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Short legislative session threatens multitude of ballot proposals

A sign points to a local polling station for the Arizona Democratic presidential preference election Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A sign points to a local polling station for the Arizona Democratic presidential preference election Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

An early adjournment to the Legislature to avert the spread of COVID-19 would effectively kill a host of proposed ballot referrals.

There are more than a dozen referendums that could make it onto the ballot come November if they pass votes in the House and Senate, but none of them have advanced through both chambers.

A few have made it through the chamber from where they originated, but await their fate in the second chamber. But all of that may be rendered moot if lawmakers decide to pass a “skinny budget” and get out of Dodge.

Senate President Karen Fann has thoroughly suggested sine die will not happen because there is far too much to do outside of the budget, and there’s no way of knowing where COVID-19 will take them in two weeks or even longer.

The Prescott Republican said she favors passing the budget and then going into an indefinite recess, but no session adjournment.

“We need to leave options open if we need to come back in two months and do something else because there might be something new that we’re not even aware of right now that we will need to address,” she said.

If the Legislature does opt to adjourn though, they would have to abandon efforts like the position of lieutenant governor, who would run on a ticket with the governor, changes to the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, and attempts to independently scale back voters’ power, thus having to wait until the 2022 election cycle. And by then, the makeup of the Legislature could look different and be out of Republican control.

nuttEstablishing a lieutenant governor is one of few ballot referrals this session that has bipartisan support, as it passed through the House with a 40-20 vote. The measure, HCR2020, comes from House Majority Whip Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, and would put the lieutenant governor as the governor’s running mate, and give that person oversight of the Arizona Department of Administration, among other duties.

The presumptive gubernatorial nominees must pick their second-in-command no later than 100 days before the election. And in the instance of the governor having to abandon his or her seat, the lieutenant governor would become next in the line of succession, instead of the secretary of state, as it is now the case.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, has made his best strides yet when it comes to getting ample marijuana testing for pesticides. An attempt that would need three-fourths vote in both chambers as a bill, but only a simple majority to land on the ballot for voter-approved changes.

His latest, SCR1032, would propose medical marijuana and other products to be tested for pesticides and it also establishes an additional tax. Borrelli’s measure is also supposed to get a mirror effort in the House in the form of House Speaker Rusty Bowers’ HCR2045, which originally proposed to limit the potency of medical marijuana at 2% THC, but that clause has since been removed. Both measures passed out of their chamber of origin, Borrelli’s with some bipartisan support.

What was looking like a lengthy ballot come November may end up being on the shorter side this year due to the widespread of COVID-19, which doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. It has already had an impact on signature gathering and campaigning, and, on how lawmakers plan to proceed, ballot referrals could be a virus victim.

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