Speeders and frequent fliers can rejoice after a House panel early Thursday morning approved an omnibus transportation bill that would cap some speeding ticket fees at $15, and allow the state to produce federally-approved identification cards.
The bill was originally proposed as a batch of innocuous changes to several transportation laws. But it became a catch-all for several stalled transportation proposals that lawmakers attached to the underlying bill and revived in the dead of night.
And although several lawmakers complained about the provision of the bill capping some speeding tickets at $15, they decided the proposal to implement a federally approved license was important enough to approve the overall bill.
The two proposals were contained in a single amendment to the bill, but House Democratic Leader Eric Meyer made a motion to split the amendment into two parts.
Both amendments were adopted, however, as all Democrats and some Republicans voted in favor of the federally approved portion of the amendment, while all but one Republican voted for the $15 speeding ticket portion.
Republican Rep. Michelle Ugenti of Scottsdale, who voted against the speeding ticket change, complained she felt like she was “being held hostage to (vote for) something I don’t want to support because it’s part of a big omnibus bill.”
The vote came at 1 a.m., after the committee had first convened at 9 a.m. on the final day to hear bills in the committee. The committee wrapped up its work after 3 a.m.
Democratic Rep. Stefanie Mach of Tucson blasted her Republican colleagues for holding important debates in the dead of night with no public input.
“We’re sitting here at one o’clock in the morning, when we do not have to be here. (We’re) voting on a bill with amendments that we received tonight, after we’ve gone through a committee since 9 a.m.” she said. “I’m incredibly disappointed with us and frustrated with the whole process.”
The bill still must be approved by the full House before returning to the Senate for a final vote.
Beginning next year, Arizonans will not be able to use a state-issued ID to board an airplane, and will need either a passport or a federally approved license, known as a REAL ID.
Some Arizona residents have already been barred from entering federal buildings as the federal government is phasing in the requirement that states issue the IDs, which were conceived as a security measure following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
And although the change has been on the horizon for more than a decade, Arizona is one of a handful of states that have not adopted a federally-approved license, despite taking money from the federal government to do so.
In fact the state has a law on the books banning the adoption of a REAL ID license.
Rather than repealing the ban outright, Republican Sen. Bob Worsley of Mesa sponsored a bill to work around the ban, allowing the state to issue REAL ID licenses only to those who request them.
The bill assuaged concerns from lawmakers who see the new licenses as a federal mandate that could take away citizens’ privacy by turning over detailed personal information to the federal government.
Worsley’s bill was approved on a 20-10 vote in the Senate, but stalled in the House when it was not assigned to a committee before the hearing deadline for committees other than Appropriations.
That caused a panic in Arizona’s business community and sparked a rash of newspaper editorials urging lawmakers to approve the bill.
House Minority Leader Eric Meyer argued that although he disliked the speeding ticket portion of the bill, the REAL ID portion was so important he had to vote for it.
“The REAL ID portion, in my mind, needs to pass,” he said.
WASTE OF FINITE RESOURCES TICKET
During the energy crisis of the 1970s, the federal government approved a measure stating that, in order to cut down on fuel consumption, all state speed limits could be faster than 55 mph.
Arizona had no choice but to comply, but, in the state’s typical anti-federal mandates fashion, lawmakers devised a loophole by creating a “waste of finite resources currently in short supply” ticket.
The ticket states that if drivers are going up to 10 miles per hour over a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit, they can be charged with a “waste of finite resources” ticket instead of a speeding ticket. The waste of finite resources ticket doesn’t add points against a driver’s record, isn’t reported to insurance companies and costs much less than a regular speeding ticket.
The current bill would allow police to issue the waste of finite resources tickets for speeding less than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in almost any speed limit zone, instead of only in 55 mile per hour zones.
Republican Rep. David Stevens of Sierra Vista introduced HB2662, but the bill languished in the Senate, forcing him to revive it as an amendment on the transportation omnibus bill.
The ticket could not be issued for those who speed in a school crossing, a highway work zone, a speed zone or a business or residential district.
Stevens likened his proposal to photo radar cameras, which don’t ticket people who are going less than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.
“This just give the officer on the scene discretion,” he said.