Attacks on ballot initiatives are anti-democratic

Voting ballot box isometric vector icon with paper sheet

There have been several attacks on the democratic process within our state this legislative session. Arizona Republicans in the Legislature have continued to push unpopular and unnecessary legislative items, including extreme attacks on the ballot initiative process. We need our legislators to vote against bills that will intentionally place barriers on the people’s involvement in the democratic process. 

There are currently two bills, SCR1024 and SB1531 that could completely disrupt the ballot initiative process as we know it. There is also a budget reconciliation bill, HB2891, which could potentially grant the attorney general full oversight over ballot initiative descriptions without any consideration from the secretary of state, further politicizing the ballot initiative process that works for all.  

SCR1024 would change the requirements for a ballot initiative based on tax revenues to pass from 50% majority to over ⅔ majority of voters. Under these proposed requirements, Proposition 208, the Invest in Education initiative, would not have passed despite receiving a majority vote. 

SB1531 would require that petition signers hear every word of the ballot initiative description out loud before they sign it. This has never been a requirement under Arizona state statute and forces volunteers who are obtaining signatures to endure an unnecessarily complicated procedure in the initiative process where it has not been required before.   

All of these bills are a serious threat to democracy in Arizona. If we were to allow these harmful ballot initiative attacks to pass through the Legislature, Arizonans could see a decrease in direct democratic involvement, because people are just being met with further restrictions and blockades in essential areas of government. These bills push Arizonans farther and farther away from the Legislature — this should never be the ultimate goal in legislation. 

Maya Perez
Maya Perez

Ballot initiatives have been a constitutional right in our state since 1912 and are essential in ensuring the people of Arizona are able to pass legislation that is wanted and critical for Arizonans. The ballot initiative process was created so that voters could decide on beneficial policies that are not otherwise being addressed by Arizona lawmakers. These initiatives have addressed a multitude of issues which have been solved by voter choice in our state. These issues range from technical corrections, to women’s suffrage, which was one of the first ballot initiatives when Arizona became a state.  

These ballot initiative bills would force the state to redo the standards for the entire ballot measure process, simply because one party does not like it. This notion is entirely anti-democratic and sets a terrible precedent for how the Legislature will handle bills in the future. 

If SB1531 were to pass, we would also see major struggles in passing ballot initiatives. In the process of receiving a signature for an initiative, a volunteer or paid circulator usually hands a clipboard to a signer after a brief explanation, which then allows the signer to read the full language from the initiative on the paper they sign. With the added element of reading the entire language aloud, the AZ GOP are adding additional steps to a process that is already very difficult to obtain signatures. Making essential elements of democracy more tedious and harder to access. 

Arizona Republicans are pushing bills that give them more power in the Legislature and that take away from the power of the people. The attacks on these rights are extensive and Republicans trying to pass these bills argue that they keep “special interest” outside of the Legislature. These bills have major implications for the future of the democratic process in our state. The AZ GOP is aiming to take away voter involvement in our political system as it allows further restriction of progress throughout the state.  

Arizonans do not want to see ballot initiatives go away and we should not have to give up our constitutional protections to this right any time soon. Arizona representatives owe it to their constituents to vote no on SCR1024, SB1531 and HB2891 to save the people of Arizona’s constitutional right to democratic participation. 

Maya Perez is a communications fellow at Progress Arizona.  

Bill is real but nothing like textbook

Above is Bill, a character from the short, animated film, “I’m just a bill” from the Schoolhouse Rock series.
Above is Bill, a character from the short, animated film, “I’m just a bill” from the Schoolhouse Rock series.

Editor’s Note: Political writer Howard Fischer has covered the Arizona Legislature since 1982. He offers a somewhat tongue-in-cheek look at how the process works – or does not, as the case may be.

So you think you know how a bill becomes law?

Well, it isn’t exactly the process from the Schoolhouse Rock song, “I’m just a bill on Capitol Hill.”

Yes, there are a House, a Senate and a governor.

And, yes, there are committees and floor debates.

But what actually happens at the Arizona Capitol? It ain’t textbook.

What the textbook says: A constituent goes to a legislator and suggests a change in law to deal with a problem.

How it happens in the real world: Many more bills come from – and are actually written by – special interests and their lobbyists, people who may have helped elect the lawmaker who agreed to put his or her name on it.

Textbook: The Senate president or House speaker assigns the bill to an appropriate committee for a hearing.

Real world: If the president or speaker doesn’t like the proposal it gets assigned to a committee – or two or three – where is it likely to die. Conversely, a bill that leadership wants will be put into a friendly committee even if it belongs somewhere else.

Textbook: The committee chair schedules each bill for a hearing and then takes extensive testimony from all sides and carefully weighs the merits of each proposal.

Real world: The committee chair can kill a measure simply by refusing to hear it. Few bills by Democrats are heard in the Arizona Legislature. And most measures get little more than a cursory review, with testimony often limited to a few minutes per speaker and committees approving a dozen or more bills within a few hours.

Textbook: During floor debate, amendments are proposed by those seeking to improve the legislation. 

Real world: Amendments are just as often offered by foes of the original measure to undermine the bill – or even embarrass other legislators who have to go on record on a controversial issue with a forced roll-call vote.

Textbook: If a bill fails to get the votes, that’s the end of it for the session.

 Real world: Except when it’s sponsored by a member of the majority party who will then find a way to resurrect it by attaching the provision onto another bill that has not yet been to committee or the floor.

Textbook: When there are differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, the final version is weighed and debated by members of a conference committee.

Real world: The fix usually is in before the conference committee even meets. That’s because the House speaker and the Senate president determine who serves on the committee and picks people who will support the version desired by leadership.

Textbook: Any measure that survives then goes to the governor who signs or vetoes it based solely on what is sound public policy.

Real world: Or what caters to his or her base or contributors.

Bill to fix committeeman snafu in limbo

Lawmakers spent much of March 8 trying to fix a bill passed last week that ended precinct committeemen elections for this year and replaced them with appointments by county party officials.  

The House Government and Elections Committee voted along party lines to advance House Bill 2840, which would repeal last week’s change. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 1720, which would both repeal the change and replace it with new nominating petition requirements but decided to hold off until March 10 before voting on it. 

Republicans will need some Democratic buy-in to get the two-thirds needed to pass the repeal and possible replacement with an emergency clause that will let it take effect in time for this year’s precinct committeeman elections. And House Democrats on March 8 were reluctant to agree to repeal last week’s change unless they know exactly what is going to replace it. 

“We don’t know what specific plans or language will be brought forward to replace this if we do it today,” said Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley. “I’m not comfortable repealing this when we don’t have the plan and we don’t have the language for replacement.” 

Republicans lauded the elected precinct committeeman as a key figure in representative government, and wondered why Democrats weren’t more concerned with taking the power to pick them away from their party’s voters. 

“I am sad to see how the Democrat Party and their precinct committeemen are OK with just being appointed by their leadership,” said Rep. Teresa Martinez, R-Casa Grande. “And I am sad to see the precinct committeemen in the Democrat Party don’t love this process and love the position of precinct committeemen like we do. I’m sad about that.” 

The House and Senate voted unanimously on March 3 to pass House Bill 2839. Primarily intended to lower the signature thresholds for some legislative and congressional candidates who could be hurt by arbitrary changes in district numbering due to redistricting, the bill was introduced that morning and passed hours later without any committee hearings or public input. Lawmakers wanted to pass it before petition filing opened on March 4. 

However, it contained a provision appointing precinct committeemen instead of electing them, spurring outrage and blowback from conservative grassroots activists over the weekend. Several lawmakers said they didn’t notice at the time – since the change passed as “session law” and not in a regular bill, the changes were in the same black font as the rest of the language and not highlighted with red strikes or new blue capital letters like new language in other legislation. 

