Monday, February 18, 2019

The Blue Wave for February 18, 2019

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A weekly legislative update from the Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus

Volume 1, Issue 5
Monday, February 18, 2019

Top Stories

Private School Vouchers

Republicans are trying to subvert the will of the voters after election results didn't turnout the way they wanted - just four months after Arizona voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 305, which would have expanded private school vouchers. Republicans are not only trying to expand them again with SB1395 but they are also trying to transfer voucher oversight from the superintendent of public instruction, a Democrat, to the Republican state treasurer. The oversight transfer bill, SB1320, is sponsored by Republican Senator David Livingston, whose wife ran unsuccessfully for superintendent of public instruction. Watch the video below to hear our members of the Finance Committee explain why they voted no on these two bills.
This week our members of the Finance Committee discuss two bills that would expand school vouchers and take oversight of vouchers away from the Department of Education.

Blowing up the Water Plan

A lot was made of the collaboration and consensus that resulted in the Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan being adopted by the legislature and signed by the governor. But now, just weeks later, Speaker Rusty Bowers is trying to throw a wrench into the plan with legislation that would steal water rights from the Gila River Indian Community.

Our Senator Lisa Otondo responded to his actions:

"Speaker Bowers' HB2476 is perplexing in three ways: first, it represents a deliberate attack against the Gila River Indian Community and their water rights; second, Speaker Bowers agreed to the DCP plan and literally stood behind the governor at its ratification, yet now he is deliberately attempting to upend years of hard work that went into it, putting Arizona's water security at risk; and third, it is clearly unconstitutional under the 1999 Arizona Supreme Court decision on The San Carlos Apache Tribe, The Tonto Apache Tribe, et al. vs. The Superior Court of Arizona, et al. and would undoubtedly result in years of expensive litigation. In that ruling, the Court stated, "The consequences of failure to make use of appropriated water on all of the appropriator's land must be determined on the basis of the law existing at the time of the event, not on the basis of subsequently enacted legislation that may change the order of priority."

"Speaker Bowers' audacious flip from supporting the DCP to sabotaging it, and his further pursuit of this legislation, risks invalidating the DCP and putting Arizona's water future in the hands of the federal government. That's not something we want and that's why members of the DCP Steering Committee worked long and hard to arrive at a delicate compromise. I urge Speaker Bowers to acknowledge that moving his bill forward jeopardizes our water future, and to realize his actions actually hurt those he claims to be helping."
Last week Senator Rebecca Rios joined host Ted Simons and fellow legislator Athena Salman to give viewers a legislative update. Click to see their segment.

“Bipartisan” bill count

Senate bills heard in committee through last week:
Republican: 220
Democratic: 14

The Week Ahead

Democratic bills being heard this week:
SB1503 team-teaching pilot program; appropriations (Sen. Otondo)
Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee - Passed out Monday

Establishes a team teaching pilot program at ASU and appropriates $5 million each year for 5 fiscal years for the pilot program. Monies appropriated for the pilot program are to provide stipends for student teachers who participate in the pilot program in an amount determined by the Arizona Board of Regents.
SB 1383 appropriation; elderly assistance fund (Sen. Alston)
Appropriations Committee - 2:30 p.m. Tuesday

Appropriates $6,000,000 from the state General Fund to the Elderly Assistance Fund in Fiscal Year 2020.
SB 1270 office of Indian education; assistance (Sen. Peshlakai)
Education Committee - 2:30 p.m. Tuesday

Authorizes an annual transfer of up to $1 million from lottery proceeds to fund five full-time employees for the Arizona Department of Education's Office of Indian Education.
SB 1418 schools; transfer students; competency requirements (Sen. Quezada)
Education Committee - 2:30 p.m. Tuesday

Exempts a school, school district or charter school from reporting or counting a transfer student's failure to promote or graduate if competency requirements are not met.
SB 1268 TPT; distribution; tribal college compact (Sen. Peshlakai)
Finance Committee - 2:30 p.m. Wednesday

Increases the annual transaction privilege tax revenues distributed to Navajo Technical University by $1 million each year from FY 2020 to FY 2027.
SB 1382 tax credit review; committee; repeal (Sen. Navarrete)
Finance Committee - 2:30 p.m. Wednesday

Requires the Joint Legislative Income Tax Credit Review Committee to meet at least once annually, requires Legislative Council to prepare legislation based on the Committee's recommendations and requires all new income tax credits to have a sunset date.
SB 1250 sexual assault protective order (Sen. Steele)
Judiciary Committee - 9 a.m. Thursday

Would allow a victim of sexual assault to obtain an injunction against harassment.
SB 1477 appropriation; best land management practices (Sen. Otondo)
Water and Agriculture Committee - 9 a.m. Thursday

Appropriates $4 million to the State Forester for a best land management practices program that facilitates the removal of hazardous vegetative natural products from state, tribal or federal lands by coordinating or contracting with public agencies or private entities.
SB 1058 state procurement; identical bids (Sen. Quezada)
Commerce Committee - 9 a.m. Thursday

