Legislative Roundup: Calling for customs, ISPs, electric bikes, Native coders

Erik Kolsrud/Arizona Sonora News

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey started this week off with a press conference on gun safety, repeating a vow to increase the data sent into the gun registration database, despite calls from reporters to answer questions on whether or not the “gun show loophole” will be closed. As it stands, guns are only registered if they are purchased from a Federal Firearms Licensee such as a gun store — private sales are exempt.

It isn’t clear where the governor stands on this issue, only that he is “committed to public safety,” so it remains to be seen how effective this increase in data ends up being.

Otherwise, the Arizona State Legislature moved on as normal, with only a month left in the 53rd Legislative Session. Here’s a few of what was considered this week:

Calling for More Customs

The Senate Commerce and Public Safety Committee voted 7-0-1 to give a “Do Pass” recommendation for Rep. Daniel Hernandez’s (D-Tucson) HCM 2002, which pleads with the United States government to add more customs officials to the U.S. – Mexican border to speed up the movement of goods and people. Southern Arizona, with the port of Nogales in particular, are a huge avenue for produce and manufactured goods to enter the U.S. Although many of these ports of entry have been expanded, it can still take a long time to move stuff through.

The Kino Border Initiative located at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

Hernandez believes, and his memorial asserts, that more customs officers are the way to solve this issue. According to the memorial,

“…the lack of capacity and staffing for customs inspections at these primary entry points creates congestion for incoming and outgoing goods, hampers commercial activity and potentially compromises border security.”

In October of 2014, a similar letter was sent to the federal government outlining these staffing issues. This memorial follows up on that, asking that the United States Congress increase the number of Customs Field Officers at the ports of Nogales, San Luis and Douglas.

This was also the last meeting of the Senate COMPS Committee for this Session. The memorial will next move to the Senate Rules Committee and if given the go-ahead there, will go to the Senate floor. That’s the last step prior to going before the pen of Ducey to be signed and sent to D.C.

Internet Service, Not Public Service

The Legislature is moving along with a bill that would prevent internet service providers from being classified as public service providers. Rep. Jeff Weninger (R-Chandler) first introduced HB 2106 to the House, where it passed on through to the Senate. However, it was not heard in the Senate Transportation and Technology Committee, so it ended up as a “strike everything” amendment to HB 2209, which was originally regulation on parked vehicles.

The first line of the amended bill states in no uncertain terms that “A person that offers, furnishes or provides for profit or otherwise internet protocol-enabled service or voice over internet protocol service is not providing message transmission service to the public and is not a public service corporation.”

Such language would end the debate over whether or not ISPs like Centurylink or Cox can be regulated as utility providers like a power company or phone provider.

The Senate Government Committee voted 6-1 in favor of a “Do Pass” recommendation, meaning the bill will next go to the Senate Rules Committee, where it will have to undergo review regarding its constitutionality. After that, the bill will go to the Senate floor.

From Designing Plates to Electric Bikes

The chance to design an official Arizona vanity plate can be had for the low price of $32,000, if the Senate Transportation and Technology Committee votes to move HB 2266 forward. The bill, first introduced by Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-Flagstaff) would standardize the design of special license plates, as well as provide for the creation of a new “dark sky lighting” plate.

Electric bikes will be placed into three different categories depending on how the motor assists the biker and at what speed.

Or, at least, it would’ve — Thorpe moved a “strike everything” amendment that changed the entire bill to instead regulate electric bicycles. The changes are an addition to current definitions of vehicles and establish three different classes of electric bikes, depending on how and when the electric motor powers the bike.

Class 1 bikes are only powered when the biker is pedaling up to a max speed of 20 MPH, Class 2 are those that are propelled solely by the motor with a max of 20 MPH and Class 3 are bikes just like Class 1 but top out at 28 MPH.It would also exempt electric bikes from being described as mopeds or motorcycles.

The bill received a “Do Pass” recommendation with a unanimous vote, meaning it will next go to the Senate Rules Committee where a thumbs up means a vote on the Senate floor.

Native Coders

Sen. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) introduced a strike-everything amendment to SB 1505 that changed it from a petroleum storage bill to one that authorizes funding for a programming training program for Native-American high schoolers on Arizona reservations. The bill was heard by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, which voted 12-0-1 in favor of a “Do Pass” recommendation for the bill.

The bill takes $500,000 from the state web portal fund, and will establish this coding program as a pilot, with schools awarded money from the fund as a grant. The core goals of the pilot program are to “introduce computer code writing curriculum for students in grades nine through twelve” and “deliver a technology-focused education to Native American students that will prepare the students for the global economy.” Additionally, metrics and reporting to the tribes and Department of Education will help measure what effect the program has on test scores and graduation rates.

With the yes vote, the next step for this piece of legislation is the House Rules Committee, where it will undergo determination whether or not it’s in proper constitutional order before it goes on to the Senate floor for a vote.

Erik Kolsrud 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 him at ekolsrud@email.arizona.edu.

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