Legislators scrambled to walk back their mistake on March 7 with a motion to repeal the section of the bill referring to precinct committeemen, but could not gather enough support from Democrats to get the repeal through. 

Most of the resistance has come from Republican precinct committeemen. Democratic Party Chairwoman Sen. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, said she hasn’t really heard concerns. Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, suggested this could be due to divides within the Republican Party. 

I think they all see this as an opportunity to take control,” he said. “They’re seeing anybody that disagrees with them as an enemy. This is becoming a battleground for them, this PC process, so that’s why it’s so important, and it’s really going to determine the future of the Republican Party.” 


Bill would repeal law allowing dating abuse instruction in public schools


The vice chairman of the House Education Committee wants schools to teach students less about dating, but tighten up laws that require them to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

And he also wants to end “social promotion.”

Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, is proposing to repeal a state law that now allows , but does not require, schools to provide “age-appropriate” instruction into dating abuse, with HB 2005 replacing it with an outright ban.

“I just don’t believe, based upon conversations I’ve had, that the schools should necessarily be dealing with high school dating amongst the students when they should be dealing more with the reading, writing and arithmetic,” he told Capitol Media Services on Wednesday.

John Fillmore
John Fillmore

Arizona is one of several states that has laws aimed at “dating abuse,” defined as a pattern of behavior in which one person threatens to use physical, sexual, verbal or emotion abuse to control that person’s dating partner. And the law says that category of “dating partner” can include everything from casual to serious and long-term relationships.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that one in three U.S. teens between 14 and 20 have been the victims of dating violence. About the same number, the agency reports, have committed relationship violence themselves.

More specifically, nationwide one out of every eight girls in grades 9 through 12 have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to. And 42 percent of female rape victims were first raped before the age of 18.

Another study cited by the U.S. Department of Education from 2009 found that fully a quarter of sixth graders thought it was acceptable for boys to hit their girlfriends.

What makes the issue critical, according to the federal agency, is that there is a link between this kind of violence and academic performance. The research cited also says that teen victims of dating violence are more likely than non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in risky sexual behaviors or attempt or consider suicide.

“I don’t know what other states have done,” Fillmore said. “I don’t really care.”

He said he sees efforts like that as “social engineering” at the expense of academics. The result, he said, is “the kids are not going to be able to fend for themselves in society.”

That plugs in to Fillmore’s decision to sponsor HB 2013.

Current law allows local school boards to authorize teachers to make the final decision whether to promote or retain a pupil in grade schools or to pass or fail a student in high school.

Fillmore proposes to repeal that, replacing it with a requirement for teachers to retain pupils in grade schools and to fail high school students if they do not meet the academic standards adopted by the state Board of Education.

He said there are schools in which only a small percentage of students are testing as proficient in reading, math and science.

“But the same school has an 85 and 87 percent graduation rate, I’m thinking to myself those kids are not prepared to go out into society and fend for themselves,” Fillmore said.

And then there’s the question of student activities at the beginning of each day.

Under current law, school districts must set aside a specific time each day for “students who wish” to recite the pledge.

Fillmore’s HB 2107 removes that language, saying pupils “shall recite the Pledge of Allegiance” during this time. The only way out if for a parent to make a request to excuse his or her child.

“Patriotism is a good thing in America,” he said. “The love of our country and our free enterprise system I think is something the kids should understand and respect.”

But HB 2017 has something more.

It would add a requirement that schools set aside a specific time each day “for pupils to engage in quiet reflect and moral reasoning for at least one minute.” Here, too, there is a mandate for students to participate unless a parent seeks an exemption.

“A moment of private reflection is good for everybody,” Fillmore said. “I know that I’ve been told in my life I need more of that.”

Fillmore also has crafted a variety of other education-related bills for the new legislative session that begins in January, including:

  •  requiring school boards to develop procedures allowing a teacher to refuse to readmit a pupil who was removed from the classroom for disciplinary reasons;
  •  giving teachers legal immunity for disciplining any student if it was done “in accordance with the law;”
  •   imposing a fine of up to $10 a day on parents whose children are “habitually truant;”
  •   removing a requirement that schools that provide environmental education program include a discussion of “economic and social implications;”
  •  mandating the state Board of Education to require schools to offer a course in personal finance, something that is now only an option.

Both sides of voucher war prepare for battles after vote

Stacks of voters' signatures were delivered to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office on Aug. 8 after Save Our Schools Arizona collected more than 110,000 signatures in three months. If it survives legal challenges, the referendum will appear on the 2018 general election ballot as Proposition 305. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)
Stacks of voters’ signatures were delivered to the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office on Aug. 8, 2018, after Save Our Schools Arizona collected more than 110,000 signatures in three months. If it survives legal challenges, the referendum will appear on the 2018 general election ballot as Proposition 305. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Opponents of Proposition 305 may soon cry victory over its defeat, but the fight over school choice and Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts will not end in November.

The American Federation for Children is officially a “no” on Prop. 305 despite the group’s pro-school choice stance, and Americans for Prosperity won’t be organizing support for the ballot measure.

A no vote will mean the Republican-controlled Legislature’s 2017 expansion of the ESA program will not stand, while a yes vote means it will.

But the group responsible for sending the ESA expansion to the ballot, Save Our Schools Arizona, is not taking the vote for granted, nor preparing to wind down after November.

SOS Arizona spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker said the dwindling support for Prop. 305 does not signal a change of heart by pro-voucher groups. Rather it tells her that they are willing to take a loss this time and try again during the 2019 legislative session.

So she wants to send a message in the November 6 general election – that even Arizona, a school choice pioneer, will reject the expansion of school vouchers.

“We don’t just want Prop. 305 to lose. We want it to go down in flames,” she said.

Arizona’s empowerment scholarship account program pays parents or guardians 90 percent of the money that would have gone to a student’s public school. The money can be spent on private school tuition, tutoring and home-school curriculum. The program began in 2011 for only special needs students and has grown to allow an array of students, such as ones from failing schools and children whose parents are in the military.

The Legislature in 2017 expanded the program to allow for all Arizona students to be eligible, but capped the program’s enrollment at about 30,000 by the 2022-2023 school year.  

The fate of Prop. 305 may be mere speculation at this point, but that isn’t stopping advocates and opponents from contemplating what should come next.

Penich-Thacker said SOS Arizona has discussed ideas for an education funding mechanism that could rally bipartisan support.

That mechanism would have to ensure the funding it generates is not then drained by programs like ESAs, though.

“Coming up with a great education funding mechanism is all fine and well,” she said. “But if we’re going to be poking holes in that bucket and draining it right out through unregulated ESAs and STOs, what’s it for?”

She said SOS Arizona has also had preliminary conversations about possibly running or supporting a bill to address accountability and what they see as other shortcomings of the ESA program.

But Penich-Thacker knows they’re not the only ones likely preparing for another shot.

“This is one battle that they’re willing to lose because they’ll be back in January with a different bill number but with the same goal of unregulated, universal ESA voucher expansion,” she said.

There is hope for a compromise, but she’s not so sure if the pro-voucher crowd is on the same page.

House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said he does not see the point of declaring a position on Prop. 305.

He said there will always be a robust conversation around school choice at the Legislature, and ESAs are part of that no matter what happens with Prop. 305.

He has expressed trepidation over the expansion as written before, particularly because the law and it’s cap of 30,000 students would be protected under the Voter Protection Act. But he can see both sides of the dilemma for school choice advocates like himself.

In the future, he said more consideration could be given to specific carve outs for certain student populations or which enrollment cap may be more “legitimate.”

Commercial real estate industry secures major wins in 2018 session


The 2018 state legislative session was very productive for the commercial real estate industry.

