trouble finding appropriate charges in sexting cases that would hold teenagers accountable without labeling them as sex offenders.
S1266 creates petty and misdemeanor offenses for minors who send sexually explicit photos. It also makes it a crime for minors to keep the images or to pass them onto people besides the intended recipient. Supporters of that provision said many teenagers don’t realize that a sexually explicit photo they send to one person can easily end up on the Internet, where it can be viewed by millions.
Arizona’s budget crisis took a major toll on the State Parks system, and when the new fiscal year begins in July, the state will have the money to operate only nine of its 30 parks. Brewer and lawmakers are hoping local governments and private groups will pick up the state’s slack.
S1349 allows the State Parks Board to contract with private companies, local governments and Indian tribes to operate the parks. Such agreements would allow the state to save money without closing parks that Arizonans rely on for recreation, and that local governments rely on for critical tourism dollars.
Arizona Republicans pride themselves as leaders in school choice, and in 2010 they furthered their cause by increasing the maximum amount of money people can contribute to school-tuition organizations, or STOs. Individuals or households can now contribute up to $1,000 per year.
According to the Arizona Department of Revenue, STOs received a record number of contributions in 2008, with 78,047 people or organizations giving about $55 million in tax-deductible contributions. As a result, they also hit a new high-water mark by awarding 28,321 scholarships to students who want to attend private schools.
The Legislature also approved new regulations for STO certification and extended the deadline for when people can contribute to an STO. Beginning next year, Arizona taxpayers can claim deductions in one calendar year for contributions to STOs between Jan. 1 and April 15 of the next calendar year.