Home / Capitol Insiders / Lawmakers plan to resurrect bills that didn’t pass in previous years

Lawmakers plan to resurrect bills that didn’t pass in previous years

Lawmakers plan to resurrect bills that didn’t pass in previous yearsNeither the governor’s veto, nor a ballot measure’s resounding defeat at the polls will stop Sen. Al Melvin from reviving a plan to convert federal land to state land.

And he’s not alone in holding out hope that failed bills from previous years will have more success this time around.

Last session, Melvin, a Tucson Republican, sponsored a bill that would have demanded that the United States extinguish the title to all public lands and transfer them to the state of Arizona. He also supported a similar measure that the Legislature referred to the ballot as Proposition 120, which failed 68 percent to 32 percent.

In the governor’s veto letter regarding Melvin’s bill, she said she was worried the legislation conflicts with federal law and it would cost the state too much to take over large swaths of federal land, among other problems.

Melvin said he will try to talk to the governor about how to make it work, but it’s not a revolutionary idea — a similar bill was signed into law in Utah, and several Western states are working on analogous legislation.

That’s not the only bill he’s hoping to bring back from the dead.

He said he’s looking into sponsoring something similar to the flat tax measure that died in the Senate in 2011. That measure would have repealed the individual income tax structure and deductions and phased in a flat income tax.

Melvin is also dusting off the texting-while-driving bill he has sponsored or co-sponsored several times. Though some versions of the measure have received bipartisan support and approval, the legislation has never cleared the House and Senate. Melvin hopes that by restricting the ban on texting while driving to teenagers, he may finally be able to get the bill onto the governor’s desk.

He notes that many other states have the law, and all of the cellphone and auto insurance companies in Arizona he has spoken with support the concept.

“It saves lives, but there are some people on the far right who believe that it’s nanny-state legislation and they have every right to wrap their car around a telephone pole while they’re texting,” he said.

Melvin said he hadn’t made a final decision whether to sponsor a film industry tax credit bill — last seen as HB2127 in 2012 — or let somebody else do it, but he said he would at least hear the bill in his committee and vote for it.

“I think there’s not only a good chance that we could attract movie productions here, but we could probably get some of the movie companies to move here lock, stock and barrel to escape California,” he said.

Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, also plans to revive a few of the measures he sponsored in the Senate as he moves to the House of Representatives, including controversial immigration measures that couldn’t get out of the Legislature.

He has run a pair of bills in the past two years aimed at prohibiting, or at least tracking, illegal immigrants in the public school system and the hospitals.

“Last year we really watered it down, but it never even got a hearing,” Smith said. “So unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any feedback, so hopefully it doesn’t suffer the same fate (in 2013).”

He said he would like to run a bill expanding the ability to carry guns in public buildings, and is also looking into possibly running the guns-on-campus bill this year — and although he isn’t sure if he will sponsor that one personally, he expects someone will. That measure was vetoed by the governor in 2011, and didn’t make it out of the Senate in 2012.

“We don’t want to just run another bill that will get vetoed just for the sake of getting vetoed,” Smith said. “I know that bill passed out of both chambers so there is the support from (lawmakers), but in that situation we have to find out what the governor would want and then do it. So I would look at it again for sure.”

Another measure he would like to revive is one that would require drug tests for people seeking unemployment benefits. His bill to do that ran into opposition from some lawmakers. He said he would like to scale it down to what is allowed under federal law, and see if his colleagues are more open to the idea.

“I think there’s an idea behind that idea, there’s a variation that I could run (in 2013),” he said. “I want to make sure it’s a good bill, so I’m going to take some of that (criticism) into account and run a more proper version of it that might be an easier bill to swallow.”

Sen. Steve Gallardo, a Phoenix Democrat, said he is inspired to believe some of the campaign and lobbyist reform measures he has introduced in recent years might actually go somewhere now that the Senate has formed a standing committee specifically to deal with election-related issues.

Last session, he introduced a package of bills prohibiting lobbyists from spending any money on food, drinks or entertainment for elected officials, though none of the measures received even an initial hearing.

He also introduced several other unsuccessful election-related bills, including measures to strengthen reporting requirements for candidates’ financial disclosure forms and to increase penalties for coordination violations for independent expenditure campaign committees. But he is undeterred and said he plans to sponsor the measures again.

He said if the political will is not there to pass some type of lobbyist reform bills, he expects groups to pursue an initiative for the 2014 ballot. Noting that lawmakers probably don’t want that kind of measure to go to the ballot, Gallardo said he plans to reintroduce the bills and give lawmakers a chance to fix the problem themselves.

“I’m hoping that these types of bills are at least debated this year,” he said. “It’s fixing a problem that we all know exists, and at the same time you’re scoring points with the voters, with the public.”

He’s not as optimistic about the fate of other pieces of legislation he plans to revive.

Last session, Gallardo introduced a measure to repeal the state’s controversial immigration law SB1070, along with a measure to repeal the law prohibiting Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program.

The legislation didn’t get a hearing, but he said it’s important to continue to introduce those measures to keep the conversation moving forward, even if the bills themselves don’t move forward.

“These are public policies that continue to put a black cloud over the state of Arizona,” Gallardo said. “They continue to hurt our image, continue to hurt our economy. It’s time to put these bills away. Those are old policies of the past, let’s get rid of them.”

He’s even less confident of his effort to close the “gun show loophole” with a measure that would require a background check before buying a gun at a gun show, and slap lawbreakers with a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

“I’m going to have a bill drafted, and if I think it should be introduced, I’ll introduce it. If I think my time and energy is better spent elsewhere, that’s what I’ll do,” he said.

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