The biggest victory was a grand compromise on GPLET (Government Property Lease Excise Tax) reform. A unanimous deal was struck between developers, cities and tax watchdogs on the long-term retention of the 8-year property tax abatement and narrowing the application in the future to a capped land mass contained in a central business district (CBD) within a city. HB2126 passed virtually unanimously and was signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey on April 17. The Arizona Multihousing Association, a key coalition partner with CRE, also played an instrumental role in advancing the compromise by proposing land mass percentage boundaries for a CBD, rather than dwelling on subjective “slum” and “blight” definitions in the eyes of the beholder.

Tim Lawless
Tim Lawless

Another joint victory for CRE was on the education front with the passage of SB1390, which extended the soon expiring 0.6 cent state sales tax rate for K-12 education – voters approved the original Proposition 301 in 2000 – to get more resources of every dollar expended into the classroom. That bill was signed into law on March 26.

Speaking of K-12 education and getting more resources into the classroom, we supported Gov. Doug Ducey’s 20 percent teacher pay increase contained in one of the budget bills. Significantly, this pay raise did not require that general taxes needed to be raised, as was advocated by some groups, since it will be financed through future expansion of our state economy. As we know, a general tax increase would likely hit small businesses harder than other constituencies. Playing a constructive role in getting more state resources into K-12 gives our industry credibility to be at the negotiation table as calls to raise taxes next year will only get louder. We need this seat to protect our industry and keep our economy growing.

Another CRE victory was support for reform of the property tax appeals system, which now prohibits a tax court from making a ruling where the property tax assessment for a home or business can exceed what the county assessor was originally seeking. HB2385, which applies retroactively, was signed into law with an emergency clause on March 23.

CRE had another major victory by amending the archaic prime contracting law for maintenance, repair, replacement or alteration or MRRA activities, especially as it relates to the tax treatment of alterations and improvements. Originally, SB1409 was written to exclusively benefit the cities and general/sub-contractors at the expense of CRE owners, as it would have raised taxes on owners $50 million per year. We fought this tax increase windfall and we struck a fairer compromise where the changes in TPT tax law will either be revenue neutral or a slight tax cut for owners while at the same time providing clarity and more simple compliance on alterations/improvements for general and sub-contractors. This bill was passed the last night of session by wide margins.

Finally, CRE had a huge joint victory along with the AMA also on the last night of session by successfully opposing a major tax break proposed for selected elderly home owners who would have their property tax rates slashed in half (10 percent assessment ratio reduced to 5 percent) at the expense of businesses who would bear the cost shift implications. Not only was this potentially a violation of the Arizona Constitution’s “uniformity clause” of taxation, it would have established a horrible precedent. For instance, why not provide military vets an assessment ratio break on their home, or a teacher, or a nurse, or a millennial struggling to afford their first home? SB1268 died with 11 votes in favor and 45 opposed and is now a good litmus test for future tax shift bills that come down the pike.

CRE had its only loss of the session by supporting HB2280, which dealt with curbing the practice of ABOR to allow virtually unlimited property tax breaks to private developers whose projects are situated on university land. This is a major and growing property tax shift to other similar businesses, which also unduly shorts K-12 education. While the bill died, the Arizona Tax Research Association did yeoman’s work in pointing out the policy and constitutional problems associated with this new and growing practice and momentum is only building for reform next year.

— Tim Lawless is president of Commercial Real-estate Executives for Economic Development and executive director of Buildings Owners and Managers Association of Greater Phoenix


The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

Ducey signs first bill into law in 2020 session

Doug Ducey (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)
Doug Ducey (Photo by Dillon Rosenblatt/Arizona Capitol Times)

Gov. Doug Ducey signed his first bill of the 2020 legislative session Monday, which allows Arizona’s election supervisors to use electronic methods to fix errors on ballots. 

The bill, S1135, written and shepherded by Sen. Eddie Farsnworth, R-Mesa, received unanimous bipartisan support and was one of several fast-tracked by Senate Republicans last week. Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, pushed the bill through the chamber last week in order to send it over to the House and pass it with an emergency clause well before the March 17 Presidential Preference Election. 

The bill, requested by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, allows election supervisors to fix ballot errors electronically. If a voter makes an error in filling out a ballot, such as drawing a circle where there should be a line or making an errant mark, it goes to an adjudication team that includes a representative from each party to determine if the voter’s intent is clear. 

Under that process, the entire ballot needs to be duplicated without errors, recast and counted. Allowing for electronic adjudication should make counting votes faster and improve confidence in election results, Fann said on January 28, the week she pushed the bill through.

“We saw what some people thought was potential problems last year because it was taking people days, weeks to count and verify, and people were going to bed with one result one night and another the next night.  This is a way to help us alleviate some of those problems, while still keeping the integrity of it,” Fann said On January 28.

Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, questioned the need for the bill and said she wants to ensure election supervisors maintain a paper trail for all ballots.

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously identified Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Mesa, as a Representative. 

First day of bill filing brings out early birds with ERA, title lending, short-term rentals measures


Victoria Steele walked into the Arizona Senate before the sun rose Friday, wearing a purple, white and green suffragette sash over her dark pantsuit and holding the most important piece of legislation she plans to run next year. 

David Farnsworth was just a few seconds behind her, a stack of his own bills in hand. The two state senators — one a liberal feminist from Tucson, the other a self-described constitutional conservative from Mesa — sat chatting, waiting for the sun to rise and Senate staff to arrive so they could file the first bills of the 2020 legislative session.  

Friday was the first day Arizona lawmakers could introduce bills for the 2020 session, and lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol Mall used the day to lay the groundwork for what will be high-profile fights during the coming months: everything from ratifying the federal Equal Rights Amendment to regulating the title lending industry to returning local control to cities ravaged by the short-term rental marketplace.

Victoria Steele
Victoria Steele
David Farnsworth
David Farnsworth

Steele woke up at 4 a.m. and drove to the Capitol to introduce this year’s attempt to make history by becoming the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The Congressional deadline to approve the amendment, which states simply that equal rights may not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex, passed without ratification four decades ago.

But feminists in recent years have rallied around the amendment, with Nevada and Illinois becoming the 36th and 37th states to ratify it. Supporters expect Virginia, which just elected a Democratic majority in both chambers, to become the 38th state next spring. 

Against that backdrop, Steele is pushing again for Arizona to join the cause. Even if Arizona won’t go down in history as the 38th state to ratify the ERA, Steele said approving it is important both in case the ERA runs into legal challenges and to preserve Arizona’s historical reputation as a leader in women’s equality. The state gave women the right to vote eight years before the 19th Amendment was ratified, has had more female governors than any other state and has one of the highest shares of women in the Legislature. 

“Even if they (Virginia) do it first, we do not want Arizona to be on the historical short list of states that never ratified,” she said. “We can show the women and girls of Arizona that we care about them.” 

Republican Sens. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, Heather Carter, Kate Brophy McGee and Tyler Pace signed on to bills to ratify the ERA last year, but supporters will have to convince at least two House Republicans to vote for the resolution and persuade influential committee chairmen to give it a hearing. 

Farnsworth, meanwhile, jumped into a brewing fight between the title loan industry and its critics with several bills that would add more regulations to the industry. One would prohibit title lenders, who offer short-term loans at typically high interest rates with a car as collateral, from making these loans to people who don’t actually own their car outright. 

Two others are differently worded attempts to cap annual interest rates for title loans at 36 percent. Both provisions are included in the Arizona Fair Lending Act, a 2020 ballot initiative supported by the same advocates who fought to stop payday lending in the state. 

A competing ballot initiative supported by the title loan industry would overturn almost all laws that limit annual interest rates and prohibit state and local governments from enacting new ones. Farnsworth’s wading into this fight with a series of bills to add more regulations to the title loan industry. 

Another measure Farnsworth filed this morning would require the Department of Child Safety to provide a monthly report to state leaders listing the dates children go missing from state custody, those children’s ages and a description of how they went missing. 

It’s the culmination of months of meetings with critics of the department, who described an epidemic of missing children. 

