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Stuck in budget limbo, lawmakers are pre-filing fewer bills (access required)

Lawmakers have pre-filed fewer bills for the upcoming session than at the same time two years ago, a potential sign that fewer bills will be filed overall. That's not necessarily a surprise given the staggering state budget deficit lawmakers will face when they head back to the Capitol in January.

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Harper looks to protect teachers against punitive-damage awards (access required)

State lawmakers are setting their sights on tort reform measures aimed at protecting educators and capping civil litigation awards arising from cases of death and injury. The two referendums, SCR 1001 and SCR 1003, have been introduced by Surprise Republican Sen. Jack Harper, who said he is seeking to guard educators, businesses and public entities from overzealous litigation.

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Burns dissolves Gould’s committee (access required)

Senate President Bob Burns terminated a committee chaired by Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, on Dec. 10. Gould later told the Arizona Capitol Times he has been stripped of his committee chairmanship. Gould has been chairman of the Senate Retirement and Rural Development Committee.

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Lottery big part of state’s financial plans, but first voters must vote to keep it

While other contributors to state revenues have dropped off severely of late, the Arizona Lottery has been a growing source of tens of millions of dollars per year since its inception in 1980. The lottery funds a variety of voter-approved state programs in areas such as education, health and transportation and has contributed $2.3 billion in all to its beneficiaries.

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With cash flow problems, state may face budget cliff early next year (access required)

Arizona faces another budgetary cliff early next year, when the State Treasurer's Office might have to issue IOUs to pay bills if $735 million expected from the sale-leaseback of state assets does not materialize. Treasurer Dean Martin told a panel of lawmakers that the state needs to have the money by the end of January to be able to make payment to schools by Feb. 1.

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Stricter regs needed for medical pot

Supporters of an effort to legalize medical marijuana in Arizona have taken steps to avoid some of the problems that have riddled California since voters there passed Proposition 215 in 1996. Californians approved a seven-paragraph initiative that protects physicians, caregivers and medical marijuana patients from prosecution. But it led to a massive outgrowth of doctors who prescribe the drug for just about any malady.

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Burns says strategy worked, but he won’t block non-budget bills in 2010 (access required)

Senate President Bob Burns has decided to avoid the failed budget-first strategy that locked up his chamber last session and led to an unhinged, last-minute push to pass hundreds of non-budget bills. What he has in mind for the 2010 session is, in some ways, back to the basics. Most committees, for instance, will be free to debate and vote on legislation unrelated to the budget.

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High court won’t hear suit challenging new immigration law

The Arizona Supreme Court announced on Dec. 2 it will not hear a lawsuit filed by local governments that sought to challenge legislation affecting land development and public benefits for immigrants. The petition for special action filed with the court on Nov. 23 by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns charged that the provisions in question were unconstitutionally included in a state budget bill.

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House communications director steps down

The top press aide for the House Republican caucus has announced she will resign at the end of this week. Becky Blackburn spent less than a year as communications director for the House of Representatives. In an e-mail to House majority members, staff and the media, she announced Dec. 4 would be her final day.

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