The House and Senate struck a deal on the budget on Monday.
When the Senate met on the floor, they had named three of their members to a conference committee with the House for budget negotiations. The three senators were Sen. Don Shooter (R-Yuma), Sen. Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert) and Sen. Cajero Bedford (D-Tucson). They joined Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills), Rep. Andy Tobin (R-Prescott Valley) and Rep. Eric Meyer (D-Paradise Valley)
In the conference committee the House and the Senate came to an agreement on new budget amendments. Instead of the $33 million for charter schools that the House asked for, the committee allotted $24.5 million. It also added $1.5 million for Joint Technical Education Districts, $300,000 for Department of Health Services $4.5 million for university funding and $1 million to help the city of Prescott pay for increased retirement funds.
The Democratic members of the committee, Cajero Bedford and Meyer, opposed all of the budget bills that were presented, but were outvoted. In particular, Meyer was disappointed in the education funding.
“We’re not giving our schools any more than inflation, and in some cases we’re cutting their funding and if we want our children to be successful as we come out of this recession we have to begin to invest,” Meyer said.
Both the House and the Senate passed the new budget bill later that night. In a complicated process, the bill had to be passed by the House before it could be voted on by the Senate to be sent to the governor.
In the House chambers, many members stood up to talk about whether or not they supported the bill (no amendments could be added after the conference committee). Many of the Democrats, frustrated with being left out of closed door conversations about the budget, argued that in passing this version, the legislature would not be looking out for the children of the state.
“If it had been a compromise budget, I don’t think Pima County would have been shafted the way it was,” Rep. Stefanie Mach (D-Tucson) said. “You say you want effective and efficient government, I don’t see that here. Effective and efficient services would be preventative services that are less costly and less harmful to our state than what we see as the emergent and reactionary budget that we see today.”
While Democrats were disappointed in the lack of funding for various programs, the conservatives in the House felt that the budget spent too much money.
“The problem is not investment, it’s been the outcomes,” Rep. John Allen (R-Scottsdale) said. “This budget does not go far enough to keep the money that people earn in their own pockets. Too much money is taken out of the pantries of the taxpayer and put onto the public system for things that people would not choose to spend their money on.”
Rep. Andy Tobin (R-Prescott Valley), one of the framers of the budget, said: “The budget’s not perfect,” he said. ”I’ve done this now for eight years; there’s some faces out here that have been with me that long and even longer. And it’s not perfect. But it’s better for Arizona, it puts us on the right track, it puts us in a place where we can continue to move forward.”
After the budget passed on Monday, the House and the Senate started working on the long list of bills that are left to be passed through the Committee of the Whole and third-read.
On Tuesday, the House third-read two bills that would provide tax cuts for manufacturers.
SB1484 would give a tax credit with a cap at $5 million to companies that install at least $300 million in renewable energy facilities. At least 90 percent of the energy produced would have to be used for self-consumption and the plant has to be used primarily for manufacturing. There are really only two manufacturers that SB1484 applies to, primarily Apple’s planned sapphire glass manufacturing plant and a potential Tesla battery manufacturing plant.
“There are principles that make perfect sense at the federal level that may not make sense at the state level because we’re in competition for states like Texas and Nevada for these jobs and for this investment,” Rep. Ethan Orr (R-Tucson) said, in support of the bill.
SB1413 exempts manufacturers from taxes on their electric or natural gas purchases.
On Wednesday a controversial bill regarding unannounced checks on abortion clinics passed through the Senate, to be sent to the governor.
Currently, abortion clinics can only be subject to unannounced inspections if the Department of Health Services has a warrant, but supporters of the bill said that more needs to be done to ensure the safety of women in the state.
“I think that this just puts all medical facilities on the same level,” said Sen. Kelli Ward (R-Lake Havasu City), a physician. “My office was subject to warrantless searches at any time and I think that all facilities providing medical services should be subject to that same rule.”
However, the Democrats felt that abortion clinics need to be granted greater privacy.
“When I talk about harassment I’m not talking about the Department of Health Services harassing agencies. The harassment that is engaged in happens from the public,” Sen. Katie Hobbs (D- Phoenix) said. “There’s protesters outside, there’s people that try to talk them out of getting services there. Regardless of whether you like the services or not, they’re legal services and people should be able to access them without harassment.”
Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) said he was worried about language in the bill that would make it illegal for people to assist a minor in getting an abortion without parental consent.
“It would be nice if every kid in the world had great parents,” Farley said. “When you have a situation where there’s a 15-year-old girl, and her dad may be in prison, her mom may be on crystal meth and her stepdad may be the guy that impregnated her. If we criminalize the ability of a Good Samaritan, a trusted adult in her situation to help her out and obtain a legal abortion, if that’s the decision they come to, then we are getting in the way of the sanctity of that girl’s life.”
Other Senators cited religious beliefs as a reason to support the bill. “I happen to be a Roman Catholic and I’m a Republican and I take great pride that my church and my political party both stand for the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death,” Sen. Al Melvin (R-Tucson) said.
Sen. David Farnsworth (R-Mesa) said he supported the bill because he supports every pro-life bill that crosses his desk. “It is amazing to me that we in America can give a slap in the face to God above by killing these unborn children,’” Farnsworth said. “We talk a lot about defending people who cannot defend themselves, the elderly and children and others that need our defense. Who is more defenseless than a child in the womb?”
The bill passed through the committee of the whole and was then sent to the governor after passing 17-13 in the third reading.
On Thursday, a bill passed through the Committee of the Whole that would exempt people who drive autocycles from having to get a motorcycle license. An autocycle is defined as a three-wheeled motorcycle that comes with a completely enclosed seating area equipped with a roll-cage, seat belts for the passengers, an anti-lock brake, and is controlled by a steering wheel and pedals.
The bill is designed so that the Elio car can be used in Arizona with a normal drivers license.
During the committee of the whole, Sen. Karen Fann (R-Prescott) added an amendment that would also allow for a motorized quadricycle to be street-legal and classifies them as a limousine. A quadricycle is a minimum eight, maximum 15-person bike (including the driver) where every passenger has a set of bike pedals. In the middle is a place to put your drink and since the driver is required to be sober and controls the brakes, passengers are allowed to consume alcohol while the vehicle is in motion.
That raised some questions from Rep. Eric Meyer (D-Paradise Valley) but the bill passed despite his concerns after Rep. Stefanie Mach (D-Tucson) and Rep. Lisa Otundo (D-Yuma) supported the bill.
Both the Senate and the House plan on long days next week as they hope to wrap up the session by Good Friday.