“My largest priority is to require DCS to give more detail on these reports regarding missing children,” Farnsworth said. 

Isela Blanc
Isela Blanc

On the House side, Reps. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, and Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley, fired the opening salvo with a bill to repeal a controversial 2016 law that prohibits municipal or county governments from regulating or banning short-term rental companies like Airbnb.

That law was pitched as something that could facilitate local economic growth, but critics and some city governments say that the unchecked spread of short-term rentals has driven up housing costs and reduced the amount of long-term rental inventory on the market.

“A large majority (of the rentals) are not grandma renting out a second bedroom,” Blanc said. “They’ve been converted into unregulated motels.”

Blanc and Lieberman said they’re confident the repeal effort can get bipartisan support, as the bill doesn’t add any extra regulation.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, was one of the few legislators of either party who opposed the 2016 law. He said he’s glad Blanc and Lieberman are taking a whack at a repeal, but he’s not so optimistic that they convince both the Legislature and the governor to essentially concede that, three years ago, they supported legislation that has harmed the state.

“Minds don’t change that quickly,” he said. “People are reluctant to admit mistakes.”

For Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, the first bill of the year was a rerun of marijuana legislation he tried to pass last year that was killed by Senate Democrats. His would allow the Department of Health Services to inspect any nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary during its normal business hours, without providing advance notice of an inspection.

Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act, approved by voters in 2010, put the Department of Health Services in charge of operating the program and inspecting dispensaries and their “infusion kitchens,” where marijuana edibles are produced. But because of the advance notice clause, Department officials have been unable to inspect those kitchens. 

Any attempt to modify a voter-approved initiative takes a three-fourths majority in both legislative chambers and can only be done to further the intent of the law. Before re-introducing the bill, Borrelli told the Arizona Capitol Times he expects it to pass now that the public knows more about how inspections work.

“Hopefully the Democrats understand what the bill is now,” he said. “I guess Senator Borelli was a visionary.”

Arren Kimbel-Sannit contributed to the reporting of this story.

Gila River threatens to pull out of drought contingency plan

The calcium markings on the rock formations in Lake Mead, a Colorado River reservoir, show the impact of a 18-year drought on water levels. If the level drops below 1,025 feet, a state report says Arizona will lose access to 480,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River, or enough water for about a million family households for one year. (Photo by Alexis Kuhbander/Cronkite News)
The calcium markings on the rock formations in Lake Mead, a Colorado River reservoir, show the impact of a 18-year drought on water levels. If the level drops below 1,025 feet, a state report says Arizona will lose access to 480,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River, or enough water for about a million family households for one year. (Photo by Alexis Kuhbander/Cronkite News)

The Gila River Indian Community is threatening to blow up the drought contingency plan because of efforts it says will undermine its claim to water rights.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers is proposing changes to state laws in a way he said will protect the rights of farmers in the Safford Valley who have been “scratching it out” to water from the Gila River.

But attorney Don Pongrace who represents the Gila River Indian Community said what Bowers proposes to do would effectively overturn and nullify a federal appellate court ruling which said that those who are upstream who have not used the water have forfeited those rights.

And he said courts have ruled those rights ‒ and the water that goes with it ‒‒ belong to the tribe.

“These people are not scratching out an existence,” he said of the farmers Bowers said he wants to help. “They’ve been stealing water from the community since 1870.”

More immediately significant, Pongrace said if Bowers pushes HB 2476 the tribe will withdraw from the plan for how the state will deal with the expected shortage of water coming from Lake Mead. That’s crucial because the state is counting on about 500,000 acre feet of water from the tribe, much of it to help Pinal County farmers deal with the cutback in Colorado River water.

“This is a direct assault on the community’s water rights,” Pongrace told Capitol Media Services.

“It’s a poison pill, he said. “If this bill were to be considered and enacted into law the community will withdraw its prior approval (of the drought contingency plan) and, more importantly, its water.”

Bowers is undeterred.

“I’m not going to back down,” he said.

And he lashed out at the tribe for trying to link the issues.

“This is just showing their mentality to everybody who gets in their way,” Bowers said. “It’s all ‘Our way or no way.’ ”

Pongrace, however, said the community doesn’t see it that way.

He said on one hand the state is seeking the tribe’s cooperation and its water for the drought contingency plan. That, he said, is inconsistent with the state moving to undermine the tribe’s claim to Gila River water.

He said the state can’t have both.

“This is not negotiable,” Pongrace said, saying he is speaking for tribal Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis.

“You cannot take actions like this without consequences,” he said of the Bower legislation.

“He can decide to try to take this up,” Pongrace continued. “And the consequence he’s going to face as it stands right now, is essentially no DCP.”

At this point he believes the tribe has the upper hand.

“There is no way the drought contingency plan can be done without the consent of the Gila River Indian Community,” Pongrace said, what with the amount of water needed to replace what the state can no longer withdraw from the Colorado River. There’s also the fact that the Bureau of Reclamation has given Arizona until only the end of the month to approve the drought contingency plan or face the prospect of the agency coming up with its own alternative, one that could leave Arizona with even less water between now and 2026 than the multi-state plan proposes.

“It will really mess it up,” Bowers acknowledged if the tribe yanks its support — and its water. But he’s not ready to give up on his legislation.

“We’ll go looking for water somewhere else” if that becomes necessary, he said.

Anyway, Bowers said, it’s not in the tribe’s interest to pull out.

He said the drought plan involves various interests, including the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the federal government and the Arizona Water Banking Authority actually buying the water from the tribe.

“It’s not charity,” Bower said, with the tribe set to get more than $200 million over the six-year period of the plan. And he said there’s no way the tribe could use all that water anyway.

“Anyone who says we’re not using our water is simply lying,” Pongrace responded. Anyway, he said, the tribe actually would do better in the long run without participating in the drought contingency plan, saying it would get to keep all of its water through at least 2026.

He said the tribe was trying to do its part for the greater good, only to be slapped with the Bower legislation.

“It essentially says to us, no, you’re really not part of Arizona because those of us who control what happens in Arizona get to make the rules and change the rules on you so you lose your water rights,” Pongrace said

At the heart of the dispute is Arizona water policy of who has the right to use it and when it can be lost.

“It’s essentially, ‘Don’t sit on your rights’ water law which, given the scarcity of the resource makes sense,” Pongrace said. “It says if you don’t use your water rights for a period of five years, then it can be declared forfeited unless there’s a justified excuse.”

The essence of what Bowers seeks to change is a 2017 decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluding that use-it-or-lose it law applies even to water rights first acquired prior to 1919.

Bowers said there’s a good reason for the change.

He said the Gila River often floods and even changes its banks, forcing farmers to change where they draw their water and even the layout of their land. But Bowers said that latter action then requires approval by the Army Corps of Engineers, a process that can take years.

Bowers said he doesn’t want the farmers to lose their rights in the interim simply because they are unable to take the water for some period.

But Pongrace said the forfeiture actions the community is pursuing – the ones that the Bowers bill would undermine – is designed to prevent landowners from declaring that they have the right to some river water even though they haven’t been using it for decades.

“These forfeiture actions are intended to ensure that they don’t try to somehow go back and resuscitate long-moribund rights and try to somehow bring those rights into production,” Pongrace said.

Higher standards give students more opportunities to succeed

All students should graduate high school having completed a set of foundational courses and skills needed to prepare them for what’s next. This has been the core philosophy behind Arizona’s high school graduation standards. However, this past week, the Arizona House passed a measure (HB2278) that contradicts that philosophy by proposing two ways for students to graduate high school—one in which the required math courses are those needed to be prepared for college and another in which less rigorous math courses are optional alternatives to satisfy graduation requirements.

Paul J. Luna

The measure represents a problematic way of thinking; namely, that because some students may not be planning to go to college right after they graduate high school, they should not have to take the foundational courses that make college-going, not to mention entrance into many career pathways, possible.