Gives Arizona bidders a preference over non-resident bidders, in the case of identical bids, by increasing the bid of a nonresident bidder by 5%.
SB 1437 criminal history; required disclosure; limitations  (Sen. Quezada)
Commerce Committee - 9 a.m. Thursday

Prohibits an employer or landlord from inquiring about an individual's criminal conviction record.
Still a work in progress:
SB 1394 charter school; training; posting; procurement (Sen. Brophy McGee)
Education Committee - 2:30 p.m. Thursday

Makes various changes to statutes concerning charter school governance, transparency and financial accountability. While it doesn't go far enough as drafted, we are working with Senator Brophy McGee and other stakeholders to make meaningful changes that we can support. A strike-everything amendment is pending.
Troublesome bills this week:
SB 1163 NOW S/E sports betting; tribes; liquor establishments (Sen. Borelli)
Appropriations Committee - 2:30 p.m. Tuesday

Allows authorized Native American tribes to operate sports betting, including off tribal lands in restaurants and bars, and prohibits any other entity from doing so. Would classify sports betting as an amusement and subject to sales tax. Contains a conditional enactment condition requiring the governor to negotiate a tribal-state gaming compact or an amendment to the compact.
SB 1114 schools; immunization; religious exemption (Sen. Boyer)
Education Committee - 2:30 p.m. Tuesday

Adds a religious exemption from documentary proof of immunization to be admitted to schools for any student through grade 12. Current statute already allows for personal belief and medical exemptions.
SB 1475 DNA identification database; requirements (Sen. Livingston)
Transportation and Public Safety Committee - 9 a.m. Wednesday

Requires DPS to create and maintain a DNA database. Requires a person to submit DNA to the database if the person provides direct care in an intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

SB 1292 misconduct involving weapons; classification (Sen. Gowan)
Judiciary Committee - 9 a.m. Thursday

Would make it a petty offense rather than a class 1 misdemeanor to enter a public establishment or enter any public event and carry a deadly weapon on his or her person after a reasonable request by the operator of the establishment or the sponsor of the event for temporary and secure storage of the weapon. It would also reduce from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 3 misdemeanor the following:
  • When contacted by a law enforcement office and failing to accurately answer the officer if the officer asks whether the person is carrying a concealed weapon
  • Carrying a deadly weapon except a pocket knife concealed on his person or concealed within his immediate control in or on a means of transportation if the person is under 21 years of age
  • Entering an election polling place on the day of any election carrying a deadly weapon
We are concerned with this bill's possible effect on public safety.
SB 1484 election recounts; bond; procedure (Sen. Mesnard)
Judiciary Committee - 9 a.m. Thursday

Allows any person to file an action for recount in any election that is not subject to an automatic recount if the person files a bond that is deemed by the court to be sufficient to provide for full reimbursement of the recount costs.

News Clips

Arizona's 'In God We Trust' license plates fund anti-LGBT group; lawmaker wants to put a stop to it

“State dollars should not be funding an organization that works to strip residents of our state of their human rights and human dignity. It’s appalling that we’ve already sent over a million dollars to this extremist hate group.”

Bowers forges ahead with water bill that could torpedo drought plan

Sen. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, who was involved in crafting the drought contingency plan, was more direct, accusing Bowers of “sabotaging” the drought plan and saying what he’s trying to do is illegal.

Another Push To Elect A Lieutenant Governor In Arizona Passes Committee

Sen. Martin Quezad (D-Glendale) said he agrees with some aspects of what Mesnard is proposing. But Quezada said he's not convinced that the Department of Administration should be headed by a politician who was chosen by the gubernatorial candidate to be part of a ticket.

Republican bill makes citizen initiative process more difficult

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said the new requirements appear to be a way to provide those who oppose what voters are proposing additional opportunities to keep them off the ballot. “What this does is it gives more ammo for those who wish to challenge and deal with these issues in court rather than at the election box,” Quezada said. More to the point, he said it could result in the disqualification of otherwise legitimate signatures asking to put an issue to voters solely because the person who circulated the petition failed to provide an email address

Dems propose to add state, community oversight of migrant youth shelters

Also in the Senate, Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, introduced a bill (Senate Bill 1493) to create an oversight committee for facilities that house migrant children. Quezada said public accountability is necessary in addition to Brophy McGee’s proposed changes. “The status quo allows facilities like these to control what does and does not go public,” Quezada said.

Early voting change short on votes

While the Arizona Senate took another step towards banning voters from dropping off their mail-in ballots at polls, the measure is effectively dead due to opposition from two Republicans. “This will be a step backwards in terms of voter accessibility,” said Sen. Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix.

Navajo Lawmaker Worries Early Ballot Bill Would Disenfranchise Native Voters

The bill would change the current system by allowing early voters to return their ballots by U.S. mail only. State Democratic Senator Jamescita Peshlakai represents much of the Navajo Nation, and says many people live upwards of 100 miles from post offices and only check their mail every couple weeks. According to Peshlakai, people are more likely to vote if they can drop off ballots at their convenience. "The reality of our lives in rural northern Arizona and on tribal nations is something that legislators and state representatives that don’t live our lives don’t understand. This is a way to discourage people from voting," she says.

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