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10 new laws that got lost in the shuffle

The 2009 legislative session started out slowly in terms of bill advancement, but it ended in a flurry that left even some lawmakers wondering what all they had voted on.

When the Legislature adjourned sine die on July 1, lawmakers had sponsored 1,133 bills during the 2009 regular session. A total of 213 made the cut and were passed by the Legislature. And 191 bills were signed into law.

That’s a pretty small ratio compared to most sessions. For example, in the past five legislatures, an average of about 1,200 bills were posted per first session. Out of those, an average of 328 was allowed to become law.

Budget discussion delayed work on bills until late in the session, and only six bills had advanced through both chambers of the Legislature as of June 1. But the final month of the session was hurried as lawmakers passed another 207 bills, most of them in the last two weeks.

Important laws regarding abortion and gun rights made headlines in the final rush to action. Yet the governor also signed scores of other bills that will impact Arizona’s future. Here are a few of the bills that gathered little, if any, attention:

H2495 (Chapter 91) – In-State Tuition for Veterans
H2495 influences tuition at state universities in Arizona. While most students are required to have an Arizona driver license, proof of residence or voter registration in order to qualify for in-state tuition, this law extends that umbrella to those who had served in the armed forces and had received an honorable discharge in Arizona. Veterans with honorable discharges “are the right kinds of people to have here in Arizona, to stay in their communities and to go to college where they are currently,” said Rep. Patricia Fleming, a Democrat from Sierra Vista and the bill’s primary sponsor. Fleming cited a large number of veterans in her district as a big motivator to sponsor the bill.

H2458 (Chapter 106) – Dogs and Cats’ Release from Pounds
Sponsored by Rep. Steve Court, a Republican from Mesa, H2458 sets in place a list of conditions regarding the release of an impounded dog or cat, including sterilization, microchip implantation, or a $50 recovery fee. In order for the animal to be released to its owner, one of the conditions must be fulfilled. The law also extends the time that a licensed stray dog or cat must be kept at a pound before being euthanized from 72 hours to 120 hours.

H2133 (Chapter 38) – Life of the Motorcycle Safety Council
This bill allows the continuation of the Arizona Motorcycle Safety Council and the Motorcycle Safety Fund. Previously, the Arizona Department of Transportation was required to deposit one dollar per motorcycle registration fee in to the fund until the fund’s closing on June 30, 2010. The money is to be used to raise motorcycle awareness and to pay for motorcycle education. Under H2133, the life of the council and the fund is extended until 2016. Rep. Jerry Weiers, a Republican from Phoenix and a motorcyclist himself, sponsored the bill. “Whatever we can do to keep motorcyclists safe is a good thing.”

S1008 (Chapter 20) – Retirement Age of the Adjutant General
S1008 changes the mandatory retirement age of the Arizona Adjutant General, who directs the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, from 64 years to the age provided by federal law. Now that Arizona is in accordance with federal law, the adjutant general must retire on the last day of the month in which he/she turns 66 years old. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Waring, a Republican from Phoenix, could not be reached for comment.

S1148 (Chapter 60) – For Sale Signs
Under this new law, a property owner’s right to display a “for sale” sign cannot be infringed upon under any circumstance. Sen. Sylvia Tenney Allen, a Republican from Snowflake, said previous legislation banning homeowners’ associations from removing for sale signs as not far-reaching enough. Under the legislation she sponsored, deed restrictions cannot remove for sale signs from private property also. She cited her job as a real-estate agent and her constituents’ complaints over the matter as her main reasons for sponsoring the bill. “It is extremely important for people to be able to sell their property as well as advertise their property,” said Allen.

S1155 (Chapter 7) – Special Election for Williams Hospital District
Sen. Steve Pierce, a Republican from Prescott, said hospital representatives from a district organized in Williams came to him looking for help. They wanted to hold a special, mail-ballot election to authorize continuation of a secondary property tax to help pay for operations, but were unaware that there was a cut-off date to register for such an election. Pierce said they simply missed the date and “they would have had to wait until November to register.” S1155 authorizes the district in Williams (identified as a “district with a population of fewer than 20,000 persons”) to hold such an election past deadline. “It was purely to help the hospital districts,” says Pierce.

S1180 (Chapter 61) – Towing Companies and the Release of Vehicles
S1180 places additional restrictions on towing companies regarding the releases of vehicles from impound lots. “This is a constant sore spot between the companies and the public,” said Sen. John Nelson, a Republican from Litchfield Park who worked with insurance companies to pass the legislation. For one, the law gives vehicle owners the right to gain access to their personal property inside their cars free-of-charge, provided that they do it within business hours. The law also bans towing companies from bringing broken-down cars to whichever client garage suits their own best interests, instead of requiring them to inform the vehicle owner that they have the right to choose the repair shop location. “There are many good towing companies out there,” says Nelson. “But they say there’s a rotten apple in every barrel.”

S1253 (Chapter 130) – Drive-by Shootings now Felony Murder
The Pima County Attorney’s Office and Sen. John Paton, a Republican from Tucson, worked together to pass legislation to expand the definition of first-degree murder to also include drive-by shootings. “Pima County has an awful lot of drive-bys…We felt it was warranted,” Paton said. He cited the needless deaths and murders of innocent bystanders as his primary motivation in passing the law.

S1256 (Chapter 63) – Mining Omnibus
The state mine inspector brought this legislation to Sen. Sylvia Tenney Allen, and once passed it allotted more rights to the inspector’s position. S1256 allows the mine inspector to collect more fees regarding reclamation plans and “substantial changes” to already approved plans. It also institutes training/education fees for the inspector to collect. “Mining can be very dangerous,” said Allen. “So if you’re a new hire, you need to take some training courses.” Finally, the legislation allows for the board of governors of the Department of Mines and Mineral Resources to collect money for operations and research at the Arizona Mine and Mineral Museum.

S1303 (Chapter 27) – Open Meeting Law
This law requires the official minutes and summaries of legal action undertaken by a governing body, advisory committee, or subcommittee to remain posted on that body’s Web site for at least a year. Sen. Jay Tibshraeny, a Republican from Chandler, said he worked with Arizona’s Ombudsman Office, who saw this as an important issue. “It wasn’t clear how long the public could access these documents,” Tibshraeny said. “Now they don’t have to go down to their jurisdiction and request hard copies.”

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