This lowering of expectations and option for less rigor will likely result in a de facto tracking system. Some students will graduate from high school having completed the coursework required for success in college and career. They will be able to qualify for college admission and be equipped with career-ready skills and knowledge. But other students—who opt out of the rigorous courses that help develop essential skills for a range of careers or that are required for college admission and career training programs—will graduate with fewer postsecondary and professional options. As a result, they will have access to a much narrower range of options in the short term, as well as more limits on their earning potential and professional mobility in the longer term.

The students most likely to be detoured from a high school academic pathway that makes career and college viable options are those who receive the least information about their educational and professional options after high school. And data on educational inequities suggest that the students who know the least about their college options typically come from backgrounds that already are underrepresented in Arizona’s postsecondary education system. That means, for example, that more low-income, Black, Latino, and Native American students will be negatively impacted by lowered expectations for their achievement than will white and more affluent students.

Furthermore, enacting policies that have the potential to decease college-readiness and college-going undercuts Arizona’s widely accepted goal of achieving 60& college attainment by 2030. It also runs counter to efforts on the part of the Arizona Board of Regents to expand postsecondary access through the Arizona Promise Program, the eligibility requirements for which include earning admission to Arizona universities, and rigorous and advanced coursework across multiple subjects is required for admission.

If we want to give all students—not just the few who already have a plan mapped out— the widest array of life choices, then we need to prepare them well in high school for future opportunities throughout their lives and careers. Rigorous high school coursework and graduation requirements are an important means through which to guide students along pathways that maximize the available options after high school. By raising expectations, rather than lowering them, we can give all students the opportunities they need to succeed—in school and in life.

Paul J. Luna is President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation.

Lawmaker renews effort to restrict college voters

This April 11, 2018, photo shows a sign directing voters to an early-voting location in Surprise, Ariz. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs settled a lawsuit with the Navajo Nation by adopting an elections procedure that allows counties five days to fix early ballots that don’t match signatures on file or are missing signatures. PHOTO BY ANITA SNOW/ASSOCIATED PRESS
This April 11, 2018, photo shows a sign directing voters to an early-voting location in Surprise, Ariz. PHOTO BY ANITA SNOW/ASSOCIATED PRESS

A veteran lawmaker is making another bid at blocking students from voting where they go to school.

The proposal by Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, would create an exception to existing law which says that someone is a resident for voting purposes based on actual physical presence “with an intent to remain.”

His HB 2461 would spell out that anyone who is living in a dormitory “or other temporary college or university address” is presumed to be there only temporarily and is there “with intent to return to some other permanent address.”

A separate provision actually could have even more far-reaching implications.

It would ban the use of any address “at which the individual does not intend to reside for 12 months of each year.” And that, in turn, could create problems for people who consider Arizona their home but may spend several months a year elsewhere.

Thorpe told Capitol Media Services it’s not his intent to throw hurdles in the path of students who want to be politically involved.

Bob Thorpe
Bob Thorpe

“I want them to vote,” he said. But he said it’s something different when a youngster from Tucson decided to attend Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

“So what that kid needs to do is take out his No. 2 pencil and check a little box when he registers to vote that says he wants to get a mail-in early ballot,” he said, one from the community Thorpe believes is his true domicile.

But this is more than an academic exercise.

“I’ve had numerous constituents who have come to me and are as just as angry as all getout, including business people up here in Flag, when they have a student who’s only living here six months out of the year who then changes the dynamics of an election,” Thorpe said.

There is some evidence that has happened.

Most notable was the 2016 vote by Flagstaff residents to eventually move to city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, a measure Thorpe opposed. It was approved by a margin of 54-46 percent.

But in precincts around the Northern Arizona University campus, it passed with a 2-1 edge − even close to 3-1 at two precincts which include parts of the campus. And that was enough to blunt the vote of some residential precincts where the measure failed.

“They’re really hurting now,” Thorpe said. “I’ve had restaurant owners and hotel owners, you name it, that are just reeling under the minimum wage.”

Thorpe also acknowledged he has not done particularly well in his election bids in not just the precincts in and immediately around the campus but in the entire Coconino County part of his legislative district. He lost his home county but won his 2018 reelection bid by just 577 votes only because of support from Yavapai, Gila and Navajo counties.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is the state’s chief election official, said what Thorpe is proposing works against what she has been trying to do.

“We’ve have a pretty clear record here in my office of working to try to engage students, make it easier for them to be able to register to vote in the place that they choose to do so,” she told Capitol Media Services. And Hobbs, a Democrat, said having students be able to vote where they go to school − and where they spend most of the year − “helps them be more engaged in their communities here.”

“I don’t know why we wouldn’t be encouraging that,” she said.

This isn’t a partisan issue.

When Thorpe tried this several years ago, Hobbs’ predecessor, Republican Michele Reagan, said her office also was “committed to make it easier for students to register to vote.” And Reagan said she was working with Arizona State University, the Arizona Public Interest Research Group and Rock the Vote on a project to encourage students to register to vote when they are registering for class.

Hobbs also said that Thorpe’s legislation is built on what may be a fiction about students, citing the example of her own son, Sam Goodman, a student in his third year at Arizona State University in Tempe.

For the first year, Hobbs said, her son lived in a dorm. And she had the expectation that he would return to the family home in Phoenix.

“He came back for two months in the summer and then he moved to an apartment,” Hobbs said.

“He considers himself a Tempe resident,” she said. “He’s not planning to come back to our house.”

And Hobbs said it makes no sense to treat all students as temporary residents of their college communities based simply on “what you think is going to happen.”

Thorpe said he’s open to listening to any arguments that Hobbs has about the wording of the measure to ensure that students do not get disenfranchised.

“I want them to vote,” he said, but on issues that he believes affects their friends and parents. “For them to be in a community part time and change the dynamics of a local election for people who live here 12 months out of the year and they’re only living here part time, I think that’s really unfair philosophically.”

Ditto, he said, on part-year residents.

“I think it’s just as bad for them to vote in Arizona (as it is) for a kid that lives in Tucson but going to school for five months, six months out of the year in Flagstaff,” Thorpe said. “I think the snowbird should be voting in Minnesota and the kid from Tucson should be voting in Tucson.”

Hobbs said her concern would be to ensure that people who have residences in more than one state vote only once. Beyond that, she said, “there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to vote where they choose.”

More practical, she said, is what happens to someone who may spend 11 months of the year at one location and a month at another home somewhere else. As Hobbs reads Thorpe’s bill, you’re totally disenfranchising them from being able to vote.”

Lawmakers’ focus veers from Covid relief in 1st weeks of session

Covid 19 stock

After nearly four full weeks of session, none of the bills lawmakers sent to the governor’s desk deals with the Covid pandemic, a shift in emphasis that’s especially noticeable given lawmakers’ insistence to help residents and businesses survive the crisis.

Instead, the bulk of pandemic-related measures to clear committees so far seek to limit or overturn Gov. Doug Ducey’s emergency authorities.

Absent from the debate, for example, is the priority by Republican lawmakers to ensure businesses don’t face frivolous lawsuits. Also left to be tackled is House Speaker Rusty Bowers’ priority to accelerate the delivery of vaccines in the state. 

Indeed, the first measure the governor signed, plus the four others awaiting his signature, tackle non-Covid issues. 

The governor earlier outlined an agenda to confront the visus, which he hoped the Legislature would pass. 

In his state address. Ducey focused on Covid liability protections for businesses and expanding access to broadband internet, as well as offering laptops and wi-fi to students, a problem Covid magnified.

CJ Karamargin, Ducey’s communications director said, the governor’s office is “not going to legislate ourselves out of this pandemic,” a play on Ducey’s recent comments that the state can “vaccinate our way out” of the pandemic. 

“The legislative session is just getting underway. We’re confident they’re gonna deal with the governor’s agenda,” he said. 

