Legislative dreams buried in session’s final days

Arizona_House_of_RepresentativesPHOENIX — Concealed weapons in buildings. Ending Common Core. No texting while driving. All dead this legislative session.

These would-be bills joined many others that passed away either in the legislative chamber or by gubernatorial fiat.

The first death began with a bill to put Arizona on Daylight Savings Time. After negative feedback, the sponsor killed it before the session even started. It would be just the first in a slew of bills to perish under the Copper Dome.

Some died very public deaths on the floor. Others died without the dignity of a public hearing..

There was the controversial HB 2320, which would have allowed those with concealed weapons permits to bring guns in public buildings and events. Enough Republicans drew on this bill to shoot it down in the Senate.

Bills aimed at undoing the Common Core — or Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, as the Arizona Department of Education prefers it to be called — found favor in the House. But the standards so detested by conservatives survived when a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans in the Senate gave the bills a failing grade.

Some controversial bills did survive the arduous journey through the Legislature. SB 1318, designed to prohibit federal health care exchanges from providing abortion coverage, included a provision to require doctors to inform women about “abortion reversals,” which critics call quack medicine. Gov. Doug Ducey signed that into law.

Ducey did not sign all of those bills, however, and broke out his veto stamp on Monday.

He vetoed SB 1445, which would have shielded the names of law enforcement officers involved in deadly force incidents for 60 days.

Some seemingly less controversial bills did not remain standing by the end of the session.

There was SB 1102, banning texting while driving in Arizona, which suffered death by committee assignments. The bill was tripled-assigned and only managed to make it through the Senate Government Committee before stalling.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, is no stranger to death with these bills. The texting while driving prohibition bill was preceded in death by several different incarnations of the legislation Farley has introduced for nearly the past decade.

He should count his lucky stars, though, because bills with a “D” next to their title rarely make it even that far in this Legislature that always seems to have its right-turn blinker on.

A bill to ban photo radar from Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, failed to make it through again this year, but not for lack of trying. Four attempts to make speeding cameras and red light cameras a thing of the past in Arizona crashed on the floor and in committees.

Then there was Ward’s SB 1190, which would have given immunity to underage drinkers who seek medical or emergency assistance. That, too, was dead on arrival, not being put on the full Senate’s agenda.

There was the bill to move the state primary date up from the scorching August sun in Arizona to the blistering May sun in Arizona. The legislators changed the date to the early July heat, and then left it out in the sun to wither.

That bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. T.J. Shope of Coolidge, also saw his bill to give income tax credits to multimedia film productions in the state die without making a sound.

A bill that would have drastically altered the state’s open meeting laws was itself shut out of a committee room when the Senate refused it a hearing. Following a crescendo of outcry from open government advocates, SB 1435 died a quiet death.

The bill is survived by its 14 sponsors — both Republicans and Democrats.

There was a last-ditch and ill-fated effort to put a prohibition on powdered alcohol — which was recently approved for sale — from Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff. The bill drowned under a 7-2 committee vote against it.

There were many others, too.

Arizona bills typically have a low survival rates when faced with the whirlwind onslaught of floor readings, committee hearings and constitutional checks.

During last year’s regular session, more than 1,300 bills were introduced and just 280 made it into the books. The previous year’s session saw 363 of the more than 1,500 bills signed into law.

In total, 1,251 bills, memorials and resolutions were introduced this session, of which 62 have been signed into law by Ducey. The governor returned three with veto letters.

Several bills still hang in the balance during the hectic final days of the session, but by the time the sun sets on sine die (on Pacific Time this time of the year without Daylights Savings), many of the bills proposed this year in the Legislature will die without ever making a passing reference in the papers.

They will be dearly missed by their sponsors.

Ethan McSweeney is the Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach him at emcsweeney@email.arizona.edu

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