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Hope springs eternal in the land of lagging legislation

With the committee deadline to hear bills in their chamber of origin passed, the major work of weeding out bills is done. But like weeds, bills are never really dead, and can sprout back up at any time before the session ends.

There are many ways to circumvent the deadlines. Strike-everything amendments are one common method used to introduce bills late in the legislative session. Floor amendments can bring back an idea that otherwise appears dead and, as always, the Legislature can suspend their own rules and decide to hear new bills.

House Speaker Andy Tobin said there are some good reasons to suspend the deadlines or use strike-everything measures on occasion.

For example, he has vowed to pass a comprehensive water augmentation plan this year, and though his

HB2338 stalled twice in committee amid opposition from rural residents, ranchers, farmers and conservationists, Tobin said he will find a way to make the bill work — one way or another.

He said he didn’t want to use a strike-everything amendment for the bill, and would prefer to work out some amendments and call a special meeting of the House Agriculture and Water Committee, but all options are on the table.

Democratic Rep. Andrew Sherwood of Tempe and Republican Rep. Ethan Orr of Tucson sponsored a bipartisan bill that would allow cities or counties to set up energy efficiency and conservation districts, enabling businesses to borrow against their property taxes to pay the up-front costs for energy and water efficiency improvements.

The bill stalled in a House committee amid opposition from the Arizona Bankers Association. But Sherwood and Orr said they believe they found a way to get the bankers on board with their proposal, and they want to push the bill through this session.

Orr said they are hoping to get a special committee meeting to approve the bill, but if not, a strike-everything amendment may be in line.

“I think strikers are good things in rare cases because we have so many bills and such a short time to hear them. You have to have deadlines, but the deadlines can sometimes create an artificial constraint on a good idea,” he said. “What do you do if you’ve found a way to address concerns and you’re, in this case, one day past the deadline?”

Republican lawmakers have an easier time using striker amendments to get their measures through after the committee hearing deadline. So-called vehicle bills they’ve managed to pass through committee can be used to keep pushing key legislation well past the deadline.

A proposal by Republican Sen. Don Shooter of Yuma to give the Joint Committee on Capitol Review oversight of all Department of Transportation highway construction projects in excess of

$15 million failed in the Senate Transportation Committee. But in committee, Shooter, testified that he has other bills in the same vein as SB1344 — opening up the possibility for a striker in the future.

Democratic lawmakers are always searching for bills germane to a subject of their liking that are ripe for floor amendments — a key way to breathe new life into bills that were left for dead at committee hearings.

Democratic Sen. Steve Farley of Tucson said there are a number of bills that have bipartisan support that would have a good chance of passing if they could only get a vote. Other measures might not have wide support, but by putting them as amendments on the floor, Democratic ideas can at least get debate, he said.

“No bill is dead until we sine die, so those of us who are experienced in this business will be looking for vehicles and places we can amend things at least to get debate on the floor,” Farley said.

For example, Farley could use any number of bills promoting new vanity license plates as vehicles for his own legislation to prohibit the issuance of special license plates beginning Jan. 1, 2014. The bill would also scale back the state’s fleet of dozens of vanity plates. SB1207 never got a hearing in the Senate, though another of Farley’s bills, one that would promote a standard design for vanity plates, passed a Senate Transportation Committee vote.

Democratic Sen. Steve Gallardo of Phoenix has vowed to weigh down any pro-gun bills that make it to the Senate floor with a bevy of amendments that would hold gun owners more responsible when their weapons are used in a crime. Gallardo said he’d avoid debating more rash measures like limiting the size of magazines while attaching amendments to bills like Attorney General Tom Horne’s proposal to arm school teachers.

“If Tom Horne’s solution gets to the floor, I’m going to swing away like it’s a piñata,” Gallardo said.

But ask most lawmakers what their intentions are past the committee hearing deadline, and they play coy.

House Majority Leader Rep. David Gowan of Sierra Vista agreed that part of the power of strike- everything amendments or floor amendments is the element of surprise.

“You’ll see it when it happens, not before. That’s the smart way to do it,” Gowan said.

— Ben Giles contributed to this report.

A duty to kill bills
Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth of Gilbert chairs the House Judiciary Committee and had the honor of having the most bills assigned to his committee — and of killing the largest number of bills so far. He said he sees killing bills as one of his duties as chairman.

“I believe that chairmen are gatekeepers, committees are gatekeepers, too. Bad policy or policy that just is wholly not ready to move on — it may be a good idea and a horrible, horrible bill — I think those need time to cure, so to speak,” he said.

Farnsworth said the Founding Fathers didn’t intend the legislative process to be easy, and if they had, they wouldn’t have set up the system they did with all the checks and balances. He said he goes through a process in deciding whether to hear bills. First, it has to be constitutional, then, he has to agree with the policy or not have formed an opinion on it yet.

He is a stickler for the rules in his committee, and doesn’t plan to ask for an extension of the deadline, but that doesn’t mean he won’t offer any strike-everything bills later in the session.

The bill graveyard — where noteworthy proposals went to die

They sounded like good ideas when they were introduced during the early weeks of the legislative session. But for one reason or another, they didn’t survive. Here is a look at some of the more notable bills that went by the wayside.