To date, the virus has claimed the lives of nearly 14,000 Arizonans and infected more than 750,000. 

The only pandemic legislation to have gained any headway in the Legislature seek to chip away at the governor’s emergency authorities, which Ducey has deployed to manage the COVID-19 crisis.

Republicans and Democrats alike say they want to help Arizonans. 

Democrats want to raise the unemployment assistance cap of $240 and help Arizonans avoid evictions. Arizona’s unemployment benefits are the second-lowest in the country, and it was a hot topic throughout the summer months when federal assistance first expired and Ducey made no inclination to raise the state’s cap. He instead punted to Congress to act. 

Republicans, on the other hand, seek to protect businesses from lawsuits arising out of claims that an individual contracted the virus at a company’s premises, a priority for the majority party and an idea Ducey supports but which didn’t make it through last year.

Some, like Rep. Joseph Chaplik, R-Scottsdale, want to exempt businesses from following mask mandates. A measure from Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, would prevent businesses from requiring employees to get the Covid vaccine as a condition to return to work. And Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, wants to expand the definition of essential businesses to include those that sell firearms. 

Ducey said in an interview in early January that there’s a reason he never called the Legislature into a special session last year.  

“In a national emergency or a state emergency, action is required. And that is really not what the legislative process is famous for,” he told the Arizona Capitol Times

Absent legislation, Duecy’s administration is focusing on accelerating the delivery of the Covid vaccines. 

The state now operates two statewide vaccination sites. The second site, which opened on Feb. 1, already added 21,000 new appointments that were scooped up in a little under an hour.

The first legislation Ducey signed this session comes from Chandler Republicans Rep. Jeff Weninger and Sen. J.D. Mesnard, who introduced mirror measures at the behest of Attorney General Mark Brnovich to crack down on workplaces discriminating against pregnant women. Mesnard and Weninger also introduced the bill last year, but it died due to the pandemic. 

The other bills on the governor’s desk received bipartisan support, but none deals with the pandemic.

Among the bills lawmaker fast-tracked to Ducey’s desk is a proposal by Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Scottsdale, to close a “loophole” when disciplining non-certified teachers accused of misconduct. Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale introduced the same legislation last year, but it did not make headway before the pandemic shut down the session. 

The state previously had no way to track or discipline non-certified teachers accused of sexual misconduct, allowing them to remain in schools. 

The three other bills from Rep. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, Rep. Timothy Dunn, R-Yuma and Sen. David Livingston, R-Peoria, are also awaiting the governor’s signature.


Legislature should restore discretion to impound cars to police


Law enforcement’s No. 1 priority has always been and will always be the safety of every Arizonan. As a police officer, I have a sworn duty to protect and serve, which is why I am asking that our legislators undo provisions of a law passed in 2018 that tied my hands in protecting the public. There are

Rick Hyde
Rick Hyde

two public safety reasons why allowing police officers the discretion to impound is important – it helps our officers and drivers and it keeps our roadways safe.

Impoundment is a tool that law enforcement should be able to use when a person who drives on a suspended license disregards the law and gets back behind the wheel. You need two things to drive in Arizona – a license and a vehicle. For a person’s license to be suspended they had to have committed a crime such as driving while under the influence or driving recklessly. As part of the repercussion for breaking Arizona laws, their license may be suspended. But what happens if you disregard that repercussion and choose to drive anyway? After 2018, essentially nothing.

A police officer used to be able to limit immediate access to your vehicle by impounding your vehicle, but now the only thing an officer can really do is cite a driver for driving on a suspended license and allow that driver to drive away from the stop even though they don’t have a valid driver’s license! Such a result makes no sense and certainly does not protect the public. We require driver’s licenses for a reason.

According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Administration, 75% of serious injury and fatal collisions were caused by drivers who should not have been driving. The previous law allowing a police officer to impound was to protect the general safety of Arizona citizens. When you don’t allow us to do our jobs, you see an increased number of those breaking the law. There have been numerous tragic stories in the last few months regarding drivers either seriously injuring or killing someone in a traffic accident when they never should have been driving in the first place. The most recent was a story of a young life lost too soon after she was hit by a driver driving while impaired. In addition to driving impaired, that driver was driving on a suspended license for a DUI. The driver should never have had access to his vehicle, and had he not, maybe this young person would still be alive. The ability to impound a vehicle for the driver driving on a suspended license was a tool that truly kept our communities safer. Without it, we and our families are all just a little more at risk.

— Rick Hyde is a resident of Phoenix and has worked in law enforcement for 45 years.

Lemonade legislation lands on Ducey’s desk

Deposit Photos

The state Senate on Monday gave final approval to legislation declaring lemonade to be the official state drink despite objections that the action sends precisely the wrong message to teens who want to affect state policy.

Proponents of HB 2692 pointed out that the measure was crafted by a Gilbert high school student who complained that Arizona lacks an official beverage. So he took his case to House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, who agreed to be the bill’s champion.

With that backing plus testimony from Garrett Glover, the Gilbert teen, the measure is now headed to Gov. Doug Ducey.

But Sen. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, said that’s precisely why lawmakers should not go along.

“This is the most ridiculous standard to be used as an example of civic education,” he said.

Mendez said there was a march last year of about 15,000 high schoolers on the Capitol to advocate for gun safety legislation. That included a “die-in” demonstration at the House, Senate and governor’s office.

Ducey would not meet with the leaders of the March for Our Lives group.

And legislation to deal with access to weapons, including mandatory background checks for all sales, went nowhere.

“These students were not afforded the same privileges to help shape their legislation and learn about civics as some other people’s constituents are given that privilege,” Mendez said. “Yet this bill was shepherded through this process,” Mendez said.

“It’s really hard to stomach all of what’s going on,” Mendez complained.

But he did agree with colleagues on one thing: The fact that this “inconsequential” bill got all the way through the process and gun safety legislation did not is truly a “teaching moment.”

“I’m definitely going to take this to students all around the state,” Mendez said.

Sen. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, also complained that lawmakers were dealing with this question even as they have yet to tackle more serious issues like homelessness and the budget.

“But, yet, lemonade is the topic,” she said.

But Otondo ended up being one of the 18 votes in favor.

So what changed?

“In Yuma, in my hometown, there are very near, dear friends of mine who have groves and groves of lemons,” Otondo told colleagues.

Sen. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, had his own concerns when he voted against the measure two weeks ago.

“I have a personal bias against sugar,” he said. “I have come to realize that sugar is as bad for you or worse for you than tobacco.”

Gray, however, said he is now convinced that it sends the right message that an 18-year-old student can manage to not only propose legislation but get it through the process. And he couldn’t help but punctuate that point with some puns.

“Does lemonade as our state drink really put a bad taste in our mouth?” he asked. “No, most people would say it’s sweet.”

There was no immediate word from Ducey on the fate of the measure.

Lovas tops lawmaker ‘batting average’ with only 4 winning bills

The season, or session rather, has ended – some lawmakers swung for the fences and many more struck out.

Following is a look at which lawmakers were the most and least productive, as quantified by bill “batting averages.”

Of the 1,079 bills lawmakers introduced in the 2017 legislative session, 353 were passed and sent to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk. Ducey signed 97 percent of those bills into law, vetoing 11—the lowest number of vetoes since 2004, when Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, was governor.

Phil Lovas, R-Peoria, earned the highest batting average of the session of 100 percent. During the 122-day session each of Lovas’ four prime bills were signed into law – none were vetoed.

Lovas performed well above the batting average set by his fellow House members, which was 21 percent – the Senate average was 24 percent.

Although the lawmaker’s percentage may seem impressive, Lovas was not as active as his House counterparts, and some question the significance of the legislation he passed. In comparison to other House members, he fell below the average number of prime sponsored bills, 10; the average number of cosponsored bills, 44; and marginally above the average number of bills filed into law, three.

