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Ducey: Hemp not funded, student journos need supervision

Governor vetoes six bills, signs 27 in final flurry

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Because of Gov. Doug Ducey, some of Arizona’s needy will be able to get an additional year of help.

Big corporations and investors will get increased tax credits.

And cities will get to ask voters to hike taxes only once every two years.

But farmers can forget about growing industrial hemp. And student journalists are not going to get new First Amendment protections from administrative oversight.

Ducey penned his approval to 27 new laws on Monday, the last of what the legislature approved in its 122-day session. But he found six unacceptable, bringing his veto record this session to 11.

Field of HempProponents of industrial hemp said it would provide Arizona farmers with a new cash crop.

The plant is a type of marijuana, but with a concentration of tetrahydrocannibinol, the psychoactive element of the drug, of not more than 0.3 percent.

Technically, hemp production, like marijuana, remains illegal. But this measure was built on a 2014 federal law that allows state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating industrial hemp in certain circumstances, including research. The governor said his only reason for the veto was the failure of the legislation to provide funding for the state Department of Agriculture to administer the program.

Ducey had a more specific reason for his veto of legislation designed to guarantee both college and high school journalists some First Amendment protections from administrative censorship.

The legislation is the culmination of efforts Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, started when she was a student at Greenway High School and a staffer on the Demon Dispatch. After having some of her cartoons quashed by school administration she lobbied Stan Furman, then her state senator, to provide some shielding for student journalists.

It was only last year Yee said she realized that while the measure had cleared the Senate it died in the House. So now, a senator herself, Yee championed the measure.

In his veto, Ducey said students journalists “play an important role because they are the next generation of journalists who will hold our government and leaders accountable.”

journalism“I worry, however, that this bill could create unintended consequences, especially on high school campuses where adult supervision and mentoring is most important,” he wrote.

On the enactment side of the agenda, the governor agreed to restoring coverage for a full two years for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

In 2015 the governor and lawmakers imposed a one-year lifetime limit on the emergency cash, the stingiest in the nation. Ducey in January asked lawmakers to reverse course, but with restrictions and conditions that could disqualify some for violations like children not being in school at least 90 percent of the time, conditions that may result in just 70 percent of eligible recipients actually getting the second year.

The measure also will allow drug offenders who have completed prison terms to get food stamps to help them get back on their feet, but with a requirement for random drug testing. Another provision waives state licensing fees for people below 200 percent of the federal poverty level — about $40,000 for a family of three — to help them start their own businesses.

On the subject of business, the governor signed three separate measures that proponents say will help economic development.

One extends and expands an existing state corporate income tax credit for research and development activities. This is designed mainly to benefit large corporations, with proponents specifically mentioning Intel.

Ducey also agreed to expand an existing “angel investors” program that gives investors a 30 percent income tax credit — 35 percent for certain targeted industries — for money they invest, mainly in small companies. That provoked controversy over why the state should essentially give away another $10 million — the old cap was $20 million — to people who reap the benefits of their investments but do not share the profits with the state.

There also is an expansion of the Arizona Competes Fund which provides grants to eligible companies, with new language designed to designate some of the dollars to “micro enterprises.”

lawsuit-webOne measure Ducey signed is likely to provoke a lawsuit. It says that cities can seek voter approval of sales tax hikes only in even-numbered years — and only at the November general election.

Current law allows local elections on four specific dates every year. But proponents of the change say that allows city officials to “game” the system, calling elections on days when turnout is likely to be low so as to give the advantage to highly organized supporters who can get out their members.

State lawmakers enacted a similar measure in 2012 telling cities on what dates they could hold candidate elections. But that was voided three years later by the state Court of Appeals which ruled that, at least for the state’s 18 charter cities, the legislature had no right to intercede in what is a strictly local matter.

Other bills signed Monday by Ducey include:

– Giving lawmakers nine cents more a mile in reimbursement for the use of their vehicles than other state employees. House Speaker J.D. Mesnard said the extensive use of personal vehicles by legislators going to and from the capitol and other official events justifies the difference;

– Requiring school districts and charter schools to report the number of suspensions and expulsions that involve possession, use or sale of illegal drugs.

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