Gun Control
Pieces of Democratic Rep. Chad Campbell’s gun control package were divvied out to several different committees, but the brunt of the bills went to the House Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs Committee. All parts of the package were double assigned to committees, and none of the proposals were heard before any committee.

Campbell hit the same wall with his push to regulate and restrict private prisons in the state. Of his six measures to limit or eliminate the prisons, all were double assigned to committees — mostly House Commerce and Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs committees — and none had any hearings.

Online impersonation
Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti introduced HB2004 to prohibit impersonating another person online, but the bill died without a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Undocumented immigrants
Democrats introduced several bills to allow undocumented immigrants covered under President Obama’s executive order to receive Arizona driver’s licenses. One of those measures, HB2032, by Rep. Catherine Miranda, actually got a hearing, but was held in the House Transportation Committee without a vote.

Presidential primary
Republican Rep. Phil Lovas introduced HB2017 to tie Arizona’s presidential primary election to the date of the Iowa Caucus, but the bill died without a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Resign to run
Republican Rep. John Kavanagh introduced HB2035 to trigger the resign-to-run law when a candidate files official paperwork, instead of upon a public declaration of intent to run, but the bill died in the House Judiciary Committee.

School dropouts
Republican Rep. Jeff Dial introduced HB2168 to increase the minimum age to drop out of school to 18 from 16. The bill received a hearing in the House Education Committee, but the committee never took a vote.

Pledge of Allegiance
Republican Rep. Steve Smith introduced HB2284 to require students in grades 1 through 12 to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, instead of leaving it optional. The bill was never assigned to a committee.

Shooting while drunk
Democratic Rep. Bruce Wheeler introduced HB2631 to make it a class 6 felony to fire a gun with criminal negligence and a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.08 or higher. The bill died without a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Tuition rates
Democratic Sen. Anna Tovar introduced SB1399 to fix tuition rates for students enrolling at a public university for four contiguous academic years. The bill was double assigned to Education and Appropriations and never had a hearing in either committee.

Selling animals
Republican Sen. Al Melvin introduced SB1214 to make it unlawful anywhere in the state to sell animals on public streets, parks and certain private properties. It was double assigned and passed a vote in the Senate Commerce, Energy and Military Committee, but failed in the Judiciary Committee.

Film credit
Melvin’s SB1242, which would have reinstated a film production tax credit in Arizona, was also double assigned, passed one committee vote, but was never heard in the Senate Finance Committee.

Transportation funding alternatives
Democratic Sen. Steve Farley introduced SB1327 to create a task force to study transportation funding alternatives to the gas tax. It was triple assigned. Farley guided it through the Senate Transportation Committee, but it was never heard in the Appropriations or Finance committees.

Highway construction
Republican Sen. Don Shooter introduced SB1334 to give the Joint Committee on Capitol Review some oversight of highway construction projects, but the bill was double assigned. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee that Shooter chairs, but it failed a vote in the Transportation Committee.

Some Democratic bills survive

Democrats have only a handful of bills that cleared their committee assignments by the deadline. In the House, eight Democrat-sponsored bills and one resolution are still alive. In the Senate, there are at least nine Democrat-sponsored measures that were approved by their assigned committees by deadline.

Here are some highlights:

HB2621 — Rep. Juan Carlos Escamilla
Allows motorists registering their vehicles to pay a voluntary annual sustainable state parks and roads fee, and receive a state parks license decal allowing free daytime use of state parks.

HB2629 — Rep. Bruce Wheeler
Would expand the definition of tampering with a witness to include inducing a witness to evade a summons or subpoena.

HB2563 — Rep. Catherine Miranda
Would require the State Board of Education rules for teacher certification to ensure that postsecondary education programs that prepare students to teach in elementary schools remain current, reflect a rigorous course of study that is aligned to state and national standards, and that students are assessed to determine requisite knowledge that is aligned with the common core standards.

2086 — Rep. Chad Campbell
Would require municipalities, on a quarterly basis, to randomly inspect 10 percent of parking meters owned by the municipality. If less than 75 percent of the sampled meters are operational and correct, the municipality must promptly inspect the remaining parking meters and make any necessary repairs and corrections. Until those meters are tested and repaired, any person issued a parking ticket for a meter violation is presumed not responsible for the violation.

HB2540 — Rep. Macario Saldate
Would require the Department of Transportation to issue Father Kino special license plates if $32,000 in start-up costs is paid by a nonprofit entity meeting specified requirements.

SB1090 — Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor
Would allow a grandparent or great-grandparent with a dependent child to be eligible for a monthly stipend of $75 per child.

SB1206 — Sen. Steve Farley
Would require all special license plates to have a standard design with one three-inch square area on the plate that is set aside for a logo or message.

SB1317 — Sen. Jack Jackson Jr.
Would expand the list of publicly owned and operated airport facilities that may receive monies from the State Aviation Fund to include those located on Indian reservations.

SB1337 — Sen. Barbara McGuire
Would require that all students be provided at least one training session in CPR during grades 6 through 12.

SB1334 — Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford
Would require the Department of Economic Security to establish a return-to-work program to provide a supervised training opportunity to individuals for 20 to 32 hours per week for up to 6 weeks through employers that volunteer to participate in the program.

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