Lovas also had less time than his colleagues to introduce and shepherd his bills. He resigned in April to join the Trump administration as the regional advocate for the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.

Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, was the most prolific legislator. She introduced 68 prime-sponsored bills and had 30 passed into law.

On the other side of the coin, there were some who introduced a high number of bills and passed few, such as Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, who led the House with 47 prime-sponsored bills, passing just three – a batting average of 6 percent.

Some lawmakers had less luck with passing legislation, earning a zero batting average. Twenty-eight representatives and 10 senators struck out.

Twenty-four of those representatives and nine of those senators were Democrats. Four Republican representatives and one senator, Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, earned a zero percent average.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, earned the second-highest batting average of 77.8 percent and said he saw himself as a legislator who introduced a moderate amount, but meaningful group of bills.

Of Farnsworth’s 18 prime bills, 14 were signed into law, and none were vetoed. Farnsworth said in jest that although Lovas’ batting average gave the appearance of productivity, it is misleading because the bills Lovas proposed were essentially meaningless.

“My heavens, he dropped these do-nothing bills, he gets all four of them out and then he (resigns) so that he doesn’t have to compete next year,” Farnsworth said.

He would then clarify he was joking.

Lovas passed bills, all amendments, allowing “off-label” pharmaceutical drug promotion, amending employment relationship definitions, giving permission to homeowners’ associations boards to not require notice of recording meetings and requiring state and local governments to report all incurred debt and issuances of bonds to the Department of Administration, not the State Treasurer’s Office.

Farnsworth said he felt it was a “relatively successful year” overall but also said that he could not recall a session that was as divided as this one, blaming political partisanship for any perceived notions of an unproductive and rowdy year.

One bill he was particularly proud of getting approved was HB 2477. It changed the evidentiary standards of civil asset forfeiture – making it easier for people to appeal such seizures and recover their property.

“There’s no assurance that bills are going to pass, it’s just a matter of having an idea for good policy and I think vetting that idea is very important,” Farnsworth said. “I’m not really good at window-dressing bills. My bills tend to actually try to go to the heart of some issue and that’s what we saw there with (HB 2477).”

Five representatives prime sponsored just one bill, namely Reps. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, Sally Ann Gonzales, D-Tucson, Ray Martinez, D-Phoenix, Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, and Michelle Udall, R-Mesa. Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, D-Tucson, also prime sponsored just one bill.

In total, 347 Republican-sponsored bills passed both chambers while just six Democrat-sponsored bills passed. All Republicans in leadership House and Senate positions earned batting averages higher than those set by their respective houses—unsurprisingly House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, and Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, earned a zero percent batting average.

No single lawmaker led the rest in vetoes, 11 lawmakers each received one veto from the governor. Ten of the 11 vetoes were given to Republican lawmakers.

Only one veto went to a Democrat, Rep. Ken Clarke, D-Phoenix. One of Clark’s prime bills was HB2321, which would have prohibited condominium associations and homeowners’ associations from using cumulative voting. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously but was vetoed.

“It is not the role of government to regulate the way homeowners’ associations vote in their board meetings,” Ducey wrote in his veto letter.




New legislation is ugly 

Dear Editor:

We need Arizona citizens to realize that legislative decisions are being made today that will have a harmful impact on our state. The bills and propositions being considered for passage by Arizona’s party in power are beyond comprehension. 

A very loud and vocal element of our government wants to initiate laws that are disastrous to teachers, students, and public education. Perpetuating the false information that CRT (Critical Race Theory) is part of the teaching curriculum needs to be stopped. Voter suppression laws that will destroy our democracy are dangerous. Add unfavorable tax bills and gun laws to this list.  

Why is the Legislature not focused on Arizona’s water problem which is a huge concern, a fair and comprehensive immigration policy instead of building a wall not favored by a majority, finding a solution to combat costly prescription drugs and extending health care needs along with promoting affordable housing?  Extremism in Arizona is the norm rather than the exception. Arizonians need to be aware of the horrific legislation being promoted by our state government. 

Joanie Rose, Scottsdale 


Passing legislation requires moderation, tricks of the trade

Arizona state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, left, R-Gilbert, and sponsor of the anti-human trafficking House Bill 2454, talks with Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, at the Arizona Capitol on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Phoenix. The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate, and toughens penalties for trafficking adults and targets businesses such as massage parlors and escort services that advertise online, and increases the minimum penalties for a child-prostitution conviction to 10 years to 24 years in prison. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Arizona state Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, left, R-Gilbert, and sponsor of the anti-human trafficking House Bill 2454, talks with Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, at the Arizona Capitol on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, in Phoenix. . (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After 16 years in the Legislature, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth said he knows what it takes to get measures through both chambers and up to the Governor’s Office.

The Gilbert Republican attributed a large part of his success to understanding the legislative process. But his strategy also includes sponsoring legislation that addresses problems he or his constituents have observed, working within the confines and scope of the state Constitution, and working with others who are willing to go to bat for the bill, he said.

Farnsworth said the most important trick, however, is ensuring that the language is “good language.” He said the bill language has to be tight and should spell out exactly what the bill intends to do. It’s something he said he spent much of this year helping his colleagues with.

“I understand a comma in the wrong place changes the entire meaning of a bill,” he said. “You look at some of the bills that tend to be thrown together and it’s more difficult to get them through, and sometimes there’s unintended consequences if they pass. I really think having the right language is critical.”

And his methods have paid off.

Farnsworth had the highest percentage of his bills signed into law of any lawmaker. Seventeen of his 20 prime sponsored bills, or 85 percent, were approved by both chambers and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.

Lawmakers passed 369 bills, 30.6 percent of the 1,206 bills introduced in the 2018 session. Of those 369 bills, Ducey signed 346, or 93.8 percent of all the bills that were approved. The governor vetoed 23 bills, about 6.2 percent of those sent to the Ninth Floor. However, 10 of the bills he vetoed were later re-introduced by the Legislature and he signed them.

They also introduced 122 memorials and resolutions, ranging from death resolutions to commemorations of holidays and awareness days to ballot referrals. Of those, 28 were sent to the Secretary of State’s Office, including two ballot referrals.

Five lawmakers tied for the second-highest batting average with 66.6 percent of their measures being signed by the governor.

The batting average is calculated by dividing the number of bills signed into law by the number of prime sponsored bills for a legislator.

Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)
Rep. TJ Shope (R-Coolidge) (Photo by Paulina Pineda/Arizona Capitol Times)

One of those lawmakers, Rep. TJ Shope, R-Coolidge, had 10 of his 15 bills signed into law. The governor vetoed another. And Shope noted that while one of his bills, HB2482, which would have required the Arizona Board of Regents and community college districts to provide tuition waivers to Arizona residents who were in foster care, didn’t make it to the governor’s desk it was included in the budget.

Shope said he tries to run a moderate amount of bills each session, and he added that 15 was one of the “heftiest loads I’ve carried.”

“I’m not a big fan of running a lot of bills. If I’m going to run something I want it to be meaningful and I want to be able to get it passed,” he said.

One bill he’s especially proud of, he said, is HB2154 because of how difficult it was to get across the finish line.

Shope said he worked with the Attorney General’s Office on the bill, which made several changes to statutes relating to data security breaches. He said there was initial opposition from the business community and he had a hard time bringing everyone to the negotiation table to discuss the bill.

“It’s by far the most difficult bill I’ve brought forth in my time down here,” he said. “There were many, many times where I thought this thing was dead.”

Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, and Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, tied for the most prime sponsored legislation, each introducing 65 measures, almost 10 percent of all bills, memorials and resolutions introduced. Of the bills introduced, Ducey signed 32 Carter bills and 29 Griffin bills.

Carter said as chairwoman of the House Health Committee, several of the bills she introduced sought to clean up bills from prior years, extend the life of various agencies, and update state statute to conform with new federal laws.

