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Sprint toward sine die

Of the 352 bills approved by lawmakers in the 2010 regular session, nearly 40 percent of them got their final thumbs-up during the two-day sprint toward sine die that saw lawmakers work late into the night in order to wrap up the year’s work.

Lawmakers voted on more than 150 bills in those final two days, with 137 of them receiving the votes needed to be sent to the governor for her consideration.

But with all the action of the final 48 hours, many bills were approved under the radar.
Here are 10 bills that could have a significant impact on the lives of Arizonans but didn’t draw a lot of attention before the Legislature ended its session.

Unless otherwise noted, Gov. Jan Brewer has yet to act on the bills.


This bill makes major changes to how the state’s highway photo-enforcement system works, and paves the way for its elimination. It requires additional signs be posted ahead speed cameras and does not allow the cameras to be stationed within 600 feet of a change in speed limits. The legislation makes it illegal to have a license plate cover that obscures the plate’s number. It also allows counties to add a processing fee to the $165 photo enforcement tickets.

An amendment added in the House also removes the requirement in state law that the Department of Public Safety contract with a private vendor to run the photo enforcement system. As a result, DPS plans to let its contract with Redflex Traffic Systems expire in July. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Russell Pearce, initially passed the Senate 25-4 on March 1. It reached the House floor for a formal vote April 29, and was approved 43-2. In a final vote in the Senate, it easily passed, 22-4, and was sent to the governor.


Anyone who’s ever tried to transfer college credits from one institution to another knows how difficult the process can be. Classes taken at one school aren’t offered at another school, or they are, but are numbered differently. Often, course work may not transfer to another school, meaning the credits are lost. This bill aims to alleviate that pain, by requiring Arizona’s community colleges and state universities to develop and implement a common course numbering system that identifies courses that can be transferred between schools. Community college districts and the Arizona Board of Regents must prepare an analysis of options to do so by December 15, 2010. The bill cleared the Senate 30-0 in February and passed the House 57-0 April 20. The Senate gave it a final vote on April 27, once again approving it 30-0.


In 2008, one candidate was removed from the ballot — and two more successfully staved off attempts — because some of the voters who signed nominating petitions listed post office boxes instead of physical addresses. All three candidates targeted for the challenge were running in Legislative District 2, which includes the Navajo and Hopi reservations, where people often do not have actual addresses. Sen. Albert Hale, one of those who saw his signatures challenged, sponsored this bill, which allows a voter to list a post office box if he or she lives in a residence that has never been assigned an address, provided the person hasn’t moved from the location the county recorder has on file when the person registered to vote. The bill passed the Senate 27-2 in late March, but appeared stalled in the House until the final week. On April 28, it was approved by that chamber 54-5. A final vote in the Senate came later that day, and it was forwarded to the governor after a 30-0 vote.


Motorcyclists won’t have to sit at the back of traffic lineups in 2011, at least in Maricopa County, under a one-year pilot program approved by lawmakers. The bill would allow riders in the state’s largest county to use a technique called “lane-splitting” in the motorcycle community. The bill would allow motorcyclists to drive through stopped traffic by either driving between the lanes of traffic or overtaking a vehicle by driving in the same lane as the vehicle being passed, essentially sharing the lane with a car. The one-year experiment would not allow motorcyclists to pass moving traffic by lane-splitting. Other states, like California, allow the practice, and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Weiers, said it results in fewer fatal accidents. A rider himself, Weiers said motorcyclists stopped at the back of traffic lines run the risk of being crushed between cars that may not see them. The bill cleared the House 54-0 in late March and passed the Senate 19-8 on the final day.


Under this bill, a person would not be required to retreat before threatening to use — or using — deadly physical force in self defense, provided the person is not committing an illegal act at the time. Additionally, no city or county can require a firearms dealer to make or keep records of gun sales. Counties and municipalities are also prohibited from keeping a record of a person who leaves a weapon in temporary storage at a public building or event. The bill originally would have allowed law enforcement officers who are forced to retire because of a disability to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, but it was given a strike-everything amendment in the Senate. The amended version passed the Senate 22-7 on April 27, and cleared the House the next day by a 55-2 vote.


In his last year in office, Sen. Ken Cheuvront, a Democrat from Phoenix, accomplished what he has been chasing the last several years — amend the statutes on Government Property Lease Excise Tax or GPLET. Cheuvront didn’t get everything, but he said he got “65 percent” of what he wanted in an amendment that was offered by Senate President Bob Burns to H2504. The amendment raises the GPLET rates for all new leases. While Burns offered the amendment, he credited Cheuvront and Sen. John Nelson, a Litchfield Park Republican, for the work.

“Ultimately, it was not exactly what I wanted but it makes significant strides to cleaning the mess that we have now,” Cheuvront said.

The way GPLET works is that cities buy land and lease it to the private sector. Because government land is not subject to property tax, business owners leasing the land don’t have to pay the usual levy. Instead, the business would be required to pay the lease excise tax, which is lower than property taxes and is based on square footage instead of property value. When asked how he got the cities to agree on the amendment, Cheuvront said, “I think their fear of a lawsuit.” That is, municipalities would rather have a compromise than risk losing in a lawsuit and having GPLET go away completely, he said. The Senate and the House approved the measure by a vote of 26-1 and 54-3, respectively.


An amendment to H2725 allows schools that get impact aid money from the feds to offset reductions to their soft capital budget. The amendment would affect schools that sit on federal lands, such as those on reservations and military installations. It also limits the schools’ ability to use those funds for only two fiscal years — FY2010 and FY2011. Sen. Albert Hale, has been trying to get this legislation enacted. Hale said Sen. David Braswell offered to help after hearing him often talk about impact aid. He’s grateful to the new senator, he said.
The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 26-1; the House also approved the bill, 53-3.


Sponsored by Rep. Steve Montenegro of Litchfield Park, the measure requires local government entities, beginning in January 2013, to establish and maintain websites that would show a comprehensive report of all revenues and expenditures over $5,000. The House passed the bill by a vote of 32-27; the Senate approved it, 27-3.


The measure, sponsored by Sen. John Huppenthal, changes the classifications used to show schools’ performance by labeling them with a grade system everyone knows well — A,B,C,D, and F. That’s “A” for any school or school district that is excelling and “F” for a school or a school district that is failing. “It’s going to be really clear,” Huppenthal said, referring to how schools’ performance is labeled.
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 20-8; the House approved it, 36-23.


The measure, sponsored by Litchfield Park Rep. Steve Montenegro, would prohibit schools from teaching courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government or resentment toward a race or class of people. It also specifies that rules on disciplinary proceedings of pupils are not to be based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or ancestry. Democrats balked at the measure, calling it “disgusting” and a “direct attack” on teachers. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 17-13; the House approved it, 32-26.

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