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Brewer, lawmakers discuss special session on S1070

Gov. Jan Brewer is considering calling the Legislature into special session to change portions of S1070 that were blocked by a federal judge, but the pressures of the campaign season may put the issue on hold until after the election.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said the governor spoke with Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams on July 29 about the possibility of holding a special session on S1070. Legal staff from the Governor’s Office and Legislature will meet next week to discuss their options, Senseman said.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued an injunction against key provisions of the law the day before, keeping most core sections of the law from taking effect.

“We need to explore any and all options, including the possibility of tweaks to SB1070, to get the legislation implemented as soon as possible,” Brewer said.

Adams said he spoke on the phone with Brewer for about 10 minutes about the state’s legal strategy and what actions the state could take regarding S1070, including the possibility of a special session. But Adams said they are simply exploring their options, including whether any changes could or should be made to S1070.

Legal staff from the Governor’s Office and the Legislature still need to meet to discuss the possibilities and ramifications regarding changes to the law, Adams said. 

“We had a discussion about having a discussion,” said Adams, a Mesa Republican. “We haven’t had a discussion about where those changes might come from or made any decisions on if it would include legislative changes.”

Burns, however, was skeptical about the possibility.

“I am not real anxious to do that. I think we need to proceed with caution,” he said.

Burns said a special session before November would be problematic for a number of reasons, including the demands of the campaign season and the complexity of S1070.

“Typically you would draw the call as narrow as possible, but if you’re coming in to address 1070, I don’t know how you draw it narrow enough to keep to a sort of topic-specific part of the law, especially with all the outside pressure that I would anticipate that would be generated by having a special session on 1070,” the Peoria Republican said.

Bolton indicated that minor changes to the language in Section 2 could ease some of her concerns. Section 2 states, “Any person who is arrested shall have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released.”

In her injunction order, Bolton wrote that the state’s interpretation of Section 2 – that immigration status must be checked only when there is a resonable suspicion that someone is in the country illegally – is not sufficiently clear, even after an amendment to S1070 was passed.

“If that had been the Legislature’s intent, it could easily have modified the second sentence (of Section 2B) accordingly,” Bolton wrote.

Senseman said there has been no discussion of exactly what changes would be made to S1070, or to the logistics of a special session during the campaign season. He wouldn’t say whether they had considered amending Section 2(B), but said the Governor’s Office and legal counsel would discuss the issue with legal scholars and experts to determine if S1070 could be strengthened without running afoul of Bolton’s injunction.

He said they would examine other laws passed in Arizona and other states to look for precedents the Legislature could follow in cracking down on illegal immigration.

Senseman also said he believed there would be substantial support from lawmakers to return for a special session, despite the fact that many lawmakers are in the midst of heated campaigns.

“The feasibility or timing of a special session wouldn’t be determined until it is determined that strategies could successfully be undertaken to get SB1070 implemented as soon as possible,” Senseman said.

Bolton issued an injunction against sections of S1070 that make it a state crime to be in the country illegally and require police officers to check the immigration status of suspected illegal immigrations, among several others. She ruled that those provisions are likely to severely infringe on the federal government’s authority to enforce immigration law, and that the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed the lawsuit, had a high likelihood of success in the case.

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