She also introduced several education-related measures, like a bill that would clean up teacher certification requirements for teachers working in Arizona on a visa, one dealing with teaching certificates for substitute teachers, and another that would require schools districts to disclose to parents when a student is bullied, intimidated or harassed and by whom.

She noted that in her first year in office she ran four bills and all four were signed into law.

“I was so proud and everybody was like, ‘That’s not a big deal,’” she said. I thought you introduced bills and they all got signed into law.”

She quickly learned that’s not the case and that it takes a lot of effort to get a bill across the finish line, which is why she tends to introduce bills that seek to solve problems brought to her by a constituent or issues she’s noticed herself as a parent and former educator, she said.

Twenty-nine lawmakers were unable to get a single bill up to the Governor’s Office, including two House Republicans, Reps. Becky Nutt, of Clifton, and David Stringer, of Prescott.

Reps. Macario Saldate, D-Tucson, and Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, didn’t introduce any bills this year. Dunn was appointed to the Legislature after the deadline to introduce bills in the House had passed.


Ducey’s 2018 veto count comes with asterisk

By Carmen Forman

In the last year of his first term, Gov. Doug Ducey wielded his “veto” stamp more liberally than he had during previous legislative sessions.

Part of that stems from Ducey taking a scare tactic approach to force lawmakers to finish the budget. Ducey vetoed 23 bills this session — a record high for the Republican governor. But that number takes into account 10 House GOP bills Ducey swiftly vetoed one afternoon, believing House Republicans were dragging their feet on the budget.

The message included in each of the 10 veto letters read the same.
“Please send me a budget that gives teachers a 20-percent pay raise by 2020 and restores additional assistance,” Ducey wrote. “Our teachers have earned this raise. It’s time to get it done.”

After Ducey’s veto rampage, lawmakers reintroduced the bills toward the end of session and successfully got them across the finish line. On the last day Ducey could take action on this session’s legislation, the governor approved all 10 of the reintroduced bills.

While on paper, Ducey vetoed more bills this session than any of his previous three sessions, some of the vetoes were temporal and meant only to pressure lawmakers into passing his teacher pay raise plan, not to strike down legislation he opposed.

State’s attorney: Initiative law challengers’ claims are ‘not genuine’

Attorney Roopali Desai
Attorney Roopali Desai (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Attorneys for the state are trying to block challengers to newly enacted initiative restrictions from telling their story to a judge.

The lawyers contend that the claims of those who contend the new law will harm future petition efforts are “fanciful and not genuine.” And attorney David Cantelme, who is leading the defense on behalf of Republican legislative leaders who pushed through the change, said that makes anything the challengers have to say in court legally irrelevant — and legally inadmissible.

But Cantelme is not the only one seeking to limit what Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens will consider at a hearing next month.

Attorney Roopali Desai, representing the challengers, has filed her own motions to block efforts by the state and Republican legislative leaders to have the judge hear from another lawyer and a campaign consultant.

Both want to tell Stephens they believe the new law won’t make it harder for initiative organizers to qualify for the ballot. And that, Cantelme is arguing to Stephens, means there’s no basis for the challenge and she should dismiss the case.

The legal fight is over what standard a judge must use in determining whether an initiative petition proposing a new law or constitutional amendment can be placed on the ballot.

Current law requires only “substantial compliance” with election statutes. Courts have repeatedly interpreted that to mean that measures can go to voters even if there are inadvertent errors by organizers or circulators, or mistakes that do not affect the ability of voters to determine what is at issue.

That has led to courts giving the go-ahead for voters to consider some things not favored by the GOP legislative majority, including a proposed one-cent hike in sales taxes to fund education and transportation. That 2012 measure failed anyway.

Earlier this year lawmakers approved HB 2244 requiring judges to void initiatives not in “strict compliance” with all election laws. That could mean disqualification of petition drives based on technical errors.

In the lawsuit, Desai contends the legislature violated the constitutional rights of voters to propose their own laws by erecting the new hurdle. And she wants Stephens to block the law from taking effect as scheduled on Aug. 9.

But Cantelme hopes to quash the lawsuit even before Stephens gets to hear that constitutional argument. He argues that only those who suffer a “discrete and palpable injury” from a law are entitled to challenge it.

In this case, Cantelme said, the plaintiffs have suffered no injury because they are not currently circulating initiative petitions and are only speculating about how they might be harmed in the future. That, he said, means “they lack personal knowledge to testify to such fanciful injuries,” making anything they say “hearsay or speculation.”

Desai said Cantelme is ignoring a key fact: The plaintiffs are not just people off the street.

They include Matt Madonna, former president of the regional division of American Cancer Society, which got voters to ban smoking in public places; Sandy Bahr of the Sierra Club which helped convince voters to ban leg-hold traps on public lands; and the Animal Defense League which got voters to outlaw “gestation crates” for calves and pigs.

“These folks have run initiatives, lots of initiatives in fact,” she said, crafting language, forming legally required committees and hiring paid circulators.

“They know what goes into that,” Desai continued. “They know what kinds of risks are going to increase as the result of a stricter standard of review.”

And there’s something else.

“It affects the way we raise money,” Desai explained, with initiative organizers having to explain to would-be donors the risk that a petition drive could get the necessary number of signatures — 150,642 for a statutory change and 225,963 for a constitutional amendment — only to be barred from the ballot because of a technical error.

Other plaintiffs include those weighing future initiatives like the Friends of ASBA, a group aligned with the Arizona School Boards Association that can get involved in politics. According to the challenge, that group is “seriously contemplating sponsoring a statewide initiative related to education that would appear on the ballot in November 2018.”

Cantelme, for his part, contends none of that matters.

He said if initiative organizers follow the law and gather a “cushion” of 30 percent more signatures than they need they should have no problem getting their issue to voters. And to prove his point, he wants testimony from attorney Kory Langhofer, who has been involved with Republican political causes and litigation, to tell the judge how he believes the change won’t affect the ability of groups to get their measures on the ballot.

Desai, however, said what Langhofer has to say has no bearing on the belief of the challengers, based on their own experience, of how the new law will affect them.

“He doesn’t represent any of them,” she said.

“He hasn’t advised any of them,” Desai continued. “These are all red herrings and distractions.”

She had a similar assessment of Gibson McKay, a campaign consultant who has been aligned with GOP causes and worked on some initiatives, saying he should not be allowed to testify because he’s not an expert on the law.

Wendy Briggs

Wendy Briggs
Wendy Briggs

Veridus comes from the Latin word veredus, meaning a swift horse or a hunter. Another dictionary defines it as a thill horse, meaning a horse that supports the shafts of a carriage.

It’s an apt description of the craftsmanship Wendy Briggs brings to the table. A founding director at lobbying firm Veridus LLC and one of the most respected in her profession, Briggs has built a reputation as relentless, tireless, dependable and tough as nails – qualities that have served her clients well.

Jeff Sandquist, a partner at the firm, recalled how Briggs pursued legislation to allow ride-hailing services like Uber to operate legally and openly in Arizona. That fight had been particularly difficult, given that ride-hailing service disrupted the taxi industry.

“She was relentless in her pursuit of legislation that would try to address (the opposition’s) concerns, but at the same time not compromise the client’s goals,” Sandquist said.

Lobbyist Beth Lewallen described Briggs: “She’s a legend. I think for women coming to public policy, she’s consistently pointed to as an example of someone who really knows what she’s talking about.”

Patrice Kraus, who lobbies for cities and towns, said she sometimes finds herself on the opposite side of Veridus.

“They’re tough,” she said.

As her dad was an Air Force pilot, Briggs grew up overseas, including in Guam and the Philippines. She experienced bullying at a young age – she was called a “haole,” a derogative term for a white person in Hawaii.

“So, you asked me what I learned from grade school: Not ever doing stuff like that to other people,” Briggs told the Arizona Capitol Times a few years ago. “It gives you an appreciation for what people of color go through all the time.”