PHOENIX – The beginning of this week started slowly at the legislature, with lawmakers waiting patiently on the budget to appear. Word on the street is that we should be seeing it pick up next week with late night discussions about what the budget will mean for education, Gov. Doug Ducey’s main event.
Public school money for private educations
On Thursday, things started heating up. Both the House and the Senate heard Senate Bill 1431, a bill that expands Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to allow students to take 90 percent of the state funded per-pupil funding schools receive, which is about $5,500 but will being going down to $4,400 by the time this bill would go into affect, toward private school funding. It got pretty fired up and protestors made their voice known. Democratic legislators say it could be devastating to public schools, while Republican legislators say it would continue to make Arizona top in school choice.
— Christianna Silva (@christianna_j) April 6, 2017
Schools are given $4,400 per-pupil. During the first year of this program, 5,500 students could take advantage of the program, taking $24.2 million from public schools. By 2020, 30,000 students could take advantage of the program, dousing the public school fund by $320 million.
The Senate voted on the bill first, and the discussion alone took four hours – not including the vote, of which most Senators stood to explain themselves. It passed through the Senate on a 16-13 vote. The House took a similar four hours to pass it on a 31-28 vote. It went to the governor’s office after the House vote and was immediately signed. From start to finish, the marathon session took eight hours to be voted through the Senate, House and signed into law by Gov. Ducey.
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) April 7, 2017
Get Off My Lawn
State senators approved House bill 2477, originally introduced by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Dist. 12, on Monday which would change Arizona law to make it much easier for prosecutors and police to take your property.
The measure includes a requirement that prosecutors must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the items they want to seize were involved in criminal activity.
Blue Lives Matter
On Wednesday, the House passed a bill to protect off-duty police officers by making assaults on them equal to the same punishment as an assault on on-duty police officers.
Senate Bill 1366 was sponsored by Sen. Steve Smith, R-Dist. 11, who calls it the Blue Lives Matter Law and says it is needed because hate crimes against police officers don’t stop when their badge is taken off.
The legislation is now on its way to the Arizona Senate after the House passed the bill on a tight 34-25 vote. If it passes the Senate, as it is expected to, it will head to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk for final approval.
Hide yo kids, hide yo pets (but not in your car)
A few weeks ago Senate Bill 1001, sponsored by John Kavanagh, R-Dist. 23, was stalled after Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Dist. 12, refused to give it a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would have given people free range to smash a window in order to break a child or pet out of a locked car.
That didn’t stop the bill though, as a new one with the exact same language popped up in the House. HB2494, introduced by Heather Carter, R-Dist. 15, was approved on a 20-7 margin and has the exact same language as SB1001. As long as there is a “good faith belief that the minor or confined domestic animal is in imminent danger,” any person can break into the car to help the animal or child.
R u sure u wanna txt rn?
Senate Bill 1080, introduced by Sen. Karen Fann, R-Dist. 1, passed through the Arizona Senate with a 24-6 vote, but won’t be seeing Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk this session.
Rep. Phil Lovas, R-Dist 22, said he is refusing to give the bill a hearing in the House Rules Committee, which he chairs. The bill would make texting or talking on the phone while driving illegal for teenagers during the first six months they have a license.
No smoking on campus – unless it’s weed
Arizona colleges, for the most part, have enforced no-smoking rules across the board, and have prohibited marijuana – medical or not – completely. But on Thursday, an appellate court ruled that these colleges can still prohibit marijuana on campuses, but lawmakers can’t make smoking medical marijuana on the campus a crime.
Back in 2010, medical marijuana was legalized, but with a couple rules: card holders couldn’t have the drug at schools, prisons or on school buses. This ruling overturns a 2012 legislature decision to expand this to college and university campuses.
The bottom line here is that medical card holders still probably can’t smoke on their college campus, unless the school changes its rules. But it’s no longer a crime.
Christianna Silva is the Don Bolles Fellow covering the Legislature for Arizona Sonora News, a service provided by the school of journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.