It’s ‘striker’ season at the Arizona Capitol
Published: March 21, 2013 at 9:53 am
No, that’s not some obscure reference to spring training or a new term for haboobs, but a favorite subversive tactic of Arizona lawmakers at the Capitol this time of year.
About halfway through the legislative session, as proposed bills get bogged down in the politics or lawmakers come up with a bold new idea they neglected to introduce in January, they begin to file what are called strike-everything, or “striker,” amendments.
Lawmakers take a bill that offers only a technical change or that they don’t mind sacrificing and propose an amendment that strikes out all the existing language and replaces it with an entirely different proposal.
The motivation varies. Strikers can revive an idea that was voted down in its original bill form, introduce an entirely new idea or allow a controversial idea to skip parts of the public-hearing process.
House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, is critical of the tactic.
“One strike-everything is one too many,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an appropriate way to do business. It’s not a transparent process.”
But Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Glendale, said the tool has value, such as in a situation where a particular committee chairman refuses to hear a bill that’s vital to a lawmaker’s constituents.
Striking that bill for another that’s been past the chairman can keep the bill alive.
“It’s kind of like attorneys. You don’t always like them until you need one,” she said. “In some cases, it’s not fair that one person can block an important bill. A striker allows you to get around that person and get a fair hearing.”
Lawmakers introduce dozens of strikers each year.
This year, 75 have already been approved, covering topics that include boosting campaign contributions, establishing a Cowboy Day, creating tax incentives for employers and tax exclusions for religious institutions, and banning goldfish prizes at school fairs.
The Cowboy Day striker appears to be a case of timing as opposed to trying to avoid a public hearing or certain committee. Senate Bill 1139 started out proposing technical changes to existing state law regulating the sending of unsolicited goods.
At some point after the session deadline for introducing new bills, Republican lawmakers decided they wanted legislation honoring cowboys as a symbol of Arizona’s culture.
Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, allowed a striker to SB 1139 declaring the fourth Saturday of July as Cowboy Day during a Senate Government and Environment Committee hearing.
The revised bill passed that committee, the full Senate and then the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. It still needs a final vote of the full House before going to the governor.
If the trend follows prior sessions, hundreds more strikers will be introduced over the next month. All but two striker bills already approved belong to Republicans.
So far, nothing enormously controversial has emerged. But that’s not always the case.
Last year, Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, then a state representative, and Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, replaced a House bill addressing attorney fees with a striker making numerous changes to state abortion laws.
They added the striker after the more mundane bill had already passed the House Government Committee and the full House, meaning the more controversial abortion bill only had a public hearing in the Senate instead of both chambers.
Arizona lawmakers each session propose dozens of strike-everything, or “striker,” amendments. The amendments propose to replace all of the wording in an unrelated bill with an entirely different proposal. This year, lawmakers have already approved 75 strikers. Here are some of them:
Tax credits: Converted House Bill 2037 from making technical corrections to malpractice law to a proposal to allow school tax-credit money be spent on certain sports programs.
Animal prizes: Converted HB 2121 from funding security barriers at the Capitol to banning live-animal prizes.
Tax incentives: Converted HB 2264 from making technical corrections to mobile-home-park law to creating tax benefits for businesses that create new jobs and for the self-employed.
Drones: Converted HB 2269 from a technical correction on liquor-supplier law to a proposal creating a study committee on the use of drones.
HOAs: Converted HB 2371 from a technical correction on construction materials to proposing numerous changes to homeowners-association regulations, including limiting local government ability to require planned communities, allowing HOAs to vote by e-mail and prohibiting HOAs from charging extra fees to renters.
Special education: Converted HB 2395 from a technical correction on medical-malpractice laws to proposing limits on civil lawsuits based on negligence by private schools that provide special-education services.
Religious exemption: Converted HB 2446 from a technical correction on limited partnership laws to proposing property-tax exemptions for religious institutions.
Contribution limits: Converted HB 2593 from technical correction on veterans issues to proposing an increase on campaign-contribution limits.
Early ballots: Converted Senate Bill 1003 from a technical correction on agricultural regulations to proposing restrictions on who can return an early ballot for another person.
Cowboy Day: Converted SB 1139 from a technical correction on unsolicited merchandise to a proposal to make the fourth Saturday of July Cowboy Day.
Adoption subsidies: Converted SB 1062 from a technical correction on boating laws to proposing expanded behavioral-health services for adoptees.
Independent expenditures: Converted SB 1336 from regulating the election commission to a proposal to make it a felony to violate independent-expenditure regulations.
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