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Senators debate scores of bills in rare Friday session

During a rare Friday session, senators gave preliminary approval to about 40 bills in an effort to tackle as many measures as possible with just more than two weeks left before the end of the fiscal year.

The full Senate will vote on the bills most likely on June 15.

Lawmakers deliberated provisions ranging from city elections to guns in restaurants to tax incentives.

But the exchanges were relatively brief.

Indeed, there was virtually no debate on the floor on two abortion bills, one of which would require at least a 24-hour waiting period between the time a woman speaks to a doctor about terminating a pregnancy and the actual procedure.

Senators also approved legislation to provide income and property tax incentives for renewable energy companies that locate in Arizona or expand operations for those that are already in the state. But to qualify for the incentives, companies have to meet certain job creation standards, as well as wage and capital investment requirements.

Sen. Barbara Leff, the bill’s author, said the legislation would help Arizona position itself as a top destination for renewable energy companies.

The aim is to attract manufacturing companies and their headquarters to the state, bringing with them high-paying jobs, she said.

But some lawmakers raised rhetorical questions about what makes the solar or renewable energy industry so special.

Senators also gave the green light to legislation allowing handguns in restaurants amid objections by a lawmaker who owns a restaurant himself.

Sen. Ken Cheuvront, a Phoenix Democrat, said he is not opposed to having guns in restaurants. But restaurant owners should not be required to put up a sign if they don’t want guns on their premises, he said.

As written, S1113 would allow people who have a concealed-weapons (CCW) permit to bring a handgun into an establishment that serves alcohol unless the establishment’s owner posts a sign prohibiting guns.

Cheuvront offered an amendment to instead permit restaurant owners who want to allow guns into their establishments to post a sign saying so. The idea is called “affirmative posting.”

But the amendment, which Democrats supported, was defeated.

Lawmakers usually retire for the rest of the week after completing work on Thursdays, rarely holding business on Fridays.

The Senate, however, had placed a moratorium on hearing non-budget bills for several months so everyone could focus on solving a $3-billion deficit in fiscal 2010. That moratorium had just been lifted recently, and now senators are working extra to make up for lost time.

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